Opening the new Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga 5G and you are greeted with a familiar layout for a laptop, albeit one packed with a lot of new cutting-edge technology. The touchpad, which uses Microsoft Precision drivers, looks slightly distinct from the typical Lenovo style, and it feels different when it clicks. It's not bad, just different, something I chalked up to the X1 Titanium Yoga's ridiculous thinness.
But I was wrong. It turns out that the touchpad was not clicking when pressed. It was in my head. A trick enabled by a company called Sensel who did the touchpad hardware. You see, this is one of the first Windows laptops that uses a haptics touchpad with no moving parts.
Apple has done haptic touchpads for years, but it has taken time for Windows PCs to catch up. To find out why, I spoke with Sensel's Director of Product Management, Dean Chang, about why that is changing and what makes haptic touchpads so tricky. Here is what I found out.
Why is a haptics touchpad better than just capacitive?
The benefits of a non-moving, haptics-based touchpad should be apparent. Long term, there is less breakage from switch failure since nothing is repetitively moving. There is more consistency in clicks since the system can register corners just as easily as the center resulting in no dead zones. There is no risk for a loose or rattling touchpad, an issue in mass production and quality control checks. And if the OS (or software) supports that extra dimension (pressure depth), it gives a new interaction model not currently available to "2D" touchpads.
Perhaps more critically, and certainly relevant to the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga, these touchpads can also be dramatically thinner than current ones that physically move up and down.
The challenge is tricking the user into thinking that touchpad click is a click and not just some software chicanery (even though that is precisely what it is). A lot of science needs to go into pressure detection and the vibrating "kick" that makes it feel like you just pressed something.
Today's gesture-based, capacitive touchpads rely on differentiating multiple touchpoints (i.e., fingertips) and Microsoft's universal Precision driver software. Any PC maker can then license out touchpad hardware from companies like Elan or Synaptics, slap in the drivers, and call it a day.
This point is critical to understand: companies like HP, Dell, Lenovo, Razer, and even Microsoft don't actually make touchpads. They work with companies that do, just like display panels or speaker components. This reliance can be useful as it means HP does not need to sink millions into research and design (R&D) and patents for its own touchpad hardware, and, instead, it can keep its prices lower. On the other hand, Apple wants to control the entire hardware stack, which means it spends a lot on R&D. The higher-than-usual pricing of a MacBook Pro reflects this investment by Apple as it attempts to recoup those costs.
But when companies rely on Synaptics, by far the most common touchpad maker for premium PCs these days (Elan is the low-cost option), it also means they can only get what Synaptics offers. If a company like Lenovo needs an ultra-thin touchpad, preferably one that does not move, they can try to invent it themselves or hope another company does it for them.
Luckily for Lenovo, a company did: Sensel.
Founded in 2013 and based in Sunnyvale, California, Sensel has been researching haptics for years under its PressureGrid proprietary technology. The company's goal is "working to redefine computer interaction to combine pressure sensitivity and multi-touch, to meet the environmental challenges of ubiquitous computing."
Its tech is now shipping in Lenovo's ultra-mobile convertible laptop, but there is a good chance we'll see it from other PC makers too.
Apple did it; why not anyone else?
One of the first questions I had for Chang was why it had taken so long for Windows laptops to get similar tech to Apple. After all, the benefits outlined above are apparent, and PCs would slowly move to non-mechanical touchpads.
The problem is you cannot just copy Apple. More precisely, you cannot simply recreate what Apple does for its touchpads, put your name on it, and call it even-steven. Like most companies who dump money into inventing groundbreaking tech, Apple patented everything that goes into its Force Touch touchpads, including its Taptic Engine. Any company even coming closes to Apple's techniques is open for massive lawsuits.
A more straightforward way to put it is if you want a haptics-based touchpad for Windows, someone must reinvent how to do it with entirely different methods than Apple. Ever try to reinvent the wheel? Yeah, same problem.
Luckily, Sensel pulled it off, and Lenovo is the first major customer. But other PC makers are considering using the scalable tech too.
