Review of the Apple Magic Trackpad

I know there have been a lot of posts and reviews of Apple’s new Magic Trackpad already, but most of them lack one critical element: actual experience with it. After using Apple’s newest pointing device exclusively for two weeks straight both at work and at home, here are my impressions:

Pros:

  • Very large surface — much larger than the trackpad built into your MacBook.
  • Great click action. Clicking works through the rubber feet on the bottom and feels great. Just like with the built-in trackpad on my MacBooks, sometimes I tap and sometimes I click.
  • Good gesture support. I’m a big believer in gesture and touch-based computing (which is only in its infancy), and the Magic Trackpad is definitely a step in the right direction.
  • Good battery life. I use rechargeable batteries for my mice, remotes, and other devices (the Energizer Family Battery Charger rather than Apple’s), so I don’t worry about having to replace batteries, but I also don’t want to have to do it weekly. I’ve been using two Magic Trackpads extensively for two weeks, and the batteries are still strong.
  • Integrates nicely with Mac keyboards. The size and shape make it a natural extension of your Apple bluetooth keyboard. I use a USB keyboard (fewer batteries to have to keep charged), but it still integrates well. (Note that if you prefer “tap to click,” keyboard integration can also be a con as noted below.)
  • Looks brilliant. As we’ve come to expect from Apple, the design is great. And unlike some other Apple devices I’ve used in the past, functionality wasn’t sacrificed for aesthetics.

Cons:

  • When too close to your keyboard (its form factor suggests that it should be positioned as a keyboard extension), it’s way too easy to inadvertently tap which means your cursor jumps away from where you’re typing. For this reason alone, I experimented with turning off “tap to click,” but eventually ended up just moving the trackpad further away.
  • No USB version. Although the battery life seems good, I would have probably bought a USB version for $10 or $20 less if it had been an option. I actually find USB peripherals more convenient since you don’t have to keep batteries in the charger at all times and in your bag when you travel.
  • Still not as precise as a mouse. Of course, this isn’t really the fault of the Magic Trackpad itself. In my experience, this is simply the nature of trackpads. They’re excellent for when you don’t have a mouse, and I’m happy to use one all day or even for several days in a row while on the road, however eventually, you start to realize that you’re just slightly less productive than you are with a mouse.

mouse_trackpad_workspace

Conclusion:

I’ve gone back to using the Magic Mouse (by far the best mouse Apple has ever made, and probably my favorite mouse of all time — if you’re not convinced, read my review) for most things simply because I’m more accurate with it which means I’m more productive. However, I’ve also incorporated the Magic Trackpad into my workspace, as well (along with my Hexbug Nano). I use the mouse as my primary pointing device, and I use the trackpad for gestures and for scrolling. Maybe I’ll experiment with having one on either side of the keyboard at some point so that I look like I’m piloting a macha rather than just moving a pointer.

In general, I really like the new Magic Trackpad, and I’m glad to see Apple move us one step closer to touch-based computing. But don’t put your Magic Mouse up on eBay just yet.

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