back to article Apple Magic Trackpad

You've got to hand it to Apple. While it may not be the innovator it likes to think it is, it does have a knack for re-inventing old ideas and coming up with something better. Music players, small form-factor computers, tablet PCs - it's taken existing concepts and given them a major makeover. Apple Magic Trackpad Apple's …


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  1. stucs201


    I can understand a trackpad on a laptop where a mouse isn't practical, but why would I want one on a desk? Next you'll be telling me I should get rid of the four ring hob in the kitchen and use my camping stove and sleep on an airbed instead of a nice comfy proper bed.

    OK mice don't do multi-touch, but often come with a nice array of physical buttons and a wheel to provide similar functions.

    1. Russ Tarbox

      "but why would I want one on a desk?"

      Er, try reading the review, it gives a few reasons!

      1. stucs201

        A few reasons?

        I found one: a cluttered desk. I suspect most people can manage to keep their coffee mug off their mouse mat, and those who can't will be equally tempted to plonk it on this coaster sized device (the effect of the slope on the final location of the hot liquid could be interesting). This 'problem' is of course already solved by a trackball (with the added benefit of recreating that "missle-command" feel if suitably large and used properly (whack and set spinning - again this could result in interestinly located coffee on a cluttered desk).

        Or was multi-touch your other reason? I've only had the displeasure of using a multi-touch trackpad once, only result was adding unwanted zooming to the usual problems of unwanted clicking. Give me extra buttons and a wheel for non-pointing functionality.

    2. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD
      Thumb Up

      I agree... On the Desktop, Mouse>trackpad

      I like the f@£king mouse, be it the crappy ones at work or my razer at home.

      I use a trackpad too (in fact I'm using one now), on the lappies, and think they're great, but once placed on a desktop, at present, I still think the best all round pointy device is the mouse. There will be times when a pen/tablet is required sure, but most other times.. mouse.

      I see absolutely NO FECKIN' reason to use a trackpad on a desktop. If you don't have enough space for a mouse on a desktop, I think you need to get a bigger desktop.

      And just you try and game with a track pad....

    3. danny_0x98


      It occurs to me that if one was developing for the iPad or iPhone (or other touch mobile devices), this would be better than using a mouse for interface testing.

      Of course, that may not be you or me, but it is a use.

  2. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Bluetooth for a reason

    It uses Bluetooth for a good reason. Most if not all Macs have Bluetooth built in. There's no way Apple are going to have a annoying USB dongle sticking out of the computer to use this thing. Proprietary RF dongles are just that, custom to each device. So if you had a wireless mouse and a wireless keyboard from two different manufacturers then you would waste two USB ports.

    Bluetooth was invented to provide a standard low bandwidth wireless networking protocol, it's better to use standards then not.

    Anyway, PS3 is all bluetooth and I believe the Nintendo Wii uses it for the Wiimotes. It's in more widespread use than you think.

    1. stucs201

      Why wireless at all?

      Wireless mice make sense, they move and the wire can get in the way. This thing stays still, just use a wire - its probably only got to go a few inches to the adjacent keyboard, so hardly messy. Heck by placing the usb ports in a suitable position I'm sure a rigid connector could be devised to fix the unit to the end of an apple keyboard (though perhaps they'd prefer a proprietry dock connector for this, with a suitably expensive wire available separately for connection to other keyboards)

    2. Annihilator Silver badge
      Thumb Down


      I accept your argument for using Bluetooth as a standard, but you have to balance it against the power needs. PS3 and Wii use Bluetooth but get about 24 hours out of it - I'd be appalled if I got 24 hours use out of an everyday HID like this thing wants to be. At least the PS3 has the decency to allow charging via USB.

    3. Pete 6


      It's not as if the dongles for wireless mice are "annoying" because they "stick out". The one I have barely protrudes 5mm from the port and its perfectly happy sitting in one of the 10 usb ports I've got on the back of the computer

  3. Jim 48
    Thumb Up

    Ye gads!

