PSA: The Apple Magic Pad Works Well with Your Chromebook!

A cross platform wonder? (Image: Fabián Rodríguez)

Although high-end Chromebooks are sold with well-made trackpads that offer a great user experience, the typical Chromebook comes with a trackpad that is commensurate with the rest of the hardware: utilitarian and “good enough.” While good enough is, indeed, good enough for quick email check-ins or episodic Google searches, I prefer an external pointing device when doing more serious work on my Chromebook.

My usual choice for a daily carry mouse is one of the many good quality Logitech devices, like the M705 or higher-end MX Master 2S. However, I have been disappointed that Logitech peripherals don’t allow me to customize buttons to my preference in ChromeOS. In fact, I have tested a half-dozen or so different Logitech devices, and most of the “extra” buttons don’t work at all in my Chromebooks.

However, I have recently discovered that two different external trackpads work well with Chromebook.

The first is the Logitech T650, which was initially designed for Windows 8. I picked up one of these when they were first released, and it has been a consistent workhorse. Unfortunately, the Logitech discontinued the T650, and I have spotted used ones going for $100 or more on eBay or even $300+ new.

The second is the first generation of the Apple Magic Pad. It can be purchased for $50-$80 new, or for as little as $25 used on eBay.

I fished mine out of a retired hardware box in the office and was able to get it to pair easily with a variety of Chromebooks. Here, I pair it with a Chromebook Pixel:

ChromeOS has a variety of gestures baked right into the operating system. All my favorites work like a charm, including two-finger scrolling, two-finger right-click, and my favorite power gesture, a three finger swipe up that shows all open windows.

I have tested this with both high-end and budget-minded Chromebooks alike, and it works flawlessly. It is especially great with budget Chromebooks, where the trackpad is often an afterthought. It also works well with CloudReady from Neverwhere, the software suite that allows you to create a Chromebook-like device out of old laptop and desktop computers.

[Correction: This article was corrected on July 14, 2018 to reflect that only the 1st generation of the Apple Magic Pad can be used in this way.]

Jason Neiffer, Ed.D.
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