The force is strong with this one. Okay, that's the last Star Wars we'll use to refer to the Synaptics ForcePad, a new approach to touchpads shown at CES 2013. The ForcePad stands out by responding to varying levels of pressure for up to five fingers. After trying out a few neat demos, we came away impressed.
The ForcePad certainly makes scrolling easier. All you need to do is just press on the top or bottom of the pad. The harder you press down, the faster it goes. The newfangled pad can also enhance multitouch gestures. When zooming in on a map, we spread our fingers apart and then pressed down to keep going; multiple swipes not required.
Another demo made it clear that the ForcePad has plenty of gaming potential. An app showed us in real time how much pressure each of our fingers was applying. So, in the not too distant future, you could jump a certain height based on the force of your button push. You can't do this on a touch screen.) Or you could steer in a racing game or flying game by pressingly slightly on either side of the pad.
There's another benefit of the ForcePad: it's thinner 3 mm design will enable Ultrabook makers to produce even sleeker designs. especially since it's only 3mm thick. Today's ClickPad is 5.5 mm thick.
Overall, the ForcePad makes a strong case for the touchpad to stick around in the touch screen era. If it works as promised, Windows 8 hybrids will truly deliver the best of both worlds. Look for the ForcePad to show up on notebooks later this year.