    An Apple product I'd actually consider purchasing, will wonders never cease. Extra marks for using BT as well.

  4. Ian Chard

    Doctors be prepared

    for a whole new type of RSI!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ...user replaceable batteries in an Apple product!

  6. JaitcH

    Just Apple copying previous peoducts

    Bamboo has had a touch pad out for sometime, so once again Apple is late to market and still not as good as Bamboo. Also, more expensive. The slate/dove colour with show marks, too.

    Next they will applying for a patent.

    The only gesture that fits is a clenched fist with the middle finger extended.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Silly boy...

      I'll bite. For starters, I cannot recall any tech pundit or Apple representative claiming that this was a first-to-market product, besides, Apple already have quite a few patents about multi-touch and gesture based input, i'd imagine this is one of the fruits of those particular filings. Second, the Bamboo Touch costs **more** than the Magic Trackpad, the 'cheaper' one on Amazon, for instance, doesn't provide a touch interface. It's worth noting that it's RRP is actually more (£20) that the MT. Third, the Bamboo isn't wireless--another USB port taken up and more cables to snag. Fourth, the Bamboo will show as many marks as the MT and with that you really are clutching at straws!

      I don't believe anyone would have an issue with legitimate complaints, but you just sound like a bitter [insert Apple rival here] fanboy with a very dull and tired rhetoric. Here's a thought; stop reading articles about Apple, their products, employees or users/consumers--they clearly piss you off an awful lot, or will you stop when the school holidays are finished?

      The only gesture fit for your comments is an open fist, waved from side to side...

    2. Player_16
      Thumb Down

      Just failing to understand what it is.

      The author forgot to mention the surface is glass so that 'slate/dove colour' won't show marks. Chances are, the Wacom Bamboo cost the same if not more (depending on model choice) if you cared to look instead of just snarking.

      The Bamboo is a multi-tooled, pen & touch 'pad' for ILLUSTRATING!

      I got your 'only gesture'...

    3. Tempest

      It IS different, it's dove grey

      I have an Aple product or two and I agree the fingerprints show on the dove grey. Bad choice for high use items.

      I also think the Bamboo version is better.

  7. DZ-Jay


    >> "While it may not be the innovator it likes to think it is, it does have a knack for re-inventing old ideas and coming up with something better."

    Isn't that the essence of innovation? It is very seldom that inventions come from pure ether or thought-stuff. Oxford dictionary defines the word as follows.


    verb [ intrans. ]

    make changes in something established, esp. by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.

    ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from Latin innovare, in- "into" + novare "make new".


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      do I have to title this?

      There's also another word for that process:

      iteration - process of gradually changing an established something.

      I'd say that was closer to what Apple is doing than to make something new.

      1. DZ-Jay


        By the reporter's own admission, "re-inventing old ideas and coming up with something better" is much more than "iteration"; it is old ideas put to novel uses or enhanced with novel methods. Ergo, *innovation*.


  8. The Indomitable Gall

    Multitouch is the next big thing...

    Multitouch is the next big thing in RSI.

    I keep seeing people's hands when they're using their iPhones and wonder how long it'll take before the constant contortions result in tendonitis....

  9. Thomas 18
    Thumb Down


    I'll stick with my logitech trackball thanks, prevents RSI, has a right click, a mouse wheel and when I get bored I can pop the ball out and roll it around on the desk.

    1. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD
      Thumb Up

      Thumbs up

      Imma upvote you cos I used one of those before. Great device. Especially rolling the ball around the desk. But... alas, a mouse it is not. Play any FPS's and you'll get owned.

    2. Anonymous Bastard
      Thumb Up

      Another upvote from a trackball user

      I really don't see why mice are the de facto when trackballs are more comfortable, less strenuous, quicker to find without looking, etc...

      Especially fun is seeing the attempts to convert by someone accustomed to mice.

