Review: Apple's Magic Trackpad 2 and Magic Mouse 2 open new doors for Mac

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited November 2015
With the introduction of Magic Trackpad 2 and Magic Mouse 2, Apple offers two solid upgrades to its peripheral accessory lineup, but in our estimation only one is worthy of the "magic" moniker.


Magic Trackpad 2

The mouse has for decades been used as a complementary means of data input to the computer, but trackpads with multitouch support have quickly gained popularity, in no small part thanks to Apple's MacBook and iOS device lineups. Apple capitalized on that momentum and in 2010 introduced the Magic Trackpad, bringing familiar user interface gesture control to desktop owners' fingertips.

Design

The Magic Trackpad 2's input surface is large at 6.3 inches-by-4.52 inches and more akin to a MacBook's trackpad, being wider and shorter than its predecessor. Compared to the first-gen Magic Trackpad, this year's model boasts 29 percent more surface area. I found the long distance from corner to corner very handy when drawing or finger writing.




Shaped like a wedge, Trackpad 2's rear height comes in at 0.43 inches, identical to the Apple's new Magic Keyboard. In fact, the two device both weigh in at 0.51 pounds. As with all Apple trackpads, the snow white, glass-covered surface on Trackpad 2 is smooth and comfortable with consistent edge-to-edge friction. I really enjoyed the feel and its size made it easy to "find" without taking my eyes off the screen.

Powering the unit is an internal battery that can be recharged via a Lightning port. On the rear of the aluminum wedge, next to the Lightning receptacle, is a a physical power switch and a Bluetooth antenna cutout filled in with strip of radio-transparent material. Four rubber feet provide a solid foundation for all but the most vigorous swiping activities.

Trackpad 2's real magic is a Force Touch mechanism hidden beneath the glass and metal exterior. Sensors connected to the glass surface register pressure-sensitive deep press gestures, adding an entirely new layer to OS X El Capitan's GUI. The surface is also static; it doesn't physically move. Apple employs a haptic feedback engine to mimic the usual "click" sensation, a system used in the latest MacBooks.

Setup

Plugging a Lightning cable running from your Mac into the trackpad's charging port instantly pairs the device, no configuration needed. A confirmation message pops up onscreen to let users know that their trackpad is ready to use over Bluetooth. If you are not comfortable digging into the settings of your Mac and want things to "just work," these new devices are for you. With Magic Trackpad 2, Apple has truly continued the tradition of building in foolproof device setup procedures.


Bluetooth antenna slot on Magic Trackpad 2.


Users can easily adjust settings for click and haptic feedback in Mac's Settings menu. For example, Force Touch gesture input pressure can be adjusted to light, medium and firm, or switched off entirely to make the device function like a traditional trackpad. I am by no means frail, but even the medium setting seemed to be somewhat difficult to trigger. Moving to the light setting made interaction more fluid with much less strain on my hand and wrist, an important consideration for those who work long hours in front of their computer.

On a side note, both trackpad and mouse came almost fully charged. The trackpad was at 95 percent and the mouse at 92 percent when I received them. At these levels out of the box, you should have near one month of use before having to recharge.

Usage

I have never been very fond of trackpads, but then Apple introduced Force Touch alongside this year's MacBook hardware refreshes. It's typical Apple to introduce a brand new feature only to leave me wondering how I ever did without it.




As a refresher, Force Touch is an Apple-developed feature capable of sensing the amount of force applied to a given surface. First introduced with Apple Watch, and more recently deployed as 3D Touch in iPhone 6s, the tech uses embedded sensors to determine varying levels of downward pressure, which in turn triggers specific system UI commands. Basically, it measures the force of your touch, hence Force Touch.

Applying these new rich input and haptic feedback features on Mac almost "magically" makes you feel at one with your computer. Force Touch works well in native apps such as Mail, Safari, and Photos and is supported by some third-party apps. As I used Trackpad 2, it quickly became second nature to press on a link in a website to pop out a preview in a smaller window, or invoke a lookup window that was previously only available via three-finger tap.

While not specifically advertised in Apple's first party app notes, Force Touch on Mac can be used to drop a pin into Maps, draw with pressure sensitivity in Preview markups, rename files in Finder and much more. Those are only a few of the types of actions Force Touch brings to the Mac. Many other actions will be available as third-party vendors program their applications to take advantage of Force Touch.

In apps where it's available, the added functionality granted by Trackpad 2 and Force Touch almost makes OS X feel like an entirely new operating system. When I returned to mouse input after having used Trackpad 2 for only a short time, I often found myself trying to Force Touch links.


