11" MBA Trackpad

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by shr631, Dec 13, 2013.

  1. shr631, Dec 13, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2014

    shr631 macrumors regular

    Dec 13, 2013
    Hi All,

    Sorry if this question has been covered (I didn't find it though).

    Question: Is the trackpad on the 11" too small, cumbersome?

    Situation: I am on the fence about getting the 11" MBA to see if I can live with it as my primary machine.

    What I know: I know the compromises vs the 13" are as follows: smaller screen real estate; ~3 hours less battery life; no SD card slot; and smaller top and bottom rows on keyboard.

    1. Trackpad - I'd love feedback on the trackpad from those who have either kept or returned the 11" MBA.
    2. Palm Rest - I'm 5'11" (with proportionate hand size whatever that might mean :confused:). Any issues about the palm rest being too small?
    I'll be using this for things like surfing the web, paying bills, some light to medium Excel, lots of word processing, and basic media stuff. No games. I am retiring a '08 macbook pro and I love the magic trackpad for safari & OS in general.


    Update: I had both, but utlimately decided to keep the 11" over the 13". Although I can make a stronger case for the 13", I found myself going for the 11" much more often.
  2. Drew017 macrumors 65816


    May 29, 2011
    East coast, USA
    I owned an 11 inch for a while, and though the trackpad is a little smaller, it didn't affect its usability to me. If you do a lot of light stuff, like you stated, you should have no issue imo.
  3. shr631 thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 13, 2013
    Thanks, Drew. Noticed on your signature you switched to the 13"... any particular reason?
  4. Drew017 macrumors 65816


    May 29, 2011
    East coast, USA
    I had the mid 2011 11 inch, and I decided to upgrade to a mid 2013 13 inch when they came out. The main thing about the 11 inch was that I needed the screen space for some of the apps I use. To be honest, the 11 inch really isn't that hard to use for just regular light stuff though. It's really a great laptop.
  5. mpantone, Dec 13, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2013

    mpantone macrumors 6502

    Mar 20, 2009
    When I see people using the 11" MacBook Air in coffee shops, etc., most people aren't using an auxiliary input device (mouse, etc.), so clearly many people seem to be quite happy with the built-in trackpad.

    No one here can tell you what will work best for you, it's an individual user preference.

    Personally, I don't like pointing devices mounted in front of (trackpad, trackball) or in notebook keyboards (e.g., pencil eraser pointer) so I've ended up using a mouse with all of my Apple notebook computers over the years.

    Today, I use a Magic Mouse with my 11" MacBook Air. Previously, I used the discontinued Kensington PocketMouse Pro with a retractable USB cord with my older Apple notebooks.

    I suggest you go to a bricks-and-mortar store and play with both 11" and 13" models yourself. If you have previously owned a notebook computer with a trackpad, you should be able to come to a conclusion pretty quickly about which one works better for you.

    If this is your first notebook computer, make sure you read the customer satisfaction policy about returns/exchanges very carefully. Typically, you will have a couple of weeks, enough time to figure out if the purchase is meeting your expectations.

    Good luck with your purchase decision.
  6. crozbomb macrumors newbie

    Dec 5, 2013
    speaking as someone who had a macbook pro, yes, its too small.
  7. robvas macrumors 68030

    Mar 29, 2009
    It's a little smaller but not enough to really bother me. I am back on a 13" now for the screen size which I find more useful while programming but the 11" is a very portable machine and nice to use.
  8. shr631 thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 13, 2013
    Thanks; yes, I need to spend a little more time at the store to get a feel for the two options. One thing that bothers me is that at a store you're always standing, so the angle of incidence (if you will) isn't necessarily the same as the one you might use on a daily basis (this affects things like palm rest, wrist bend etc...)


    Ok thanks for the feedback on the trackpad. Also, good to know you made the switch to 13". Looks like more than a couple of people sized up...something to consider.
  9. DisplacedMic macrumors 65816

    May 1, 2009
    love my 11...never feel like it's too small. of course i also bought a TBD for home use :)

    i am 5'11 guy. trackpad is fine.

    occasionally i find the screen too small for what i'm doing, but that is trumped by the fact that i ALWAYS appreciate the reduced weight and increased portability.
  10. shr631 thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 13, 2013
    Cool... I also have an external LG monitor and the apple BT keyboard and trackpad for clamshell work.

    I think the small screen might annoy me at times too, but then everything is a trade off...bigger screen means less portability yadda yadda yadda. Thanks for the info :)
  11. balamw Moderator


    Staff Member

    Aug 16, 2005
    New England
    The 11 is the computer I like to use the most and the trackpad is fine. I own 2011 13" and. 2012 11" plus a few older ones.

    I still reach for the 11 more often, especially for couch surfing or other non-desk locations?

  12. shr631 thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 13, 2013
    You have both! Perfect comparison opportunity...thanks for the info. Looks like the 11" is more "handy"
  13. balamw Moderator


    Staff Member

    Aug 16, 2005
    New England
    The screen real estate is the 11"s only weakness IMO. I only prefer the 13" for screen intensive work, like big spreadsheets.

    This is the main thing you compromise on with the 11 as your main machine.

  14. Mrbobb macrumors 601

    Aug 27, 2012
    Dude, you really need to go into a store and trying them out yourself, we can only guesstimate your hands' size, your motions etc.