      1. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

        Trackballs and RSI

        The reason I am familiar with the logitech balls is because I know of several people who use them in place of mice and TRACKPADS because of RSI. I was invited to try them out as they found these devices unbelievably gentle on their hands. With a lot of doubt and assumptions, I tried them. And they really were bloody good. The trackball is actually big enough that it fits comfortably in your hand and the buttons are appropriately placed in the 2 models I had the pleasure of using.

        Not my choice pointy device, but I can see why people use it if they have RSI issues. Needless to say I would recommend trying them if you've had trouble with other pointy devices.

        I think trackballs are as good or better than trackpads, and certainly more comfortable, but not as good ultimately as a mouse (my value judgement).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Nice little gadget.

    I have one of these. I use the trackpad with my left hand for browsing/app switching/expose and mouse with the right for fine pointer work. Works like a charm.

    1. StooMonster

      Now _that_ is a good idea

      I've seen studies in the past that reckon the most efficient computer control (for right-handers) is trackball on the left for controlling OS, keyboard in the middle, mouse on the right for detailed work -- your suggestion sounds similar and maybe even better.

  11. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Jobs Horns


    "The only flaw here is Apple's use of Bluetooth technology. Yes, it saves having to lose a USB port to a dongle"

    Not if you installed have a bluetooth dongle in the first place to use the pad on an old computer.

    What happens when you get caught watching porn because the battery on the pad has gone?

    1. Rolf Howarth

      Bluetooth dongle??

      What planet are you on? Apple haven't made a computer without Bluetooth built-in for at least 5 years. (In any case, one thing the review doesn't make clear is that you need Mac OS X 10.6 to support the magic trackpad, so that rules out older non-Intel machines for a start.)

      1. Ivan Headache

        Sorry to contradict Rolf

        But my Mac Pro (just coming up to 3 years old) does not have BT. It was available only on the BTO models. An over-the-counter model did not have it. Similarly it does not have WiFi.

        1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

          RE: Lord Elpuss

          Not all Macs have had bluetooth for the last 5 years, even the guy posting before me points that out

          So by trying to point out criticism in my original statement about losing a usb port you have only shown yourself to be a fanboi incapable of reading or indeed telling the truth.

          Do your research next time fanboi

        2. Anonymous Coward


          A BT dongle stuck in the back, front or keyboard socket of the average Mac Pro ain't gonna hurt. How much are they now? £8 + VAT?

          Most Mac Pro's are on EtherNet networks or you can install an AirPort Extreme card for WiFi.

          1. Ivan Headache

            Noy sure here AC

            My Mac Pro has got a BT dongle stuck in a USB port on a hub ands it is on an ethernet network so I'm not sure what your point is.

            However. If I wanted WiFi on my Mac Pro I would have had to bought a build-to order model. There is noweher inside to plug in a card - nor are there any aerial connectors..

    2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge


      Yeah Apple, thanks a lot for not considering the bad feng-shui of having to equip old computers with a Bluetooth dongle.

      In fact, why stop there - damned inconsiderate of them not to take account of those of us without computers at all! What's that all about, eh? Eh?

      in fact, fuck it why not go the whole hog- Apple, you're just a bunch of self-serving pricks who are only focused on COMPUTER USERS from the LAST 10 YEARS who want to get on and USE THEIR SYSTEMS - how DARE you!?!?!?! What about the rest of the population? What about little kids in Africa who don't have a computer and never will have - or what about PETS and ANIMALS who can't even type - did you consider them in your drive to develop genuinely useful stuff? No of course not, you inconsiderate bastards!


  12. Mage Silver badge


    at 1/3rd price and using USB instead of batteries and Bluetooth, I'd consider it.

    I'm sure these can be made with USB and sold at /6th price and make a profit.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Saw one of these in the Apple Store yesterday*

    No of course they're not original, yes there are others out there, but you do have to admit yet again Apple do just have that certain something with the execution of their devices, it is a rather lovely thing to look at!

