Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum In-Depth Review & Mouse Tear-Down

By Published May 02, 2016 at 10:51 am
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Additional Info

  • Component: Peripheral
  • Awards: Editor's Choice, Quality Build
  • Original MSRP: 150
  • Manufacturer: Logitech

Logitech's new Chaos Spectrum G900 mouse has definitively settled the wireless gaming mouse debate: Wireless mice can respond just as fast – if not faster – as their wired counterparts. This topic is one we've explored in-depth below, including discussion on wireless interference and cross-talk/impedance, battery life and weight trade-offs, accuracy, and more.

The Chaos Spectrum G900 was unveiled at GDC as a “wired-wireless” mouse, embodying Logitech's devout effort to demystify wireless mice as “unreliable” for gaming. Logitech informed us that their wireless G900 tested as performing minimally equal to wired competition for responsiveness, and sometimes better.

The new G900 RGB mouse costs $150, making it one of the most expensive gaming-class mice currently on the market. It also makes some of the biggest promises, like 24-hour run-to-die battery life (with RGB LEDs on) and exceedingly tight tolerances for click force variance from mouse-to-mouse. It's a uniquely high-end peripheral that requires a properly in-depth review. Starting us off, the usual specs sheets:

 

Logitech Chaos Spectrum G900 Video Review & Hands-On

Logitech G900 Gaming Mouse Technical Specs

Sensor PMW3366
Maximum Acceleration >40G
Maximum Speed >300 inches per second (IPS)
Sensor Resolution 200-12000 DPI
USB Data Format 16 bits / axis
USB Report Rate 1ms (1000Hz)
Wireless Report Rate 1ms (1000Hz)
Wireless Frequency 2.4GHz custom tech.
CPU 32-bit ARM
Dynamic Coefficient of Friction 0.11μ k
Static Coefficient of Friction 0.17μ s
Endurance LMB & RMB: 20 million clicks
Tetrafluoroethylene feet: 250 km
Dimensions 130mm x 67mm x 40mm (LWH)
107g (GN validated at 100g)
Speed-Related Accuracy Variance
(Colloquially: “Mouse Acceleration”)
None; no “mouse acceleration”
Mouse Smoothing None

Logitech G900 Gaming Mouse Features & “Brochure” Specs

Features “Hyperfast” tilt scroll-wheel
Metal pivot key design
Metal spring button tensioning system
Buttons User serviceable modular buttons
6-11 programmable buttons (depending on user config.)
LEDs Customizable RGB LEDs
Software Logitech Gaming Software (LGS)

On Wireless Mouse Latency and Whether They Are “Slow”

Traditional wireless mice are engineered for an 8ms response time as a mechanism for battery life preservation. A slower clock oscillation results in reductions to input responsiveness (user may perceive marginal 'lag' or delay between movement and on-screen output), but the loss of speed is agreeable for corporate or home users who demand little more than browsing and office workloads. For gamers, milliseconds matter. High-end wireless mice for gaming primarily differentiate themselves in the polling rate category. Logitech's G900 has a 1ms report rate that makes data transmission to the wireless receiver effectively instant. For clarity, mice boasting a 1000Hz poll-rate would also have a 1ms report rate; that's 1000Hz, or 1000 reports per second. Logitech's wired G-series mice, like the G502 Proteus Core ($90) that we praised, respond approximately 1.2ms faster than the G900. That's more-or-less imperceptible, and the response times are fairly tight (albeit variable) overall.

This histogram will help demonstrate the input timing differences:

logitech-g900-histogram-results

The above histogram was generated on the show floor at PAX East 2016, where Logitech had a Razer mouse competing against the G900 for input latency. The G900 exhibited an input latency range of 3.42ms (3.25ms min to 6.67ms max; avg. 5.07ms). The Razer mouse had a range of 3.12ms (9.31ms min to 12.43ms max; avg. 11.81ms). That makes the G900 objectively faster – by a few times, actually – and still consistently tightly timed with the comparable range.

logitech-g900-histogram-testing

Signal strength is another critical point of analysis. Wireless mice use radio frequency (almost always at 2.4GHz) to communicate with a receiver, which is generally a USB stick or dongle that connects to the PC. Within the mouse is a wireless transmitter. Theoretically, if a poorly designed wireless mouse were present in a “noisy” enough environment (wireless/radio interference, not audible noise), it could drop signal or intermittently miss reports. Microwaves, cell phones, routers, and Bluetooth devices are common contributors to local wireless impedance.

Because we do not have an anechoic chamber in our own labs (read about those here), we're relying on Logitech's internally-generated charts for the visual accompaniment to this part of the discussion. Bear this in mind.

