Thursday, July 29, 2010

Apple's new Magic Trackpad

If you've used a MacBook Pro or MacBook over the last couple of years then surely an Apple Magic Trackpad is old news? I say that because from what I've heard, the technology is the same, the experience is the same, and the usability is the same: anything you can do on the trackpads of the latest MacBook or MacBook Pro laptop range, you can do here. So do I really need to buy this £59 accessory?

I found a review from Pocket-lint who were assessing just that:

The device itself oozes typical Apple minimalism design. It's a sheet of aluminium that sits on your desk at a slight angle waiting to be touched, topped with the wear-resistant glass surface for you to touch. The angle is created by the battery tube at the top and it takes two AA batteries. Apple claim this will be enough to power it for around 2 months. That tube houses the power switch and the gubbins to make it all work. Aside from a green light that only lights up when it is pairing, there is very little to report here.

While the top is metal the underside is white plastic - identical to the Apple Bluetooth keyboard. In fact design-wise it is identical its approach. It's the same brushed metal on top, the same angle, the same depth, the same height, in fact you can put the two together and pretend they are one piece.

Unlike most other computer peripherals, the surface is free from buttons. But you still get the ability to left or right click, thanks to the small feet on the leading edge of the underside. It's an incredibly simple and clever idea that works just like the MacBook Pro's system - you just click on the trackpad without realising there is no button.

The Magic Trackpad is connected to your Mac via Bluetooth, and the only other requirement here is that you are running OSX 10.6.4. Connect the device to your Mac and at first you'll believe that you've bought a rather uninspiring and expensive trackpad that doesn't do much.

Perform a software update to get the latest software (if you haven't already) and empower your Magic trackpad to deliver on its promises. A quick restart later and you're ready to tinker if you so wish, although for the most part you won't have to.

The new software gives you the power to scroll, rotate, pinch open and close, screen zoom, and secondary click when using two fingers.

Add a third finger and you can swipe to navigate, and drag windows around, while four fingers up and down opens Expose and swiping left and right gives you the ability to change applications.

Don't panic you can just use the one finger. The travel of your finger on the trackpad is more than enough to cover your screen within a single motion and that saves you having to keep lifting your finger.

There are other options with your single finger; i.e. tap to click (which can be turned off) and secondary click zoned into the bottom right corner for example: we found a two finger click was easier, but there are choices so you can set it to your preference. You can adjust tracking, double-click and scrolling speed as well.

In practice and it really is the same as the MacBook Pro trackpad, although we found it easier to use three and four finger movements due to the increased real-estate. The glass is beautifully smooth on your fingers and the click, which can be done from anywhere with very little effort, is responsive and don't really have to press that hard.

With the resting feet responsible for the clicking part of the trackpad you will have to have it on a level surface. We tried balancing it on a leg - it just doesn't work - but you can use it up to 10 metres away. We're sure that swapping trackpads around in the office will lead to a great deal of hilarity.

So the question is, can it become the primary input device for professional graphic designers?

1 comment:

Kyle Luke said...

Just finished reading your thorough analysis of the new Apple trackpad. I thought you did a great job in explaining all the new intricacies of this new device. In my opinion, I think the early adapters will be all over this and many others will follow suit in the world of Apple. This is just another device that in your words "oozes typical Apple design." I also think from a marketing perspective, it was a solid idea to match the trackpad with the exact same dimensions of an apple keyboard. Now Mac users will look at it from the standpoint if they have a keyboard, they need the other piece of the puzzle to fit. In this case, that's the trackpad. If you look at the new browsing capabilities the trackpad offers and combine it with the sleek look that Apple lovers are all about, I think you have a new piece of technology that will be quite successful.

I'd like to recommend this video ( from It takes a look at the features the trackpad offers in a video format as well as shows what all the sources in the tech world are saying about it.