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View Full Version : Laptop Touchpads: Why Do They Often Suck so Much?

Jason Dunn
08-30-2010, 07:00 PM
<div class='os_post_top_link'><a href='http://blog.laptopmag.com/terrible-touchpads-give-you-the-finger' target='_blank'>http://blog.laptopmag.com/terrible-...-you-the-finger</a><br /><br /></div><p><em>"When you think about how much laptops have evolved over the past couple of years, it's staggering. You can now get screaming-fast quad-core power inside a machine that weighs less than 4 pounds. Many notebooks can switch between integrated and discrete graphics on the fly. You'll even find some models with 3D displays or tech that lets you stream video wirelessly to your HDTV. Yet even with all of these advancements, notebooks have taken serious steps back in some ways. The "evolution" of the touchpad seems to have moved from a utilitarian pointing device to a mere decoration."</em></p><p><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/lpt/auto/1282953178.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p>Mark Spoonauer over at Laptop Magazine has a point: touchpads are still a real hit or miss affair on laptops. I <a href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/96215/hp-s-dm3-laptop-looks-great-worst-touchpad-ever.html" target="_blank">reviewed the dm3</a> just like <a href="http://www.laptopmag.com/review/laptop/hp-pavilion-dm3t.aspx?page=2" target="_blank">Spoonauer did</a>, and both of us had the same conclusion: how could HP release something so shockingly awful? What were the designers thinking, and more so, how did such an obviously awful implementation make it into a shipping product? I've seen some truly awful touchpads, but I've also seen some really great ones. I don't think it's a matter of personal opinion: a touchpad should be responsive, easy to use, not interfere with you when you're typing (even if you brush the touchpad surface), and have buttons that are easily clickable.</p><p>I part ways with Spoonauer when it comes to his praising of pointing sticks - I've always found them to be more of a hassle than anything else.&nbsp;Where do you stand on touchpad versus pointing stick? And what's the worse, or best, touchpad you've had on a laptop? I thought that the touchpad on my Dell XPS M1330 was perfect - I had zero complaints with it.</p>

Michael Knutson
08-30-2010, 08:23 PM
My opinion: most are horrible, some are tolerable, and few are great! I've been "stuck" with ThinkPads quite often, and I do have to say that I've seldom ever used the eraser/nub/(fill-in) always stuck in the middle of the keyboard. When I do, it's just to wiggle it around a bit to be sure that it's still working. Of course, back in ancient times, the nub was the only mouse-alternative on earlier thinkpads.

Best touchpad? Probably my MacBookPro 13-inch laptop. It just seems to sit perfectly, and when used, it's always right at hand, meaning that I don't have to move my hand to use it when typing. It's close to the edge, so it's ergonomically superb. In fact, I've put off getting a larger MBP because the trackpad is farther "inland" from the edge, and just not as comfortable. Second is probably a Dell Mini 12 that I had for a short time, but gave to a family member when the RAM proved impossible to upgrade.

That being said, I still prefer using an optical mouse, as it's just more precise for me. And, despite being predominantly left-handed, I've switched the mouse to the right side, where it is very comfortable. For much of my career I've done network drawings (visio), and they are infinitely easier with a mouse.

Hooch Tan
08-30-2010, 09:05 PM
Aside from the whole quality issue, I have found my preference in pointing device also depends on the environment I#m in and placement.

Under ideal circumstances, like Michael, a mouse is my preferred pointing device. I find it accurate, easy to use, multi-functional and far faster than any other pointing device.

With a largish laptop, I prefer the nubbins. They seem to give me the best accuracy and speed when covering a lot of ground, and I do not have a mouse available. The fact that it requires minimal movement from my hand to use it is also a plus. I also find they need less movement, which helps if I am on a couch. However, I have found that for really small laptops, including netbooks, the nubbins are much harder to use and I favor touchpads or a touch surface, stylus or touch.

Lee Yuan Sheng
08-31-2010, 01:42 PM
Trackpoints are the way to go, and only Trackpoints. IBM, and now Lenovo, have the patents to make the thing work properly. Other pointing sticks suck; they're floaty and incredibly hard to get precise movements out of.

Touchpads? Hate them. Wish every notebook manufacturer would license the damn Trackpoint from Lenovo.

09-02-2010, 08:32 PM
Well, I think my 13" MacBook Pro has the best trackpad I've ever used. To me it's the gold standard that all should strive to achieve. It's so good that I never use a mouse with it, and that's saying a lot. On the other hand, I've NEVER met a PC trackpad that was worth a squat. I always use mice with PC laptops. (However, unlike a previous poster, I adore the eraser head on Lenovo/Thinkpads). And netbooks? Don't even get me started. They'd be better off not even including a trackpad with those things and just bundling a mouse with the device.

Chris Gohlke
09-03-2010, 08:42 PM
I'm going to give a thums up to the trackpoints. We are an IBM (Lenovo) shop and have been for years. I've always liked them.

Tony Rylow
09-04-2010, 01:58 AM
The touchpad on my work laptop, an HP 6930p, is a piece of junk. I can monkey with the settings all day and it still isn't usable. On my m11x for home/school, the texture of it matches the rest of the laptop casing so much that I have to constantly look down when I go to use it (otherwise I just look silly dragging my fingers all over feeling for it!). The Macbook Pro pad is definitely where it's at!!