Logitech G900 vs. SteelSeries Sensei Wireless, Razer Mamba, Ouroboros

Signal strength is measured in decibels, which use a logarithmic scale – delta calculations are not a simple subtraction or percent change. For the tests that created the below images, the DUT (device under test) was placed atop what is effectively a lazy Susan / turn-table and rotated throughout radiation bombardment. The tests are conducted in an anechoic chamber for isolation and control of all 'assaulting' frequencies.

logitech-g900-radiation-pattern-1

The ideal scenario here is a perfect circle – “ideal” because it is more-or-less unattainable. The G900 comes close with its red radiation pattern (+8 decibel-milliwatt max power). Its closest competitor is the Steelseries Sensei wireless mouse, tested at -1dBm.

The Razer Ouroboros tested at -12dBm and is a mouse we felt mixed toward. That is a 114x difference compared to the G900's wireless signal strength.

logitech-g900-competitive-radiation

Looking specifically at radiation patterns, the Sensei wireless (cyan) and Logitech G900 prove to be, by-and-large, the most consistent patterns present. The Mamba and Ouroboros are chaotic and could be detected by users as the occasional stutter or dip in detection accuracy.

Now, again, these are tests from internal Logitech labs; we trust the results as presented, but the “grain of salt” rule dictates that there may be exceptions to the competing products shown. As we can't validate one-to-one without an out-of-reach anechoic chamber, everything is presented strictly as-is with some additional analysis.

When we spoke to Logitech in an on-camera interview at GDC, the company emphasized its desire to make the G900 a convention-goer's mouse. The idea was to create a wireless gaming mouse that could survive an entire weekend at an event like PAX or QuakeCon. One aspect of this is battery life – a forthcoming discussion point – and the other is tolerance for the nigh-unprecedented levels of interference experienced at a show. We sometimes have to flip between channels on our wireless reporting equipment while at tradeshows just because the channels are so saturated. A mouse isn't anywhere near as tunable as what we're using for wireless audio-video transmission, but the G900 proved worthy. We tested our G900 sample while on the road at PAX East recently and, despite peak concurrent attendee counts exceeding 15-20k, the mouse worked fine.

That's because the mouse was validated and engineered for handling dense RF interference. In some of its most abusive test passes, the mouse was positioned approximately 50 inches from the receiver (considered a reasonable distance for home users) and attacked with multiple signal types. Three interference signals simulate “noisy” use cases, including Wifi 802.11 g/n sweeping on channels 1/3/5/7/9/11/13, Bluetooth class 2 in ACL DM5 mode, and a Gaussian frequency-shift keying (GFSK) modulation sweep between 2.400GHz and 2.483GHz in 1MHz steps.

logitech-g900-anechoic-chamber

For comparison, here's a jogged mousing pattern (circular drift) demonstrating wired mouse performance (left), wireless mouse performance with no perturbator (only jogged, not assaulted by interfering signals – center image), and wireless worst case performance with g/n ch. 1-13 sweep and other signal abuse (right).

logitech-g900-rad-pattern

The left two images are effectively identical. Only when introducing a noisy environment does the G900's performance change, and it still remains consistent and without “jumps” (“teleporting” cursor effect) or freezes in input detection. Here is an example of the Razer Mamba when under the same conditions:

logitech-mamba-rad-pattern

Detection suddenly exhibits fierce jumps and freezes even when only ~50” away from the receiver.

Here is the Sensei Wireless mouse:

logitech-sensei-rad-pattern

The perturbated pattern exhibits loops rather than the circles, resultant of RF interference.

“Clickiness” - The G900 is to the Mouse what Mechanical Switches are to the Keyboard

Subjectively, the G900 has one of the most resolute, definitive “clicks” we've experienced with a mouse. It is reminiscent of the first transitions to mechanical keyboards from membrane switches; there's a distinct, powerful click with a reliable actuation force and snappy return-to-ready. This is a result of the mechanical pivot button that Logitech deploys in its G900. Here is a mechanical documents to visually assist:

logitech-g900-switch-mech-1

logitech-g900-teardown

The yellow circle in the above image is the fulcrum of the keyplate. Pressing the keyplate actuates the mechanical switch, which is pre-loaded with a spring that reduces actuation friction for a predictably resolute “click” with each use. The spring tensioning of the switch effectively eliminates application of sheer force to the “click element,” so to speak, as the switch is mounted at the same angle as the keyplate will depress. Eliminating sheer force creates the reliability and consistency of click actuation that sets the G900 apart. Compared against itself, the G900 has a production button force range of approximately 10gf (~55gf to ~65gf). This means that, between our review mouse and retail samples that any number of readers might buy, the gram-force requirement for button click should be more-or-less identical. Our experience will be similar to yours, resultant of the strict tolerances at the factory level.

logitech-g900-explosion

This part is entirely subjective: Compared to the G303 ($47), as an example, the G900 feels as if it requires marginally more force to actuate. This is likely use bias and demonstrative of how some differences can be imperceptible, because we're told by Logitech that the G900 should be their “easiest mouse to click” thus far. And, for clarity, the perceived actuation force requirement disparity between the G303 and G900 (to us) is neither good nor bad; it is purely observational.

