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Let Your Fingers Do the Walking with Apple's Magic Trackpad
Aug 15, 2010
Review by DrFaustus
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:simple and responsive, with great multi-touch gesture options
The Bottom Line: Apple's Magic Trackpad brings a piece of the laptop experience to the desktop, making work even more simple and elegant.
There are certain rivalries that will never be resolved: Yankees fans vs. Red Sox fans, Coke vs. Pepsi, mayonase vs. Miracle Whip, Evolution vs, intelligent design, older siblings vs. younger siblings, Geroge Lucas vs. everyone who grew up with the original Star Wars films, and so many more. And of course, Mac users vs. PC users.
Recommend this product?
I've never made any attempt to hide the fact that I fall on the Mac side of that last rivalry, but it's not out of any irrational animosity towards PC. I just have a personal preference for using Macs. It's hard to begrudge anyone for their allegiance to either of the those two camps if the sole basis of their argument is limited to which type of computers they're most comfortable with, but there are far too many on both sides of the fence who are more than happy to fans the flames with the most poorly thought out of criticisms. One of the most absurd is the rabid PC fanatic's criticism that no one can do any productive work on a Mac since they only come with one-button mouses. (Of course, it's usually expressed with much poorer grammar and spelling - something along the lines of "OMG!! ST00P1D Mac mouze 0NLY GOTS 1 button!!! LOL1")
The biggest problem with those who make the "one button mouse" criticisms, even when they manage to use competent spelling and grammar, is that they're woefully behind the times. For several years now, the mice that ship with Macintosh desktop computers technically have no buttons - the whole mouse itself is what you click. And interestingly enough, the mouse can tell if you're clicking the right or left side, and react onscreen appropriately. And for years before that, users were free to plug in their any third party two-button mouse and right-click away to their heart's content.
Sure, Apple's mouse offerings used to be rather disappointing (*cough* original iMac puck mouse *cough*), but if there's any doubt that Apple has grown much more committed to providing their desktop users with a rich variety of onscreen pointer options, all that's needed is a look at Apple's newest desktop accessory, the Magic Trackpad.
The Magic Trackpad is, as one might expect, a flat surface that users can slide a finger around to control the onscreen cursor. Users with their own laptops will find the experience immediately familiar, just on a larger scale. At a little over five inches in each direction, the Magic Trackpad is almost twice as large as a standard laptop trackpad in each direction (except for depth its surface is less than a quarter inch thick, and it's propped up to a total high of three-quarters of an inch thick at the back where there's a round tube for the two AA batteries that power the device (quick aside - the battery compartment gives the Magic Trackpad the exact same angle as Apple's wireless keyboard, which, along with the exact same brushed aluminum finish, pairs the two devices up in a very aesthetically pleasing way)). The Magic Trackpad connects to any Macintosh computer through bluetooth. Response is superb, with absolutely no lag between moving your finger and the corresponding onscreen cursor movement. And clicking is a snap - there's no physical button at the bottom as there is on many laptop trackpads, but users can just do a quick finger tap on the surface to click or they physically press down on the whole device, since the rubber feet act as click-sensitive buttons, and can be held down to click-and-drag. And for any users prone to repetitive strain injuries, the Magic Trackpad is a godsend, since it demands far less wrist movement than a mouse.
If simple pointing and clicking were all that the Magic Trackpad offered, it wouldn't be all that spectacular. Its crowning feature is bringing multi-finger gestures, a staple of their laptop lines in recent years, to the desktop. A two-finger tap in the trackpad acts as a right-click. Swiping with two fingers in any direction will scroll just like a trackball, and for large windows, will activate inertial scrolling (in which the window will continue to scroll after you've swiped and gradually slow down, a feature that mimics the way iPhones and iPad Touches scroll through large windows). Twist two fingers around to rotate pictures. Pinch two fingers to zoom out and spread them apart to zoom in. Swipe three fingers left or right to move forwards and backwards in web pages and multi-page documents. And use a four-finger swipe to cycle through active applications. Within a few days of use, these gestures will feel like second nature and will speed up plenty of common mouse tasks, but if you find that any of them interfere with your normal computer routine, they can be deactivated from within the trackpad's system preference screen.
While the Magic Trackpad is a fine, elegant GUI interface device, it's hardly an essential for most users, since all Apple desktops come packaged with a mouse in the box. The exceptions who'll find the device indispensible are those people who have a Mac Mini hooked up to their television to act as a home theater PC. Using a mouse while seated at a couch is an awkward, cumbersome affair, but the Magic Trackpad is designed to be used without the free space requirements that a mouse calls for, and it's small enough to be tucked away conveniently with your remote controls.
As nice as it is, the Magic Trackpad is certainly not for everybody. While it's quick, precise, and responsive, some games just feel a little cumbersome to play with a trackpad interface rather than with a mouse. And PC users are going to be left out here. It's possible to pair the device up to a PC through bluetooth, but all they'll be able to do is basic pointing and clicking. All the fancy multi-finger gestures that make the simple little tasks even simpler will only work if you're using the latest Macintosh operating system. But the biggest drawback is the price tag. The seventy dollar price tag pushes it up into the luxury device range. If Apple were to drop it down to fifty (or even forty), I'd recommend unconditionally for anyone with an Apple desktop, but at its current price point, it's something to think twice about before buying.
In the end, the Magic Trackpad will never silence the PC fanboys who fall back on the "one button mouse" argument to explain why they hate using Mac computers, but it will make it that much smoother and more effortless to scroll past their rants when I stumble upon them on the web.
Amount Paid (US$): 70.00
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