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I ask this because of a friend who never hooks up a mouse to his laptop because he claims he can work just as fast with a trackpad as with a mouse.

My personal experience is the other way around. I find that using the trackpad slows me down because of its inherent lack of precision. Also, moving the cursor seems slower (even when I increase the sensitivity) than with a mouse.

Are there any studies done on this subject matter which are available online?

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One thing to consider is that Apple's Macbook trackpads and standalone touch pad are probably much easier to work with than those by other manufacturers due to the multitouch features and improved responsiveness, so I'm sure that would be a relevant metric to include in any study. –  Rahul Jan 23 '12 at 16:45
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I believe the studies would be incredibly context-centric and user-preference-centric so I doubt you could really come to a conclusion in general terms. Also note that your friend may not be solely replacing the mouse with the trackpad but replacing the mouse with the trackpad AND keyboard. Lots of folks prefer navigating their UI with the keyboard whenever they can. It's faster due to not having to reposition your hands. –  DA01 Jan 23 '12 at 17:30
    
related to ux.stackexchange.com/questions/5237/… –  Naoise Golden Jan 23 '12 at 18:22
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My personal experience is that is much harder to play Battlefield 3 with a trackpad instead of a mouse... :) –  Tony Bolero Jan 25 '12 at 15:49
    
I play Minesweeper fast with a laptop touchpad. –  sergiol Jul 23 at 15:00

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Here are a couple:

In it they discuss the difficulties in measuring across devices and tasks, develop a model to enable cross-device measurement, then give some results on small target tasks. They did find that both mouse and trackpad were top performers compared to other types. Looking at the pictures, trackpads have changed a lot since this study was done.

And the most directly applicable paper I found:

Here's a snippet from the conclusion:

Across age groups participants complete pointing movements more quickly and accurately with the mouse than the touchpad, but the touchpad also increases the differences between age groups. Compared to the mouse, the touchpad slows down elderly participants, and to some extent young participants, more than adult participants.

Those papers and others came up via Google Scholar searches for:

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@DA01 is right in the sense that it's context-specific, and I would also argue it's up to personal preference. There's a tiny bit of research on it (Shanis & Hedge, 2003 - abstract only) which shows that, yes, the mouse is better at certain tasks.

I think the hard part here is finding participants that have equal experience with multiple input methods and/or controlling for that. Almost everyone starts their computer use experience with a mouse (although, kids these days are probably gonna be more apt to use a touchscreen/pad), so there're inherent practice effects with any of these studies.

There's a handful of interesting work in combining the mouse with touchpad-esque functionality, allowing the precision/speed of a mouse and the bandwidth of multi-touch gestures.

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