Conclusion

At $129 the Magic Trackpad 2 is the most expensive of Apple's new Mac accessories, but it is also the only product that adds new functionality to your Mac. If you have grown accustomed to Force Touch on your Macbook, or 3D Touch on iPhone, then the Magic Trackpad 2 is a natural extension to the desktop. As is expected from all Apple products, build quality is superb and should offer many years of trouble free use.

With Force Touch still in its infancy, the available feature set is simply not compelling enough to make us discard our tried-and-true mouse. As Apple and third parties build out app support, however, Trackpad 2 or its successor will likely become a "must have" accessory.

Score: 4 out of 5

Pros:
  • Solid build quality
  • Very precise and response surface
  • Approximately one month per charge
Cons:
  • Quite pricey at $129
  • Size could be problem for smaller desks
  • Limited app support for Force Touch

Where to buy

The Magic Trackpad2 is available now for $129 from Amazon.com, AppleInsider partner B&H Photo and Apple's own stores. Alternatively, MacMall is offering Trackpad 2 for $126.99 through its website.

Magic Mouse 2

Apple's Magic Mouse 2 is least changed of Apple's new accessories. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, as its design and function have become very familiar for many users.




Design

The Magic Mouse 2 includes a rechargeable battery and an updated set of feet to offset the added weight. The multi-touch cover surface still lets users swipe and scroll with ease and there are less moving parts internally compared to the original Magic Mouse, making it less prone to wear and tear.

Setup and usage

Like the Magic Trackpad 2, Mouse 2 pairs instantly when connected to your Mac via Lightning cable. The mouse I tested came with a 92 percent charge which should offer many weeks of use.

Magic Mouse 2 is arguably the least-improved of Apple's new Mac accessories, but I found it the most comfortable. After years of using Apple mouse products, I didn't have to leave my comfort zone to learn new actions and movements that weren't already cemented in muscle memory.

Unlike the new keyboard and trackpad, you cannot continue to use Mouse 2 while it's charging since Jony Ive chose to position the Lightning port on the underside of the device. The design decision was no doubt made with an eye on aesthetics, but it nevertheless looks odd plugged in. In practice, I don't expect this to be an issue as a quick charge provides enough juice for 8 to 9 hours of normal use (full charges complete in 2 hours).

The mouse, though short on substantial upgrades, feels wonderful in the hand. It glides smoothly on its newly designed rails and even the sound of the clicks has a quality to it that you come to expect from Apple products.


Conclusion

The Magic Mouse 2 is definitely not a must have purchase. It's a solid performer and might be something to consider if you need a new mouse, but the device adds very little beyond an internal rechargeable battery.

Perhaps if Apple included Force Touch or a haptic feedback system ala Magic Trackpad 2, it would be worth the considerably high price.

Score 3 out of 5

Pros:
  • No learning curve
  • Glides very smoothly
  • One month between charges
Cons:
  • The charging cable plugs into the bottom preventing use while charging.
  • Somewhat pricey at $79.
  • Offers very little over current Magic Mouse

Where to buy

The Magic Mouse 2 is included with all current iMacs, while standalone units can be purchased for $79 from Amazon, B&H Photo, MacMall and Apple. Live pricing information is available below or every day in or Price Guides.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 41
    bigmikebigmike Posts: 253member
    I can see why they chose a white surface for he trackpad, but I wonder if it will "dirty up" over time like the old white macbooks did.

    It'd be nice to introduce a black / space grey option (keys included). Surprised they already haven't matched the black keys as they are on the macbooks. Hey, black keys matter...
  • Reply 2 of 41
    They also only work with El Cap AFAIK. Not with older OS X versions. But, if your Mac doesn't have BT 4.0 you can probably use the MTP2 still; you'll just have less battery life. Compatibility is a bit iffy in that regard anyway. Wired won't be an issue.
  • Reply 3 of 41
    "Four rubber feet provide a solid foundation for all but the most vigorous swiping activities." What kind of vigorous swiping activities could even be in the realm of normal enough to even mention?
  • Reply 4 of 41
    I've never really been impressed much with Apple's mice. The unibody one-button design has always created issues for me and the Magic Mice are in the same boat. There are better mice that suit my needs much better.
  • Reply 5 of 41
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,690member

    I wont be getting the mouse as I don't really use mice much anymore, but I think that many of the complaints that I've been reading about the port being on the bottom are basically invalid as I view it as a total non-issue and nonsense. A person only has to charge it once a month, so big deal. It was obviously done for aesthetic reasons. If certain people out there have no appreciation for beauty, then guess what. These people probably don't understand Apple.

