One Week With the Magic Trackpad — No Pain

A week ago, the FedEx guy brought a Magic Trackpad from Apple. The Magic Trackpad takes all the good things about the trackpads on the MacBook Pros and incorporates them into a large, standalone peripheral designed to replace the mouse that many folks (like me) have used for so long. Does the Magic Trackpad succeed in knocking the mouse off the desk? Mostly.

I’m a big fan of both the lowly computer mouse and the MacBook trackpad. I carried a mouse in my gear bag to use with notebooks for years, until getting the unibody MacBook with its large trackpad. I liked that trackpad so much I stopped carrying a mouse in my bag, although I kept one on my desk in the home office. The MacBook sits on an elevated stand on my desk, which makes using the trackpad not impractical. When Apple announced the Magic Trackpad, I ordered one right away to give it a try.

I work at my computer at least eight hours a day, and I’m trying to provide an ergonomic setting for that prolonged usage. My Bluetooth keyboard sits on a tray designed for that purpose, and is a good height for proper ergonomics. The mouse I used until the Magic Trackpad arrived sat next to the keyboard. As good a setting as this is for prolonged work, at the end of the day, my right wrist would often feel a little pained, and sometimes a bit numb. My only reason for getting the Magic Trackpad was to see if it would alleviate this discomfort at the end of the day.

Now that I’ve used the Magic Trackpad for a full week, I can state it achieved my goal. The discomfort in my wrist has disappeared; it did so in just a few days. The angle of the Trackpad and the method of working with it have improved the ergonomics nicely.

The Magic Trackpad was easy to set up; I unboxed it, hit the power button,and then paired it with the MacBook. It’s designed to sit next to the Apple wireless keyboard. The Trackpad is a full multi-touch device that’s large by trackpad standards — 5.17 x 5.12 inches. There are no mouse buttons; the entire Trackpad clicks when you press it as the sensors are integrated in the feet.

The Trackpad is configured by default to move the cursor with one finger, with two fingers used for zooming and right-clicking. You have to click the Trackpad to trigger a left-click, but there is an option to allow simply tapping the Trackpad for the click. I tried this for a while, but kept accidentally triggering clicks I didn’t want, so I went back to enforced push clicking.

One of the most useful settings of the Magic Trackpad isn’t active by default –the three finger dragging. Dragging items on the screen normally requires pushing the Trackpad down while moving the finger. It’s not that hard, but it’s much easier to enable this setting and drag things using three fingers on the pad. Don’t overlook this setting if you think it would be useful.

The Magic Trackpad has handled all aspects of my work very well. I can use it all day and never miss the old mouse; my wrist is happier with the mouse in the drawer. I find the Trackpad to be worth the rather expensive $69.

The only area where the Trackpad hasn’t done a good job is one I didn’t expect it to do well. Using it for gaming has been a mixed bag, and downright frustrating at times. I’ve recently started playing Starcraft 2, and when things get hectic in interstellar war, there’s no room for mousing error. I find the Magic Trackpad makes it too hard to jump around and click things very quickly. I’m now in the habit of turning on the Magic Mouse when it’s time to play some games.

I’m pleased with the Magic Trackpad, but some folks who’ve tried it haven’t felt the same. Our buddies at TheAppleBlog, normally happy Apple fans, did not see the magic in the Magic Trackpad. I would recommend if you are curious about how your reaction might be, visit an Apple Store and play with one if possible. After all, there’s magic, and there is Magic. For the high price of the Magic Trackpad, you want to get the capital “M”.

Related content on GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d): Can Anyone Compete With the iPad?