We spend an awful lot of time in laptop reviews railing against modern trackpads -- you know, the ones that mistake left clicks for right ones, or have a really stiff button mechanism. Well, it looks like relief might be on the way. Synaptics (easily the largest touchpad maker of 'em all) just spilled more details on ForcePad, a pressure-sensitive pad that responds differently depending on how much you bear down with your fingers. Before we get into possible use cases, though, it's important to clarify this: there is no mechanical touch button, meaning those stiff hinges we've been complaining about should be moot. Rather, if you want to "left click" or "right click" you'll need to push against the pad with your finger. When you do this, you'll get the littlest bit of tactile feedback, along with a sound effect. (You can turn those off.)
All told, the pad responds to up to 1,000 grams of pressure, and recognizes 64 different levels of sensitivity. As you can imagine, this feature is likely to come in handy with drawing apps, but Synaptics also imagines it being used in gaming. With scrolling, too, you can page through documents quickly or slowly, depending on how hard you press the trackpad. Additionally, the pad recognizes up to five fingers at once, and can tell when you're applying more pressure with one finger than another. For now, Synaptics won't name any future products that will use this technology, so don't put any stock in that Lenovo machine used in the first demo video below -- it's just a U300s retrofitted with a ForcePad. But, a company rep did say we'd start seeing ForcePad-enabled laptops at CES in January, so expect lots of notebook news then.
Synaptics ForcePadSee all photos