    I've always liked trackpads on laptops myself 'cos I think that pointing with a fingers is actually a more natural method of control than moving a mouse around, but of course where they're located on laptops is often far from convenient.

    * No The Apple Store isn't my regular haunt, I was dragged in there reluctantly by a friend who wanted to play on the iPads :-\

  14. JDX Gold badge

    I like

    I would give it a try anyway, as a combination mouse/stylus. No reason to think a mouse is the ultimate input device.

  15. Douglas Lowe

    Why wireless?

    It's a great idea - I find myself missing my macbook's trackpad when using desktops with mice. But I'm resisting buying one because they're only available as wireless. I don't want to have to have a standard wired mouse as a backup for the inevitable time I forget to have charged batteries to hand when it runs out of juice. And why separate batteries? Surely they could just build in the battery and provide a USB cable for recharging from your computer?

    1. Anonymous Bastard

      Why wireless?

      The same argument could be said for wireless keyboards (and in fact, I do argue against them) but people do buy such keyboards for aesthetic reasons. Reasons that Apple have repeatedly proven they understand.

      Batteries wouldn't be an issue if equipped with some form of near field power coupling. Of course that would need a specially constructed desk but any fanboi buying one of these would also be liable to buy certain fruit branded office furniture. Hmmm... I think I have an ambiguous and over-reaching patent idea.

  16. Wize

    If its put on a desk

    and never going to be moved, why have it cordless?

    I thought a wired one would be better. No batteries to replace.

  17. Firenze
    Thumb Up


    I saw somewhere that someone had modded the battery slot to connect to a power source, thereby negating the need to use batteries.

    1. Ivan Headache

      Yes But

      It's still a bluetooth device.

  18. Tardis

    Original Trackpad?

    "You've got to hand it to Apple. While it may not be the innovator it likes to think it is, it does have a knack for re-inventing old ideas and coming up with something better. Music players, small form-factor computers, tablet PCs - it's taken existing concepts and given them a major makeover."

    So whose idea did Apple "re-invent"?

    Wikipedia: Apple's PowerBook 500 series was the first laptop to carry such a device, which Apple refers to as a "trackpad". When introduced in May 1994 it replaced the trackball of previous PowerBook models.

    I bought an Apple Magic Trackpad to try out. It took a bit of getting used to - one finger for this, two fingers for that, three fingers etc., but now I would not EVER go back to using a mouse with my desktop PC.

    1. Murdi

      Nice selective quoting there

      Same article, only three paragraphs up in fact. "Early Apollo desktop computers were equipped with a touchpad on the right side of the keyboard."

      Given that they were only made between 1980 and 88 this predates your example and is perhaps more relevant as the tragic mackpad be for desktop machines.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nice selective quoting there

        And as anyone with a memory that wasn't reflashed upon starting to use Apple products knows, Psion had something pretty similar on their MC notebooks in the late 1980s, early 1990s, as the same Wikipedia article ( notes.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Living room users beware

    Something not mentioned in the article, is that the physical "click" uses the 2 rubber feet, instead of the entire base of the device.

    This doesn't cause a problem if the device is located on a solid, flat desk, but anyone planning to use this in a "12ft interface" setting (as the wireless nature allows) - where surfaces tend to be non-flat and fabric covered - need to beware. It doesn't work well.

    Annoyingly, there is a large slab of white plastic underneath which could have easily served this purpose, with the rubber feet glued to that. It would not have affected the desktop user, but allowed "desk free" use. It might even have been cheaper to manufacture.

    Apple being unneccessarily clever, IMO. "ooh look, we can make the feet act as buttons!"

    1. Dick Head

      Just turn on 'tap to click'... well.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I think I'd actually want to try one of these... but I have similar problems as everyone else... no USB, Mac pricing, etc.

