I'd almost forgotten about the Apple Magic Trackpad that came out a few years ago. I was excited about it at the time, but never got around to purchasing one — mainly because I use a laptop, and it already has a trackpad built in. So, I never saw the need for one.
Until I saw someone pull one out at Starbucks yesterday.
After watching this guy use it along side his laptop, I realized I need to reconsider. I ran to the Apple Store to go play with one. Now I'm excited about it again.
Let me tell you a little bit about it.
What's a Trackpad? Why So “Magical”?
The trackpad is a convenient replacement for a mouse because requires significantly less space. Rather than moving a mouse all around a tabletop, you move your finger around the surface of the trackpad. Trackpads have traditionally been built into laptops because of this space-saving feature.
With the Magic Trackpad, Apple has brought this convenience to its desktops.
The Magic Trackpad now comes as a standard option you can choose over the mouse to be included when you purchase a new iMac computer. But, it can also be purchased separately, to replace your mouse on an older computer.
Unless you are amazed by the fact that it works wirelessly and don't have to plug it in to your computer, the only thing “magical” about it is the marketing. (Apple loves to hype up it's products to make them sound extra-special.) The trackpad connects to your Mac using the same Bluetooth wireless technology you would use to connect your cell phone with a hands-free earpiece.
However, it does indeed give you a special magician-like control and flair over your Mac that a traditional mouse just doesn't really give you.
Apple Magic Trackpad “Gestures”
The extra control that you get comes from a collection of finger-swiping movements called “gestures”. They make maneuvering around your Mac super convenient. They are very similar to the way you would control your iPhone or iPad.
(If you're already comfortable using a laptop, these will all be familiar to you. However, the Magic Trackpad allows even more gestures.)
For example, while moving one finger on the trackpad moves the cursor around the screen the way a mouse does, two fingers will let you scroll up and down through a document or webpage.
Add a third finger, and you can swipe back and forth between all the webpages you've been visiting, without having to move your pointer up to click on the “back” and “forward” arrow buttons. Just a quick *swipe* back to the previous page, and scroll to the place you wanted to read.
A fourth finger will let power users switch between windows and applications.
“Pinch” two fingers together or spread them apart to zoom in or out of a picture or web page. Again, adding a third or fourth finger adds yet another control feature.
Clicking also changes when you add fingers. Clicking with two fingers is the same as a right-click, or control-click. Tapping on a word using three fingers brings up a dictionary definition. No need to open up the dictionary first.
While this may sound a complicated, learning is pretty easy. As is setting it up.
Easy to Set-up & Use
Installing the Magic Trackpad is simple.
You'll turn on Bluetooth on your Mac, and turn on the trackpad. Open your System Settings for Trackpad, and push the “Set Up Bluetooth Trackpad” button. The Mac and Trackpad pair up, and ask you for confirmation. Then you're done.
Setting up the gesture preferences is done in the same System Settings window, and made easy with little video examples and explanations.
I found the Magic Trackpad to be quite comfortable. The angle was just right, and there was plenty of space for my fingers to move around with ease. Clicks and gestures were quick and responsive. Much better than the trackpad on my laptop. Probably due to its large surface area.
Who It's For
While it's not for everybody, there are certain groups of people will certainly find some great benefits in the trackpad.
- Laptop users who have become accustomed to using trackpads and prefer the quick finger-swiping style of control will want to consider the Magic Trackpad. It provides even more surface area and more “gestures” than the trackpads on most laptops. It can even be used on the side as an alternative to your laptop's trackpad.
- Seniors and people with arthritis or wrist/shoulder joint pain — and thus have less command over the mouse — will also benefit. The trackpad can be used by simply moving your fingers, while keeping your hand and arm in one motionless, resting position. It's large size makes this easy, even for larger hands.
- Space Savers will appreciate it's small footprint. It won't take up much more space than your keyboard already does (it measures about 5″ x 5″). And, since it's wireless, and not attached to your keyboard, it can be moved to a more comfortable or convenient position. Place it closer to you on the desk, or even put it on your lap.* Wherever works best for your situation.
*(If you put it on your lap, you'll probably have to turn on the “Tap to Click” feature, so that it will accept finger “taps” to replace the traditional pressure “clicks” — clicking requires the trackpad to be on a hard surface, and won't work on a squishy leg.)
Because it's wireless, it needs its own power supply. It takes 2 AA batteries to work, and you'll have to remember to change them. Indicators on the trackpad and on your Mac will give you subtle reminders, but it can be easy to forget. Get rechargeable batteries to save money on the regular switching. Apple also sells a battery recharger for your convenience.
Also, the trackpad is not for folks who like or need the precision available with a mouse. Graphic artists, for example, need a special kind of accuracy that the Magic Trackpad won't provide. However, for most day-to-day computer activity, you won't notice a difference.
Price & Summary
While the price might turn some people away at $69, I think it's a worthwhile investment for desktop users crammed for space, laptop users who love their trackpad controls, and people looking for an arthritis friendly computer mouse. It's easy to set up, comfortable to use, and does everything Apple promises it will. I recommend it for all levels of Mac users.
If you have an experience with the Apple Magic Trackpad that you'd like to share, or have any questions that are not answered in this review, please leave a comment below. I would love to get your feedback, and respond to your questions.