Windows machine with a Mac feature?
March 27, 2011 5:51 PM   Subscribe

Notebook PC: I'm considering getting a nicer Windows notebook to use in addition to my MacBook Pro and there is one key feature that I've only found on Macs: 2-finger scrolling on the trackpad.

For those without a Mac, this feature allows you to scroll through webpages, etcetera, by simply placing 2 fingers on the track pad and sliding them up/down and side to side.

Up to this point, all of the Windows machines I've looked at require you to click on the slider with one finger while using a second finger to drag. To me, this is inconvenient.
A few notebooks out there have a feature which allows you to slide a finger along the right side of the track pad in order to scroll, but this doesn't work very well which makes it annoying.

I have asked computer resellers if they know of any notebooks with this feature, but they've given me odd looks and don't seem to know what I am talking about.

So, does anyone out there know of a notebook with this feature?
Also important is the quality of the trackpad. I've found that a lot of notebooks have terrible trackpads that are very poor in comparison to the MBPs.
posted by nickthetourist to Computers & Internet (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think all you're looking for is MultiTouch. Any full-size notebook is overwhelmingly likely to do this.
posted by Rallon at 5:52 PM on March 27, 2011

Response by poster: I should probably also mention that 13-14" is ideal. Any larger is simply too big to be portable.
posted by nickthetourist at 5:55 PM on March 27, 2011

Seconding Rallon; I think this is pretty standard now. Both the hardware and drivers are ubiquitous; even Ubuntu supports it on my piddling little Asus Eee.
posted by a small part of the world at 6:03 PM on March 27, 2011

(Two-finger scrolling, that is, in addition to edge scrolling, which I will agree is rather useless.)
posted by a small part of the world at 6:08 PM on March 27, 2011

My Acer Aspire Timeline has it - mine is 11" but there are other sizes.
posted by valeries at 6:10 PM on March 27, 2011

My Thinkpad W510 has this feature, but it is disabled by default and buried in a bunch of other trackpad and pointing stick options under Lenovo's proprietary drivers, along with a bunch of other weird trackpad features (edge scrolling, touchpad zones, and the like). If you check out laptops in person, make sure to go to the control panel and make sure to enable the features that you want to use, cause they are set up for stranger stuff.

And I have found the sensitivity is off for two finger scrolling on the Thinkpad compared to my MBP -sometimes it doesn't register, and I have found it difficult to get the settings "just right" compared to my MBP. However, the Thinkpad has the Trackpoint which is actually quite good, with integrated scrolling functions, and is probably worth a closer look.
posted by meowzilla at 6:28 PM on March 27, 2011

And my Acer claims to have it, but it sucks sucks sucks.

It sucks sucks sucks because my 11 inch Acer Timeline has a cheap-ass ALPS trackpad. (valeries's almost certainly has an elantech pad).

You want an elantech pad, or a synaptics pad (I've not actually used a synaptics, but I have heard good things about them).

Here's the problem: laptop manufacturers almost never commit to a particular pad, so if like me you get a ALPS, you're screwed. They just don't work for multitouch -- and that's made my Acer a real pain in the ass.

My previous Asus had an elentech pad, and two-finger scrolling (and two-finger tap) was effortlessly easy.

With this crap ALPS touchpad, nothing -- installing different drivers, playing with sensitivities and configurations works. (And it doesn't even show up as a trackpad at all under the current Ubuntu, so going linux isn't a fix, in fact it prevents me from using linux.)

The "best" fix is to use the Dell ALPS drivers, and even with those, two-finger scroll works so intermittently and inconsistently that I've just trained myself not to try. This after a year on the Asus learning to use only two-finger.

In fact, not only does two-finger not work well, the dedicated one-finger scroll strip on the right edge of the pad doesn't work well either.

So you have to make sure you get an elantech or synaptics pad. If you do, you're golden.

I really wanted to love this Acer, and now it's just constantly annoying to use. (The trackpad sucks, the speakers are way underpowered, the rubber feet fall out, the hinge is wonky, one of the keys doesn't sit right and never has.)
posted by orthogonality at 6:31 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Er, sorry valeries's probably has the synaptics. The Acer Timelines either have ALPS (which sucks sucks sucks) or synaptics. My Asus had the elantech.
posted by orthogonality at 6:42 PM on March 27, 2011

Oh, and I bought an Apple Magic Trackpad, which is quite magical, but the bluetooth connection between it and the Acer dropped out about once an hour, requiring resetting the bluetooth. Don't know if that's an Apple, Acer, or Windows issue, but I'm no longer using the Magic Trackpad because of it, so it's not a fix.
posted by orthogonality at 6:46 PM on March 27, 2011

My Acer timeline has a synaptics touchpad, and two finger scrolling works great. It would be worth your time to ask for recommendations at the notebookreview forum as they can recommended specific models.
posted by Harpocrates at 7:19 PM on March 27, 2011

