Apple Magic Trackpad Review: Is This the End of the Mouse?

Overview: Is This the End of An Era for the Mouse?

Today I picked up an Apple Magic Trackpad for use with my 27" iMac as a complement or potential replacement for my Apple Magic Mouse. I know, with all this talk of magic and mice, you would think we're talking about a theme park and not a computer company. But let me tell you about my early experiences with this truly interesting trackpad.

The Magic Trackpad stands alone as a touch-based device for pointing and clicking your way around the Mac graphical user environment that catapulted the mouse into popular culture and fundamentally began to change our desktop computing experience. Apple computers were the first to include a trackpad on a laptop and this most recent offering borrows from the experience on the laptop and furthers the whole touch phenomenon by creating an even larger surface for finger-based interface. Now all the moves that you use to navigate your MacBook, iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad, can be used with your desktop computer.

A few shots of my Trackpad with my iMac, blue tooth keyboard, and Magic Mouse are below:

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iMac, Trackpad, bluetooth keyboard, and Magic Mouse

How Does the Magic Trackpad Compare to the Magic Mouse?

Compared to the Magic Mouse, the Magic Trackpad provides a better experience based on the same multi-touch technology as MacBook integrated trackpads using a larger, flat, elevated glass surface (even though the Trackpad appears to be entirely made from aluminum) and the additional size of the Trackpad makes a huge difference. Some multi-touch features like rotation are available on the Magic Trackpad and not on the Magic Mouse.

The Magic Trackpad is twice as wide as the Magic Mouse and almost the surface area of a music CD. That means you can move your finger across the Trackpad and travel the complete width of a large monitor in one continuous movement. The Trackpad requires little desk space as you don't have to pick it up like a mouse and move it in order to navigate your cursor.

The Trackpad is sensitive enough for detailed and exact cursor movement but also offers the same flick and gliding effect to quickly scroll through pictures or pages with the same animated momentum that is characteristic of the multi-touch technology.

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The Trackpad is the same height, angle, build quality, and design Apple Wireless Keyboard but offers more than twice the surface area of the Magic Mouse with greater functionality.

Installing the Trackpad

The Trackpad can be a little tricky to install. You'll need to make sure that you're running Mac OS X 10.6.4 so check to make sure your software is up to date.

The Trackpad comes with batteries pre-installed, so all you need to do is take it out of the packaging, remove the protective tape, and turn it on. Set it up as a new bluetooth device and you'll have some basic functionality immediately.

The last step is to check for a software update (again) to make sure that you have the Trackpad Update 1.0 software installed–you can't check for this software update until you have paired your Trackpad with your computer via the Bluetooth preferences. If this software has not been installed, you won't find the Trackpad as an option that you can configure under your System Preferences.

There have been a number of people who have been wondering why they don't see the Trackpad in System Preferences (I was one of them) who haven't connected the device via the bluetooth preferences and then checked for the software update. Not a real intuitive installation, and the instructions aren't clear on this point but it works perfectly once you know what to do.


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Although the Magic Mouse is a beautiful piece of art, it can't beat the elegant utilitarian look of the Magic Trackpad as a perfect match for my iMac and Apple Wireless Keyboard.

Summary

While I haven't removed my mouse from my desk just yet, it's easy to
only use the Magic Trackpad with no need for the mouse whatsoever. The most
difficult adjustment has been getting used to not having to pick up and
move a device in order to navigate. The Trackpad blends in perfectly with my iMac and bluetooth keyboard and looks much better on my desk while offering a simple, elegant, efficient interface tool that requires little space. It's a great idea that has been executed well. The touch movements are easy to master and it has a proper tactile feel via the finger friction and integrated buttons that (built into the feet on the bottom of the Trackpad) provide clickable feedback for those who don't want to simply tap the Trackpad.

Neither the Magic Mouse nor the Magic Trackpad is cheap at $69 for either device, but if the Magic Mouse wasn't included with my iMac, I would rather have had the Magic Trackpad to begin with. Looks like I may have a mouse for sale soon if I don't decide to try to pair it with another computer instead.

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