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Apple Magic Trackpad Review


These days many computer users learned how to compute and surf on a laptop rather than on a traditional desktop. For these users, a trackpad—which combines both a touchpad and mouse buttons— is more familiar than the traditional computer mouse. Apple, with its extensive experience with multi-touch trackpads has introduced an item that people have been asking me about for many years: the Apple Magic Trackpad ($69 list), a trackpad for desktop computers. Like its counterpart on Mac laptops, the Magic touchpad supports four-finger multitouch gestures, and it offers Apple's much-lauded design aesthetic. But for those used to navigating with a traditional mouse or with a touchpad that has separate mouse buttons, the learning curve could be a tad steep.
Design
The Magic Trackpad is essentially a sloping slab of aluminum with a glass mousing surface. It feels like a larger version of the trackpad found on all current MacBook and MacBook Pros. The Magic Trackpad is just under an inch high at the top, about 5 inches wide, and just over 5 inches deep, which gives you about 80 percent more surface than the trackpad on the MacBooks. It is exactly the same height, slope, and depth as the Apple Wireless Keyboard. When placed flush with the Wireless Keyboard ($79 direct), the Magic Trackpad even looks like it's part of the same unit. The sloping design lets you comfortably use the Magic Trackpad while resting your palm on the desk surface, something that may be awkward with some traditional computer mice.
The bottom of the Magic Trackpad is standard Apple white plastic, but the notable features are the rest pegs on the bottom of the unit. At first glance, they resemble standard feet to keep the trackpad from moving around the desktop. The feet are actually the mouse buttons for the trackpad. When you put a little pressure on the top of the Trackpad surface, you hear and feel a reassuring click, just like on the MacBook trackpads.Sharp-eyed Mac users will note that Apple did produce a keyboard with a detachable track-pad for the Twentieth Anniversary Mac in 1997. That trackpad was a wired model with a physical mouse button, and of course the technology of the time did not support multi-touch. The Twentieth Anniversary Mac's initial list price of $7,499 meant that very few were seen out in the real world (Jerry Seinfeld had one on his eponymous show).
Using the Magic Trackpad
Like the trackpads on the MacBooks, the Magic Trackpad supports up to four simultaneous multitouch points. You can use one finger to click and drag. Two fingers have the most functions: scroll, rotate, pinch/open zoom, and secondary tap (right-click) are all two-finger options. Three fingers allow you to swipe back/forward in programs like Safari, iPhoto, and Preview, Apple's built-in photo/jpeg viewer. Last, but not least, four fingers let you swipe left/right to bring up the application switcher, and four fingers up (show desktop) and down (show all windows) activate Exposé, a feature in Mac OS X that allows for quick navigation.
Using multi-touch has a somewhat steep learning curve for the novice, but once you start using the gestures they become second nature. In a move that's better than a help file, the trackpad control panel in Mac OS X 10.6 (under System Preferences) shows you videos of all the gestures and what they do. The Magic Trackpad is a Bluetooth device, so it pairs easily to your iMac or MacPro, and it runs on two AA batteries. Apple is currently offering an Apple Battery Charger for $29 with six extra NimH AA batteries.
The Magic Trackpad software is an automatic software update from Apple in Mac OS X, so you won't have to install anything from a CD or DVD. I tried the Trackpad out in Window 7 in Boot Camp on an iMac 21.5-inch (Core i3) ($1,199 direct, 4 stars), but so far it only works as a simple one-button mouse. I have hopes that Apple will update the drive for Windows support, since the Magic Mouse now works as a scrolling mouse (two buttons plus the scroll wheel). Therefore, for now the Magic Trackpad won't replace the mouse for the cross-platform Mac user.I tried to pair the Magic Trackpad to an iPhone 4 and an Apple iPad without success; so far, it doesn't work with these devices.
In my opinion, the Magic Trackpad is much more comfortable to use than the Apple Magic Mouse($69). There's a lot more surface to use multi-touch, and in my hand at least, the Magic Mouse is too squat to use comfortably. Too bad you can't replace the Magic Mouse with the Magic Trackpad in an order for a new iMac, seeing that they cost the same. If you're considering purchasing one of the new iMacs released in mid 2010, I'd recommend adding the Magic Trackpad as an option or picking one up at the Apple Store.

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