How is it? Testing the X1 Titanium's Haptic Touchpad
The Sensel touchpad used in the Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga has some exciting advantages – and differences – from most premium touchpads.
For one, it does not have the typical glass layer. Sensel can add glass and capacitive touch, but it can also leave it off for more industrial designs. ThinkPads are meant to be rugged, long-lasting, and take abuse compared to Surface Laptop, which is more ornate and delicate.
The Titanium Yoga's touchpad is still extremely smooth, and I could barely tell the difference between it and one with glass. But the change also means you can operate this touchpad while wearing gloves, which is wild. For companies like Panasonic, which specialize in TOUGHBOOK designs intended to be used outdoors and even in the rain, this could be a massive advantage.
Accuracy, gestures, multi-touch – it all felt like a typical Microsoft Precision touchpad to me with a high degree of responsiveness, smoothness, and accuracy. Lenovo's continued insistence on keeping TrackPoint, which takes up space on the touchpad with its corresponding right and left buttons, is the only annoyance.
The real magic, though, comes from clicking. Give anyone a go at using this touchpad, and they will tell you it has a physical click to it – a shallow but discernable depression and kickback. Of course, it does not. Instead, a small motor vibrates at the right time, giving you that sensation. There is also an audible click that, again, completely fooled me.
Sensel notes that this touchpad "… offers two functions in a single, ultra-thin sensor: position reporting with high accuracy (x&y), and force sensing (z). This allows for a dramatic reduction in device thickness, which made it a perfect fit for the thinnest ThinkPad ever."
While it felt like it had less travel than Lenovo's typical ThinkPad touchpads, I could say the same about the keyboard too. I just chalked it up to everything being new in this Ultrabook. But once I learned that it is all a mirage, I was blown away.
Compared to Apple's Force Touch found in the new M1-based MacBook Pro, I prefer Sensel's solution. Most of the praise for Apple's touchpad is its sheer size and smoothness, but the actual Force Touch is also a bit weird compared to its older mechanical touchpads. It's not bad, just, you know, different. The same applies here, although the "click" sounds more normal with Sensel's design, whereas Apple's has a weird "thonk" to it.
Sensel's method seems to have found a nice balance, even if the Titanium Yoga's execution is a bit on the small size. But smallness is by design here due to the X1 Titanium's requirements. Sensel can easily go way beyond what I am using today.
The future of Haptic Touchpads is already here
Chang shared with me a developer sample of Sensel's latest Haptic Touchpad recently announced at CES 2021. The demo unit can plug into any PC and used immediately like any external touchpad. PC makers can try this themselves to understand how the tech works to see if it is something they would want to use. But this version is even more advanced than the one in the ThinkPad as it supports a hard glass covering, which is expected now in premium consumer laptops.
There are three levels of proprietary tech in this new touchpad, which is what makes it so unique. It's also challenging to do. Chang notes some companies can do some of these features well, but none can do them all, which returns us to the point about why we haven't seen anyone ship these yet for Windows PCs.
Those three levels of interaction on Sensel's new Haptic Touchpad include:
- Capacitive Touch Grid: This captures an extremely high-resolution touch image on the surface of the pad.
- Force Field Technology: This captures the amount of force applied per finger and converts it into both force and shape data
- Direct Drive Haptics: This provides powerful kicks in one moment and crisp clicks in the next based on the amount of force applied.
The module itself is just 3mm thick, letting PC makers create even thinner laptops (or allow for larger batteries). Because it is so thin, it opens the door for PC makers to revamp current laptop designs, which is what we see with the X1 Titanium.
Other features of this touchpad include:
- Haptic Control: Sensel's direct-drive haptics technology allows you to dynamically adjust the haptic effect the user feels when they press on the touchpad.
- Incredible Linearity: A combination of a high-resolution touch grid and Sensel hardware compression provides best-in-class linearity of <0.5mm across the entire sensor.
- Less False Touch Failures: With electrodes that are spaced closer together, the solution is less susceptible to false touch failures even with smaller finger sizes.