    Afraid of real estate is like afraid of not enough processing power, it seems it's never enough and you are missing out, then you end up buying a "ten commandment" 17" tablet that sits on you lap one day and you go, what the heck did I do?
  15. DisplacedMic macrumors 65816

    May 1, 2009
    i agree entirely!
    i am a scientist so i do a lot of database, word processing, photoshop, powerpoint etc.

    believe it or not it's the excel sheets that sometimes annoy me, not the other things. but i also found my 13 MBP too small at times as well.

    you're absolutely right, everything's a trade off. definitely go play with them in the store if you can!
  16. mpantone macrumors 6502

    Mar 20, 2009
    It should not be a factor in your assessment of the trackpad size.

    Ergonomic guidelines suggest that your forearms are parallel to the table surface with your elbows around a 90 degree angle. You can simply this by partly squatting. You don't need a chair, etc. to do this. Also you are not supposed to bend your wrists.

    You're not going to find a retailer that has a wide variety of usage situations for you do to your testing. Again, if you have ever owned a notebook computer (regardless of the manufacturer) before, you should be able to come to a decision fairly quickly.

    Although I have not taken exact measurements, the 11" MBA trackpad is about the same size as trackpads from older 13" MacBooks, although the latter also had a discrete button so the trackpad of the new 11" MBA has more useful surface area.

    In that way, the 11" MBA trackpad is effectively larger than previous MacBook trackpad designs since the button functionality is built into the trackpad itself.

    If you've never owned a notebook computer, you'll eventually have to just decide whether or not you want it, buy it, then use it and decide whether you want to keep it before the customer satisfaction grace period is up. This is no different than buying any other typical consumer electronics item. You are making this into a big drama for no discernible reason.
  17. booyahbooyah macrumors regular

    Sep 11, 2011
    I have an 11" Air. I'm a smaller guy.

    I love my little laptop. It takes a little getting used to, but a month or so later, it seems like the perfect size. Other laptops seem bulky.

    Now, about that trackpad.

    I did several tweaks to the cursor settings, and that helped a lot.

    1) I made it so the cursor moves very quickly. I can move the cursor across the entire screen in about half the travel across the trackpad.
    2) I made the cursor huge. Helps spot where it is.
    3) I enabled tap to click. An issue with the smaller trackpad is that there's less leverage (remember the trackpad is hinged at the top edge, and it's not as tall as the trackpad on a larger macbook). So clicking it takes a little more effort than on a 13". So tap to click helps because I no longer need to click; just tap.

    Buy the 11" if you want portability.

    Buy the 13" if you're on the fence and don't care too much about portability.

    (By the way, from what I've heard, the next 11" is going to be even smaller.)
  18. halledise macrumors 65816

    May 7, 2009
    Hamilton Island, Whitsundays, QLD Australia
    came off a 15" retina Macbook Pro to an 11" Air.
    screen resolution is grrreat (AU Optronics panel).
    trackpad works wonderfully as one would expect from Apple.

    it all comes down to your eyesight and whether you're long or short sighted. ;) and how willing you are to adapt and change … …
  19. shr631, Jan 10, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014

    shr631 thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 13, 2013
    Update 11" vs 13"

    Hey guys, thanks for all the replies.

    I've had both the 11" and 13" for ~3 weeks now & I've been using them simultaneously, alternately, and all shades in between. Thought I'd share some subjective comparison notes:

    Palm rest: The 11" palm rest is noticeably shorter which makes for limited options for resting my wrists while typing (a bad habit but a common one) because of where I have to place my hands to avoid the edge digging into my lower palms. ymmv depending on height. Typing experience limited when directly compared to the 13" but not necessarily cramped to the point of discomfort. In fact, at times typing activity feels more focused.

    Trackpad: tp is noticeably shorter. Not bad per se, but when switching from the luxurious full-sized trackpad - where gestures can be performed more freely over a larger surface, where you can approach it from several different angles, where the clicking is smoother (further from fulcrum i suppose), where swiping seems more effortless, and the off-surface hand rest area is roomier - I notice a difference. that being said, when i'm not switching between 11 & 13, but rather using the 11" for a few minutes I don't even notice - it's great.

    Keyboard: Three things here 1) the top & bottom rows are shorter on the 11" which means the spacebar is also narrower. Big deal? Depends; it is a key you use often, and if the angle from which you approach it is more lateral, then you might feel like you're just tapping the lower edge of it and get vague tactile feedback - not a treat for touch typists; but again, you'll adjust so not a big deal. 2) the direction keys feel noticeably rubbery (?) on the 11". the ones on the 13" just feel like they press down more crisply and the key caps don't feel as wobbly. also not something you'd notice unless you compared the two. it is not unpleasant. 3) the key throw/travel seems more pronounced on the 11". The keys are the same size on both, and laid out the same way (save for top and bottom rows), it's just that the 11" keys feel more "buttony" (with what feels like a slightly longer throw :confused:) and the 13" keys feel flatter and more like keys. This is subjective of course, so I could be wrong, but if I'm right, I can hazard a couple of guesses as to why.

    That's my report so far. No worries if you just read this thinking "wtf!?" I posted this for anyone who may be as obsessive about these details as I turned out to be; I feel like these things shape the daily feel of the machine. Nah mean?

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