By Dervish / Last update December 28, 2021

What do Windows users envy MacBook users?

The trackpad is definitely one of the top reasons. Compared with the MacBook trackpad with fast feedback, real vibration, and rich gestures, most Windows computers are hard to come by.

Since Apple replaced the Force Touch trackpad on the MacBook in 2015, more than 6 years have passed. In the Windows camp, several computers with pressure-sensitive trackpads have finally appeared. More importantly, the new technology behind them has opportunities. Revolutionize the touch experience of Windows computers.

Better hardware VS better software

Before discussing whether the Windows computer trackpad experience can catch up with the MacBook, we must first understand why the MacBook can do so well that people praise it.

In fact, MacBook is the same as a traditional Windows computer. Everyone uses a capacitive touchpad. Since the human body is charged, when a finger touches the touchpad, it will affect the current position of the charge distribution. The computer will recognize the change in charge and locate the finger. The operation is finally feedback in the form of a cursor click.

▲The same as the touchpad of the computer, the mobile phone uses capacitive touch technology

The touch principle of mobile phones, tablets and other devices is the same. What really makes MacBook significantly ahead of Windows computers is actually the sliding, clicking experience and the vibration feedback of the click.

The former is derived from the sliding trajectory prediction software developed by Apple for the touchpad, and the latter is derived from the Touch Engine that we are all familiar with.

The haptic engine is not very complicated. It is to install a vibration module composed of electromagnets and coils on the touchpad. At the same time, the touchpad is equipped with a force sensor around the touchpad to recognize the pressing force, so that the touchpad can recognize the finger After heavy pressure, the electromagnet simulates vibration to achieve a pressing experience similar to a mechanical button structure.

▲ The internal structure of the MacBook touchpad.

The touch accuracy of the capacitive touchpad is actually not very high, and when ordinary people slide the touchpad, the finger sliding is not linear, which requires software to assist in predicting the trajectory of the human finger sliding, and then through the computer Simulate mouse sliding or web page content sliding.


To be able to follow suit, the trajectory prediction algorithm must be accurate. Apple has made great efforts in this area to have a good trackpad for MacBook.


It is not difficult to realize vibration. The difficult thing is the accurate trajectory prediction algorithm. If other companies want to make good touchpads, they must propose new technical solutions beyond Apple’s patents. Now some companies have done it.

▲ You can even use the MacBook Pro trackpad to play mobile games


Sensel is a company that specializes in pressure-sensitive touch. They have proposed a new technical solution-force-sensitive resistance sensor (FSR). When a finger is pressed, the conductivity of the force-sensitive resistance layer in the touchpad will change. After recognizing this change, it will be converted into a cursor click or slide.


Because Sensel uses a millimeter-level force-sensitive resistance sensor, it covers the touchpad with a large number of sensors, which converts finger sliding and pressing into more accurate input data, and finally brings a more precise touch experience, making sliding operations more handy .


In essence, Sensel is using better and more accurate sensors to compete with Apple's sliding trajectory prediction software.

▲ Sensel test touchpad

Similarly, Sensel also installs a vibration module composed of coils and magnets on the back of the touch panel. The force-sensitive resistance sensor can recognize the force of the finger pressing, and then feedback in the form of vibration. At the same time, it will also make a click sound, as much as possible. Ground to imitate the mechanical button structure.


Another advantage of Sensel's pressure-sensitive touch technology is that it is thin enough, and the entire touchpad can be 3mm thin, allowing the computer to be thinner and lighter.


This is not a technology that exists in PPT. ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga 5G has used the pressure-sensitive touchpad provided by Sensel. The entire touchpad can be clicked and provides vibration feedback instead of the traditional T-shaped touch. plate.

▲Think Pad X1 Titanium Yoga.

Microsoft’s recently launched Surface Laptop Studio computer also uses a pressure-sensitive trackpad, supported by Sensel’s touch technology. The foreign media Windows Central called it "the best trackpad in Windows computers" in the evaluation. At least one experience reference is provided.

▲Surface Laptop Studio.

But the millimeter-level force-sensitive resistance sensor is not perfect. Its problem lies in the high cost. This is why the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga 5G has a small touchpad. After all, a larger touchpad requires more sensors. , And whether it is Thinkpad or Surface, the price of both is not low, belonging to high-end computers.


In this regard, Sensel’s solution is a double-layer panel, where a force-sensitive resistance layer and a traditional capacitive layer are installed on the touch panel at the same time to reduce the overall cost.


Sensel is not the only company on the market to launch pressure-sensitive touch technology. Recently, Boréas and Cirque also announced a cooperation to jointly launch corresponding pressure-sensitive touch technology to directly compete with Apple’s Force Touch technology.

▲Boréas pressure-sensitive touchpad structure

The difference between Boréas and Cirque and Sensel is that the alliance formed by the former two has a long-term cooperative relationship with supply chain manufacturers and can produce pressure-sensitive touch panels in large quantities, while computer manufacturers can directly use the technology they provide to promote pressure-sensitive touch panels. In popularity, both high-end and mid-range computers can install newer and better touchpads.

Next year, perhaps we can see more Windows 11 computers equipped with pressure-sensitive touchpads.

Can you catch up with the MacBook?

With the new sensor, the trackpad experience of a Windows computer can be level with or even surpass that of a MacBook?


This also needs to be observed again. At present, most of the touchpads using Sensel pressure-sensitive touch technology are from high-end computers. If they are mass-produced and popularized in low-end Windows computers, will they cause experience gaps due to different craftsmanship. Not necessarily yet.


The popularity of pressure-sensitive touchpads in Windows computers is also inseparable from the promotion of Microsoft. Windows itself provides Precision touch drivers, so that ordinary touchpads can also achieve a precise touch experience, and provide multi-finger manipulation gestures.


It’s just that some computer manufacturers did not use this driver in low-end products due to cost and other reasons. Now Microsoft requires laptops with Windows 11 to use this set of standards. Whether it’s a high-end or a low-end computer, the basic touch experience is Consistent.


With good trackpad hardware and Microsoft’s touch driver is not enough. MacBook has used Force Touch for more than 6 years. During this period, many third-party applications have adapted the trackpad, such as Chrome whether it is on Windows. Even on the Mac side, it supports quick touch to switch web pages, and swipe to switch to historical web pages.


In professional editing applications such as Final Cut Pro, the touchpad also has the advantage of being more convenient than a mouse. It can not only swipe left and right to browse the editing project, but also flip up and down to browse, improving operation efficiency.


The touchpad should not be just a substitute for the mouse. Touch and gestures, as a new way of human-computer interaction, provide more interaction possibilities. Manufacturers need to explore and apply. The Windows camp needs more things like Chrome and Final. Applications like Cut Pro are compatible with touch gestures, multi-finger operations, etc.


Taking a step back, Windows 11 supports a variety of Android applications. In the future, you can also use more precise pressure-sensitive touch technology to get a better experience, and even directly restore the control gestures on mobile devices such as mobile phones and tablets.

▲ Windows 11 can use Android applications

In addition to the laptop itself, pressure-sensitive touch technology can also transform more products. Sensel itself also provides solutions for mobile devices, medical and even automotive fields.

More recently, pressure-sensitive touch can actually transform computer peripherals. Apple’s Magic Trackpad has always been well received, but there are few such products in the Windows camp. Logitech’s T650 touchpad has already It is a product of the Windows 8 era.

▲ Logitech T650

With pressure-sensitive touch technology, perhaps Logitech T650 can be updated again, and there will be more and more products like Magic Trackpad in the Windows camp.