Battery Life

The G900 uses a 720mAh battery that weighs 15g – an impressively lightweight battery that's made possible by Li-Po (lithium-polymer – learn about battery types here). With the RGB LEDs on, the G900 mouse is capable of a 24-hour run-to-die lifetime. Run-to-die, in this instance, means “nonstop use.” It is not the same as intermittent use, where you might switch between full utilization of the keyboard and use of the mouse. The mouse also activates an effective hibernate state when untouched for ~10 minutes, at which point the mouse must be moved to reactivate.

logitech-g900-battery

For comparison, the Razer Mamba (2015 edition) uses a heavier, 31g battery with an 18mAh charge, but only powers the Mamba for about 20 hours run-to-die.

On the note of battery life, as we defined in our recent video on battery types, voltage depression dictates that certain types of batteries experience a gradual, significant decline in voltage over time. A standard double-A battery, for instance, will fall from 1.5v to ~0.9v over its usable lifespan; the output towards EOL is weaker and would be detected in some low-tolerance products (like Sennheiser G3 mic packs). Lithium-Ion and, by extension, Lithium-Polymer batteries experience little voltage depression and maintain their target voltage relatively well over the lifespan. That said, Li-* and NiMh batteries tend to die somewhat suddenly because their voltage falls-off in an instantaneous fashion. Logitech's accounted for this. Rather than a slow, asymptotic performance degradation resultant of drained battery levels, the Li-Poly battery will alert users with a red flash (LED color change) at first sign of low battery. The Logitech software (LGS) will use system tray notifications for a second warning layer, basically saying, “OK, but seriously this time.” After that point, the battery will eventually hit a wall and instantaneously die.

For a product that's performance-targeted, this is the ideal method of depletion. There's no performance loss over time because voltage levels are relatively sustained, and there's sufficient warning once the charge does get low. The first alert is at 30%, the second at 20%. Related to this, LGS offers a battery gauge which uses a time duration calculation based upon a real-time voltage reading of the battery (rather than an algorithm, which would be inaccurate). Users can accurate check remaining battery life at any time.

Logitech G900 Earns Our Editor's Choice & Quality Build Awards

logitech-g900-review-3

We're happy with the “clickiness” of the mouse and its responsiveness. Not once did we notice input latency or RFI; speaking to performance, the wireless G900 behaved just as a high-end, wired alternative might. There is a very slight delay in responsiveness when the mouse first wakes from sleep – if you walk away from your PC, it'll go to sleep after about ten minutes and take half a second to wake up – but that's not something which will ever impact gaming performance and is entirely reasonable. It's better to have the sleep state, anyway.

In our real-world testing, we got about 3-4 days of regular office use from the battery before a charge. Keep in mind that our “regular office use” does include some gaming, which is a more constant hammering of the mouse than desktop use might be. Charging is done easily and the mouse can be used wired with the braided cable, effectively turning it into any other wired G-series mouse.

logitech-g900-review-2

The mouse is phenomenally light – to the point that everyone who picked it up commented on it – and weighs about 100 grams. Mechanically, the thin-walled design manages to feel structurally sound and the preloaded switch actuation suits the overall “durable” feel of the mouse.

It's $150 right now, so if that's too much, the next closest options we'd recommend would be Logitech's G502 for a high-end, $75-$90 wired mouse, Corsair's brand new M65 Pro mouse ($60) that we're reviewing, or SteelSeries' wireless Sensei for $120-133.

editors-choice-g900-sm quality-build-g900-sm

Logitech's G900 Chaos Spectrum gets our Editor's Choice and Build Quality awards for superior execution of design and engineering. This has now dethroned previous Logitech mice as the best mouse we've ever reviewed, and proves that wireless mice can actually be better than wired mice for gaming.

Logitech has thoroughly proven its point.

If you like this type of in-depth coverage, please consider checking us out on Patreon.

Editorial, Host: Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke
Add'l Reporting: Patrick “Mocalcium” Stone
Video Production: Andrew “ColossalCake” Coleman

Last modified on May 02, 2016 at 10:51 am
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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