Is The Magic Trackpad Worth It?

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by Jack Taylor | Last Updated:  February 16, 2019

In 2015, Apple released the second iteration of the Magic Trackpad, implementing several new features since its first release.  But is the Apple Magic Trackpad still worth it?

The Magic Trackpad 2 addresses several concerns that Magic Trackpad fans had regarding its predecessor.  The biggest changes to the newer device include Force Touch and Haptic Feedback, both of which have revolutionized this device. One thing is for sure, you will either love it, or hate it.

We are going to compare all the features of both the first and second version of the Magic Trackpad, for the purpose of helping you determine whether or not it is a worthwhile investment for you.

The Need for the Magic Trackpad

Back in 2005 when Apple introduced the iPhone, people did not even know that they needed the iPhone.  Apple literally invented something that people did not know that they needed.  Just think about that for a moment.

It is with that mindset, that way of thinking, that Apple had when they created the Magic Trackpad.  They were trying to create something that people did not know that they needed or wanted.  Apple was not the first to invent the multi- touch trackpad, much like the iPhone was not the first touchscreen cell phone that came to market.  But much like the iPhone wowed the industry, so too, the Magic Trackpad was a sight for sore eyes for those who had a Mac Desktop back in 2010.

Unfortunately, the need or desire for The Magic Trackpad was not as great as the need or desire for the iPhone, however, Apple still sells it has one of the many accessories available to the Mac desktop computer.

Does everyone need one of these for their Mac Desktop? No. But it is a great accessory, and those who do use it, swear by it.

What are the Differences Between the Magic Trackpad 1 & 2?

Admittedly, one really nice touch that Apple has provided in the Magic Trackpad 2, is that it now has a lower profile, matching that of the new Magic Keyboard.  Now you can place the keyboard and trackpad next to each other and they are flush with one another, and the height of the unit has not changed, nor the angle in which it rests.

Another difference between the old version and the newer version is that now you can continue to use the Magic Trackpad 2 while you’re charging the battery. In fact, it’s now so much more flexible, that if the battery completely ran out, you could  turn off the Bluetooth capabilities and connect your Magic Trackpad as a wired device.  Clearly, Apple listened to their user-base.

The Magic Trackpad 2 allows for a 2 minute “quick charge” with its built in lithium-ion battery, which will give you about 9 hours of use.  A full charge takes about 2 hours, but it gives you a full month of use.  This is a vast improvement from the Magic Trackpad 1, that required 2 AA batteries that you would have to change every 3 weeks if used 8 hours a day.

The Magic Trackpad 2 now incorporates the long awaited “Force Touch.”

The new trackpad is about 20 percent wider than it’s predecessor, and its surface seems smoother than the Magic Trackpad 1, but users of the Magic Trackpad 2 find that one of the biggest improvements over the previous version is that the new trackpad seems to require less force to click.  In other words, it’s a bit more sensitive to click and to the touch.

The Magic Trackpad 2 now incorporates the long awaited “Force Touch”. The Magice Trackpad 2 has four force sensors that can detect the pressure you are using when you push to click or simply tap it’s surface.

The really nice part is that because there no longer is a mechanical switch for detecting clicks, you can use the same amount of force anywhere on the surface to register a click.  You can click the center or the corner.  It does not care.  On the original Trackpad, you needed to press a just a little bit harder a the top of the unit, that you needed to at the near the bottom in order to register a click.

The Magic Trackpad 2 now incorporates “Haptic Feedback.”

This is where the Haptic engine comes into play.  Like the iPhone 7, Apple now uses the haptic feedback to simulate the feel and sound of clicking.  You can adjust this setting which will allow you to determine how sensitive the haptic feedback is, and how hard you must press in order to get a response.

Now, could configure the Magic Trackpad 2 to mimic the original Magic Trackpad, but then why would one want to spend twice the amount of money to limit the functionality to the original version?

Who Can Benefit from Using the Magic Trackpad 2?

If you have a MacBook and you never use a mouse, but instead prefer to use the built-in trackpad found on your MacBook, then the Magic Trackpad is a dream come true.

Technically, you could use the Magic Trackpad on both the MacBook and the Mac Desktop, because it easily connects via Bluetooth (albeit, Bluetooth 4).  If you choose to use it on your MacBook, (it’s 80% larger than the MacBook trackpad), you might want to disable the built-in trackpad on your MacBook.  Here’s how:

  1. On your MacBook, click on the Apple menu at the top left of your screen, and then click “System Preferences” and then choose “Accessibility
  2. Now, select “Mouse & Trackpad” from the section on the left side.
  3. On the right side, check the box next to “Ignore built-in trackpad when mouse or wireless trackpad is present
  4. Now close out of System Preferences, and you are done!

