The Trackpad

The trackpad on the MacBook Air is about the size of my iPhone. I've never really wanted a huge trackpad but there's nothing particularly wrong about it.

The nice thing about the MacBook Air's trackpad is that it'll keep working even if one of your hands is on it while you're using it. For example, if you're navigating around with your right hand while your left hand rests on the keyboard but some of your left hand happens to also rest on the trackpad, it won't confuse the trackpad - your mousing will continue uninterrupted.

Note that the trackpad attempts to differentiate between when you have part of your hand resting on it or a second finger on it. If it detects an extra finger-like point of contact it will assume that you have a second finger on the trackpad and change its function accordingly. However, if the trackpad detects a larger contact area with its surface it will assume that part of your other hand is simply resting on the trackpad and business will be as usual.

I was originally very skeptical of the multi-touch trackpad on the Air. It sounded far too much like an iPhone gimmick and didn't work nearly as well on the Air as it did on the iPhone. For example, if you make the pinch/stretch gesture with two fingers on the iPhone you will actually enlarge a portion of a web page in Safari. Doing the same on the MacBook Air adjusts the font size in Safari. In Finder, the pinch/stretch gesture changes the size of the icons but there's no easy way to go back to the default; at least in Safari you can hit Cmd + 0 to reset the font size.

That being said, the pinch/stretch gesture is my least favorite out of the bunch. The rest actually work surprisingly well.

The version of OS X that ships with the Air actually has videos built into the Trackpad Preferences Pane showing you how to use these gestures, as well as select which ones you want enabled or disabled.

Apple still only ships the MacBook Air with a single mouse button, so if you'd like a contextual (right) click you can either Control + Click or enable the mouse gesture: place two fingers on the track pad and then click the button.

If you want to rotate an image or a PDF simply place two fingers on the trackpad and rotate them around a fixed center point (much like turning an imaginary dial). The gesture works well but is best suited for image rotation. If you rotate an image using the gesture the animation is smooth and well done. Rotating a PDF document however is more rough and you generally only get a few frames of animation during the process, making it a little too distracting.

The best implemented gesture is the "Swipe to Navigate" feature of the MacBook Air's trackpad. If you'd like to move forward or back through web pages or folders in a Finder window, just place three fingers on the trackpad and swipe left or right. It's fast, it works and it's pretty useful.

What we're looking at with the MacBook Air's trackpad is the first implementation of multi-touch in a Mac. The hardware is mature enough today to implement what we've seen in the iPhone on a Mac, it's just a matter of re-architecting the OS around it. I suspect that by the time 10.6 rolls around we may be living in a more touch-friendly world.

The Best Keyboard on an Ultra Portable? Evar? So Bright, So Screen
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  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    You are correct - it looks like the power draw is identical to any other USB optical drive. I don't see any indication of any hardware based authentication tied to the drive, although I haven't specifically tested it.

    Take care,
  • Brau - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    Wow. Thank you very much for looking into it. IF you do get a chance to test out the drive on another MBA, I'd sure like to know the result. I'm really hoping they haven't invoked any limitations similar to Remote Disk under the assertion that people could use it to share media content.

  • Xenoterranos - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    Bravo Anand. I loved the review, and it reminded me of why I started reading Anandtech in the first place.

    I honestly couldn't care less about the Macbook Air, but the review was top notch.
  • mlambert890 - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    So Anand...

    Seriously.. the Mac koolaid is making you drunk.

    Youd be "blown away" if Dell and Gateway took away the removable batteries from their existing thin and lights (they dont make ultraportables, and neither does Apple), made them thinner, and removed a bunch of ports and the optical drives?

    Were you "blown away" by the Sony X505? Or how about any of the MANY PC based notebooks that are a LOT smaller and lighter than the MBA?

    I guess not. They're not that nice white color with the Apple logo and arent held up by Jobs at the Mac expo.

    Are PC guys really getting THIS desperately bored that now we're going to join the flocks swooning over any crap Apple chucks into the marketplace?

    At least be honest man. If the MBA had a Dell or Gateway logo you would TEAR IT APART for lack of ports, too large of a footprint, weight that was mediocre since there is a BIG list of sub 3lb PC notebooks and.... NON REMOVABLE BATTERY.
  • mlambert890 - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    Not to be picky but, well, *PC* reviews are always picky. There is NO WAY the MBA is an "ultraportable"

    Its HUGE in terms of the dimensions that mean something - LxW. It is a THIN AND LIGHT.

    Im typing this on a Fujitsu P1610. THAT is an ultra-portable - 9.1x6.5x2.2lbs

    13x9 is massive. My Sony SZ had similar dimensions and I couldnt open it in a cramped coach seat on a plane.

    People keep talking about how "the MBA is for special people - you dont get it". MANY of us *do* "get it". There are ALOT of travelers like myself who have been using notebooks in this space for YEARS.

    Apple has given us yet another ~13x~9x~3lb notebook. The only difference is this one is THINK (useless) and has NO REMOVABLE BATTERY (big problem)

    I keep seeing Mac lunatics ranting about how the battery *IS* removable because you can surgically remove it. Its funny because thats pretty directly counter to the argument of "only special people use this type of notebook" since those "special people" are executives and road warriors who NEED TO SWAP BATTERIES WHILE ON A PLANE and also need to open the thing on a plane.

    Sorry to all the drooling Mac-o-philes, but the MBA is a miss.
  • Griswold - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    But but... its only 10 tiny screws of varying sizes that need to be removed to change the battery - anyone can do that on a plane!

  • Souka - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    13.3" screen and 3lbs...

    Why not a
    faster laptop
    heckuv a lot more durable (proven)
    2.2lb (26% lighter!)
    upto 4GB of ram
    upto 200GB SATA HD, not old school PATA...
    Wi-fi a/b/g/n + EVDO broadband (Verizon or AT& can choose!)
    you can CHOOSE what CPU, RAM, an HD you want....
    fingerprint reader
    hardware based security encryption (if you set it up and lose your laptop the data is %100 safe)
    choice of 4 or 8 cell battery....carry an extra and change without taking 10 screws out...or upgrade at any time
    can be purchasd in tablet-form...uber cool

    Oh yeah...prices start at hundreds less than Macair

    what am I talking about?? Lenovo X61...and other laptop makers are in the SUB 3lb market....

    True...Lenovo's development is way more experienced at ultra-portables than Apple... and I do say the Apple is "pretty" and sleek... but if I had a kid in college, I'd spend the $$ on a Lenovo laptop as I know it'll take the abuse much better than the Macbook air and heckuv lot less likely to be stolen...

    My $.02...

  • OccamsAftershave - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    And a X61 with a Penryn, 100GB HD and Ultrabase+DVD is $1600 vs. Air+DVD $1900.
    Only comparison negatives: with an 8 cell X61 is 3.3 lbs and resolution is XGA, not WXGA+.
    (And the 4 cell weighs 2.7 lbs. not 2.2 lbs.)
  • lopri - Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - link


    This wasn’t going to be my ultimate work machine, I wasn’t going to be running Photoshop on it, I just needed it to do some basic writing and web browsing. In many senses all I needed was a notebook-sized iPhone.

    What happened to the special, customized, and powerful Core 2 Duo CPU that Intel designed just for Apple?
  • aliasfox - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    It may be 50% faster than the 1.2 GHz ULV processors in most other ultraportables, but that also means it's also about 50% slower than most mainstream high end CPUs (2.2 GHz and up).

    Slow hard drive doesn't help either.

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