Disclaimer: I?ve performed the tests only on MacBook Pro 15″ 2015 with macOS 10.15.4. I turned off all excess bluetooth devices during the tests. The trackpads were half charged. The trackpad settings were default except for silent and light clicking. I?ve checked that the external monitor gives zero delay compared to the built-in display. Please share your results if you have a different equipment. The results may differ on other hardware and software.
Recently I bought a Magic Trackpad 1 for my MacBook to work with an external monitor. Immediately I felt that the trackpad is uncomfortable to use comparing to the MacBook built-in trackpad: it has a delayed and choppy reaction (not bad, but noticeable). I thought that maybe Magic Trackpad 1 is obsolete so I should get a new Magic Trackpad 2. I?ve got a new trackpad and have measured all the 3 trackpads performance.
Input lag (time delay between a finger move and the movement on a display)
The time was measured by recording a 240FPS video on an iPhone and counting the frames. It was hard to determine at which frame the finger starts moving so the results may have a 1 frame mistake (4ms).
- Magic Trackpad 1: ?79ms (19 frames) on start, ?125ms (30 frames) on stop
- Magic Trackpad 2 (Bluetooth connection): ?79ms (19 frames) on start, ?125ms (30 frames) on stop
- Magic Trackpad 2 (Lightning connection): ?54ms (13 frames) on start, ?100ms (24 frames) on stop
- MacBook trackpad: ?58ms (14 frames) on start, ?83ms (20 frames) on stop
- Bonus: a cheap USB mouse Canyon CNE-CMS3: ?46ms (11 frames) on start and stop
When a trackpad is connected via a Lightning cable, it gives the same latency regardless of the Bluetooth on or off.
The latency is the same both on the built-in 60Hz monitor and an external 75Hz monitor, but the cursor feels more nimble on the external monitor.
Refresh rate (how often macOS shows updates on a display due to a finger move)
- Magic Trackpad 1 & 2 (wired and wireless) behave the same. macOS responses at 60FPS on a 60Hz monitor, but the movement is choppy: the movement is 2 times larger on an odd frame than on an even frame. The movement is smoother but still jerky on a 75Hz monitor: every 5th frame gives a bigger movement. I suppose that both trackpads refresh 90 times/second and macOS skips some refreshes because the monitor and the trackpad rates don?t match. Unfortunately I don?t have a 90Hz monitor to check.
- MacBook trackpad works perfectly on a 60Hz monitor, but works a bit choppy on a 75Hz monitor. I?ve failed to find a stable pattern. About 30% of frames have a small movement and 70% have a big movement. Maybe it refreshes 60 or 120 times/second.
The results are obtained by recording a slo-mo video on the iPhone. The notices concern only the distance over time indicator. The results are the same both for single- and multi-touch gestures. All the trackpads perform exactly the gestures you want.
Do you know how to change the trackpad refresh frequency?
Both Magic Trackpads feel the same in terms of response latency and frequency when connected wirelessly. I believe that their latency is too high. Researches say that only ?100ms latency is considered instantaneous by human, and I believe that the latency must be even lower.
But Magic Trackpad 2 feels more pleasant than the version 1 in general: the surface is bigger and more slippery, it?s softer to click and it?s equally soft on every point of the surface, the lower angle is more comfortable for wrist. Comparing to MacBook trackpad, MT2 is a bit harder to click but has a mush bigger area.
If you use a Magic Trackpad 1 and are looking for a quicker and the smoother trackpad experience, you can either:
- Use a 75Hz+ monitor. Don?t forget to set the refresh rate in System Preferences and make the monitor be the primary display. Unfortunately, macOS isn?t designed to run ?75FPS perfectly so get ready to minor jerks in some animations (including scroll inertia and Mission Control up&down movements).
- Use a wired Magic Trackpad 2.
Both solutions are almost as quick as a built-in trackpad, I hardly notice the difference with my bare eye. Built-in MacBook trackpad is still the undoubtable number one.
After some time, when I got used to an external trackpad, I still feel a bit uncomfortable because of the latency and the choppy movement (especially when I?m scrolling slowly while reading). But they don?t bother me as much they did when I started using a Magic Trackpad, I?ll continue using the MT2 connected via Bluetooth. I got used to a better experience of Apple products. I wish Apple fixes the issues by a software or a hardware update.