If however, you are the type of person who prefers to use a mouse to navigate around your desktop, (and you have already disabled the trackpad on your MacBook Pro because you find that  the trackpad is always getting in your way), then the Magic Trackpad for your Desktop Mac is definitely not going to be something that you will want to use.

Now, let’s address the person who will seriously take advantage of all of the features available in the magic trackpad 2.  Who is this for?  As already mentioned, it is definitely for the one who can’t live without a trackpad.  There are massive improvements to this latest version, albeit that the biggest features were taken directly from the iPhone 7, (mmHmm . . . Force Touch and Haptic Feedback).

Who Will find the Magic Trackpad disappointing?

As I have already noted, if you have never used the Trackpad that works in any modern laptop today, you will find that the Magic Trackpad has an awkward learning curve, but it is only awkward because it takes time to get use to.

The cost is another factor that one must consider, which I am sure is disappointing.  The Magic Trackpad 1 was priced at $69.99.  The new Magic Trackpad is now $149.99.  Do all of the new features of warrant the whopping expense?  The tired excuse of, “Well, that’s what Apple does”, is not going to work here.

You really have to sit down and count the cost.  Again, In your mind, do the upgraded and new features offered in the Magic Trackpad 2 justify forking over twice the amount of money it cost to purchase the first version?  Only you can answer that, and perhaps your needs do justify that expense, but for the majority of users, I just don’t see the that justification.

Now, if they were to make it compatible for use with the Apple Pencil, people would purchase the Magic Trackpad in a heart-beat, (more on that in a minute).

All that aside, the only other reason that you might be disappointed in purchasing the Magic Trackpad is if you are expecting it to instantly make you more productive.

I can’t tell you how many times, I thought, “If I just get xyz product, it will make me so much more productive”.  Or worse yet, “If I just purchase the Apple Pencil, it will automatically make me an artist”.  You laugh, but people do think that way.

Does buying a hammer automatically make you a construction worker?  Does buying a pen make you a best-selling author?  Neither does buying a Magic Trackpad make you exponentially more productive. 

It is a tool, and if used well, and with practice, you can become very productive if you invest the time it takes to become productive.

Now lets assume that you are a Mac user who occasionally needs to use Windows.  You too, can utilize the Magic Trackpad, but only if you are running Windows using Bootcamp, (the dual-booting tool where you can choose your operating system upon starting your computer).

Real World Uses for the Magic Trackpad 2

Below is a list of some of the things that you can do with the Magic Trackpad for daily use, but this list is not limited exclusively to this list.  I just want you to get an idea how you can use the Magic Trackpad for daily use.

  1. You can force-click on a flight number to get immediate access to that flight’s details.
  2. You can force-click a word in any application to quickly get a definition and other information on the word you force-clicked.
  3. You can force-click on an address to get a pop-up that will display that location in the Maps app.
  4. You can force-click on the Apple map to quickly drop a pin in a specific location.
  5. You can also use force-click to speed up your zoom levels in Apple Maps depending on how hard you press.
  6. While in Apple Maps, you will get haptic feedback when you snap to North when you rotate the compass.
  7. You can force-click a date and time to add the new event in the Calendar app.
  8. You can force-click in certain areas within iMovie to show additional options available to you.
  9. You can force-click on the rewind and fast-forward buttons inside of iMovie to increase or decrease the speed at which it plays.
  10. You will get haptic feedback when trying to drag past the end of a clip in iMovie.
  11. You can force-click on a tracking number to get immediate access to the tracking details.
  12. You can force-click on a file which will open Preview Mode and force-click on the file name to enter Rename Mode which will allow you to easily rename the file.
  13. You can speed up the process of speeding through the Photos app by simply using a force-click.
  14. You can also get a haptic feedback response when you align to zero using the cropping tool in the Photos app.
  15. You can force-click on app in a document to enter App Expose’ Mode, and you can click on an attachment in the Mail app to quickly enter Mark-up Mode.
  16. In the Messages app, you can force-click on a contact in the sidebar to access messages and details of that contact.
  17. You can force-click on a Reminder to view the details of that reminder.
  18. You also can force-click an event to view the details of that event.
  19. You also will get haptic feedback when you align the Spotlight Search Box to its default position on the Desktop.
  20. You will get haptic feedback when you align two shapes inside of Preview.

Can the Magic Trackpad Really Replace the Mouse?

The Magic Trackpad 2 could replace the mouse if one really wanted it to, however, I don’t’ think that would be many that would move to the Magic Trackpad cold-turkey.

Why not use both the Trackpad AND the mouse on the same computer?

