Review: Apple's new Magic Trackpad

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
Apple's new Magic Trackpad offers desktop Mac users a multitouch trackpad alternative to the mouse, designed to match its super slim aluminum keyboard.



The Magic Trackpad follows Apple's introduction of the Magic Mouse last year, which was similarly launched alongside a new batch of iMacs. New iMacs continue to ship with a Magic Mouse by default, leaving the new trackpad a $69 accessory (not an upgrade; if you buy one, you still also get a Magic Mouse with your order).



New Mac minis ship without a mouse, while Mac Pros ship with a wired mouse; neither product currently offers the Magic Trackpad as a bundling option, but the new trackpad works with any modern Mac capable of running Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.3.



A trackpad for desktops



The Magic Trackpad isn't Apple's first trackpad for desktop computer; the company bundled an external wired trackpad with the Twentieth Anniversary Mac, a limited edition model that shipped in 1997. That $7,500 system was built from spare notebook parts, so it made sense that it shipped with a trackpad that optionally embedded into its keyboard wrist rest.



Beyond that experimental venture, Apple has shipped Macs with a mouse, which offers greater positional accuracy than the first trackpads. However, the new technology being invested in notebook systems has made the flat surface of the trackpad more competitive with a freely positionable mouse.



Apple began pioneering multitouch pinch, swipe and rotation features on its MacBook trackpads with the MacBook Air in 2008. The latest MacBook models include a variety of two, three and four fingered gestures, including two fingered secondary tap, inertial scrolling, pinching and screen zoom, three fingered swipe navigation or window dragging, and four fingered invocation of Exposé and app switching.



Progress on the mouse front has come slower, with Apple offering little more than a simple pointing device until the Mighty Mouse appeared in 2005 with a roller ball and three other programmable buttons. Last year's Magic Mouse added a subset of multitouch gestures recognition via its new touch sensitive cover. However, a variety of trackpad gestures simply can't translate onto the back of a mouse, or would be to clumsy to perform.



Trackpad, untethered



The new Magic Trackpad presents a full featured external trackpad with feature parity with its notebook siblings. The primary difference is that it's larger, with 80% more surface area. Magic Trackpad takes up about the same hand-sized amount of room as a mouse, but you don't need to move it around, so it might be preferable to use if you have a limited amount of desk space next to your computer.







Like the matching Apple Wireless Keyboard, the new Magic Trackpad is a thin aluminum surface propped up at a slight angle on its battery compartment. It ships in a very small box similar to iWork, with two AA Energizer batteries installed and ready to use.







Similar to the modern, clickable generation of MacBook trackpads, the Magic Trackpad works as a single big button. But rather than being a glass surface that depresses into the aluminum shell of the MacBook to click, the external trackpad's buttons are its front two feet. This allows you to both lightly tap on its surface, and to press down to register a click, which you can feel and hear.







On page 2 of 2: Easy setup, familiar to use.



Easy setup, familiar to use



Setting the Magic Trackpad up is easy: simply press its power button (the batteries are already installed) and its tiny green light illuminates. On your Mac, choose "Set up a new Bluetooth device" from the Bluetooth menu and the system will discover and connected to the new peripheral in two mouse clicks.







If you're used to using a MacBook trackpad, Magic Trackpad will be immediately familiar. It features the same smooth layer of glass (which is more readily apparent when looking at the edge of Magic Trackpad up close, below), providing an identical, low resistance feel to your touch.







The only real difference is that it's placed off to the side of your keyboard like a mouse, rather than being set between your hands on a notebook keyboard. Clicking, dragging, selecting text and using multitouch gestures are all identical to a built-in trackpad.







There's no option to use the Magic Trackpad as a drawing tablet like a Wacom digitizer, with or without a pen; it's exclusively a finger driven trackpad. Unlike Bluetooth keyboards, you can't associate the Magic Trackpad with iPad either, as the tablet isn't designed to use a remote pointing device.



You might prefer a mouse for some operations, and Apple isn't positioning the Magic Trackpad as an alternative to its Magic Mouse, only as an additional accessory. But if you work on a notebook a lot and miss the additional gestures and stationary operation of a trackpad over gripping a mouse, you might like the new Magic Trackpad option.



Rating: 4 of 5







Pros:

Ultra thin, ultra light, highly portable design.

Ruggedly solid and rigid construction.

Elegantly attractive design.

Comfortable trackpad angle and button action.

Easy to set up and use.

Batteries not excluded.



Cons:

You may prefer a mouse to a $69 trackpad.

Only a trackpad, not a digitizer tablet.



Where to buy



Amazon ($69.00)



MacMall ($65.99)



B&H Photo ($68.95)



MacConnection ($69.00)

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Comments

  • john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,611member
    Daniel slays me!
    Quote:

    "... ships in an iWork-sized box..."



  • dr millmossdr millmoss Posts: 5,403member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Pros:

    ...

    Batteries not excluded.



    Not sure if that was meant to be funny, but it was.



