Touchscreens are ubiquitous on smartphones and tablets, but many manufacturers are now including them on laptops, too. But are they worth buying?
Windows 8 is designed to provide a touch-friendly user interface, one that moves away from emulating a mouse and takes advantage of features such as gestures like pinch-to-zoom. Think of using a touchscreen as the modern equivalent of learning keyboard shortcuts; it may take some getting used to, but on a laptop a touchscreen can add an extra layer of interactivity and make navigating Windows 8 very fast. (Not to mention that it’ll let you play Angry Birds all day and draw rude shapes in Paint.)
Many laptops are now coming out with innovative designs, such as rotating or removable screens that allow for a more touch-friendly and tablet-like experience.
For now, touch control works best on the new Modern UI, although it can be a bit hit and miss in desktop mode. While there are many shortcuts and gestures that still work across both, accurately selecting small elements — like files or menu items — can be tricky on the desktop.
Of course, touch has some major downsides — your screen will get coated in fingerprints (most touchscreen laptops also ship with extra-large cleaning cloths) and it can be awkward to switch between the touchpad and screen. A well-positioned mouse can actually make it easier to swap to and from the touchscreen, as your arm is already extended and next to your laptop. Some screens are also flimsy enough that they move when touched, making it very hard to be accurate.
One of the supposed downsides of a touchscreen laptop is ‘gorilla arm’, where holding your hand up in front of you gets very tiring (and presumably starts growing hair). In our experience this is a non-issue though. Touchscreen control on Windows 8 is great for occasional use, such as flicking though photos or scrolling around the Modern UI, but it’s rarely very long in duration.
Unless you have specific touch-enabled applications in mind, we can’t recommend paying too much extra for a touchscreen. However, considering they’re now being included on even budget laptops, touchscreens do offer a fresh way to interact with your computer.
We'll be reviewing 6 touchscreen Windows 8 laptop models listed below. Check back here to read our reviews.
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