Why does it have to be an either or?    The Trackpad is definitely easier to use for gestures, but the mouse is better for intricate details.

For example, a mouse is just going to be a better tool for navigating a spreadsheet, but the trackpad would be better to use on Photoshop.  It would seem to me that one could navigate faster and with precision by using a mouse on a spreadsheet, but when using Photoshop or any graphic design tool, one could use your finger as a paintbrush or a pencil.

If you are a hard-core trackpad user, you may feel different, and that’s OK.  But again, why not use both the mouse and the trackpad?  There is nothing wrong with using both on the same computer.

When you first use the Magic Trackpad, you may find that there is a learning curve to using it.  Well, let’s be honest, if you are already not in the habit of using your trackpad on your MacBook, you are definitely going to face a learning curve.

For example, you may find yourself resting your palm or pinky finger on the trackpad, making clicks behave like right-clicks.

You also may find that you end up force-clicking when you don’t really mean to. For example, when trying to select text to drag, or when you attempt to drag images, or files, you may find yourself accidentally pressing too hard, force-clicking when all you really wanted to do is simply click.  These are growing pains that you will have to work through, but after you have used it for a while, it becomes second nature.

Where Does the Magic Trackpad Grow From Here?

Again, in 2010, Apple released the first version of the Magic Trackpad.  5 years later, they released their second iteration of the Magic Trackpad with many changes for the better, including force touch and haptic feedback.  Now you can even use the trackpad while holding it whereas you could not do that on the Magic Trackpad 1.

There is one direction that Apple could take the Magic Trackpad moving forward, one that I think would not only make Apple a tremendous amount of money, but a direction that would bring life back to the trackpad, making it an essential tool to have.

If Apple were to allow the Apple Pencil to function on the Magic Trackpad, graphic designers and note-takers alike would go crazy.

Graphic designers could use programs such as Photoshop or Affinity Photo to draw, paint, sketch, or simply to touch-up photographs.  Additionally, they could use this from their Mac Desktop or from their MacBook.

College students could take advantage of this by taking her laptops to class.  They could take notes using the keyboard,  or they prefer, they could use their Apple pencil in conjunction with the magic trackpad.

Why would students want to use the Apple pencil with the magic trackpad? Drawing diagrams in class is essential for pre-med students, mathematicians, scientists, and the list goes on, and at the same time, these very students also need the ability to type on their laptop to take notes.  For the student, this would be huge.

Are you beginning to see just how advantageous it would be for Apple to allow the Apple pencil to work in conjunction with the Magic Trackpad?  This is something that’s all users of the Apple pencil with absolutely love, but as of now, Apple has not implemented this ability.

Perhaps Apple feels that if they allowed the Apple pencil to write on magic trackpad, those very same users would not purchase the iPad Pro. The problem with this thinking is that artists are at home on a desktop computer, not an iPad Pro.

Granted, there is a lot you can do on the iPad Pro with Apple pencil. There is no question about that. But if you were to ask long-time users of Photoshop that if given the choice, of which device they would prefer, to use an Apple pencil on the Magic Trackpad with their Mac Desktop, to simply use the Apple pencil on their or iPad, they would almost certainly pick the Mac desktop, hands down.

But if people could use the Apple pencil on the Trackpad, it would be game over. 

Yes the iPad is portable, and incredibly powerful.  In fact, I think that sales would go up for the magic trackpad as well as the Apple pencil as well as the iPad Pro. If Apple were to allow each of these devices to communicate with each other seamlessly, people would be far more productive, and productivity sells.

Conclusion

The new Magic Trackpad costs $149, more than double what the original Magic Trackpad cost.  Granted, it now has rechargeable batteries, force touch, Haptic feedback, a bigger surface by 20%, and it now comes in two colors, but is it worth it?  Having thoroughly reviewed the pros and cons of it’s capabilities, you probably already know the answer to that question for you.  I say, “for you”, because what may work for you, may not work for others, and what may not work for others, may absolutely work for you.


Related Questions

What Other Trackpad Devices Compete With The Magic Trackpad?
The Microsoft Wedge and the Logitech Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad are two devices that are in direct competition with Apple’s Magic Trackpad.  The Microsoft Wedge comes in at about half the price of the Magic Trackpad 2, and the Logitech Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad costs about $50 more.

Does the Aluminum Surface Of The Magic Trackpad Get Cold?
The surface of the Magic Trackpad does get cold in colder environments, as metal does not hold heat well.  In contrast to the trackpad found in laptops, the Magic Trackpad does not have a source of hear surrounding it when in use.

Jack has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article or working on his YouTube channel, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Jack, click here.
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