Review: Apple Magic Trackpad PDF Print E-mail

Is the Magic Trackpad the pointing device to end the reign of the mouse? Perhaps not...

What is it?

This is Apple`s vaunted Magic Trackpad. It`s the device I wrote about in a column, extolling its divergence from the tried-and-tested way of controlling a computer using the mouse.

The premise is simple: it`s the same, intuitive, finger-swipey trackpad you`ll find on a laptop, but bigger and better. And wireless. Wireless is always good.

Does it work?

Aside from looking pretty, Apple products always “just work”. The Magic Trackpad is no different. Its single-piece aluminium body has a tube for two AA batteries and the touch surface is actually a thin piece of glass. Underneath there are two rubber feet, which are actually the buttons for left and right click. Push down on the lower left or lower right corner and it will click in. Nifty. Everything is done wirelessly, through Bluetooth. Set-up couldn`t be simpler.

Without the correct drivers (not included!) it is just a normal single-touch trackpad. Mac users get to run a software update, which automatically pulls down the supporting software for the Magic Trackpad, and in 10 minutes everything is all set up. Windows users, though, will need to be happy with basic pointing functionality. It`ll do the two-finger scrolling and tap-to-click bits, but there is none of the fancy pinch/stretch zooming that Mac users have access to, thanks to OS X.

At the time of writing, it`s also not possible to augment the Windows driver with third-party software. Mac users have it good – BetterTouchTool (http://blog.boastr.net/) unlocks even more multi-finger gestures for the Magic Trackpad (or Apple`s laptops, which have the multi-touch trackpad built in). It can be configured to have per-application gestures or just to reassign existing gestures. There`s even an option to have an 11-finger gesture! Why? Because it can, I guess. Perhaps this is why it`s earned the ire of the Microsoft devout on the Internet: they lovingly refer to it as the tragic Mac pad.

It`s all about the gestures, though. In the column I wrote, when the Magic Trackpad was announced, I surmised how it might completely replace the desktop mouse. I was wrong, I`ll admit. In a few weeks of casual use, I found myself swapping between the MT and a mouse, for various things. Browsing and gestures on the trackpad. Precision pointing and gaming with the mouse.

Sometimes I`d even use them in conjunction: use the mouse to drag some files while my left hand performs gestures to bring up the folder for where I want to place those files. Like some sort of übergeek desktop symphony.

Should I buy it?

Is it essential? No. Your mouse will still do everything the Magic Trackpad does. The case could be stronger if you`re a Mac user, because the Apple mouse products are a bit crap. As neat as the Magic Mouse is, it`s uncomfortable and expensive, and doesn`t have the versatility this does.

Windows users are, sadly, missing out on something really cool. Windows 7 has a bunch of cool features that multi-touch technology could make even more accessible, but for now the “magic” in Magic Trackpad is for Apple users only.


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