     

    I'd like to see Apple offer a few different color options. Why does everything have to be so white? What about a keyboard with black keys on it? What about a gold keyboard (to match up with a gold iPad for example)? What about a Magic Trackpad that's darker? Can we get some accessories diversity here? 

     

    I'll be getting the Magic Trackpad 2 soon, as soon as I get around to upgrading the OS.

  • Reply 6 of 41
    The sharp edges on the Magic Mouse are irritating after a long use session. I wish they would round them somewhat. The new Trackpad is more comfortable to me than its predecessor because it lays flatter.
  • Reply 7 of 41
    dacloodacloo Posts: 890member
    I hated every Apple mouse so far. For serious use in pro apps you need a second mouse button. Although you can turn that on, you can't actually feel the 'right' mouse button being pressed, and it doesn't responds when the pointy finger is resting on the left side of the mouse.

    It's also too big. My company is 90% iMac but all my employees requested Logitech mice because they are ergonomically superior.

    Meh.
  • Reply 8 of 41
    The trackpad on a MBP is great because it is portable me moves with th device, however it is not great at real mousing tasks. But that is fine as it is not meant for it. However, and this is the big thing, the Magic Mouse isn't either, it does not fit in a hand very well and th purpose of it,a mouse, isn't very good either. A more fitting device leads to more precision where as the Magic Mouse is too much of a compromise. It is for this reason I stick to my form fitting Logitech for mousing in a desktop situation and the trackpad in a mobile situation.
  • Reply 9 of 41
    appexappex Posts: 687member

    Bring the wired Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad with built-in USB 3.1 Type C (reversible) Generation 2 hub (two female ports), as well as wired mouse. Nothing like wired whatever when possible. Trouble-free, no batteries and much ecological.

  • Reply 10 of 41
    apple ][ wrote: »
    I think that many of the complaints that I've been reading about the port being on the bottom are basically invalid as I view it as a total non-issue and nonsense. A person only has to charge it once a month, so big deal. It was obviously done for aesthetic reasons. If certain people out there have no appreciation for beauty, then guess what. These people probably don't understand Apple.

    Form and Function in balance is beauty, especially if we are putting forward Apple's aesthetic as the example.

    Can the keyboard still be in use, yes, can the trackpad, yes. can the mouse no...

    okay, so charge it when not in use.

    Do the USB ports on the iMac, MacMini and laptop range provide power of the machine is powered down.

    No.. so when do I change the mouse? When the computer is in use, or I have it on intentionally and am not using it soas to charge the mouse.

    It would seem form and function in this case are not in balance

    and in Apple's aesthetic, that is a compromise and in this case not a pragmatic one (such as the camera lump) as such - it is ugly
  • Reply 11 of 41
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,690member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by cy_starkman View Post



    No.. so when do I change the mouse?

     

    I haven't used any of the new accessories, but if they come with a lightning to usb cable, does it have to be charged by a computer? Can't you just stick it into an iPhone or iPad charger or any usb charger, which many people have lying around everywhere? 

  • Reply 12 of 41
    mr omr o Posts: 1,046member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by photoshop59 View Post



    The sharp edges on the Magic Mouse are irritating after a long use session. I wish they would round them somewhat. The new Trackpad is more comfortable to me than its predecessor because it lays flatter.



    From an aesthetic point of view, I prefer the rounded top edge of the previous Magic trackpad and keyboard. It creates a much gentler feel towards the screen than the abrupt sharp edge of the current trackpad and keyboard.

  • Reply 13 of 41
    The new trackpad looks compelling. I'd like to buy it, but for the moment find it quite too expensive.

    And what about the Magic Keyboard? Why is it magic ...?
  • Reply 14 of 41
    apple ][ wrote: »
    I haven't used any of the new accessories, but if they come with a lightning to usb cable, does it have to be charged by a computer? Can't you just stick it into an iPhone or iPad charger or any usb charger, which many people have lying around everywhere? 

    I agree and I wonder if they speed charge with a 12w Apple charger.

    I also wonder when that charger would be in use, probably at night when it is also expected to charge the iPhone.

    While I appreciate the notion, once we get to wall wart required, why not the Apple battery charger - I have one and it is minimal and excellent and the only reason I can see...

    is that these are half way devices, the way that Apple does and that in 3 years we will have no lightning ports and laptops/desktops that share their power wirelessly to the accessories.

    These things don't feel like what is intended to me - they are technology tests and I don't need them
  • Reply 15 of 41
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by cy_starkman View Post





    I agree and I wonder if they speed charge with a 12w Apple charger.



