Most of yesterday's Apple announcements were relatively predictable, simple updates to existing products. There were two products, however, that were all-new. One was the Apple Battery Charger, an expensive solution to battery charging if ever there was one. Its Magic Trackpad, however, while also sporting a sizeable £59 price tag, was rather more interesting, and today we had a little time to play with it.
Let's start with the basics. In essence the Magic Trackpad is simply a trackpad from a MacBook Pro, but one made 80 per cent larger. It connects wirelessly via Bluetooth, and uses two AA batteries – not necessarily Apple's own.
It's designed in such a way as to match Apple's own keyboards. It has a cylindrical stand section, into which go the batteries, and there's a power button on one end of it. It features all the same characteristics of a MacBook Pro trackpad, including its smooth glass finish, aluminium construction and the clickable trackpad area.
In Apple's press photography, the Magic Trackpad looks a little larger than in reality. In person it's around a third of the size of Apple's number pad-less keyboard, and it's extremely light. Just like on the MacBook Pro's, its surface is wonderfully smooth and lacking in friction, and the various multi-touch gestures work perfectly. Despite the larger size of the pad, we had no problems with the clicking action either.
Apple has added one new gesture option; a three-fingered swipe can now move windows around when the cursor hovers over the taskbar. It works extremely well, but you must choose between this gesture and the three-finger navigation gesture in the software setup. Given the choice we'd go for the former, though, as it's a lot easier to drag windows around like this than to click and hold down while dragging a window.
From our brief time with it we're certain the Magic Trackpad won't kill the mouse, but it's easy to see why people might prefer to use it. It's bound to be a boon for those who suffer RSI, as it's far more natural and comfortable to use. Clearly you won't play games with it, not serious ones anyhow, but it's no less usable for other tasks and enhances many. It would make a great option for an HTPC (Home Theatre PC) as well, albeit an expensive one. We could easily see Apple adopting it as a way to interact with future Apple TVs, should such a product arrive.
It will also work with Windows, but with limited functionality. You'll be able to two-finger scroll and click to recreate the right button, but the more complex three-finger gestures aren't supported.
Is it expensive? Obviously it is, but we've reviewed many a mouse that cost a similar price, so it's not quite as outrageous as it initially seems. Whether it holds up to prolonged use we'll have to see, and we'll be getting our own to try out very soon.