Tacking “Magic” onto the name of this new external trackpad is grandiose in that typical Apple way, but we have a feeling that this nifty device actually is performing one genuine feat of magic: peering into the future. At least a little, anyway. Between the proliferation of touch-based iOS devices and Apple’s patents for touchscreen iMacs surfacing recently on the web, it’s reasonable to speculate that Mac OS is going to want you to reach out and touch it someday soon. If that’s even a little true, we can see why Apple might hope that the Magic Trackpad will help us get a little more accustomed to “touching” iMacs, minis, and Mac Pros--not just MacBooks.
But only time will tell, so let’s set aside that noodling and take a good, hard look at the device itself. Decked out in Apple aluminum, the Magic Trackpad is plainly designed to fit right in with your Macs and their accessories--so much so that we’re surprised it doesn’t magnetically snap onto the Apple Wireless Keyboard. It does rest smoothly next door to it, and its battery compartment (it takes two AAs) and power switch mirror the Wireless Keyboard’s exactly.
"Magic" is kind of a stretch, but this trackpad performs quite well.
More importantly, the 5.125x4.25-inch usable touch surface is 76 percent bigger than a 15-inch MacBook Pro’s, and it turns out that with trackpads, bigger is a whole lot better. The Trackpad’s larger surface area makes touch controls mostly come to life. Clicking by tapping the Trackpad is very responsive, and in a touch of truly clever design, two of the rubber feet on the bottom of the Trackpad provide a physical click, too. That’s handy because other actions on the Trackpad, like highlighting text, can sometimes be less responsive than we’d like, so triggering a click by finger-stabbing it into submission is both satisfying and necessary.
Where the Trackpad really shines is the advanced gestures, like the two-finger tap for right-clicking, the three-finger swipe for moving forward and backward in your browser, or the four-finger app switching. In moments like these, you feel like you’ve moved beyond the mouse. All that awesome can come tumbling down, though, when you try to drag and drop an item all the way across the screen. You’ll often find yourself just running out of space, which means you have to freeze your dragging finger at the edge of the trackpad and move your other hand over to take the drag across the finish. And even with the drag-lock option activated (this lets you pick up your finger without dropping your selection), dragging via the Trackpad is still, well, a drag. That makes us really wish we could customize gestures however we see fit, but sadly, we’re confined to a few Apple-approved options.
Apple’s new pointer is hardly the first external touch-based trackpad, and while it won’t convert legions of mouse users, it’s cleverly integrated with Mac OS and delivers a largely excellent, usable experience.
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.6.4; Mac with Bluetooth
Bigger is actually much better with trackpads. Provides very usable touch controls for Mac OS. Typical sleek, beautiful Apple design.
Dragging and dropping never works as well as it does with a mouse. Can't truly customize gestures. A tad overpriced.