Like any notebook the input devices (keyboard and touchpad) are vital to enjoyable operation and since Apple is all about usability, on a software and hardware level, both have received some attention.
The isolated style keyboard that Apple has employed for a while now is retained, but there are some very subtle differences. First, the gaps between the keys and their cut-outs are smaller, preventing grit and muck from getting stuck in there; secondly, the new MacBooks have a slightly softer, some might say spongier, feel compared to the crisper “clicky” feel of the old MacBooks. We’d be hard pressed to say either was inherently better than the other, so we’ll just leave things by saying that the new keyboard feels very good to type on and we were quickly up to normal speed using it.
This is aided by a largely unchanged keyboard layout that, suffice to say, is very good, too. Indeed the only change comes on the top row of function keys, where a new set of media control keys have been added that are, by default, the primary keys. This can be changed in software settings if you prefer it the other way around, but it’s quite a sensible decision really.
Less subtle are the changes to the touchpad. As noted earlier it’s a multi-touch affair, just like the MacBook Air or iPhone, is really rather big and has an effortlessly smooth glass finish. There’s also no dedicated button, since the whole pad is in fact a button. This feels a bit weird at first, especially when double-clicking, but when combined with the multi-touch controls it makes perfect sense.
And multi-touch does bring tangible benefits, too. Just manipulating images is made so much easier, since it’s easy to rotate, zoom and scroll using a few simple gestures. That scroll function (dragging with two fingers) is also perfect for web pages and documents and is discernibly better than the traditional scroll zones on most touchpads. Other nice touches include clicking with two fingers, which activates the secondary click, and there are a multitude of other gestures, including those for Exposé and ‘Alt-Tab’, which you can see (shameless plug warning) in our video review!
All of which, combined with the ever intuitive Mac OS X (Leopard), makes for a truly pain free and enjoyable user experience. You can make light of it if you like, but that doesn’t make it any less true.