Apple Magic Trackpad

Apple's Magic Trackpad aims to bring multitouch gestures to the desktop environment, but can it completely replace a mouse?

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Apple Magic Trackpad
  • Apple Magic Trackpad
  • Apple Magic Trackpad
  • Apple Magic Trackpad

Pros

  • Provides good touch precision, physically clicks when pressed, well designed, full gesture support

Cons

  • Setting it up for a Windows PC is a hassle (and it will only offer limited gestures), uncomfortable to use as a mouse replacement for long periods

Bottom Line

Apple's Magic Trackpad really isn't magical, but for those who want or need the full range of OS X gestures on their desktop computer it does a fine job. We don't think it will completely replace the mouse.

Would you buy this?

Apple is clearly onto a winner with touch technology — its iPhone 4 smartphone and iPad tablet are selling like hotcakes, and its MacBook range of notebooks have successfully integrated many of the iPhone's multitouch gestures. Apple's Magic Trackpad aims to bring those same gestures to iMac and Mac Pro desktops. This expensive accessory isn't magic and won't completely replace your mouse, but the large size of the Magic Trackpad means it provides better precision than the trackpad on the MacBook.

The Apple Magic Trackpad is a solid-feeling block of aluminium that sits up on an angle thanks to a cylindrical compartment at the rear that holds two AA batteries. A power button is integrated neatly into the right side of the battery housing. The Magic Trackpad has a similar look to Apple's wireless keyboard, and like most Apple products it is well designed. While sitting on a desk, the Magic Trackpad clicks when you press it.

If you're using it with a Mac you'll need to run OS X Snow Leopard (v10.6.4) as well download a software update to use the Magic Trackpad. The device connects via Bluetooth and takes less than a minute to set up. It is compatible with Windows PCs but offers limited functionality and a rather painful setup process is involved: you'll need built-in Bluetooth or a Bluetooth receiver, a copy of Snow Leopard to install Apple's Boot Camp drivers, and Magic Trackpad software. Once you're up and running you only get access to single taps, right button taps, and two-finger scrolling.

When connected to a Mac, the Apple Magic Trackpad provides a wider range of gestures including click, touch, swipe, scroll and rotate. You can adjust settings including the tracking, double-click and scrolling speeds, as well as disabling or enabling three- and four-finger gestures. The gestures are the identical to the ones offered by a MacBook Pro touchpad; two of our favourites are the four-finger up-swipe to display all windows in Expose and swiping left or right using three fingers to switch through running applications.

Apple says the Magic Trackpad can be used either as a mouse replacement or in tandem with a mouse. We tested both scenarios and preferred the latter; although the Magic Trackpad's large surface means it can replace a mouse, its angle makes it uncomfortable to rest your hand on for lengthy computing sessions.

All in all, the Magic Trackpad isn't nearly as responsive as a mouse. It’s also a little expensive, but if you're a Mac desktop user who will benefit from the range of gesture controls offered, then it will be a handy companion.

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Read more on these topics: Apple, green, mouse, green IT, touchpads

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