    I dunno, think this would be better or worse for carpal tunnel? You have to hold your fingers above it still, so I'd think it would still have the same problems.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mac only ?

    What is the liklihood that this will work with Vista - will someone produce the necessary drivers ?

    1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Mac only ?

      Vista drivers are available - to Mac users who run Boot Camp.

      It just needs some bright spark to show everyone else how to extract them...

  22. mike 66

    works perfectly on the arm of my sofa

    We have a mac mini as a media pc under our telly. We have always struggled to use a mouse on the arm of the chair... this solves the problem perfectly, it did take a little while to get used to it, but now I wouldn't look back...

    1. John 62

      built in

      wonder how long until "La-zed-boy" build these into their chairs. to me it would be better than the beer fridge :)

      I could pretend to be Picard then, and tap on the end of the arm rest. Make it so!

      Or maybe a conn chair would be cool, with an iPad instead of the control surface :)

  23. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Not established that battery life actually is poorer.

    Why shouldn't it work, in fact, quite well?

    (Tablet computer user, however, so not much interested)

  24. Anonymous Coward


    Describing Apple, you seem to be contradicting yourself in this article when you wrote: "While it may not be the innovator it likes to think it is, it does have a knack for re-inventing old ideas and coming up with something better."

    The definition of innovate is "make changes in something established, esp. by introducing new methods, ideas, or products"... in other words (your own) "re-inventing old ideas and coming up with something better."

    In addition, just wondering how you know what Apple "likes to think it is"?

    Are you using psychic abilities? ;-)

  25. Monkeigh

    Comments on actual use?

    The review seems very short on information about what the product is actually like to use. Other reviews have commented on the lack of accuracy for tasks such as browsing web pages or at the very least assessed usage of the pad for a number of different types of task. Apart from the 'the first thing I did is change this setting' comment this could easily have been a hands-off preview based on press release info.

    1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Comments on actual use?

      The MT was tested with a number of apps, but - I'll admit - no fast-paced games. Though I'd never want to play these kinds games using a trackpad, I couldn't test them because I have none to hand. An omission - mea culpa.

      I noticed no particular inaccuracy in tracking - had I done so I would have mentioned it. Producing a big list of apps or app types and saying alongside each that the MT was fine would have made for a longer, less readable review IMHO.

  26. gabor1
    Jobs Horns

    clicking is a pain

    I tried this at a friend's house the other day. the mouse motions are fine, but I find dragging is a right pain (literally!) with trackpads, even more so since buttons have been removed. Have any of you ever tried dragging with the new style track pad (magic, or macbook)? you have to press hard on the pad, which is already bad enough and then you have to force your finger to slide while you keep pressing hard. Yes, I know you can turn on tap to click, but that doesn't really help when dragging, because you have to wait for the tap to register before you can move your finger to drag. With the "magic", clicking with the thumb was almost okay, but clicking with a finger was actually painful. And this from someone, usually considered to be a fanboi by most independent observers.

    1. studentrights

      pressing hard was part of the problem

      It takes a bit of practice to use a gesture trackpad after coming from a mouse. It's like riding a bike, you're going to crash the first couple of times. Just from your description I can tell you pressing hard was part of the problem. Use it for a week and then tell us how it when. You'll see it differently.

  27. borisadmin


    Actually, the "contortions" you see people using on multi-touch interfaces are what prevents RSI, rather than what creates it. The main reason to get one of these is because your hands can run free rather than being held into the one position on the mouse.

    Agreed that Bluetooth and batteries on a device that doesn't move is silly, but since working out the gestures I prefer to use my macbook's trackpad to my mouse even when it's attached - I could see this being a great setup if you used an external keyboard and monitor setup.

  28. Wallyb132

    Tragic Macpad

    Ars Technica summed this device up perfectly, its not a Magic Trackpad, but instead a Tragic Macpad...

  29. P. Lee Silver badge

    wireless, on a desk?

    Try wireless, on a coffee table, to a mac mini under the tv.