- Dynamic Scanning Rates: Dynamic scanning at various resolutions allows for performance when you need it while simultaneously balancing lower power consumption.
Excitingly, that Force Field Technology applies to software too. Imagine pressing on the touchpad, and the amount of force can speed up the rotation of a 3D image, raise the volume on a slider, or how fast you scroll down a webpage. That is because now "depth" (Z) is measurable with high precision instead of just X and Y coordinates.
Of course, such a software feature would have to be implemented by an application with direct support. Additionally, Microsoft would need to build out support at an OS-level, much as it did for multi-gestures in Windows 10. But there is no reason why Microsoft could not develop some standards for pressure-based gestures in its Precision driver suite as an option for OEMs.
If a laptop maker wanted a larger touchpad, Sensel could apply the tech to make the entire keyboard deck a touch and force-sensitive trackpad. There is no limit on what can be done, including having a seamless touchpad area indistinguishable from the laptop deck.
For those wondering how you solve the problem of typing on a dual-screen laptop, Sensel's vision is one obvious answer. While there is no indication that Microsoft will use such a solution in its now delayed dual-screen Surface Neo, it seems clear that they could if they wanted.
Lenovo could even apply this same technology to its E Ink keyboard on its Yoga Book C930. Instead of just an audible "clicking" to help simulate haptics, the keys themselves could individually vibrate, mimicking an actual click like a physical keyboard.
One of the more fascinating features of the demo sample of Sensel's Haptic Touchpad is the configuration options. With a click of a button (or the slider), you can make the touchpad click feel light and crisp or make it feel deep and heavier (like a more traditional trackpad). It's both bizarre and fascinating as it means someday users may be able to tailor their touchpad "clicks" to their personal preference, similar to an Actuation Point Changer (APC) on mechanical keyboards.
And for those asking, Sensel currently has no plans to sell a large desktop version of its touchpad for Windows PC users. However, I did mention how Logitech never refreshed its famed T650 desktop touchpad and it'd be fun for Sensel to slide into that niche spot.
And forget screens, Sensel could also put its Force Field Technology into the backs of phones (or a Surface Duo) to enable orientation and grip detection. The idea may sound zany, but Microsoft has already patented such a concept in a device that looks exactly like what is now Surface Duo.
Even Surface Pro and Surface Pro X could benefit from a non-moving touchpad in those super thin Type Covers, where space is minimal.
Force Field Touchpads are feeling good
I've been using the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga for a few weeks now, and I'll go in-depth on some of the crazy engineering on that device soon. But for now, the takeaway is haptic touchpads for Windows PCs are finally here, and the first impressions are excellent.
But how quickly companies like HP, Dell, Razer, ASUS, and others adopt haptic solutions like those from Sensel remains to be seen. It took far too long for those companies to adopt Precision drivers, and companies like Synaptics effectively own most of the touchpad market. Contracts and supply chains run deep, which could slow things down.
The ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga is Sensel's real first test run of a haptic touchpad, and based on feedback, it will determine its place in future Windows PC hardware. So far, it's feeling good.
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Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.
Dan, thanks for sharing!
I'd love to know your thoughts on the X1 Titanium keyboard ... I believe it's shallower than typical X1 Carbon/Yoga. I'm assuming it's comparable to Razer Stealth/Book. ($3000 starting price is ... astronomical!)
Also, can you share anything about when the next gen X1 Carbon/Yoga will be available? I need a new biz laptop NOW and am doing everything I can to stall so I can get a latest gen device.
I might as well also ask if you can share when the reviewer embargo is over for the X1 Titanium so I know when to search youtube for the reviews. :-)
Thanks. KB is great on Titanium. It has 1.3mm of travel, which is less than regular ThinkPads at 1.5mm, but still better than other options that are 1.1mm. It is more shallow, but still enough travel imo. I like it a lot. re: availability of new X1s, I believe we'll see some movement later this month on those. The new 16:10 displays change so much (for the better) with those along with Intel 11th Gen make them worth waiting for. Plus, they'll have 4G/5G options too. re: Titanium review embargo, technically this is an engineering sample, so I have to wait on Lenovo for some guidance there. I'll be doing more on the design though next week and some of the engineering challenges.