    I also wonder when that charger would be in use, probably at night when it is also expected to charge the iPhone.



    While I appreciate the notion, once we get to wall wart required, why not the Apple battery charger - I have one and it is minimal and excellent and the only reason I can see...



    is that these are half way devices, the way that Apple does and that in 3 years we will have no lightning ports and laptops/desktops that share their power wirelessly to the accessories.



    These things don't feel like what is intended to me - they are technology tests and I don't need them



    You touched an interesting aspect. While tech in general is transitional, there are some stable states, at last for quite some time. Examples are obviously the GUI with Mouse/Keyboard as input devices. IMO Multitouch will sty long time. You will find enhancements over time, such as force sensitivity on MT, that makes this tech blossom. OTOH you have stuff that is more related to underlying technology, rather than concept or paradigms of use. E.g. battery tech, charging tech, display tech, communication protocols etc.Ere we are still a long way from "I don't need to know and/or worry about charing, or if I'm on WiFi, some carrier network etc." These are two of the biggest constraints of current tech in the field of handheld/worn/internet-of-things devices: How to power/charge them, and how they communicate. I hope that this will soon transition into some steady state as well, where I just know stuff communicates, but I do not need to think about whether it is a network carrier, bluetooth, wiFi or somethings else. I don't want to make a difference, or have to control this. Same with charging. I don't want that I need to consider the charge a device can hold and which limits my productive time with that device. I even do not want that it is one of the biggest percentage for design constraints. When this will one day finally be gone, then I feel tech will reach a new steady state and focus on the next items of constraint. I guess we will see a self-driving car earlier, though.

  • Reply 16 of 41

    It's a real shame Magic Trackpad 2 can't be used with Ink. I'm sure it must have the resolution for handwriting. A miss by Apple.

  • Reply 17 of 41
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,229moderator
    The sharp edges on the Magic Mouse are irritating after a long use session. I wish they would round them somewhat.

    They could design it like the iPhone 6 but with the top raised up a bit and allow people to customise the touch area and dead-zone at the edges in system preferences using a rectangle displayed over the mouse top so you could limit the scroll area to just be in the middle of the mouse if you wanted and have a gradient to fade the touch sensitivity out.
    Can the keyboard still be in use, yes, can the trackpad, yes. can the mouse no...

    It would seem form and function in this case are not in balance

    You can't use your iPhone outside if it needs to be charged either. The compromises they make with design are how they affect you in the real world. If you get into a regular habit of putting the mouse on charge overnight every couple of weeks when it warns that it's under 50% then you'll never get into a situation where the battery is flat.

    The ability to charge devices over some wifi-like signal will come in the near future. It should be possible to put out up to 1W over wifi so a Mac can send out a very small charge to the keyboard and mouse peripherals when they need charging.

    It is frustrating to have a wireless mouse run out of charge but I've had this experience with ones that take AAs and if you don't have spare charged batteries lying around then it takes hours to be able to use the mouse again or you dig them out of a TV remote or some other product temporarily. This mouse charging setup looks like a much cleaner way to go than AAs and no more need for a box of batteries sitting around. It allows Apple to stop selling AA batteries and chargers too because no other product they make needs them.

    I don't think the mouse is all that expensive either compared to other manufacturers:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00TZR3WRM
    http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-Anywhere-Wireless-Mobile-Mouse/dp/B00Y09IWGQ
    http://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-Comfort-Mouse-6000-S7J-00010/dp/B00A1702Z0

    but the keyboard and trackpad are expensive. The Macbook Air has a trackpad and keyboard with battery for $899, charging $228 for just the keyboard and trackpad separately is a bit much. If the trackpad works with the Apple Pencil then that would be a nice feature but very expensive. An entire iPad starts at $269.
  • Reply 18 of 41

    Love the MM2.  Tracks much better than original--that was much biggest complaint of the original.  Charging is not an issue and better than frequently changing rechargeable batteries.  When paired with Better Touch Tool MM2 has great functionality.  

  • Reply 19 of 41
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,786member

    The MacBooks Air do not have Force Touch, AFAIK.

  • Reply 20 of 41
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Marvin View Post



    but the keyboard and trackpad are expensive. The Macbook Air has a trackpad and keyboard with battery for $899, charging $228 for just the keyboard and trackpad separately is a bit much. If the trackpad works with the Apple Pencil then that would be a nice feature but very expensive. An entire iPad starts at $269.

     

    Definitely! Make the Trackpad around €80 and I'm in. Currently it stays at €150, which is just too much.

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