Why do PC trackpads suck?

Why do PC trackpads suck?

Summary: Apple set the bar for laptop trackpads with the outstanding ones on the MacBook line. There has yet been one on the PC side that comes close to them.

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I have been using laptops since they weighed 30 pounds. They have varied in size from tiny to mammoth, with all types of hardware inside to cover every need. The one common feature found on almost all of these laptops over the years is a trackpad that sucks.

Until the unibody MacBook came along, the first thing I did with a new laptop is plug in a wireless mouse. It's been like that for years, and I don't understand why, out of all the companies making laptops, Apple is the only one that makes a decent trackpad.

When I get a new laptop to test I dutifully use the trackpad in the hopes that someone has finally produced one that rivals those found on Mac laptops. I test the standard mousing features and the multi-touch capability now found on all trackpads. That exercise always ends in futility, as none of them ever live up to the potential. They are either too sensitive, not sensitive enough, or even worse interfere with typing by sending the cursor all over the screen when my palms hit the trackpad.

However you feel about Apple and MacBooks, you have to admit they have nailed the multi-touch trackpad down cold. Apple trackpads work exactly as they should, with no ill effects. The sensitivity is just right, the integrated mouse buttons work just right, and the palm rejection is just right.

The closest to an Apple trackpad I've seen so far on the PC side is the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s Ultrabook. Lenovo did a great job with the over-sized trackpad, and it's the only one to date I use without plugging in a mouse. Even so, it sometimes does the cursor flinging thing when I am typing, but not as much as every other non-Apple trackpad I have tried.

I am beginning to think making a trackpad that works properly must be incredibly difficult, or everyone would be doing so. Heck, even though Lenovo almost nailed it with the U300s, it totally blew it on the U400. This trackpad looks like the one on the U300s, but it is a horrible one to use. It's a good thing the U400 has a setting to turn off the trackpad when a USB mouse is plugged in. At least it stops flinging the cursor all over the screen.

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Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

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94 comments
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  • Quality trackpads cost money

    And in a market that competes on price and razor thin margins, what do you expect?
    baggins_z
    • Nailed it in one.

      @baggins_z

      Zinga. Given that Apple uses glass touch pads, my guess is it is 100% a cost issue.
      Bruizer
    • The other option might also be...

      @baggins_z

      Apple puts research into these concepts and develops them fully and then protects them:

      http://www.patentgenius.com/patent/7561146.html

      Of course, Apple hardware is 100% the same as cheap commodity hardware and people are just crazy to pay extra for it... ;-)
      Bruizer
      • Guess you forgot to read the article

        Doh!
        @Bruizer
        GoPower
      • @GoPower: Where does the article mention Patent 7561146?

        It is the key reason the touch rejection on Apple trackpads are so much better than the competition.
        Bruizer
    • RE: Why do PC trackpads suck?

      @Bruizer
      Are you saying that aluminum (Al) and glass (Si) are expensive rare materials?

      Geez, and I thought they were dirt cheap and common? As evidenced by all the pop & beer cans and/or bottles?

      [i]~~~~~~~~~~
      The man who has nothing to boast of but his ancestry is like a potato. The only good belonging to him is underground.
      ~ Sir Thomas Overbury

      The more the pleasures of the body fade away, the greater to me is the pleasure and charm of conversation.
      ~ Plato

      The pyramids will not last a moment compared with the daisy.
      ~ D. H. Laurence[/i]
      WinTard
      • Compared to plastic

        Yes.
        baggins_z
      • RE: Why do PC trackpads suck?

        @WinTard, glass itself is cheap, but manufacturing things out of it are much more expensive if you need a precise shape. Everything from cutting to polishing requires special, and much more expensive, machines when it comes to glass.
        ForeverSPb
  • Evidence?

    Is there evidence to suggest that any trackpad can ever be as good as a mouse? (Evidence, not your opinion.)

    And what are the conditions for a tablet and pen (e.g. INTUOS) being the best option for certain classes of work?
    jacksonjohn
    • Spoken like someone that has never used an Apple track pad.

      @johnfenjackson@...

      PC track pads are simply that bad. Apple trackpads are almost a joy to use and I never use a mouse as I loose functionality and they are not as fast to use.
      Bruizer
      • A friendly FYI...

        @Bruizer
        It is lose not loose. Think lose as in lost; notice one letter "o". Loose as in not a snug fit.

        Too many folks blame it on their typing error. I think not, as I see this same mistake in many business professional correspondence, and news print, as well. Lose sounds as though it contains two of the letter "o", so folks add an extra "o".

        Cordially
        BubbaJones_
      • The loose thing is a dead giveaway

        That you're talking to some flavour of American. That being said, it's all a slippery slope when one doesn't notice what one is writing.
        ego.sum.stig
    • Huh?

      @johnfenjackson@...

      So your counter to his point that PC trackpads suck and Apple's solution does not suck is that trackpads cannot be as good as a mouse so who cares?
      oncall
      • Indeed ...

        ... why walk or run, when you can drive.
        I wondered if any studies had been done.
        Do you know of any?
        jacksonjohn
    • RE: Why do PC trackpads suck?

      @johnfenjackson@...

      Can a trackpad ever be as good as a mouse?

      Hmmm. Laptop. Airplane.

      There you go.
      msalzberg
    • RE: Why do PC trackpads suck?

      @johnfenjackson@...
      A sufficient number of opinions becomes evidence.

      I am convinced that Lion makes more sense with a trackpad than mouse, even on a desktop. I've used tablet and pen before, but it didn't really impress me as better than a mouse, except I was trying to draw.

      Nothing but opinions, sure. But you are well in the realm of subjectivity, i.e., I may present all the efficiency studies you request, you still will choose what best gets out of the way for what you want to do.
      DannyO_0x98
  • RE: Why do PC trackpads suck?

    Mac's have only 1 button, requiring you to push the pad to click, pc's don't and have scroll bars added to the pad, causing random jumps in what sentence your actually typing in should part of your palm come in contact with the pad.

    Mac's do not have the scroll bars on them... making it less likely to be jumping to random parts of the page when not intended. Gateways and netbook's are the worst. To some the frustration of having to pick your finger up a 2nd time to finish making it across the screen when dragging something is rather frustrating when the track pad is low res/dpi and acceleration is useless.

    Mac's have been the same for as long as I have seen a mac with a trackpad and now the addition of gesture's. Here you have it from Mr. Anti-Apple himself... Mac trackpads are better by design. Most likely from the same issues I've quoted mentioned above.

    ....thank you man, for inventing usb wireless mice...
    Nate_K
    • You lost me

      @Nate_K

      At "1 button", the scrollbar point was just icing on the cake. You have not actually used Apple's trackpad have you?
      oncall
      • RE: Why do PC trackpads suck?

        @oncall

        Poor Nate_K was just trying to defend his platform's trackpad performance by forgetting about Apple's multi-touch trackpad features which render the "one vs two button" design concept obsolete.

        Really, Nate, just tap an Apple trackpad with two fingers at the same time and you will get that "two button" effect.
        kenosha77a
      • Actually Nate is mostly correct.

        @oncall

        Apple trackpads have a single button as indicated.

        PC trackpads have specialized areas that act as scroll areas as indicated. I think this adds to PC trackpads sucking even more also as indicated.

        Macs have added gestures as indicated.

        He missed the aspect of multi touch being an aspect that creates virtual buttons.
        Bruizer