Review unit was supplied by Logitech.
The concept of constantly charging a wireless mouse via a mouse pad is not actually a new one, having been done many years prior. It didn’t take off back then, but now it seems Logitech believe they are the company to bring this sorcerous technology to the masses in the form of their Powerplay system. Putting aside the name which sounds like something straight out of the 90’s, is it actually any good?
The powerplay is an innocuous-looking 2mm thick, 12.6 x 10.8-inch rubber mat with a rounded oblong box at the top of it which sports the Logitech gaming logo. On top of this rubber mat you put down one of two mouse pads that comes in the box; a simple, smooth cloth one designed for speed, and a rougher, plastic one for precision. So far so boring.
The magic happens when you take the lengthy USB cable and use it to plug the Powerplay into your computer, at which point not only does the pretty LED RGB logo illuminate but by using electromagnetic resonance the unit essentially creates an energy field that extends just a tiny bit off the pad, enough that the the special battery within the mouse can use it to charge itself. The end result? A wireless mouse that, in theory, never runs out of power. Also, magic. Because that’s what it is.
Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? Well, there is a small catch; you can’t just use any wireless mouse, rather you have to use either Logitech’s G903 or the G603, into which you insert a puck-shaped battery that’s compatible with whatever black magic Logitech use to make the Powerplay a reality. Sadly Logitech’s previous versions of the G903 (The G900 Chaos Spectrum) and G703 (The G403 Prodigy) won’t work with the Powerplay, so currently your options are limited when it comes to picking a pointing device. It also makes the Powerplay a rather expensive proposition with the unit itself coming in at a whopping £109 and the G703 and G903 coming in at £99.99 and £149.99 respectively.
So, is it worth the cash? Well, as it turns out that’s a difficult question to answer as the Powerplay is aiming at an incredibly niche audience, in my opinion.
The first thing to realise is that the Powerplay doesn’t charge the mouse quickly, with Logitech themselves saying it would take around twelve to fourteen hours to completely charge either of the mice from 0% to 100%. With that said you’ll never see a 100% charge because it cuts out at 95% and doesn’t kick in again until 80%, something that is done to prolong the battery’s operational lifespan. It’s smart, really, because delivering a constant high-power current would potentially add quite a bit to your electricity bill over time. Instead what you get is just a slow but consistent trickle of energy being delivered to the battery, so during a two hour gaming session the charge, according to Logitech’s own software which is capable of measuring the current battery level, went from 50% to 51% and as soon as I stopped playing and resumed simply web browsing the charge began to increase a bit faster. In other words, it does exactly what it’s supposed to and I’m confident that even after an 8-hour gaming binge there’ll be no concerns about the mouse suddenly running out of power.
Aside from acting as a big charging station, there’s also a wireless receiver built into the Powerplay that uses Logitech’s “Lightspeed” technology so that you can get the best possible signal from mouse to computer. For testing, Logitech sent along their G903 and the connection was flawless during my time with it. As good as wireless mice have become over the years there is always the potential for signal interference which is why lengthy cables are usually included so that you can place the wireless receiver closer to the mouse, so it makes perfect sense to toss the receiver into the Powerplay as well. During my time with it I was generally quite hard-pressed to notice any real difference in performance between the G903 and Steelseries Rival 700 I’ve been using lately.
Speaking of the G903 as I already alluded to it’s a very slightly modified version of the previous G900 which I reviewed, so I’ll refer you to that review for a more detailed look at it. All Logitech seems to have done is swap some of the black plastic for silver, installed the new battery system and left everything else alone. That’s for the best, really, because the G900 was a beast thanks to a latency that put it on par with wired mouse and a wonderfully precise sensor. Only the ergonomics of the mouse didn’t quite click with me, and that remains the same here, but feel free to ignore that since a lot of people find it to be comfortable. Having not tested the G703 before it’s harder to comment on, but its prior incarnation in the form of G403 has gotten a lot of good reviews and those who buy it seem more than happy with its performance. Assuming Logitech barely altered anything when installing the new battery system it should be a rock-solid mouse.
A potential problem lies in the overall thickness of the whole thing. The Powerplay itself is 2mm thick, and the soft mouse pad adds another 2mm to that, while the hard surface comes in at 3mm. That’s a reasonable amount of height which could affect your wrist. I also found the hard surface’s edges were sharp, combining with the height to make it somewhat uncomfortable unless I tried not to allow my wrist to rest on the out rim.
Aside from the sharp edges, though, both the hard and soft surfaces handle very well. The harder of the two provides slightly better tracking, but I still found the softer surface to be more enjoyable as the mouse glides nicely along and the difference in tracking is minimal, I believe.
Can you swap pads, though? Well, yes, to put it simply. I don’t happen to have piles of mouse pads lying around to test it with, but I did grab the two that I do have, the first being a simple Ozone pad bought from Amazon and the second being an extended mat that I typically use. Both worked just fine and I see no reason why other mats, provided they aren’t particularly thick, should be compatible. For further clarification, though, I intend on contacting Logitech directly to ask what sort of limitations there could be.
Where the problem lies in identifying who the Powerplay is really for. If you like the idea of a wireless mouse because it saves on desk clutter then the Powerplay is pointless since it simply replaces the mouse’s wire with its own one. And considering both the regular G403 and G900 can last around 20-25 hours on a full battery and can be charged rather quickly keeping them up and running is not much of an issue unless you tend to be really forgetful. Even a quick nightly top-up will do the job, or you can just keep playing while the mice are plugged in. That means the Powerplay is a very expensive solution to a minor inconvenience, something that only the die-hard tech lovers will probably be willing to purchase so that they can have the joy of a wireless mouse without ever having to worry about plugging it in.
Still, it’d be daft to say that I didn’t like it or want it, even if I don’t find charging a wireless mouse to be too much of an issue. But then, I’m a tech lover.
Ultimately the Powerplay feels more like a stepping stone for Logitech and the wider industry. With a broader spectrum of compatible mice, including some cheaper options, and a lower price for the Powerplay unit itself Logitech could have a real winner on their hands. But right now the minimum entry price of a breath-taking £210 is just way too much for the average person to consider, leaving the Powerplay the domain of tech lovers like me who are willing to spend silly money to solve minor nuisances, all in the name of simply having the coolest, latest tech.
This makes reviewing it a bit tricky, though, because you see the Powerplay does what it says on the box and does it rather well. If we ignore the whole pricing thing there are no real flaws to speak of, although I suppose you could say it’s hardly a good looking piece of tech. Part of me thinks they missed an opportunity by not using a little of the energy flowing through the Powerplay to include some optional RGB LED lighting around the edge for a bit of extra flair. Regardless, Logitech have made something pretty cool here, so what do I do? Well, the answer to that is that I can’t give the Powerplay the coveted (HA!) recommended sticker because right now it’s not something I’d point most people toward. Yet. In the future as the technology grows and the price drops this is going to become incredibly tempting for almost everyone, even non-gamers.
I mean seriously, it’s like freaking black magic or something. I understand the technology behind it and the details of how it all works, but that doesn’t stop it being like magic. Or me feeling strangely nervous when putting my hand on it for the first time.
Do…do I need to light some candles and perform a chant if it stops working?