    Even if your laser mouse works on your knee or sofa arm (mine does), the touchpad looks like a better solution - it's a whole lot less geeky, "lounge friendly" and cheaper than a iphone/touch, which is likely to walk from the lounge.

    I would expect that later we'll see a touchpad integrated into (bluetooth) keyboard. Hence, the same tech being used.

    1. stucs201

      For across the room

      I'd be considering a Logitech MX air (mouse meets Wii remote). If they'd combine it with their harmony remote control it'd be even better.

  30. M Gale

    Suggested price £59?

    It does look like a pretty device and I can see the point of having a laptop-style track pad on a busy desk. Apple seem to have broken with tradition and allowed a "secondary click" function as well it seems, so plus points for that.

    But £59? £14.99 or £19.99 is the sort of range I'll pay for that type of functionality in that sort of size. I've seen larger-than-A4 graphics tablets from Tevion being sold for £25. Not a multi-touch track-pad maybe, but a pretty snappy way of using a GUI with the mouse and pressure-sensitive pen.

    Of course, if it came with bundled fully-functional (ie: plug it into your MIDI network) Chaos Pad-style software, it could be a bargain.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Keep up at the back!

      "Apple seem to have broken with tradition and allowed a "secondary click" function as well it seems, so plus points for that."

      The tradition they broke five years ago?

      Admittedly I have no idea why they would turn it off by default, but it's been there all that time.

  31. jamie 5

    Battery life

    Like the poster above I have a Mac Mini in my living room, so a wireless keyboard and mouse is desirable. I have found that the batteries in the Magic mouse last at least 3 months, the keyboard longer. I wonder if you have a PS3/Wii or other bluetooth device around causing interference?

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Battery life

    I've been using one of these at work as my primary input device for just over a month now. Battery charge is at 65% according to the trackpad pref pane.

    So, it seems reasonable to assume that you'll get a couple of months use out of a pair of AA NiMH rechargeables.

  33. Nick Wallis

    Missed A Trick

    Ordinary mice are just the wrong shape for me and I get RSI, so I prefer a trackball which doesn't bump into mugs, books etc, and stays handy next to my keyboard. I'm definitely going to try the trackpad.

    I can't help feeling they've missed a trick. Apple sell two versions of their keyboards, wireless and wired. It would make sense to do the same with the trackpad. For desktop users a wire into the PC would have been no hardship, and it could have been fitted with some extra USB ports and doubled up as a USB hub. For sofa users sell the wireless version.

  34. robin penny
    Thumb Up

    Trackpad in place of numeric keypad

    I find a Trackpad so much more ergonomic than a mouse, particularly for scrolling/coasting.

    I'm still waiting for a manufacturer to produce a keyboard with a Trackpad in place of the numeric keypad (which I never use). I can't believe nobody has done it yet!

    1. stucs201

      Already done

      Putting trackpad keyboard into google found me quite a few devices along these lines.

  35. Tardis


    I suffered from RSI (Repetetive strain injury, aka Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) resulting from using CAD software in my work as an architect. After I learned to control the symptoms, I always used a mouse pad with a wrist rest on my work PC. When I said I will "never go back" to using a mouse, my feeling in avoiding the pain of RSI may be part of that decision.

    Of course, I have the trackpad working on my Mac at home. I do not yet know whether I can get it to work on my Windows PC, but I will definitely try it. Apple's Magic Mouse works over BT on XP, but not too well. Good news is AutoCAD will soon be released for the Mac!

  36. Jeff 11

    Logitech's marvelous wireless protocols? Eh?

    The supposedly high-capacity cells in my MX Revolution mouse have never lasted 2 weeks, never mind a month. This was also the case when it was brand new... my Magic Mouse at work hasn't needed its cells charged for almost a month now. Apples and Logitechs^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H oranges perhaps, but I certainly haven't found modern Bluetooth devices any less efficient on power drain.

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