Review: Logitech Rechargeable Trackpad is a welcome, if imperfect, input device

At a Glance
  • Logitech Rechargeable Trackpad for Mac

    Macworld Rating

I use Logitech’s Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 (4.0-mouse rating) every day. That keyboard satisfies my particular needs: I prefer a full-size keyboard with a number pad, and I want it to work wirelessly without having to remember to change batteries.

Since I acquired that keyboard more than a year ago, I’ve considered also replacing my Magic Trackpad with something that doesn’t require batteries. But once I went trackpad, I just couldn’t go back-pad. So I kept on keeping on with my Magic Trackpad, swapping in replacement AA batteries when the need arose—a smidgen too frequently for my taste, I thought.

Which is why Logitech’s announcement of its $70 Rechargeable Trackpad for Mac was big news for me. I was delighted to get my hands—or, really, fingertips—on one.

What it says on the tin

The Rechargeable Trackpad for Mac is, like Apple’s own standalone trackpad, a glass trackpad that supports OS X’s Multi-Touch gestures. But unlike Apple’s trackpad, this one has a built-in, rechargeable battery. You charge that battery by connecting one end of the included USB-to-Micro-USB cable to the Micro-USB port on the back of the trackpad, and the other end to a USB port on your Mac. Logitech says three hours of charging should give you about 60 hours of use.

To conserve battery power, you switch off the Rechargeable Trackpad using a power switch on the right-hand edge. I’d prefer a smart-shutoff feature, like the one on Logitech’s wireless keyboards, that would put the trackpad to sleep after a certain period of inactivity, but since recharging is quick and painless—and because you can use the Rechargeable Trackpad while it charges—this is a minor complaint.

The Rechargeable Trackpad’s surface doesn’t feel noticeably different from that of the Magic Trackpad, but the incline of the trackpad’s surface does. The back of the Magic Trackpad sits about 3/4 of an inch off the ground (largely due to the space required for AA batteries), while the Rechargeable Trackpad’s rear rises only 1/4 of an inch. It’s unlikely that you’ll miss the Magic Trackpad’s incline, especially if you’re comfortable with the fully flat trackpads built into Apple’s laptops.

Like the Magic Trackpad, the Rechargeable Trackpad physically clicks by making its front two feet double as buttons; when you push down on the trackpad, those feet trigger a pointer click. My first day with the Rechargeable Trackpad, I found that its physical click required more force to trigger than that of the Magic Trackpad. After a few weeks of use, though, it’s no longer an issue—the difference was small enough that I largely got used to it. I’d still say that the click is still a hair less “clicky" than I’d prefer, but it’s entirely manageable—and likely only an issue if, like me, you’ve been using Apple’s trackpad. (If you prefer tap-clicking, you can opt for that approach. In fact, tap-click is enabled by default in Logitech's companion software—a decision that resulted in accidental clicks all over the place before I realized what was going on. I’m no fan of that feature, and once I disabled it, sanity returned.)

Speaking of software, Logitech's configuration utility for the trackpad, a System Preferences pane called Logitech Preferences Manager, lets you configure tap and Multi-Touch gesture behavior, as well as see the current battery level. However, if you don't need that battery status, you can use the Rechargeable Trackpad without Logitech's software. With or without Logitech’s software, the Rechargeable Trackpad supports nearly all of the same Multi-Touch gestures that Apple’s trackpad handles: clicks, right-clicks, two-finger clicks, two-finger scrolling, spread/pinch to zoom, rotate, swipe back and forth between webpages, swipe between full-screen apps and spaces, show Launchpad, show the Desktop, enter Notification Center, and double-tap to zoom.

The only gesture that I find the Rechargeable Trackpad gets wrong out of the box is that it uses Lion’s three-finger double-tap to bring up inline definitions, instead of Mountain Lion’s three-finger single tap. If you’ve already set your gesture preferences in OS X’s Trackpad preference pane, you’ll still need to set them again in Logitech’s preference pane.

A status light on the Rechargeable Trackpad—a hidden LED positioned just below the surface in the upper-right corner—flashes red if the trackpad is running low on juice or shows green when it’s charging. I wish the trackpad displayed a more-precise sense of how much battery life is remaining. You can launch System Preferences, find the Logitech Preferences Manager, and check on your remaining battery status using the iconographic there, but I’d prefer something like a series of LEDs on the trackpad itself.

The rub

My complaints to this point—wishing for a better battery indicator, a slightly clickier click, and one different default gesture—are all pretty minor. However, I do have one bigger complaint that, while not turning me off from the Rechargeable Trackpad, is a true disappointment: Logitech’s trackpad doesn’t seem quite as smart as Apple’s about detecting whether I intend to trigger a one- or two-finger event.

What I means is that the Rechargeable Trackpad occasionally—mistakenly—interprets me as having used two fingers on the trackpad when I think I’ve used only one. Put another way, the Rechargeable Trackpad seems less capable than the Magic Trackpad at handling incidental contact. The result is that Logitech’s trackpad sometimes erroneously believes that I want to scroll the page, or perform a right-click (a two-finger click), when my intention is to use just a single finger on the trackpad.

This isn’t a deal-breaker, as when the problem occurs, nothing catastrophic happens. It’s merely an annoyance—for example, the page scrolls when I want to simply move the cursor. And after using the trackpad for a few weeks, I’ve gotten better at avoiding the latent finger or palm that seems to cause the issue in the first place. But it still happens to me a couple times per day.

Bottom line

I wanted to love the Rechargeable Trackpad: I don’t like dealing with batteries, and I want to keep using a trackpad, so Logitech’s offering seemed perfect for me. My minor complaints border on trivial, but the annoyance of errant touches is a disappointment, even if a manageable one. That said, I’ve stuck with the Rechargeable Trackpad instead of going back to my Magic Trackpad—despite the latter’s better touch handling, I appreciate the rechargeable battery enough to give Logitech’s Trackpad the edge for me. Still: I look forward to the next version Logitech releases.

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Supports virtually all the same gestures as Apple's Magic Trackpad
    • No need to change batteries

    Cons

    • Occasionally struggles to distinguish between single- and two-finger clicks
    • Could benefit from a better battery-status indicator
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