The mouse is anathema to Apple’s grand utopian touch-based future, in which nothing but the supple pads of your ten digits (and a Pencil?) dictate how you navigate a digital interface. The new Magic Trackpad 2 is the fullest realization of that future for desktop users. I’m enamored, but mostly just want my mouse back.
Like Apple’s refined keyboard, the new trackpad really makes you want to touch and feel it. It’s the most tantalizing white rectangle I’ve ever seen, improving vastly on the looks of the old aluminum one. This has to be one of Apple’s most minimal products ever—a simple wedge shape with a sheer unadorned surface. It’s also larger, and when it comes to trackpads, larger is almost always better. I don’t care what it does, I don’t care that it costs $130, I want this on my desk.
In terms of new features, the main thing is the pressure sensitive Force Touch. Press a little harder than normal and access that deep click, which gives you shortcuts in a few different spots of OS X El Capitan; things like activating Exposé from the dock or preiewing files in Finder. Unfortunately, it’s not terribly useful because there aren’t a lot of Force Touch shortcuts available, and it’s hard to remember the ones that do exist, but it’s still cool and I’m glad it’s there when I want it.
There are some great subtleties in the trackpad. You can click with the same amount of force anywhere on the surface. I hate feeling like the bottom of a trackpad is the only part that clicks, and this device does away with that. You can adjust just how clicky your clicks sound, and even enable silent clicking, which is so cool I want to enable and disable it over and over again just for the effect. You can also recharge the battery with a lightning connector. Nobody likes hunting down AA batteries when you’re trying to get work done.
Other than that, the same slew of multitouch gestures are available as before. There are so damn many! Tap to click, two finger tap, three finger swipe, FIVE finger pinch, swipe from the edge, and on and on.
It’s a lot to remember, but once you get the hang of it, navigating your computer feels like you’re conducting a fucking symphony. In a good way!
But the magic does fade, and it fades fast.
First, even a trackpad as versatile as this leaves my wrist just a bit sore. To be honest, the convenience of multitouch never outweighed the comfort factor of a mouse for me. Having to constantly lift your fingers up, even a half inch in the air, over and over and over can be pretty painful. This is most noticeable when your day is filled with tasks requiring you to click and drag things around. Just like a laptop, clicking and dragging is hell with a trackpad.
After the novelty of the Magic Trackpad 2 faded, the hand gymnastics were just enough to form an aching sensation that I never experience with a mouse. Maybe I just have the finger strength of a child, but I do not enjoy having to cock my wrist to work out the knots every five minutes.
With a mouse my hand feels much more naturally at rest. Most of the motion is dictated with subtle nudges of my thumb and ring finger. It feels better, and I can pinpoint locations on an interface with much faster precision.
The magical appeal of the trackpad made me want to love it. I really tried to be a part of Apple’s future. But in the end, that old peripheral Apple itself made so popular back in the 80s is still the best tool for the job.
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