This would be great if you could run a mouse pointer using your finger on the back of say a tablet. That could solve the need to reattach a detachables keyboard when you need a mouse.
Yeah, there are many thought experiments/ideas around this tech and how it can be applied to multi-form factor computers. It's very exciting stuff.
Unpopular opinion, but nobody cares about the Haptic pad. Apple has it for marketing but the people I know who own a Mac do not use it as it was intended. All the managers, creatives, UI/UX designers and even MacOS programmers I work with do not use the gestures unless they are just screwing around. Everyone I interact with be it my own company or very large companies we consult for where there are many creatives and the Mac's outnumber the PCs all use a mouse and the keypad is for clicking or short movements around the screen just like people do on a PC. In 2019 we even created a device for a customer for the purpose of selling into markets where there would be people with handicaps who may have a useful and good reason for the haptic features. After many man hours and UX team spending almost 800 hours in user testing, the people who was intended for simply did not like it and we went back to a more simple UX. IMHO, tech people fall in love with Tech but it does not always translate to useful features or things in the real world. The reason it is not really in the PC world is people do not care. For Apple it is image thing, it is a reason to justify their premium price or whatever but in my own observation people do not care. It is cute at first but people quickly move to just using a mouse and the traditional way of doing work versus using 5 finger gestures. You want value, give me a Tablet/2:1 with a way to upgrade my own RAM, SSD and a single plug and power supply that is universal to all devices. That would reduce a lot of electronic waste in the world.
You miss the big points 🤦♂️ It's because this tech exists that a device like ThinkPad X1 Titanium can exist. And when you say "nobody" you are speaking for yourself, just so we're clear. Putting aside if people notice or care (which unpopular opinion, I don't care about), this technology lets PC makers create new form factors, push boundaries, make thinner laptops, or laptops that have larger batteries. Why would you argue against that? Haptic feedback at this level and precision in dual-screen PCs, which are coming, or putting them as sensors on the back of mobile phones, is new. And solves problems. Toss in things like reduced failure rates, better quality control, and good ol' competition against Synaptics, which can bring down prices, you have a new tool that is critical to advancing the PC. Take even something like Surface Pro and its Type Cover. It's already thin. Imagine how this tech could be used there. Or maybe Dell can adopt it and finally get around its whole "loose trackpad" problem it keeps having. I'm a bit dismayed you read this article and somehow missed these crucial points. This isn't a new tech just for the sake of having it, it solves problems and advances the category. I thought this was obvious especially after I literally spelled it out in great detail.
Great article, BTW. To back up NutmegState here, I think "this technology lets PC makers create new form factors, push boundaries" is only marginally convincing. Remember how Force Touch or 3D Touch or whatever it was called was in iPhones? Not so much anymore. In my mind that's a pretty good sign that the tech is at best not ready yet. (My interest is piqued by your mention of keyboard feedback, I admit.) Also, remember what else Apple gave up for ultra-thin laptops: a half-decent keyboard. Also, a touch layer for the screen. Thinness isn't everything. Just like tiny bezels aren't everything.
Thanks, but again, I think you're missing key points here, or at least not addressing them. OEMs don't need to make laptops thinner, they could use the extra space for ... more battery? This is the same reasoning for why SOC at 5nm > 7nm > 10nm which is better than 14nm. Take Surface Pro 7+: it literally now has a larger battery because of 11th Gen Intel, which has a smaller SOC size and more onboard features. This happened in phones too. How do you think 4,000 mAh became standard? The boards got smaller. Putting that aside, Lenovo couldn't make X1 Titanium with a regular trackpad, or regular materials, or Intel 10th Gen. And they didn't make it too thin. They wanted to make a laptop lighter, more portable, and more tablet-like than the X1 Yoga, which is much larger and not as great as a tablet. You bring up Apple and its dumb Butterfly switch, but Lenovo didn't do that. The Titanium has an ample 1.3mm of keyboard travel, so I don't see the point your making? Regarding mechanical trackpads, you also leave out things like failure rates, having dead zones, limitations on size, durability, accuracy, competition between manufacturers, being able to use gloves, and like a half dozen other points I made. Like, I hate to break it to you guys: mechanical trackpads are going to go away, whatever your opinion of them may be. And I haven't yet heard of a single actual defense for them by anyone here. So I respectively disagree.
