Sporting easily the largest swath of multitouch space on any laptop, every Apple MacBook has also abandoned its physical buttons completely in favor of a "click-pad" surface. The expansive gesture room is luxurious, but getting used to a lack of buttons could take some time.
The larger touch pad from HP's high-end Envy series of laptops is making its way into other HP system, including this 10-inch Netbook. When you're dealing with small systems, even a tiny bit more touch-pad space makes a big difference.
The HP dm3 had a mirrored, overly glossly trackpad that favored looks over comfort; that's been addressed amply in the new dm4. The large matte surface feels great, and discrete buttons have been abandoned in favor of a larger, clickable touch area.
If you're going to stick with the secondary pointing stick and dual sets of mouse buttons, then follow the example found on the classic ThinkPad, including this 12-inch X201. Big buttons and a decent-size pad with a friction-free texture.
Note that, while we're endorsing this setup for 12-inch and larger ThinkPads, it works less well on Lenovo's cramped 11-inch quasi-Netbook.
Sometimes the best way to handle a Netbook touch pad is to not do anything to ruin it. Rather than adopt a weird design concept or strange materials, the austere NB30 chose a simple but responsive surface and two nicely clicking buttons. Well done.
With its recessed trackpad area and textured, responsive, plastic surface, the Vaio E offers a touch pad that works well and will contain your finger, eliminating the "scroll wandering" that can happen on laptops that don't have physical borders for their pads.
We will be honest: Toshiba's keyboards and touch pads have often left us flat. The company's NB305 Netbook is another story: it has the largest touch pad we've seen on a Netbook, and discrete buttons that curve along the front for easy reach.
If you're going to boldly redesign a touch pad, here's a tip: don't reduce the size. In adding a weird, unnecessary scroll-dimple on the Lifebook MH380, Fujitsu shrunk an already small touch pad down to postage-stamp size. Hope you have small fingers.
A bad set of buttons can ruin a touch pad as much as the pad itself. Gateway's NV series of laptops don't have poor touch pads per se, but the awkwardly shaped, thin, mirrored rocker bar below doesn't fit the pad size above, and is too narrow and finicky to use properly. Pictured above: the Gateway NV7901u.
On a bit of a technicality, we fault the otherwise well-designed Netbook-size ThinkPad x100e for cramming a trackpoint and an additional set of buttons above and below the touch pad, shrinking the real estate down for finger motion. Eliminate that extra set of buttons and we'd really be able to get some work done.
Note that we actually like the standard Lenovo touchpad setup on larger laptops, including the 12-inch X201.
The Origin EON18 has a wide variety of ports, over-the-top gaming specs, and a sky-high upper-range price. What it lacks is a good touch pad: the Clevo-designed chassis features a small multitouch zone bordered only by LED lights. It's all too easy to run over the surface and suddenly find yourself on a part of the glossy keyboard deck that's not a touch pad at all.
The Asus Eee PC line leads the Netbook pack when it comes to battery life, overall design, and even price in many cases. But, the touch pad and mouse buttons found on your average 10-inch Eee PC are among our least favorite. The buttons are tiny and hard to click, while the touch pad surface itself is made of the same grippy, slick plastic as the wrist rest, demarcated only by a panel of raised dots in the plastic that feels just plain annoying under the fingers.