    BTW, did the MightyMouse ever ship with a roller-ball? I don't think I've ever seen one with anything but LED tracking.
  • libertyforalllibertyforall Posts: 977member
    So, do Apple's Magic Trackpad drivers support PowerPC Macs?!
  • gqbgqb Posts: 1,934member
    I've seen posts complaining that the Wacom tablets are better.

    For pen input, yes. Its not a competing product to that.

    But I got the recent Wacom pen/touch, and while I sometimes use the pen for drawing (less often then I'd thought), I found it unusable as a touchpad for normal use.



    The touch pad on MacBooks is FAR superior, and I'd expect this to equal that performance.



    I'd pick this up in a minute if I didn't already have a Magic Mouse and Wacom on my desk.
  • dcj001dcj001 Posts: 301member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by libertyforall View Post


    So, do Apple's Magic Trackpad drivers support PowerPC Macs?!



    Specs for Apple's Magic Trackpad require a Mac running OA X 10.6.4.



    No PPCs.
  • john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,611member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post


    BTW, did the MightyMouse ever ship with a roller-ball? I don't think I've ever seen one with anything but LED tracking.



    Doc, I think he was talking about the little gray trackball on top.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by GQB View Post


    I've seen posts complaining that the Wacom tablets are better.



    For Photoshop/Lightroom use (and probably Aperture as well) the Wacom Intuos4 tablets kill anything like this trackpad; but for use with everyday applications, not so much.
  • joe hsjoe hs Posts: 488member
    Does it slide around on a desk when you use 3 or 4 finger gestures?
  • maccherrymaccherry Posts: 924member
    Check this out yall.

    What if a piece of software is made that allowed you to special swipe for a virtual numeric keypad you can see on the screen? Oh my god!!!!!!!
  • daharderdaharder Posts: 1,580member
    Seeing this pictured next to an Apple keyboard ensures that I'll be buying one on my next Apple store trip.



    The overall aesthetic of both this and my iMac's keyboard make me appreciate the wonderful design work done by iRiver on the SPINN back in mid 2008.



    Truly Great Design Does Endure.. http://nexus404.com/Blog/wp-content/...dual-views.jpg
  • christopher126christopher126 Posts: 3,409member
    My sister just ordered one for me for my B-Day! Yippee.



    No I will be selling my magic mouse and my mighty mouse!
  • t0mat0t0mat0 Posts: 58member
    Worth noting that whilst it's not pressure sensitive, it is very likely that the Sketch stylus and the Droplet app will work for it. Not a Wacom, but at least a way to sort out a basic stylus method.
  • paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,056member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Cons: You may prefer a mouse to a $69 trackpad.



    How is it a con that you may prefer something entirely different from what is being reviewed? I hate to tell you but there are MANY things I prefer over a $69 trackpad, the first on that very very long list being a $68 trackpad. I think there's also an Aston martin on that list, in case you are interested.
  • xsamplexxsamplex Posts: 214member
    BTW, just call it a track pad. Calling it "magic track pad" throughout the column makes you sound like an Apple shill. Seriously. It's embarrassing.
  • dr millmossdr millmoss Posts: 5,403member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by John.B View Post


    Doc, I think he was talking about the little gray trackball on top.



    Doh! Yeah, I'm sure he was.
  • yensid98yensid98 Posts: 302member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    How is it a con that you may prefer something entirely different from what is being reviewed? I hate to tell you but there are MANY things I prefer over a $69 trackpad, the first on that very very long list being a $68 trackpad. I think there's also an Aston martin on that list, in case you are interested.



    QFT

    This reviewer needs to get a grip. Next we'll be complaining that our keyboards don't make waffles. It's a trackpad! Review it as such. Nothing more, nothing less.
  • christopher126christopher126 Posts: 3,409member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    How is it a con that you may prefer something entirely different from what is being reviewed? I hate to tell you but there are MANY things I prefer over a $69 trackpad, the first on that very very long list being a $68 trackpad. I think there's also an Aston martin on that list, in case you are interested.



    Aston Martin = 'Garage Art'



    Having said that I still covet them! (Alot!)



    Best
  • nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    The main Pro is the gestures!



    I?d gladly replace my mouse with this. (Keeping a Logitech on hand for gaming.)
  • dunksdunks Posts: 1,163member
    International pricing is a little excessive. Might pick one up from the US later this year.
  • john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,611member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Joe hs View Post


    Does it slide around on a desk when you use 3 or 4 finger gestures?



    Not for a normal desk surface with normal finger pressure. You'd have to be trying to make it slide around.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by xSamplex View Post


    BTW, just call it a track pad. Calling it "magic track pad" throughout the column makes you sound like an Apple shill. Seriously. It's embarrassing.



    By Daniel Eran Dilger



    Of COURSE he sounds like an Apple shill! You probably just made his day!
  • irelandireland Posts: 15,270member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    How is it a con that you may prefer something entirely different from what is being reviewed?



    Cause mice are better than trackpads.
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