Daniel, those guys are nuts. Haptic touchpad has little to do with gestures on a Mac. Those are no different than they used to be and you either use them or don't. Clicking, and the lack of need for physical switches in there is the benefit. It is rather spooky on a modern Mac to push on the touchpad and realize it doesn't move at all, then turn it on and swear it is clicking. Anything less mechanical and less prone to dirt in this area is a good thing.
" It is rather spooky on a modern Mac to push on the touchpad and realize it doesn't move at all, then turn it on and swear it is clicking. "Thank you! It's weird as heck, right? I did the same with this Sensel demo unit with some friends and it blew their minds. It's all an illusion created by a simple vibrating motor. If you're into neuro/perception it's astounding work.
For the Haptic Trackpad, well users aren't really supposed to care about that in itself, what matters is the experience. User may not know the exact technology of Haptic Trackpad, it still beneficial as it was pointed in this article. One is that you can literally click anywhere and fooling you did a click, which gives confirmation on your brain that you did an action and the Trackpad gave a satisfying physical feedback, compared to tap-to-click which has been a thing with track pads decades ago. 2nd benefit is that, they can build thinner devices or make room for other stuff like batteries. 3rd, even its marginal. Slight lightness can help overall for frequent travels especially on international flights (once we go back to normal). I was one of the person in early days didn't really get much benefit of ultralight laptops, until I took an international flight with my laptop, and notice how few grams can affect how much stuff I can carry. Haptic Trackpad is not something a primary reason for user to buy a laptop, but it's an enhanced experience that may also solved other issues inherit to mechanical track pads. Because only one thing that users kinda care, able to feel they click something and not just a generic vibration.
I've been using Apple laptops since the Intel transition started. I've always loved their huge, smooth touchpads but I never use the physical button to click, I always set single and double taps to click and tap-and-hold to drag. I use Windows laptops and Surface Pros the same way too. I've found that the haptic feedback on new MacBooks feels weird because I've gone for a decade not expecting any feedback. Maybe new users need that feedback so it doesn't feel like their touchpad is broken.
Exactly taps already made clicks obsolete.
Not for everyone / not completely. Clicks can provide more accuracy than taps in my experience, depending on the software/workflow.
"Exactly taps already made clicks obsolete."And yet the overwhelming majority of laptops today (98%) do click, which is the point here. Apple went so far as to do R&D and patent its Taptic Engine and make its trackpad simulate clicking, likely costing a ton of money. It doesn't seem so obsolete in the real world. I have exactly ONE laptop here that does not click and it's VAIO, a Japanese brand, which has all sorts of other regional quirks. I've also seen non-click touchpads on sub-$500 laptops with Elan hardware. That's it.
Actually even some Dell Latitude like the 5400 that our company used still have non-clickable trackpad but still use Precision driver with full Windows 10 gestures available. Sadly it's not smooth though since it's not a glass trackpad. Some enterprise laptops are like these due to cost and well, solid non-clickable trackpad is less prone to failure due to constant abuse. Also cheaper. Vaio is not anymore a consumer brand since Sony sold it off to another Japanese company. Vaio now is just a enterprise centric PC brand. It's not meant to be the sexy hardware as most business laptops are. They meant to be robust, practical, easy to service and compatible to other devices as much as possible. I think why Vaio laptops may have things like VGA port is due to many business may still have some device that use it. Not to deal with adapters that can loose and sometimes may not work due to being faulty.
