Let’s get this right out in the open…try as I might, I can find no magical properties in this device. Food left on it does not stay preserved for an unnaturally long time. Razor blades placed under it do not resharpen themselves (Google “pyramid power”). Rubbing it produces no Genie. Offering sacrifices to it seemed to have no impact at all, except in neighbor relations since my neighbor is now missing his prized goat. However, in a pinch, it might serve quite nicely as a kitchen chopper; just remember that it does have a glass surface so you don’t want to go all Ninja Chef with it.
The box is quite small. In it you will find the non-magical trackpad, a small manual, some other paperwork. Two non-rechargeable batteries are included in the unit. The manual was totally unnecessary but it covers all the basics. The most useful component, aside from the trackpad itself, is the bottom of the box, which shows the various gestures available.
When you pair the thing with your Mac, it will realize that a software update is required to get the trackpad drivers. This was a quick process that, I believe, also required a restart. Prior to the restart, the trackpad worked fine as a mouse but the two/three/four finger actions were not functional. Once the drivers are installed, System Preferences will include a new entry for Trackpad.
This is where you set the attributes for the trackpad. As you hover the cursor over the settings, that setting will highlight and a how-to video for that setting will play, showing you how it works (in the shot above, the Rotate feature is highlighted).
All the gestures work as advertised. It responds just as quickly and accurately as the trackpad on a MacBook Pro. The button click can be managed two ways. The default is mechanical. The two feet on the front bottom of the device are buttons that will register the click or you can set the device to allow Tap to Click. I’ve read complaints about the button click but, so far, it has worked quite well for me, especially from near the center of the trackpad. Get too close to the bottom edge and more effort is required to activate the buttons (not a great deal more but the difference is noticeable). The multi-finger gestures are the reason I wanted this thing. The two finger scroll and three finger page back/forward are much more intuitive, responsive, and efficient than performing similar actions with a mouse.
My biggest beef is the application switch feature. Four fingers to bring up the app switcher works just fine. The problem is that the cursor does not automatically go to the switcher window. If your cursor was in the lower corner of the screen when you activated the switcher, it will still be there and you’ll have to navigate up to the window to choose the app you want. Having said that, you can use the arrow keys to move among the app options, so it isn’t a deal killer. I’ve also read complaints about click and drag but I’ve had no issues. I tend to use one finger to select and then slide another finger to move the object and this works quite well. If you find yourself running out of real estate with the finger that is moving, it seems to work well to switch which finger is stationary and which one is moving and the action continues without missing a beat. (Addendum, it was pointed out to me that you can use four fingers to activate the switcher, two fingers to navigate the switcher window, then a four finger tap to activate your app of choice. Thanks, jfm429!)
I have an image of Ubuntu in Fusion that I play with a bit. Without any Fusion update, the trackpad works just fine as a mouse and the two finger scroll works. The more advanced features do not work. Although I would like to report the results with a Windows image, my XP image got corrupted by viruses and I ended up deleting it. There is an additional download required for Boot Camp to activate more of the features for Windows. It seems to be a Boot Camp specific update and is not something you can run on your Windows PC to make use of the trackpad. In very limited testing, my Dell Latitude D620 did not find the trackpad. It found my iMac, my wife’s laptop (upstairs), and my BlackBerry. No sign of the Magic Trackpad. I tried turning off the bluetooth on the iMac to see if it had some exclusive hold on the trackpad and this did not resolve things. So, I don’t expect it to work with Windows (XP, anyway) yet.
Is it worth it? For me, yes. On those occasions when I could get my mits on my wife’s MBP, I lusted hard for her trackpad and the multi-touch gestures. Having that ability now with my iMac makes me much less interested in getting my own MBP (which is great because I can’t afford it). If you have limited real estate and you’re jonesing for the multi-touch features, I highly recommend the Magic Trackpad. As a comparision, I find it much more useful, intuitive, and responsive than the Magic Mouse, which I absolutely hate to use.
This is not a Bamboo. You can use the surface to draw, just like you can a trackpad, and you have a large surface to work with, but it won’t have the erase or multi-button features that you get with a Bamboo. If you’re looking for those features, invest your money with Wacom. I was really interested in trying Inklet but it appears that it needs to be updated to recognize the Magic Trackpad as a trackpad. It’s a shame because it looks like a nice alternative to the Bamboo if your needs are simple and the handwriting recognition would be fun, especially if it works as expected with their Pogo Sketch. If you want to extend the abilities beyond what Apple offers, look up the Better Touch Tool. Very limited testing suggests that it will work quite nicely. I set a three finger tap to ⌘R so that I could easily reload web pages without navigating or heading to the keyboard.