Since the inception of wireless peripherals in the 1980s, the tech behind them has improved considerably.
But did you know that Logitech made the first wireless mouse? To this day, it remains one of the major peripherals manufacturers—wired or cordless. That’s where Logitech Unifying and Logitech Bolt come into play, but what are these Logitech propriety wireless technologies, and how do they work?
What Is Logitech Unifying?
One of the main advantages of its products is the capacity to connect several devices using a single dongle. This was introduced with the Unifying dongle in 2009.
Not all of Logitech’s wireless peripherals are created equal, though. The story starts a couple of years earlier. The Logitech Nano dongle, introduced in 2007, was innovative because of its size. Instead of looking somewhat similar to a thumb drive, it barely stuck out of the USB port. However, this kind of receiver could only connect to one peripheral.
In 2009, the Logitech Performance Mouse was released. Part of the productivity-oriented MX family, this was the first device to feature a Logitech Unifying dongle. It was similar to the Nano in size but allowed up to six devices to connect simultaneously. Device management was taken care of through Logitech’s proprietary software.
Devices compatible with the Nano receiver could also use the new Unifying. But it wasn’t shipped with every product: in fact, the second device from Logitech to include the dongle in the box was the K750 keyboard from 2010.
One could buy a Unifying dongle by itself and use it to connect multiple devices. It was a separate purchase, though.
Several vulnerabilities were discovered in the Logitech Unifying tech a few years later, which didn’t encrypt radio signals to and from the receiver. Those security flaws allowed for attacks known as “mouse-jacking” and “key-jacking.”
What Is Logitech Bolt?
Even though Logitech released several firmware fixes for Unifying devices, other exploits were discovered. There were technical limitations in how the dongles could handle encryption, so a new solution was needed.
In 2021, Logitech launched the MX Master 3 for Business. It was basically the same MX Master 3 from 2019 but with additional security features.
By “enhanced,” we mean “replaced.” The default dongle shipped with the MX Master 3 for Business was the Bolt, similar to the Nano and Unifying in size and shape but with improved encryption. A new icon also was introduced to make the receivers easily distinguished.
Differences Between Logitech’s Bolt and Unifying Technologies
Bolt is an updated and more secure version of Unifying. But where the Unifying-compatible devices rely on traditional 2.4GHz signals, Bolt uses a modified version of Bluetooth.
Unfortunately, this means devices using Bolt or Unifying technology are incompatible, so if a keyboard or mouse originally ships with a Unifying receiver, it won’t connect to a Bolt dongle. The same applies to Bolt devices and Unifying dongles.
Even more confusing is the fact that some products in Logitech’s portfolio have versions with both receivers. For example, a regular MX Keys from 2019 only supports Unifying. The MX Keys for Business, from 2021, though, is the same keyboard but uses a Bolt connection.
Right now, less than ten devices support Logitech Bolt:
- MX Keys/Keys Mini for Business
- MX Mechanical/Mechanical Mini Ergo K860 for Business
- MX Master 3 for Business
- MX Master 3S
- M575 Trackball for Business
- Signature M650 for Business
- MX Anywhere 3 for Busines.
Currently, it’s easy to check which dongle a Logitech peripheral needs.
Logitech is likely to release more Bolt devices in the future, though. As a result, customers buying Logitech peripherals will have a harder time determining compatibility for their devices.
Are Logitech’s Bolt and Unifying Compatible With Lightspeed?
Lightspeed is Logitech’s transceiver for gaming peripherals. It’s easily distinguished from Nano, Unifying, and Bolt dongles by its size: it still looks like a thumb drive.
However, Lightspeed devices are not compatible with Unifying or Bolt receivers. They’re built differently, with distinct needs in mind.
Lightspeed focuses on low latency and connects to a single peripheral at a time. Unfortunately, they’re also model-locked, so a Lightspeed receiver from a G703 mouse won’t work with a G903 model, etc.
