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Review Apple Magic Trackpad Mouse Replacement

By: Felix Sold, 09/13/2010

It's magic? Apple's Magic Trackpad now also places a MacBook Pro's main control element on the desk. The effective area is considerably larger, but the functionality remains the same. Is the purchase worthwhile? Or is it just a nice gadget for Mac-users?

We've tested Apple's Magic Trackpad: A mouse replacement or nice gadget?
We've tested Apple's Magic Trackpad: A mouse replacement or nice gadget?

Apple now supplies a full-fledged control element for the desk, which provides the familiar multi-touch gestures of a MacBook Pro, called Magic Trackpad. Aside from the usual touchpad functions (right and left mouse key, mechanical mouse keys and double click), the Magic Trackpad has eight multi-touch gestures. These can be managed with two, three or four fingers. In comparison to its little brother used in mobile devices, the gestures haven't changed much. The glass surface has been retained.

The enlarged diagonal, now 16.5 centimeters, is new. In comparison, the MacBook Pro, with a 13 inch screen, only has a trackpad diagonal of 12.5 centimeters and is thus a bit smaller. The Apple Magic Trackpad is to provide easy control of the MacBook Pro on the desk for 69 euro (RRP). We now ask ourselves if this solution can replace a mouse in long-term. Or is it only a nice extra for a few applications and you shouldn't yet thrust your mouse aside?

Packaging and Scope of Supplies

The white packaging is as plain as usual. There is a picture of the trackpad with a few English words on the front. Merely the Apple logos and a bit of information and barcodes are on the sides. The back is interesting for the user because all gestures supported by the trackpad are found here. A total of twelve pictures, each with its own short, illustrative gesture description can be seen.

Besides the trackpad, there is a user's manual amongst other papers, which are rather secondary, inside the box. You'll have to cope without the small Apple stickers for this peripheral device. Two Energizer AA batteries are included for an immediate initiation. They are already inserted and the power on button on the right activates the device.

The newest update for version 10.6.4 is needed to use the trackpad with Mac OS X. This special Trackpad update installs the functions and drivers on the system. Even Windows' users can use the Magic Trackpad via Bluetooth, whereby only the basic functions of a touchpad are supplied. The Windows drivers are available in both a 32 bit and 64 bit version.

The box and the scope of delivery present themselves puristically as known from Apple.

Design and Functionality

The Magic Trackpad is based on the wireless keyboard design. These devices look harmonious together. A sort of cylinder is found on the rear. It bids room for the power button and the two AA batteries, beside the electronics. The screw thread is now a bit finer. This allows the cap to be somewhat smaller and fit tighter at the same time.

The bottom is finished in a high-gloss white. The four rubber feet elevate the device from the surface. At the same time, they supply a non-slip grip. The upper side has a very clear design. Aside the small aluminum bar, there is the big glass surface that can be used completely. All in all, it has a plain design as known of Apple, which is very convincing.

The familiar gestures of the MacBook Trackpad are found beside the usual touchpad functions. The only novelty is the three finger click. It allows the use of the drag & drop function. The first attempts weren't easy and a bit of practice is needed for proficiency of this function. A further drawback of this function is the loss of the "swipe to navigate" function. You have to decide between these two functions.

The mechanical mouse keys are found in the lower corners, as usual. The right key first has to be enabled in the trackpad's settings. The glass surface's feel is very pleasant and the smooth surface convinces us.

Glass surface with a good feel
Glass surface with a good feel
It has a diagonal of 16.5 centimeters
It has a diagonal of 16.5 centimeters
Harmonious design on the desk
Harmonious design on the desk
The cover has been renewed
The cover has been renewed

Daily Handling

The likely most important point of this review is the Magic Trackpad's suitability in everyday use. We have looked at various scenarios, starting with internet surfing up to current strategy games, and checked the suitability in comparison to an ordinary mouse.

Simple office tasks, such as internet surfing, navigating on the Mac OS X desktop or writing and editing long text documents is very easy. The Magic Trackpad can display its own strengths in these application cases. A major advantage is the simplified scroll function with two fingers.

More intricate scenarios, such as image editing in Adobe Photoshop, are more difficult. However, even more complicated gestures are executed successfully with a bit of practice. Nevertheless, a mouse bids a bit more precision and the familiar handling adds rapidity. After a bit of trial and error, we opted for the combination of USB mouse and Magic Trackpad, since they can be used simultaneously.

We insinuated Blizzard's new Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (real-time strategy) for the last test. It requires a well-mixed blend of simple, but also very complex and fast movements. The first steps of building our own base were very easy, but gathering our troops quickly wasn't as simple. We partly lost valuable time, especially when we were in online mode. Thus, the Apple Magic Trackpad is only conditionally suitable for mouse intensive games. However, race simulations or similar applications aren't a problem.

Verdict

The Apple Magic Trackpad leaves us with mixed feeling after a few days. The packaging and scope of delivery are as puristic as usual. But this doesn't make a negative impression because the needed supplies are included. The design is based on the well-known wireless keyboard and can convince us. The new battery slot screw thread now fits tight and is also slimmer.

The Trackpad's classical functionality has almost been copied exactly from the MacBook Pro. The additional drag & drop function wasn't really necessary but is a nice extension. The glass surface has a very pleasant feel and the material and workmanship looks high-end.

The suitability for daily use is only given to a part and can't convince us in every sector. Simple office tasks are easily managed with the Magic Trackpad. Sophisticated applications (image editing) or games are difficult with the Trackpad and an ordinary mouse has clear advantages. The Apple Magic Trackpad isn't cheap at a price of 69 euro and we can't declare it to be a full-fledged mouse replacement. A combination of mouse and Trackpad would seem to be the best solution.

In Review: Apple Magic Trackpad
In Review: Apple Magic Trackpad
The Apple Magic Trackpad convinces with high-end materials and workmanship.
The Apple Magic Trackpad convinces with high-end materials and workmanship.
The cylinder design at the back end is based on the wireless keyboard.
The cylinder design at the back end is based on the wireless keyboard.
The status LED has been installed almost invisibly in the upper area.
The status LED has been installed almost invisibly in the upper area.
The bottom is made in white and accommodates a big Apple logo.
The bottom is made in white and accommodates a big Apple logo.
The rubber feet prevent the device from slipping unintentionally.
The rubber feet prevent the device from slipping unintentionally.
Two AA batteries are needed for use (scope of supplies).
Two AA batteries are needed for use (scope of supplies).
The combination of wireless keyboard and Magic Trackpad match perfectly and…
The combination of wireless keyboard and Magic Trackpad match perfectly and…
also looks chic. But it isn't cheap with 69 euro (RRP, Magic Trackpad).
also looks chic. But it isn't cheap with 69 euro (RRP, Magic Trackpad).

Shortcut

What we like

The chic design, the good workmanship and materials, the easy installation and handling.

What we miss

Nothing in the Magic Trackpad's scope of delivery. The functions are more than sufficient. The full functionality of Windows would have been advantageous.

What surprises us

Its good suitability in the office application field. However, more intricate applications unfortunately create problems.

The competitors

At the moment, Apple's Magic Trackpad is at the top all by itself because there aren't any comparable products with these qualities.

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Author: Felix Sold, 2010-09-30 (Update: 2012-05-26)