Note: This review was first published on 11 October 2019.
The MX Master 3 is the latest in a long line of revered productivity and general-purpose mice from Logitech. It is significant because, for the first time since 2015, it actually has a new design.
The overall shape of the MX Master 3 is largely similar to predecessors but its vertical profile is more pronounced so it more closely resembles a vertical mouse. This is supposed to be more ergonomic and helps relieve pressure on your wrist. It looks bulky and oddly-shaped until you put your hands on it and then realise just how pleasant it is to hold. It doesn’t really matter if you use the palm, claw, or finger grip, the MX Master 3 adapts to all.
The big change in design is on the side. The thumb wheel and thumb buttons have been improved and repositioned. The thumb wheel is now fashioned out of steel ― it used to be rubber-coated ― and larger, making it easier to use. The back and front thumb buttons have also been enlarged and repositioned. They used to reside just next to the thumb wheel, which made them a little hard to reach. Now, they sit just below the thumb wheel and are larger. This makes them easier to reach and more distinct to users. But all of this only applies if you are right-handed. Left-handers, I suspect, will still have a hard time with the MX Master 3.
One unfortunate aspect of this redesign is that the LED battery indicators are gone. The older MX Master mice have three LED indicators on the side that gives a pretty good idea of how much charge is left. The only way to tell how much battery is left in your MX Master 3 is to open the Logitech Options app (more on that later).
The other big change is the scroll wheel. Like the thumb wheel, the main scroll wheel is now machined out of steel and it has a fancy name called MagSpeed. The name comes from its electromagnetic scrolling system. Like previous MX Master mice, the MX Master 3’s scroll wheel has a step-by-step ratchet mode and a smooth free-wheeling free spin mode which it can switch between. In older MX Master mice, this was enabled by a motor and switch, but in the new MX Master 3, magnets are energised and de-energised using a small current to control the way the scroll wheel turns.
Logitech claims the MagSpeed scroll wheel is 90% faster and 87% more precise. It even claims that it’s “precise enough to stop on a pixel and quick enough to scroll 1,000 lines in a second.” Bold claims, indeed. I can’t quantify these claims but I can say that the scroll wheel is smoother to operate and the switch between ratchet and free spin modes is quicker, more seamless, and refined. Personally, I wish the steps in the ratchet mode were more pronounced, but it's still pleasant enough to use.
It’s not just the scroll wheel that feels better, the entire mouse feels more polished. The rubber used for the coating is softer to touch and the buttons have more weight to them and feel more tactile.
The sensor in the MX Master 3 is unchanged. It’s a Darkfield sensor with a sensitivity of 4,000 DPI. That may not sound like much today when 16,000DPI mice are commonplace, but it’s plenty for general purpose and productivity use. How much sensitivity do you need if the most precision you’ll ever require is to select the right Excel cell? Besides, the truly unique feature of the Darkfield sensor is that it can be used on practically any surface. It isn’t too fussy about the surface it is used on and even works decently on wood and glass. That said, gaming is where the MX Master 3 falls flat. The sensor may very well be up for the job but the mouse itself is heavy ― it weighs 141g. It’s fine for more casual material like The Sims, but it’s too slow and heavy for anything more hurried like shooters and RTSes.
Battery life is unchanged at a claimed 70 hours. But the charging interface has finally been updated to USB-C. A one-minute charge is enough to get you three hours of use, which actually isn’t so hot if you look back at the MX Master 2S’ specifications. Logitech claims a three-minute charge is enough for the MX Master 2S to last an entire day. At any rate, the important thing is that if the MX Master 3 should ever run low on power, a quick charge and a trip to make some coffee is all it takes for it to be brought back to life.
Like its predecessors, the MX Master 3 is highly customisable. All of its buttons can be configured using the excellent Logitech Options app. This app lets users set up the mouse and it works either through Bluetooth or the provided Logitech Unifying receiver. The app also lets users customise the buttons’ functions, map keys to buttons, and even application-specific settings. And finally, the app is also where you go to set up Logitech Flow.
Logitech Flow lets users seamlessly control up to three computers using a single MX Master 3 or Flow-enabled mouse. All you need to do is to install Logitech Options, enable Flow on your computers, and connect them to the same network. You can even copy and paste text and transfer files between computers. If you pair the MX Master 3 with a Flow-enabled keyboard, you’ll be able to switch between systems seamlessly without the need for a clumsy KVM switch. For users who have to work with multiple systems simultaneously, Flow is a godsend.
All things considered, the latest MX Master 3 is easy to recommend. It’s wide breadth of abilities and high level of refinement is unmatched, though its high price ― S$169 ― is a bit of a stumbling block. But if you can get past that, the MX Master 3 is one of a handful of peripherals that will incontrovertibly elevate your computing experience. If you are always on your computer, this is an investment you won’t regret.