First look: Apple's Force Touch trackpad on the early 2015 MacBook Pro

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited March 2015
The newest revision of Apple's littlest MacBook Pro packs faster flash memory and Intel's latest Broadwell chips, but the star of the show is its new Force Touch trackpad. AppleInsider went hands-on with the clickless wonder to see if it upholds Apple's tradition of finger-navigating excellence.


What's old is new again.


Let's get this out of the way up front: the Force Touch trackpad is really cool. The glass touch surface --?the same found on every Apple notebook in recent memory --?sits atop a totally redesigned chassis that relies on four strain gauges, one in each corner, to determine when and how hard the user is pressing down.

When it detects a press, it fires off a vibration from a series of disparately-sized electromagnets seated underneath the pad, designed to mimic the visceral snick that you get from the older trackpads.

The effect is stunning; it feels just like clicking with the previous generation, if a little softer and less jarring. Pressing down harder yields a deeper thunk that gives the impression of a significant deformation, even though the plate actually moves less than a millimeter.

Perhaps more impressive is that the effect stays the same, no matter where on the pad you press. In the middle, at the top, or deep into the corner, it feels like you're always pushing directly on the center of a very satisfying button.




Even on the deeper Force Click, the trackpad deflects less than half the height of Apple's SIM removal tool.


Apple has leveraged this newfound sensitivity to enable a "Force Click" gesture, which brings with it some new user interactions. By default, force clicking a file will open Quick Look; force clicking a word will look it up; and Quicktime will scrub through media faster as you press harder.

These are all pretty fun, but they're also a little gimmicky. We suspect that the new trackpad will really come into its own once developers begin to take advantage of the fact that every new Mac laptop user has a relatively large, pressure-sensitive pad built in.

You get a taste of the possibilities in Preview's new signatures pane. The old method --?writing your signature on a piece of paper and holding it up to the FaceTime camera --?still works, but now you can also sign directly on the trackpad.

Using the pressure sensing APIs, Preview varies the width of the stroke based on how hard you press down. It's fairly impressive, capturing even the gradual taper that many people leave at the end of their final stroke.

The new trackpad also yields some new options in System Preferences that allow you to fine-tune its operation to your liking. Most importantly, you can adjust the pressure required to register a click --?Apple provides light, medium, and firm settings --?which also adjusts the force of the haptic feedback.

It's set on medium by default, which is not unlike a smoother, more well-lubricated version of the old "diving board-style" trackpad. Light is a little too soft for our taste, making it seem as though we're pressing on a loose panel, while firm most closely replicates the feel of Apple trackpads past.

It's important to note here that we're not physically adjusting anything with these settings. Rather, we're changing the way the feedback electromagnets respond, which completely alters the way we perceive the click action --?this is some seriously cool science fiction.


Overall, we were blown away with the new trackpad. Apple's trackpads have always set the standard for the PC industry, and that hasn't changed.

Crucially, it didn't take us any time to adjust to the new setup. The only difficulty we encountered when swapping back and forth between the Force Touch trackpad and the now-legacy version on our 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro was that we didn't want to put the new one down.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at the trackpad and the new 13-inch MacBook Pro later this week.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 40
    I wonder when these will be available as an accessory to the Imac.
  • Reply 2 of 40
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,743member
    It's little details like this, finely tuned, perfected and integrated so seamlessly, that really set Apple apart.

    All those little things add up.
  • Reply 3 of 40
    mr omr o Posts: 1,046member
    Is the glass surface of the trackpad level with the body?

    The picture suggests it has sunken down a bit, which is bad news as dirt will garner around the borders.
  • Reply 4 of 40
    As a (after-hours) musician accustomed to both velocity and aftertouch to nuance performances, I can't wait to try this out. Even in traditional nonmusic interactions, this sounds like quite the game-changer.
  • Reply 5 of 40
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,543member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mr O View Post



    Is the glass surface of the trackpad level with the body?



    The picture suggests it has sunken down a bit, which is bad news as dirt will garner around the borders.



    I haven't yet seen one, but if the past is any indicator... it is an illusion.  The trackpad is glass which is flush with the deck.  What you're seeing the "thickness" of the glass trackpad resting in the opening.  It's not Apple's style to have such an indentation on the trackpads.  

  • Reply 6 of 40

    The 15" rMBP should be out by WWDC, I would think, unless they're planning a big refresh for then (the line is, arguably, due). The Broadwell chips the 15" needs aren't out yet, and I'm not sure if Intel will actually ship them or just offer Skylake instead.

