Logitech's new wireless trackpad enhances the Windows 8 experience

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Yesterday at the Build conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that the company had already sold 4 million upgrades to Windows 8. It's safe to say most of those were sold to be used on hardware that does not have a touch screen.

I was one of the 4 million; I upgraded my Lenovo V570 laptop to Windows 8 last week. I tend to use this laptop as an auxiliary screen, doing mostly content consumption on it, and so I really like the new Start Page interface for that. But I couldn't deny that navigating feels a little clunky with mouse and keyboard. The Lenovo's Synaptics touchpad doesn't yet support Windows 8 gestures, either (if you've found drivers that enable them I'd really appreciate a link).

There're a lot of hotkeys that make Windows 8 more mouse and keyboard friendly (Lifehacker has a nice article on them) but I really wondered what the OS felt like with touch.

I couldn't add a touch screen to the Lenovo but I think I found the next best thing: Logitech's new "Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650." It supports most of Windows 8's touch gestures. Swipe in from the left side to switch apps, swipe in from the right to open the Charms pane. Use two fingers to scroll through pages of apps or within an app. A three finger upward swipe takes you to the Start Page and a three finger downward swipe takes you to the traditional desktop. You can pinch to zoom with it.

There are two gestures I'm having problems with. One is the swipe down from the top which is supposed to open up an app's menu. It works...sometimes. I'm getting better at triggering it (I'm still trying to decide if it's fussy about where I start my swipe, or the length of my swipe) but it hasn't been as effortless as the other gestures have been. Also, of all things, dragging an item can be a challenge. To drag something, you have to press down and hold with one finger, then drag with another. Again I'm getting better at it, but it's taking a bit of learning on my part.

I don't want to dwell on the bad though, because all the other gestures work easily (and those two are a matter of practice). For the first couple of days I was switching between the Logitech T650 and a traditional mouse but the more I use the trackpad the less I find myself reaching for the mouse. The T650 is big enough that you don't feel cramped performing these gestures, but not so big that it takes over your desk, and the smooth surface feels good under your fingertips. It's not a complete replacement for a touchscreen but it does give you a glimpse of how much better Windows 8's app ecosystem will be when you inevitably upgrade to hardware that includes one.

I'm really happy with the purchase and I think you will be too, if you're running Windows 8 on hardware with no touchscreen. I got mine at Best Buy for $80. Amazon carries them but they're currently out of stock (and some price gouging Amazon partner is offering them for $100). Don't get the less expensive "Logitech Wireless Touchpad with Multi-Touch Navigation" ($40) by mistake; it doesn't have the same Windows 8 gesture support that the T650 has.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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