I've been using taps since like I got my first laptop. So I'm very used to it and I know how to adjust them to my liking. But most people won't and maybe still may struggle. The issue with tap to click is that it is indeed doesn't have any phsycial feedback, so user who will first try it will more likely get frustrated first not able to get it right. Giving up and never use again. This is why for long, Windows laptops retained having dedicated buttons until OEM's manage to follow MacBook track pad design. Currently with my Surface Book, I do press the track pad, but not all actions and inconsistent due to not able to click anywhere near the top. Haptic Trackpad will solve that and I will consistent do press on Trackpad pretty much all the time, except for dragging. Good thing with Haptics, you can adjust their sensitivity if there is an option.
Well said. And yes, devices like X1 Titanium and its non-convertible sister X1 Nano were built exactly for that: travelers especially on regional jets where space is extremely limited.
Surface Pro user here, I just yank off the type cover or fold it back and use the touchscreen if I need space in tiny jets or trains 😎
This tech could be a boon for virtual keyboards too. When physical keys don't exist, I think it would be satisfying to feel -- and sound -- like there are.
Yup, I believe that will be the next step. Sensel has already internally demoed the ability to do that.
Great article. By the time this tech becomes universal on all Windows laptops down to the cheapest ones, Apple will have developed their own proprietary, patented Neural PC Control Engine or something like that and would've ditched their Force Trackpad already. I'm not saying the Haptic Touchpad is bad, but I think there are other bodily ergonomic/efficient/fast UI tech that could have gotten more R&D attention. For instance, there is an app in my Android Tablet that uses the front-facing camera to analyze my face, and let me navigate the OS using head-nodding gestures and eye-blinking motions.
Something like that which is adequately complex enough to be thoroughly customized, and yet simple enough to be easy for even kids to learn would be the next BIG thing for UI navigation IMO. Also, I can't be the only person who always "taps" a laptop touchpad, and never "clicks" down for anything. In fact, I can't recall the last time I clicked a touchpad, on both Windows laptop and a Mac.
"For instance, there is an app in my Android Tablet that uses the front-facing camera to analyze my face, and let me navigate the OS using head-nodding gestures and eye-blinking motions.Windows has had that for years. We covered it here. I also mentioned in this review how Time-of-Flight (ToF) sensors are now being used in Windows PCs for presence detection and security.
"Also, I can't be the only person who always "taps" a laptop touchpad, and never "clicks" down for anything. "You're not, but as someone who has around 40 laptops in his office, I can tell you 98% them do click and Apple invested a ton to make sure they could simulate you clicking. That is, a lot of people click and it's the standard. I've only seen VAIO and very cheap laptops (that rely on Elan) with non-click touchpads.
My bad, didn't know this was already on Winodws. Thanks for the links.
NP, it's not something shown off often, but it's pretty wild stuff. There's a lot of work being done in this area.
I still often use the touchpad left bottom click and right buttons mainly for when accuracy is needed (just works better to me in those cases than pure gestures), so I hope that if they go towards haptic touchpads it is does not sacrifice accuracy
If anything, they're more accurate due to the newer tech that is being used.
That is nice. I do not think I ever used a haptic touchpad, but do have a Surface Pro 2 keyboard which lacks buttons so I was a bit wary.
"Lenovo's continued insistence on keeping TrackPoint, which takes up space on the touchpad with its corresponding right and left buttons, is the only annoyance." Why? Why, why, why do you insist on hating the TrackPoint? Do you truly think the product would fundamentally improve just by making the touchpad slightly bigger? The TrackPoint is such an important part of the ThinkPad brand and there are so many laptops out there that do not have it (including from Lenovo). Wanting Lenovo to remove it is just wrong. It would just make ThinkPads more like all other laptops in a laptop market that already lacks variety. Not all laptops have to look and work exactly the same. If you can not appreciate the TrackPoint for whatever reason, fine - but wishing for it to disappear just because you don't get it is dumb. I just do not get this line of thinking. Giving people options is not a bad thing and it will never be.
Agreed, I kind of get why Daniel mentions it but otoh is it something unique & iconic for the Thinkpad line. And there already is the ThinkBook line for what Daniel wants here. E.g. (though of course it lacks certain features the Yoga from the article does have but most likely those will be added to it over future iterations): https://www.windowscentral.com/e?link=https2F2Fc%...
