We may never know why Apple stubbornly insists that you charge its mouse upside down, like a beetle with its paws up, year after year.
But I know this: if you want a mouse that in fact feels magical, damn price, Logitech has the gadget for you.
When I want to charge my wireless mouse now, I don’t have to plug in a cord or place it in a docking station. In fact, I don’t think about recharging at all. It’s just… the fact. Because last Christmas, a very generous brother-in-law actually bought me a wireless mouse that charges itself.
What you are looking at here is the Logitech Powerplay wireless charging system, actually a mouse pad with a wireless charger that magnetically transmits electricity to a special puck. Logitech has been selling it since 2017 – almost as long as Apple subjected us to the upside-down beetle.
To give you an idea, here is the completed description of what I did once I received this product:
- Opened the package
- Placed the charging pad on my desk
- Placed an included soft fabric mouse pad on top
- Removing my Logitech G502 Lightspeed mouse’s wireless USB dongle from my PC
- Plugged into Powerplay USB cable instead
- Snapped the magnetic puck into the bottom of my mouse
- I turned the mouse off and on again
So what, I never thought to charge my mouse again. Not before this story.
Seriously, it’s been three months and I’ve never had to lift a finger because it charges itself. Always. Automatically. Just by being on the mouse pad.
I’ve never reviewed a perfect product before, and I’m not saying it is – I’d hate to jinx it. Especially when some customers do finally claim their mice has stopped charging or that the mouse pad came off and had to be taped or glued. Plus, it’s incredibly expensive to $120 for the mouse pad alone, no mouse included, for an arguably useless product as these mice come with a cord that lets you play while you charge too. And no, the Powerplay doesn’t double as a phone charger or use Qi: it only works with its own magnetic puck, which only fits a handful of the most expensive Logitech mice, including the G502 Lightspeed, G703, G903, G Pro Wireless and G Pro X Superlight.
Still, it carries a 4.7-star rating on Amazon with surprisingly few negative reviews. The most common complaint is that nearby speakers or headphones can pick up a hum while charging, and I haven’t noticed this myself.
What I have noticed so far is that there is nothing to notice. It works. No disconnects, no on-off switches, nothing to adjust. It is true that the charging coil does not cover the entire mouse pad, but I never had to think about it, never came back to a dead mouse. It still comes to life every morning at work and every night I play.
It probably doesn’t hurt that I use it with the Logitech G502 Speed of Light, our pick for best wireless gaming mouse, whose comfortable grip, plenty of well-placed clickable buttons, incredible performance, and adjustable weight put it above the excellent wireless Razer Mamba and Logitech G900 that I previously owned. But it’s a $140 mouse, and there is no discount on a package with both. Even the cheapest compatible mouse, the G703 Lightspeed, will usually cost you $70 on sale – and the Powerplay charger rarely goes on sale.
But you can do what I did: take the mouse, use it until the battery bothers you, then add Powerplay. (Find a generous brother-in-law while you’re at it, too.) For a year, I plugged my mouse in to charge and continued to use it with a bit of drag. It was good. But it’s better.
It was kind of the idea, recalls Andrew Coonrad, who was technical marketing manager at Powerplay (and wrote the reviewer’s guide) in 2017. It was designed to be the ultimate solution for demanding gamers ready to spend more to resolve the charge once and for all. all.
At the time, there was still a stigma against wireless gaming mice, and battery life was one of them – while the Razer Mamba and Logitech G900 convinced me that low latency gaming was possible via wireless, neither could hold much charge after a few years of use. With the G900, Coonrad says that’s because even though his PMW3366 sensor was capable, it used an order of magnitude more power than Logitech’s new Hero sensors.
While developing Hero, Logitech also looked into wireless charging – but at first they didn’t like what they saw. Qi wireless charging meant keeping your mouse in a fixed place. Same with wireless charging pads like this HyperX. Razer and Mad Catz ended up putting in instant-charge supercapacitors in some unfortunate mice, but that meant they stopped working if you took them out of their chargers, and those pads and mice had to be sold as an expensive bundle. “We wanted to create a modular solution,” says Coonrad.
So Logitech tasked their R&D lab in Lausanne, Switzerland with this idea, and they came up with a set of loop antennas that could slowly charge the mouse – think days, not hours – even while you move it around. .
“I called it the dog bone when I first saw it,” says Coonrad, who visited the R&D center during development. “They were like, ‘Yeah, but it’s because of the way the concentric fields overlap that creates this hot spot in the middle.’ The whole cushion can be covered because of these lobes.
“It’s basically a giant, modular, mobile transformer,” he explains. “You have this smaller winding coil that transfers to the upper winding coil, and the field is wide enough that the energy charge is always greater than the total energy of the mouse.”
According to an FCC filing, it runs at 6.78MHz, the same as the older A4WP/Rezence standard that was scrapped once Samsung and Apple greenlighted Qi instead. Coonrad wouldn’t say how much credit Logitech’s partners might deserve: for example, the charger and transmitter circuit board are labeled LG Innotek, though it’s possible he just served as the manufacturer.
The other thing I find interesting about the Powerplay mouse pad is that it’s not just a charger. It doubles as a wireless receiver for the mouse, so you don’t have to leave the mouse dongle plugged into your PC anymore – I keep it inside the mouse for easy grip. The FCC filing shows that there is a complete 32 MHz Arm Cortex-M3 computer and a working Bluetooth antenna inside – although Coonrad suspects Bluetooth was never used. He says it’s not a functional part of the final product, and Logitech uses its own proprietary 2.4 GHz “Lightspeed” wireless stack to connect to the mouse instead.
But, to me, the most unusual thing about the Powerplay system is how long it’s gone without fanfare – even the packaging hasn’t changed since 2017. Does this product actually sell? Coonrad says that’s the case, that “people are buying them like crazy”, and it helps that the G502 Lightspeed, G Pro Wireless and G Pro Wireless Superlight compatible become his most popular mice of all time. But he can’t share sales figures. And he also admits that he doesn’t use them himself, but rather the smaller G305 which doesn’t have space for a Powerplay puck. Instead of a wireless charging mouse pad, he keeps a box of Energizers under his desk. “It pisses me off once every six to eight months.”
Overall, gaming mouse battery life has improved dramatically since 2017, with the recent G Pro X Superlight offering 70 hours of charge, compared to 60 hours for the previous generation, which itself was double that of the previous generation. Less feature-rich mice – like Coonrad’s G305 and competitors’ mice – can now easily break the 200-hour mark.
Coonrad says, “If it’s so great, why isn’t Logitech making more noise about it? The war on wireless is won.
In 2022, you most certainly have do not need to spend hundreds of dollars just to get a wireless mouse that doesn’t die every week. But it’s nowhere near as magical as never needing to recharge at all.