Whether you’re an iPhone 4, iPod Touch, iPad or MacBook Pro user when flicking through documents and homescreens, or just browsing, multi-touch makes the experience fast and very fluid. Now Apple is bringing multi-touch to your desktop (and older MacBook laptops) with the Magic Trackpad.
When Apple released the first integrated multi-touch trackpad into its MacBook range in 2008, it totally changed laptop navigation. Gestures made the overall computing experience far quicker - so much so, numerous laptop manufacturers have since introduced gestures to their trackpads, but none have been as successful
So does the humble mouse really need updating? Or is this another expensive gimmick for the Apple fanboy?
With its aluminium finish, glass surface and curved edge the Magic Trackpad is the most stylish computing navigation device we’ve seen. It feels reassuringly solid in the hand and substantial enough to fit into a bag to take to the office every day. It’s been designed to sit flush with the Apple Wireless Keyboad, so you can swap smoothly from typing to gestures.
Fitting neatly into the raised end, a pair of AA batteries are supplied and (for a bit more Apple coordination) you can even invest in the specially designed Apple Battery Charger (£25), which includes six cells with a 10-year service life.
Apple Magic Trackpad review: Set up
First you need to ensure your Mac runs Mac OS X is version 10.6.4, a quick check for a software update and restart if not, and you’re ready to go.
Connecting via Bluetooth, press the (sole) Power button to activate the Magic Trackpad, the green light flashes to indicate pairing mode. Activate bluetooth on your computer, open Preferences to locate the trackpad and connect. The process is very simple taking about five minutes and our Mac even renamed the trackpad for us.
Apple Magic Trackpad review: Commands
Anyone who has ever used a MacBook or MacBook Pro, will be familiar with the touchpad and controls are identical here. 80% bigger than the trackpad on the MacBook Pro, the extra real estate makes gestures feel more fluid - especially if you’re using multiple fingers.
Swipe up and down with two fingers to scroll around a page. One click functions like a left mouse button, enabling you to do things like open menus and click browser links. For accessing sub menus; a click with two adjacent fingers replicates a right-click, or you can choose between clicking the bottom right and left corners.
Like on the iPhone, some applications are more suited to multi-touch gestures then other. When looking at photos, three fingers swipes left and right enable you to scroll through them very quickly - far quicker than you could ever do with a mouse. A quick twist of your forefinger and thumb and the image rotates.
A four finger swipe left or right brings up all the running programs (like the iPhone 4 multitasking screen), enabling you to swap programs like: the browser, email, photos and documents within seconds. One of the most useful gestures is the four-finger swipe up or down to activate Expose. Here all open windows are displayed side by side, making it very easy to swap between documents or find a specific photo.
Not all commands work in every application. To use pinch and pull commands and zoom into web pages while browsing requires Safari rather than Firefox. Considering Apple’s continual battles with Adobe we doubt it will be coming to it's photo software any time soon, which is a real shame.
It’s a good idea to go customise the gestures in the system preferences. Here you can select exactly how many commands the Magic Trackpad responds too, you can also adjust the Tracking Speed, Double-Click speed and Scrolling speed on a sliding scale.
Apple Magic Trackpad review: End of the mouse?
For day-to-day tasks such as browsing, emailing, accessing documents and writingm the Magic Trackpad is certainly a replacement for the mouse for Mac users. Is it an essential purchase? Probably not, but (as anyone who has swapped between a mouse and a multi-touch trackpad on a MacBook will tell you) once you get used to the controls, it’s so much quicker you certainly won’t want to go back to a convential mouse. It's also portable enough to use at home and work.
Photo enthusiasts in particular will appreciate the speed with which you can scan through your image collections. But for any line of work that requires intricate use of the mouse, such as a graphic designer or photographer, it might be worth considering the Magic Mouse instead. Here you get the precision of a mouse, coupled with some muliti-touch.
At £60 the Magic Trackpad is certainly not cheap for something that's essentially a mouse replacement, but considering what it can do and the high-quality build, it's not ridiculously priced either. If you’ve got an iMac and you don’t need the precision of a mouse, it’s worth serious consideration.
The Apple Magic Trackpad is out now, find out more from Apple