Help me find a wired alternative to Apple's Magic Trackpad
October 23, 2013 11:10 AM   Subscribe

I'm a Mac user who prefers touchpads over mice. I'd love to use Apple's Magic Trackpad, but I can't use wireless peripherals where I work. What else is out there that's comparable to the Magic Trackpad that doesn't have bluetooth/RF?

I've seen some wired power conversions for the Magic Trackpad, but the fact that it ships with a RF radio is a liability that I wouldn't be able to justify. Ideally, I'd like to find something a wired version of something closely resembling the Magic Trackpad (or the built-in trackpad on Mac laptops) in terms of functionality -- multi-touch, nice smooth glass surface, fast tracking speed and accuracy, etc.

The best candidates I've read about so far are Wacom's smaller pointing devices like the Bamboo Pad, but I've heard from a friend who bought one that the surface feels plasticky and wears down after a moderate amount of use. I also had problems with slow, jittery tracking on a previous generation Wacom Bamboo device, so I'm hesitant to go back to that well without some more positive feedback.

Other than that, I've found some very old and very ugly combination keyboard/trackpad devices with minimal or no multi-touch support. Is there anything out there I might have missed?
posted by tonycpsu to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
I don't know how compatible they'd be with modern operating systems, but FingerWorks is the company Apple acquired for the gesture based input used in the iPhone. They had a multitouch keyboard as well as something called the iGesture Pad which is exactly what you want.

More info here:
posted by covercash at 11:26 AM on October 23, 2013

Response by poster: Heh... I actually owned a Fingerworks TouchStream LP, but I sold it because typing on it was horrible.

As a touchpad, it was better than anything that came before or after it -- the gesture configuration was virtually unlimited -- but if you're more of a programmer and less of a visual artist / CAD type, you quickly hit a wall. My typing speed probably hit 60-70% of my usual, but with a lot of backspacing to correct errors and a lot more brain activity required to think about where my hands were on it, since there's no tactile feedback.

I do wish they'd stuck around though -- would have loved to see them improve on that design somehow to offer more tactile feedback.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:31 AM on October 23, 2013

This is something i actually looked for, and gave up on ever finding. I currently own the standard magic trackpad.

the only thing i ever found was this, which seems like ultragarbage and isn't even all that cheap.

there's also this which looks a bit less crappy, but is way smaller.

I shied away from those because i couldn't try them out in person. I'd probably expect to be disappointed and wouldn't want to buy anything that didn't have a no questions asked return window, which at least they do... but those both look like kinda sketch chinatech crap products.

The fingerworks igesture looks blatantly like what the magic trackpad was based off of, like almost shamelessly. sadly you can't even find a used one anywhere as far as i can tell.

The biggest problem here is that nothing else ties into the actual "trackpad" prefpane on osx, or any of the third party addons for such. They'll all show up as mouses, and probably work 3/4 like crap and without any of the gestures really. the igesture might be old enough that its special sauce software would be ppc only or just incompatible with mountain lion/mavericks now too. ugh.
posted by emptythought at 1:52 PM on October 23, 2013

What about a wired Wacom tablet? I believe bamboo is still their low-end line, and supports touch (and that style on control with a pen) for navigation. I don't know that the sensitivity I so. Part witha magic touchpad, though.
posted by R a c h e l at 6:10 PM on October 23, 2013

eek, okay, that'll teach me to read the whole question! I'm sorry. Good luck!
posted by R a c h e l at 6:11 PM on October 23, 2013

Not that I'd suggest circumventing rules, but I work for a government agency that forbids wireless connectivity due to security concerns. Except they recently decided that infrared was OK because it is short-range and unlikely to be an issue. Do not know if your local rules are similar or might have been similarly revised, but it is always worth asking.

In our case, it's surprising how many new "infrared" devices showed up in various offices. I suspect that lots of them have a little angular "B" logo on them, although Apple devices tend not to have the communication protocol emblazoned on the device... Depending on how Mac-savvy your IT Gestapo are, you may or may not feel comfortable pretending it's one thing when it's another. Me, I have wired everything, because I work off of a laptop, and if I am going to plug in an external keyboard I want it to have a full number pad. And for some damn reason Apple refuses to make a full keyboard in any conformation except wired. For the same price as the truncated laptop keyboard, to add insult to injury. (Also I have an inordinate love for the 5-button Microsoft Intellimouse 1.1A, which is also wired.)

Personally I think it is dumb, because Bluetooth is theoretically crackable but in practice is really not an issue, ESPECIALLY when the data being communicated is nothing more than cursor position relative to the prior location, not absolute position on the screen. If IR is OK, Bluetooth should be MORE acceptable. But no one ever said IT decisions are reasonable.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:57 AM on October 24, 2013

Response by poster: I ended up buying the BambooPad USB. It's a compromise. The surface is just a bit too tacky, so my finger can't glide across it as smoothly as it can on my Macbook Pro's built-in trackpad. On the plus side, the laggy tracking and imprecise multitouch recognition I remember from previous Wacom devices and drivers is gone, so I think I'll be sticking with it. One other bummer -- the single finger double-tap then hold gesture to drag doesn't work -- you have to either use three fingers, or point using one finger and then tap a second to click/drag.

Still hoping something better comes along.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:40 AM on November 1, 2013

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