Saturday, May 19, 2007

Sony VAIO Mouse Talk VN-CX1 Skype/VoIP optical mouse review

Two weeks ago my main wireless optical mouse which I purchased in 2003 gave up. It coughed, stuttered and suddenly it stopped moving. I charged the battery and tried but it wouldn't budge. I changed to another set of batteries and tried to pair it with the receiver, but it still refused to rise from its grave.

So for the past two weeks I have been using a crap wired Compaq mouse (licensed from Logitech) with those ball thingy (the horror), which I had to clean out almost everyday (I don't have a mouse pad), while researching for a suitable replacement. My obvious choice was to go laser.

The Logitech V450 was a target purchase but I could not find a single store that sold it for less than £20. There was no way I would ever pay above £20 for a mouse, not even cutting edge mouse with built-in rice cooker. I decided to prioritise my needs and finally decided that I no longer needed a wireless mouse (the good ones are expensive, the crap ones can barely go beyond 2 metres). Besides the newer mice (like the V450) uses the crowded 2.4Ghz frequency for transmitting. Surrounded by at least ten 802.11b/g access points, various Bluetooth and other 2.4Ghz malarkey, I decided there was no way I wanted another device that would interfere with my wireless connection.

Oh, and I wanted a good nice looking (ie. fashionable) wired mouse that is small enough to throw into my daily bag. I hit eBay. Just an hour later I hit jackpot.

Today my lovely Sony VAIO VN-CX1 arrived. It is a refurbished unit, but apart from the damaged packaging, there were no indications that these were used. It look brand new. These little buggers normally retail at £70 in Sony UK stores (and £55 at on line stores), but as an eBay buying veteran I managed to snag it for only £11.50, which is cheaper than even some generic no-brand optical mouses on the market!

AAA battery for scaling purpose

So what is so special about this cute designer mice that my local Sony Store dared to impose a 70 quid mark-up? Well for one it looks lovely. The black colour is absolutely eye catching and matched well with my ThinkPad's black. The VAIO VN-CX1 has a slim ergonomic shape and is feather light (may be bad for CAD users). Because the shape is symmetrical, it works just as well for lefties as it was for right-handed people. It comes with a standard three buttons and scroll wheel configuration. The high resolution LED provides 800 DPI of optical precision and it glides smoothly on almost every surface I tested on. I am not sure if the CX1 is coated with PTFE like certain VAIO mouses, but it is still smoother than most mouses I played with and should suit non-competitive gaming.

Then there is the built-in VoIP capabilities...

Yep, the CX1 is a convergence phone. When market people speaks about convergence phone, they usually mean integrating phone capabilities into stuff like PDAs or digital cameras. But a mouse? How exiting! The CX1 when used as a VoIP phone opens up like a clamshell mobile (or "cellphone") phone (smaller in size to a StarTac). When receiving incoming calls the LED will flash and the built-in speaker will buzz (configurable on the Skype program).

Now, as a whole, this product is a little bit daft especially if you use this as a desktop mouse. You probably guessed what I mean. Basically when the VN-CX1 is being used as a VoIP phone, you will lose the ability to mousy on the PC, at least on the CX1. Of course geeks are capable of doing majority of their stuff with only the keyboard (mouse are for chums) but for most people, it would be like driving a car without a steering wheel. However if you own a laptop then you can easily switch to the built-in mouse system.

I used the latest Skype to test the VoIP capability. Leaving the Jonathan Ross Show turned on the telly, I test called "echo123" and recorded a message before playing it back. The CX1's echo and noise cancellation works well as it almost cancelled out most of Jonathan Ross' ramblings from being recorded! Nice.

After more test calls (with real humans this time), I can honestly say that the overall speaker quality is above average and on par with most landlines and mobile phones. Your mileage may vary as VoIP sound quality is usually determined not by the hardware, but bandwidth availability and connection quality. As a bonus, the scroll wheel moonlights as a volume control! If you prefer, flipping the lid up halfway would activate the loudspeaker mode, but to me this is a pointless feature as I always prefer to be holding something up my ear when speaking over a phone line! I know I am weird. When receiving calls, the LED on the top of the mouse will lit up and all you have to do is flip the clamshell open and Skype will automatically answer the call.

Despite its obvious greatness, for your £50-£70 inc. VAT, the VN-CX1 barely represent value of money. So unless you are planning to check out eBay and other hotspots for any bargains (I believe £30 is the sweet spot, as that is the price Americans are paying), it is probably a clever idea to invest in a Logitech Bluetooth headset and save the money for a laser mouse. But if you are so inclined you can purchase it here. Personally I am very very happy with the purchase as I am lucky enough to obtain a bargain.

Slim and light (67g).
High-res LED for 800 DPI optical tracking means smoother gliding.
Typical Sony high quality construction.
Built-in VoIP.
Scroll wheel can act as volume control.
Works on Skype without driver.
Works on Windows Live Messenger (v8.1) without driver.

Scroll wheel is noisy and 'clicky'.
No mousey function when in VoIP mode.
Typical Sony sky-high price.
Some may find the mouse too light for certain applications that demands precision.

Mouse can be used as speakerphone.

Things I would like to see in future models: Wireless. Built-in number pad and/or answer/reject key. Laser tracking. Vibrate when receiving phone calls.


QUIK! said...

Wow - that's a real bargain! I am so going to ebay to get one myself (if I'm that lucky!)

Anonymous said...

Does it work on MSN?

Jon Choo said...

Quik, be quick!

Marzipan. It does and I updated the review to reflect this. There were some echo problems but it may be due to my less than ideal connection.

QUIK! said...

did find 2, but they are overpriced. You are lucky to snag it at that price!

Meanwhile, I did manage to get a cheap coffee machine...which I don't really need haha

living-in-the-uk said...

lol cool mouse.
and the compaq mouse looks exactly like the one i have at home now.

Anonymous said...

That is the sexiest mouse I have ever seen. If only it were wireless and have a higher DPI.

Anonymous said...

what about if you want to make a phone call AND use the mouse at the same time?