For years, the distinction between desktop computers and laptop computers has been clear. To control a desktop computer, you use a mouse and to control a laptop computer, you use a trackpad. When Apple released their latest MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops, they introduced a trackpad that could detect a variety of one, two, three, and four finger gestures for manipulating items on the screen. Curiously, these finger gestures were impossible to duplicate on a desktop Macintosh until the recent introduction of Apple’s Magic Trackpad.
The Magic Trackpad can supplement or replace your mouse for controlling a desktop Macintosh. Essentially the Magic Trackpad is nothing more than a slab of aluminum that provides a much larger trackpad surface than those typically found on laptop computers.
- Length: 5.17 inches / 13.13 cm
- Width: 5.12 inches / 13.01 cm
- Height: 0.18 – 0.72 inches / 0.46 – 1.83 cm
- Weight (without batteries): 4.94 ounces/140.05 g
The Magic Trackpad connects wirelessly to a computer through Bluetooth with a range of approximately 33 feet. Unlike wired devices that can draw power from the computer, the Magic Trackpad requires two AA batteries (included with the Magic Trackpad), which slip into a cylindrical container that elevates the Magic Trackpad at an angle.
Setting up the Magic Trackpad initially can be challenging because the tiny instruction book is flat out wrong. First, you must make sure you’re running Mac OS X 10.6.4 or higher.
Next, according to the instruction book, you can pair your Macintosh to the Magic Trackpad through the System Preferences window where you can click on the Trackpad icon. Unfortunately, you won’t see this trackpad icon until you get your Macintosh to recognize that the Magic Trackpad even exists.
To do this first step, you actually have to click on the Bluetooth icon that appears in the upper right corner of the pull-down menu, then choose Set Up Bluetooth Device. After you go through this process, you must go through an additional step and download a software update to make your Magic Trackpad work with your Macintosh. Only then will you be able to customize the Magic Trackpad through the trackpad icon displayed in the System Preferences window.
While initially setting up the Magic Trackpad can be clumsy, once you get it working, the Magic Trackpad provides a smooth, almost glassy touch surface that flawlessly detects multiple finger gestures. To simulate the left click of a mouse, the default mode is to simply press down on the entire Magic Trackpad surface. However, you can also customize it to detect a left-click whenever you tap one finger on its surface.
The Magic Trackpad simulates right-clicking by pressing two fingers on its surface at the same time. The Magic Trackpad supports pinch and rotate gestures for enlarging screen images or rotating pictures, two-finger sliding gestures for scrolling, and a four-finger swiping gesture to simulate pressing Command+Tab to display all currently running programs so you can switch programs. After you get used to these finger gestures, using an ordinary mouse starts to feel unnecessarily restrictive and limited.
Besides bringing multi-finger gestures to desktop computers, the other main advantage of the Magic Trackpad is that it requires less effort to use than an ordinary mouse. To move the mouse pointer across the screen with a mouse requires that you move your hand and arm. To move the mouse pointer the same distance with the Magic Trackpad requires that you move one finger. As a result, using the Magic Trackpad places less stress on your hands and arms, making the computer more comfortable to use for longer periods of time.
Apple does not provide an estimate for battery life, but the Magic Trackpad provides an on/off button along with the ability to shut down power when it detects long periods of inactivity. As a result, Apple claims that each pair of batteries should last for several months before you need to replace them.
The Magic Trackpad can also work with a Windows PC, as long as you download the Windows drivers, although it won’t support all multi-finger gestures like a Macintosh. In addition, the Magic Trackpad can work with any Macintosh so you could even use it with a laptop Macintosh in case you want a larger trackpad surface area.
Despite the initial trouble setting it up, the Magic Trackpad is pleasant and easy to use. After using the Magic Trackpad for a while, you may soon find that using a mouse will feel clumsier and more tiring by constantly lifting your hands and arms to do anything. The Magic Trackpad may not replace a mouse, but it can.
- Large surface area makes it easy to use
- Bluetooth wireless connection provides up to 33 foot range
- Flawlessly detects multiple finger gestures
- Long battery life, includes two AA batteries
- Less tiring to use than a mouse
- Works with Windows PCs with additional free software
- Can be challenging to set up initially
- Requires Mac OS X 10.6.4 plus additional software updates
- Limited finger gestures available when using it on a Windows PC
Apple Magic Trackpad is available from Amazon for $69.