On the other hand, Unifying and Bolt are made for peripherals that can get away with some input lag but need longer-lasting batteries. They also need to comply with stricter safety regulations for corporate users—even though Unifying failed in this matter a few times.
Are Logitech’s Bolt and Unifying Compatible With Devices From Other Brands?
Likewise, both Unifying and Bolt are proprietary technologies from Logitech. Therefore, they’re not compatible with wireless peripherals from other brands.
Lightspeed dongles also won’t work with devices made by manufacturers other than Logitech G. As explained above, those are locked to work with a single model.
Are Logitech’s Bolt and Unifying Compatible With Bluetooth Devices?
Unifying is a wireless technology based on a traditional 2.4GHz connection, which has been used for nearly 40 years. Bolt, on the other hand, is based on Bluetooth Low Energy standards. Both connections have proprietary modifications made by Logitech, though.
That means neither dongle can connect to a peripheral that uses Bluetooth solely for communications. On the other hand, many newer Logitech wireless peripherals also feature Bluetooth.
From Logitech’s MX line of products, every keyboard, mouse, and trackball released since 2015 features Bluetooth support alongside the Unifying receiver. All Bolt devices announced so far also are Bluetooth compatible.
What Are the Alternatives to Logitech’s Bolt and Unifying?
So far, only two of the main PC hardware manufacturers offer technologies similar to Logitech’s Bolt and Unifying.
Razer’s most recent HyperSpeed devices allow a keyboard and a mouse to be used with a single receiver. Corsair goes further, allowing a compatible keyboard, a mouse, and a headset to share a Slipstream dongle.
Both brands are more limited than Logitech regarding the number of peripherals that can connect to the same receiver at any given time. Corsair’s products also need a lengthy configuration using the company’s iCUE software. In contrast, Logitech is pretty much plug-and-play: plug in the dongle, open Logitech Options, and put devices in pairing mode—they’ll be detected and set up automatically.
Many other brands make wireless peripherals, such as Asus/ROG, Dell/Alienware, and HP/HyperX. However, none of these allow multiple devices in a single receiver.
Are Logitech’s Flow, Unifying, and Bolt Technology the Same?
Not at all. The differences between Unifying and Bolt have been explained above, but Logitech also has another technology for its wireless peripherals. Logitech Flow can be seen as somewhat the inverse of Unifying and Bolt.
Unifying and Bolt allow several peripherals to use a single receiver. Flow, on the other hand, allows a single peripheral to connect to several devices—up to three at the moment.
This can be set up in two ways: using the peripherals’ dedicated buttons or the Logitech Options+ software (for Windows and macOS only). Both have pros and cons.
Setting up using the Flow buttons is easier. All you need to do is plug a Bolt or Unifying dongle into each computer, and the configuration—pun intended—flows from there. Bluetooth can also be used for devices without USB-A ports.
Using Flow via Logitech Options+ needs additional steps but provides more functionality. After setting up the connection via dongle or Bluetooth, the user must connect all devices to the same network (wired or Wi-Fi). The advantage here is deeper integration, as you can copy files or content from a computer and paste it into another seamlessly after the initial setup.
Wireless, Wired, Multi-Device… It’s a Matter of Taste
Wireless peripherals are, without a doubt, extremely convenient to use. They de-clutter your desk, allow using the computer from afar, and are easier to carry if you work on the go.
They usually come at a premium, though, and not many people are fond of recharging their keyboard or mouse—but this is less of a burden for anything that’s not a gaming peripheral. Charges for wireless keyboards and mice last longer than ever; many products even include internal batteries instead of replaceable ones.
Hardcore gamers tend to hold their wired devices dear, not only for battery life issues but also for input lag reasons. Corporate environments usually stick to corded because of lower maintenance costs.
Logitech’s Unifying and Bolt technologies are handy space-saving tools in a world filled with cables. In a world with even thinner laptops, which means fewer ports, having a single receiver for all your wireless peripherals frees up space for external monitors, charging, or even connecting your phone to your computer. But does anyone do this anymore?