The Apple Magic Trackpad has turned the tables of personal computing – instead of laptop users plugging a computer mouse into their machine for better responsiveness, Apple’s new hardware accessory has desktop users plugging in a laptop-styled interface. Although trackpads have long been thought of as the smaller, less responsive cousins of standalone computer mice, the Trackpad is changing all that by bringing a new level of responsiveness, precision and intuitive feel to the table.
The Trackpad resembles the same one you will see on any MacBook, only 80% larger in size to prevent the “running out of room” problem users tend to encounter when making large hand swipes with a regular pad. It bears the same sleek, smooth look as other Apple hardware and is visually matched with Apple’s Wireless Keyboard for a coordinated look on the user’s desktop.
It feels solid and strong; not the cheap plastic of some mouse interfaces. It is the same height and angle as the keyboard and sits perfectly alongside or in front of it. Not only does it look nice, it allows the hand to slide from the keyboard to the mouse without any adjustment in height, and makes usage more instinctive.
Like the Wireless Keyboard, the Trackpad runs via Bluetooth, and connecting the unit is just as simple. If you are running a computer with a traditional mouse, just turn the Trackpad on and go into System Preferences to change over. You’ll be up and running your new Trackpad within minutes. The Trackpad is operable from over 30 feet away from the computer; although I can’t see many instances in which you would be using your mouse 30 feet from the computer, the flexibility is nice to have.
Although it is battery powered, there’s no on/off switch – you turn the unit on by using it, and it turns off automatically after a period of inactivity. Boot time is instant, so there’s no waiting to use it when you return to your computer. Although it does run on batteries, this energy-saving function allows your batteries to last for months at a time.
Although the look is appealing, the real selling point of the Trackpad is its incredible responsiveness. The Trackpad responds to the slightest movement of your fingers without overcompensating (as with some inferior trackpads, where the slightest movement of the hands sends the cursor flying across the screen in an out of control arc). The inertial scrolling feature senses the momentum of your fingers moving up and down the page, allowing for broad strokes across the screen, or pinpoint precision.
The movement of your fingers and the cursor are synched to an incredible degree, which makes flipping through web and document pages on your screen like flipping through a magazine. Your browsing and scrolling will reach levels of speed and precision you would never have thought possible with a trackpad. Instead of just moving your fingers along the pad, a number of more complicated gestures are supported. These take time to learn, but allow for more complicated motions such as zooming in to be achieved with a single hand gesture. They aren’t always intuitive to every user, but if learned will economize mouse function greatly.
There are no real downsides to the Magic Trackpad; the learning curve of some of the more complex gestures might take a little patience for some users at first, but this is only temporary. Overall it is a strong addition to the Mac accessory line, and a worthy purchase for anyone who liked the idea of trackpads but was put off by the limitations of earlier models.