  • Reply 7 of 40
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,118member
    ..and other OEMs have no even figured out how to make anything even CLOSE to Apple's current trackpads, let alone this new innovation. I tried it at the store and did not believe it was not actually clicking. Insanely convincing.
  • Reply 8 of 40
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post



    ..and other OEMs have no even figured out how to make anything even CLOSE to Apple's current trackpads, let alone this new innovation. I tried it at the store and did not believe it was not actually clicking. Insanely convincing.



    That's why I stick with Apple laptops. Honestly, I'm glad they got rid of the clicky trackpad. I'd tried it in stores and didn't like it (my laptops support gestures but still have buttons).

  • Reply 9 of 40
    anomeanome Posts: 1,266member
    sflocal wrote: »

    I haven't yet seen one, but if the past is any indicator... it is an illusion.  The trackpad is glass which is flush with the deck.  What you're seeing the "thickness" of the glass trackpad resting in the opening.  It's not Apple's style to have such an indentation on the trackpads.  
    I have seen one in my local Apple Store on the new MacBook Pro. It does feel slightly sunken. In fact, I was trying to gauge whether there was any actual motion (given the design, it shouldn't travel at all - and it doesn't seem to).

    Easy way to tell the difference, is that when you push down, there's a double click. Or, if you check the "About This Mac..." it says Early 2015.
  • Reply 10 of 40
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,375member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tkrunner1738 View Post



    I wonder when these will be available as an accessory to the Imac.



    If this functionality is included in an refreshed Magic Trackpad model, one might guess it would coincide with the next iMac release. That would seem to be the logical time for Apple to debut such a peripheral.

  • Reply 11 of 40
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    This guy on YouTube explained future posibilities for ForceTpuch on iPhone.

    One idea stuck out. He said for e touch would work wonderfully under the home button!!
    Amazing idea!
    He mentioned it would eliminate accidental unlocks as you would have to press to unlock.
    I think it would be cool to call on Siri or search by just pushing hard. There's tons of possibilities here.
  • Reply 12 of 40
    solipsismysolipsismy Posts: 5,099member
    sflocal wrote: »

    I haven't yet seen one, but if the past is any indicator... it is an illusion.  The trackpad is glass which is flush with the deck.  What you're seeing the "thickness" of the glass trackpad resting in the opening.  It's not Apple's style to have such an indentation on the trackpads.  

    I have a 2014 15" MBP and it's not level with the case.
  • Reply 13 of 40
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismY View Post





    I have a 2014 15" MBP and it's not level with the case.



    I don't think you'd want it flush either, otherwise you'd end up with your finger sliding off onto the case.

  • Reply 14 of 40
    Looks like a tiny scale. Probably is one, the way it senses force.
  • Reply 15 of 40

    I love the magic track pad and prefer it over a mouse. Since I use it in the living room with my TV hooked up to a mini I have never used the mechanical click feature and have always used tap to click and two finger tap to right click. I always thought is was much easier and should have been the default setting. The new track pad sounds great to me. I've yet to find a windows laptop you could comfortably use without a mouse.

  • Reply 16 of 40
    nick29nick29 Posts: 111member
    I expected this to be excellent. The trackpad is what I miss most if I ever have to use another computer. Touch to click is a thing of beauty so I don't miss the actual click, which seems clumsy now.
  • Reply 17 of 40
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mr O View Post



    Is the glass surface of the trackpad level with the body?



    The picture suggests it has sunken down a bit, which is bad news as dirt will garner around the borders.

     

    you'd better get a hold of the design lab, ASAP.

  • Reply 18 of 40
    pfisherpfisher Posts: 758member

    Next, the keyboard keys will have this haptic feedback and we'll have the first laptop without any moving parts...

  • Reply 19 of 40
    pfisherpfisher Posts: 758member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post



    ..and other OEMs have no even figured out how to make anything even CLOSE to Apple's current trackpads, let alone this new innovation. I tried it at the store and did not believe it was not actually clicking. Insanely convincing.



    ...don't get us started...haven't run across a Windows laptop with anything too close to what Apple has created for trackpads. However, our cheapie ($100) Chromebook trackpad is pretty great.

     

    I believe it's about one company that makes all of the Windows trackpads? more or less. Should be called crappads. Pretty useless on our work laptops over many years.

  • Reply 20 of 40
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,375member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

     

    I haven't yet seen one, but if the past is any indicator... it is an illusion.  The trackpad is glass which is flush with the deck.  What you're seeing the "thickness" of the glass trackpad resting in the opening.  It's not Apple's style to have such an indentation on the trackpads.  




    This is not the case with the 11" MacBook Air (mid-2013); the glass trackpad is not flush with the case.

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