Why, why, why do you insist on hating the TrackPoint?It takes up space, adds to costs, and it literally gets in my way. My trackpad is now literally smaller than it could be because of those two top buttons. It's a dated tech. The ONLY reason TrackPoint was created was because trackpads were so bad. That's why they were made! Here we are in 2021 and trackpads are now really good. It's something Lenovo engineers debate about all the time. It's very much a generation issue, not a technology one.
It would be a dated tech if the touchpad could emulate all of its functions. But it can not. 1. Manipulating the mouse while typing: The TrackPoint sits in the middle of the keyboard. You can move the mouse cursor without removing your hands from the keyboard, which is more efficient than moving between touchpad and keyboard. 2. It is better for cramped spaces: In a train or plane, touchpads can be hard to use, because you need space to move your hands that might not be available. The TrackPoint does not have this limitation, since you don't have to move your hands. 3. Drag and drop: Drag and drop actions can be very hard with touchpads, and especially with clickpads. With the TrackPoint, its a breeze, since you easily press down the mouse button with one finger and move the cursor with the other. I don't think this is a generational issue - the issue with the TrackPoint is that it is a fundamentally different concept from a touchpad, so it has a learning curve. That (and limited availability on the market) makes it a niche feature, but users accustomed to it love it for a reason - and that isn't nostalgia. > It's a dated tech. The ONLY reason TrackPoint was created was because trackpads were so bad. That's why they were made! This is not true - the TrackPoint was created in the early 90s when touchpads weren't even around yet. The first intended use was for desktop keyboards, also for efficiency reasons - because reaching to the mouse takes time when typing. This video shows the original TrackPoint demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHcrR6Pvy-w I am not sure how it gets in your way, but you can remove the TrackPoint cap if it bothers you. The touchpad is marginally smaller than it would be without the TrackPoint, and Lenovo could make it bigger without removing the TrackPoint - in the case of the X1 Titanium, the touchpad is pretty tall, but not very wide.
Totally agree about the TrackPoint's ergonomics. It's been a while since I've used a Lenovo machine with the red nub but I appreciated not having to move my hands down to use the touchpad or off to the side to grab a mouse. It's not comfortable for long hours of Excel jockeying - a mouse or trackball is the best for that - but it's still better than a touchpad. Ironically I now find it more comfortable to use a touchscreen for scrolling and a touchpad for fine movements, with a mouse for repetitive or really fine work.
To recap, I wrote one sentence on how I personally don't prefer TrackPoint. I'm glad you like it, I truly am, but what you wrote hasn't convinced me to like or prefer it anymore. I'm not sure why you're so upset about my opinion on TrackPoint. Had I written an article "Here's why Lenovo should get rid of TrackPoint and why you're dumb to like it" I think your points here would be more relevant? All of this is beside the point of this article.
If you have a library of 25 gestures, how many will be used consistently? 5 tops. Part of this is merging the visual cues on the screen, with the touch of the trackpad with the intention of the user. Point and click is a universal gesture. How long have humans pointed at things? Or tap you on your shoulder? Now you move to more creative gestures? How does a person paint? Painters do use the feeling of a brush on the canvas to apply the desired amount of paint. But there can be many more integrations of this technology into the software to give humans a more natural interaction with the software. But at the end of the day, point and click on a thinner nonmechanical device allows for much more options in the design of the whole device. Of course, I can think of a ton of ways to integrate this tech on the back of a Surface Duo to improve the user experience with a dual-screen device.
It is a fantastic article, Daniel.
I love how you meticulously addressed any points of doubt or concerns I had with this tech.
As usual your work is well thought out and your arguments solid.
It is always pleasure to read your editorials. Innovators and start-ups are lucky to have people like you to help them spread the word of their interesting tech :)
Brydge is making a stand alone bluetooth trackpad. I could see them very interested in this technology, since they could make not only their surface keyboards and windows trackpad have haptic feedback, but also their ipad keyboards have haptic feedback...
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