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Wirefree love
Logitech showed off their "Wireless Living" or Wi-Li concept last week at a swanky presentation in London and we were there to see what the fuss was about. Although no new products were being launched Logitech did display some rather interesting bits of kit which fit into the rapidly growing wireless lifestyle.

Click to enlargeBefore they let journalists loose on their new wares, Peter Sheehan from designpartners was given the floor to talk about design trends and walk us through how mundane items such as Logitech's mice get designed. Sheehan views electronics providing their user with a personality rather than just a piece of electronic functionality. I got the distinct feeling that form is set to take over from function and we don't have to look far for examples - the iPod being the most obvious.

Focusing on the MX1000 Laser mouse from concept to final product, Sheehan painted a picture of collaboration between his design firm and Logitech's vision of the product. The idea of models that can be held throughout the design stage seemed very strong with designpartners producing wooden models at different stages of the design process. The evolution in design is quite remarkable. Sheehan later admitted that he felt the MX1000 was one of the most ergonomic designs they had ever come up with and after 16 months of use, I have no evidence to contradict that statement.

Logitech and designpartners work closely with ergonomics experts to hone the shape of their devices. Essentially they take a look at the shape of a hand when it is hanging down by the side of your hips in a relaxed fashion. They found that most hands naturally curl rather than staying straight and thus the "hump back" mouse was born. The idea of a good mouse is one that doesn't attract much attention. If you can't "feel" your mouse then it's doing a good job. The last thing Logitech want is after a day's work, the user to feel their hands aching as they walk away from their work station.

The problem facing Logitech and their designers is that they don't have a blank sheet of paper to work with. Producing a radical design won't work with mass market products and therefore some limit on creativity has to be imposed.

There's no doubting that Logitech's recent mice have been very impressive from both design and technical standpoints, but Logitech wants to show that they don't just make pointing devices. Many of their home theatre and portable audio accessories were on show as well. Particular prominence was given to a couple of iPod speaker systems similar to the

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Both speaker systems allow iPods (full size, Mini and Nano) to be connected to them and my subjective view was that neither sounded bad, but what caught our attention was Logitech’s Wireless Music System, priced at around £100.

Click to enlarge Available in white to attract iPod users, it works very well and is quite simply plug and play requiring no software to be installed on the host music player. Connecting to the music player via the headphone jack and then transmitting by Bluetooth to it's base station the system is neat and produces good sound.

The wireless dongle has a 10 metre range and the base station uses RCA/Phono stereo connections to connect to either an amplifier or powered speakers. Having tried it on both high-end Hi-Fi and low-end powered speakers I can report that this is one little gadget worth having. Expect a full review soon.

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This retro styled unit is what Logitech claim is the World’s first 5.1 THX certified speaker system with wireless rear speakers. Presented in an open environment and in a home theatre setup the satellites produced good overall sound with thumping bass from the huge subwoofer that's included. Having wireless rear speakers helps with positioning behind sofas but traditionally has been found wanting in the sound reproduction department. While THX certification guarantees a high level of performance, my subjective ear thought it was perfectly adequate although audiophiles will probably disagree. At around £350 it's not cheap but similar to other THX certified setups.

Click to enlarge To round off we look at a small subset of Logitech's Harmony range of remote controls. Pictured here are the current top-of-the-line 885 and the mid-range 525. In the coming months, Logitech will launch the 895 sporting RF capabilities meaning you don't have to point it at the TV in order to switch it on. We were also told that it would come bundled with a RF extender unit which means equipment that is kept out of sight can be operated as well. The 895 is set to retail at around £300 with the 885, sans RF capability at around £180. Let's hope they take the sleek styling of the 525 and make it standard across the Harmony range. We will see how the Harmony compares to Philips' Pronto Pro in the coming weeks.

With computers and gadgets becoming a central part of our lives removing the wires that tether us to a particular place is an important transition. Logitech seem to be making that transition with most of their product lines and introducing a few new ones along the way, such as Harmony. The emphasis on clever design is clearly visible working with external design teams and utilizing some of the best talent out there. With all the buzz surrounding lifestyle computing, it's just a matter of how long before other companies make their products easier to live with.
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