You may not be aware that you can boot a mac laptop into Windows using Apple's bootcamp which is included for free with OSX and also includes the necessary drivers so all the macbook devices behave as you'd expect.
posted by furtive at 8:06 PM on March 27, 2011

I recently purchased a Samsung Q430 which supports it. It's not as seamless as on Mac OS (the mouse cursor changes) but works great.
posted by wongcorgi at 8:32 PM on March 27, 2011

My HP dm4 (14") has Synaptics multitouch capabilities (incl. 2-finger scroll), but I found 2-finger scroll to be less responsive/accurate on this touchpad than on a Mac. Personally, I prefer ChiralScroll, which only requires you to move your finger in a circular motion to scroll.
posted by puritycontrol at 8:33 PM on March 27, 2011

On the one hand, as Rallon pointed out, many Windows notebooks are getting what's known as "multitouch" trackpads these days that are equivalent in function to Macbook trackpads; but on the other hand in my somewhat limited experience none of them match Mac trackpads for finesse/nuance/polish/smoothness/whatever you want to call it in terms of sensitivity...even with the "sensitivity" set high enough to start getting false readings. I have no idea why that should be so, but it is. So there you have it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:36 PM on March 27, 2011

My ThinkPad has had this since the early 2000s.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:58 PM on March 27, 2011

Response by poster: @meowzilla - glad to hear that some Lenovo Thinkpads have this feature as an option.

@Harpocrates - thanks for the suggestion. At the very least they have some good reviews.

@furtive - I am aware of the bootcamp option, but I'm unsure how well my mid-2008 MBP can run Windows 7. I may further investigate this option.
posted by nickthetourist at 9:58 PM on March 27, 2011

A mid-2008 laptop shouldn't have any issues with Windows 7.
posted by The Lamplighter at 10:31 PM on March 27, 2011

I have an ASUS U30JC-X3K which has the two finger scroll capabilities. I use it all the time. It has a very similar in feeling to the Macbook I have at work.

Elan Smart-Pad config screenshot.
posted by Nerro at 10:38 PM on March 27, 2011

My mid-2007 MBP runs Windows 7 Pro 64-bit capably.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:20 AM on March 28, 2011

My 2 year old Asus netbook has this too, using the Elan Smart-Pad config.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:09 AM on March 28, 2011

If all you want a new computer for is to run Windows then you don't need a new computer - you've already got a perfectly good computer with an excellent trackpad that will probably run Windows 7 just fine.

Here's a glowing writeup about using a new Air to run VMWare Fusion with XP and Windows 7 disk images by the designer of some of the most widely seen icons on the internet (Firefox, MailChimp, etc), and who can code a pretty gorgeous website (resize your browser window).

And if you do some further research and determine that your mid-2008 MBP isn't up to scratch (not that I think you'll find that's the case) then the price of a Windows notebook is probably no less than the changeover costs of selling your current MBP and purchasing a brand-spanking new MBP or Air.

FWIW my brother bought a MBP six months ago and almost only uses it as a Windows XP machine - Apple's build-quality, screen, battery and trackpad won him over, even if the OS didn't.
posted by puffmoike at 8:06 AM on March 28, 2011

The Asus eeePC 900 netbook I'm using as we speak has this capability - although my (admittedly vague) impression is that this is in part because I'm running Linux on it, and there are (possibly) patent issues that prevent Windows computers from including multitouch capabilities, while Mac and Linux computers are able to.

Then again, I may have just dreamt that. Works great though. Couldn't live without it on my netbook.
posted by chmmr at 9:15 AM on March 28, 2011

I have asked computer resellers if they know of any notebooks with this feature, but they've given me odd looks and don't seem to know what I am talking about.

My 2-year-old Acer has this and it's pretty much identical to my gf's new MBP. You'll want to try the laptops instead of asking questions; I have yet to visit a Windows laptop dealer that knew anything about Windows laptops.
posted by coolguymichael at 9:27 AM on March 28, 2011

Response by poster: coolguymichael: You'll want to try the laptops instead of asking questions; I have yet to visit a Windows laptop dealer that knew anything about Windows laptops.

I actually went to Fry's thinking they'd know much more than a big box retailer, but still they looked at me funny.

I think I'll explore the option of loading Windows 7 onto the machine I've got and see how it works. At the very least I can get a better feel for the OS while hoping for some further improvements in notebook PCs.
posted by nickthetourist at 9:40 AM on March 28, 2011

Response by poster: The MacBook Pro is loaded up with Windows 7 Professional 64 and seems to be operating just fine.
A mouse seems to work best, but I haven't started fine-tuning the OS.
I think it'll do the job for now, but still I will be looking to eventually get a nice Windows machine.
Thinkpad, maybe?
posted by nickthetourist at 9:37 PM on April 2, 2011

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