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Apple Magic Trackpad

August 5th, 2010
The Magic Trackpad is one of Apple’s best efforts.

This device is beautiful and comfortable to use. A Multi-Touch trackpad you can use with your iMac is a real boon and you will thoroughly enjoy using it. It may mean the end of the mouse as your primary input device. If you have been underwhelmed by Apple’s mouse offerings or just want to use Multi-Touch whenever you can, Apple’s new Magic Trackpad could be your answer. The introduction of the new $69 Magic Trackpad Bluetooth input device is a surprising turn of events, despite spy shots turning up on the web just prior to its release. After all, for the last 30 years, Apple has championed the single button mouse as the mainstay of user interactivity with computers. It was only in 2005, that Apple introduced the Mighty Mouse, which gave Mac users a mouse that was capable of left and right clicks, as well as scrolling, and other user triggered functions. The iMac line update late last year included the introduction of the Magic Mouse, which still ships with the iMac line. The Magic Mouse introduced us to some of the Multi-Touch interactivity that we use on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple’s multi-touch trackpads featured on its laptops.

It is a trifle ironic that, despite the introduction of using a mouse to control a computer, Apple has been criticized for its mice. For many, they are aesthetically pleasing and reasonably functional, but never ideal.

Original Apple Mouse

Courtesy of Vectronic’s Apple World - The Evolution of the Apple Mouse

The Magic Mouse is one of Apple’s better efforts. It is beautiful and the smooth Multi-Touch surface addresses the problem with the Mighty Mouse by replacing the trackball, which would often clog with grit. However, its Multi-Touch functionality is rather limited. Pinch to zoom is one of my favorite Multi-Touch gestures, and I often find myself trying to do this with the Magic Mouse, but to no avail.

Apple Magic Mouse

Enter the new wireless Apple Magic Trackpad - the first significant departure from the mouse in Apple’s history. Introduced last week, the Magic Trackpad is not promoted as a replacement for a mouse, but rather as a complementary device. In my view, it is much more than this.

Apple Magic Trackpad

I am well and truly spoiled by the user-friendliness of Multi-Touch, so I jumped at the chance to buy the Magic Trackpad. When Apple acquired FingerWorks, a US-based gesture recognition company, in 2005, many speculated how Apple would implement its technologies. The introduction of the iPhone in 2007 and the Multi-Touch trackpad on the MacBook Air began to answer those questions. A Multi-Touch trackpad that I can use with my iMac is a real boon. I picked it up the day it was released and thoroughly enjoy using it.

The latest version of Snow Leopard doesn’t include support for the device, so you need to download a software update from Apple’s website. It weighs in at just under 80MB and requires a restart. After you install the software, you pair the Magic Trackpad via Bluetooth. You must go to the Magic Trackpad pane in System Preferences to set up the device the way that suits you. You can choose how many fingers you want to use to perform actions like scroll, drag, rotate, and click or tap. Like the MacBook, this pane includes handy (pun intended) video demos on how to use each function should you choose to enable it.

Magic Trackpad_Preferences

If you’ve used the glass trackpad on any one of Apple’s MacBooks, you will be well-versed in how to use the Magic Trackpad. It features the same glass surface although Apple says that the surface area is 80% greater than the laptop trackpads. It is large and is about the width of an average male hand, which makes it natural and comfortable to use. It sits at the same angle as Apple’s Wireless keyboard, so that the transition from keyboard to trackpad is very smooth. The tube-like base holds the batteries, which are easy to replace.

Magic Trackpad Next to Keyboard

The entire glass surface, like its laptop sibling, is one giant button that clicks. Ingeniously, Apple designed the two small pads that rest under the trackpad surface as the buttons. They give the Magic Trackpad a very satisfying click that is similar to that on a MacBook. It features the full array of Multi-Touch inputs including inertial and two-finger scrolling, pinch to zoom, rotating with your fingertips, three-finger swiping, or switching between applications with four fingers. Apple includes a older support document on their site with an explanation of the gestures, but I suspect will be updated soon.

In addition to the wonderful implementation of Multi-Touch on the trackpad, I find it eliminates the need for a mouse. In fact, I am going to take the batteries out of my Magic Mouse and retire it. Like many people, I have limited desk space, and when coupled with a 27" iMac, the mouse gets rather tiresome and cumbersome to move around the entire screen area. Worse, because of the need to do this, my mouse and keyboard often collide. It was only when I lined up my Magic Trackpad next to the keyboard that I noticed the dings in the side from the said collisions! To move around the large screen without lifting a mouse is a dream.

Magic Trackpad and Workstation

The Magic Trackpad has enhanced my user experience and that is not something I have ever genuinely said about an Apple mouse. It is accurate and doubles as a great control surface for programs like GarageBand. It may even prove handy as a remote for Apple TV users. It also supports Chinese character input. It requires Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) and ships with the needed batteries. The only downside is the inability of the Magic Trackpad to act as a graphics input tablet like those made by Wacom. It hasn’t tried to enter this space yet, but it may mean the beginning of the end of using the mouse as the primary means of computer input.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor
Corrected download size to 80MB


-Full array of Multi-Touch gestures.


-Well designed.

-A genuine mouse replacement.

-Requires two AA batteries.

-Might take you a while to adjust to a new method of input.