Not all touchscreens are created equally—and if you’ll be investing hundreds of dollars into a tablet or smartphone, you’ll want to know the difference. In the touchscreen world, there are two main types of technology: capacitive touchscreens and resistive touchscreens. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Capacitive touchscreens register a touch whenever it comes in contact with a conductive object—such as human fingers. As such, capacitive touchscreens are highly responsive, as they do not require any pressure to register a touch. Even the slightest touch will activate the screen. Capacitive touchscreens can use glass as the front panel, which makes them highly durable, easy to clean and resistant to scratches. Capacitive touchscreens can also implement multi-touch gestures. In general, capacitive touchscreens are considered to be capable of faster typing speeds. However, given the sensitivity of a touchscreen, you may have difficulty with typos. The size of the keyboard and the amount of space between keys will deeply affected typing accuracy as well. Capacitive touchscreens can be used with a screen protector to keep them clean and scratch-free.
The disadvantages of capactive touchscreen come with accuracy. Most capacitive touchscreens do not respond to objects other than naked human fingers, and thus do not work with a stylus or a fingernail or a gloved hand. Because fingers are far wider than a stylus, this makes handwriting and other precise actions rather difficult. Capacitive screens are also more expensive.
Devices with capacitive touchscreens include the fourth generation iPhone, the iPad and iPod Touch and the HTC HD2.
Resistive touchscreens are constructed from two layers of material with a space between them. When you push on the outer screen, the two layers are pressed into contact, thus registering a touch. Because the system works on pressure, it can be activated using inanimate objects such as a stylus, fingernail or a gloved finger. This makes resistive touchscreens useful for handwriting and other high precision functions. Resistive touchscreens are also preferable in colder climates, where smartphone and tablet users often wear gloves. Resistive touchscreens are considerably less expensive than capacitive screens.
The drawbacks of resistive touchscreens include its inability to support multi-touch gestures, its poor visibility in direct sunlight and its lesser durability. The top layer on a resistive touchscreen is made of soft, flexible material which can be damaged much more easily than glass. It also may need recalibrating from time to time.
Devices with resistive touchscreens include many Nokia phones, the Sony Reader and the Archos 9.
Which is Better?
It’s difficult to say whether resistive or capacitive touchscreens are better. Capacitive touchscreen technology is newer, and is thus more expensive. While many state-of-the-art devices tout the multi-touch gestures and glass screen as must-have features on their high-end tablets with capacitive touchscreens, if you prefer to use a stylus or wear gloves, a capacitive touchscreen won’t provide as many benefits over the resistive screen. Consider your needs before deciding on a capacitive or resistive touchscreen.
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