Should You Buy a Touchscreen Windows PC?

Weigh the pros and cons and make the best choice for you

Touchscreen laptop

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Touchscreen technology burst onto the computing scene amid the rise of smartphones and tablets, changing the way users interact with devices.

As computing evolved, Microsoft's venerable Windows operating system changed as well, incorporating touchscreen functionality into its interface.

If you're purchasing a new Windows-based laptop or desktop computer, weigh the benefits and disadvantages of touchscreen devices and make the right decision for your needs.

The information in this article refers to Windows-based laptops and desktop computers, not Mac devices.

Laptops

The benefits of a touchscreen laptop are obvious. Touch allows for much easier navigation around various applications than a built-in trackpad, despite manufacturers' attempts to create trackpads that support multitouch gestures.

But there are some downsides to a touchscreen laptop:

Clean the Screen

The most obvious downside of a touchscreen laptop is the need to clean the screen frequently. Touching a screen places a fair amount of dirt and grime on the display panel. While certain types of coatings can help mitigate that problem, they end up causing glare and reflections. Smudges make the problem even worse, especially outdoors or in offices with bright overhead lights.

Battery Life

Touchscreen displays draw additional power at all times as they try to detect input from the screen. This small but consistent power drain will reduce the overall running time of a touchscreen laptop compared to a one without a touchscreen.

Power reduction varies from as little as 5 percent up to 20 percent, depending on the battery size and the power draw of other components. Be sure to compare estimated running times between touchscreen and non-touchscreen models to get an idea.

Be aware that many companies aren't always as accurate as they could be with their battery life estimates.

Cost

Touchscreen laptops cost more than non-touchscreen laptops. Sure, there are some low-cost options, but cheaper laptops may sacrifice other features, such as CPU performance, memory, storage, or battery size in order to incorporate a touchscreen.

Desktops

Desktops fall into two distinct categories: traditional desktop tower systems that require an external monitor, and all-in-one PCs.

Traditional Desktop Tower Systems

A touchscreen isn't much of a benefit in a traditional desktop system, with cost being the main factor. Laptop displays are typically smaller, so adding a touchscreen is more affordable. Desktops, however, generally have much bigger screens (24-inch LCDs are common). A 24-inch touchscreen monitor can be more than double the price of a typical standard display.

All-in-One PCs

All-in-one touchscreen PCs are even more costly than touchscreen monitors for desktop PCs, though prices vary wildly according to specifications.

Just like laptops, all-in-one touchscreen systems have screen cleanliness issues. Most of these devices feature a glass coating on the displays, making them more reflective and more apt to show glare, fingerprints, and swipe marks. These issues aren't as bad as with laptops, however.

Multitouch support on these devices is handy, but not critical. Windows users familiar with shortcut keys won't be as impressed with touchscreen features, especially switching between applications and copying and pasting data, although launching programs via touchscreen is handy.

The Bottom Line

If you're purchasing a laptop, touchscreens provide many benefits but you'll pay more and likely sacrifice some running time.

Desktops equipped with touchscreen capabilities are probably not worth the extra cost unless you're eyeing an all-in-one system and aren't too handy with Windows shortcuts.

But computing devices are personal; what you buy should come down to what you feel in your gut is the best choice for you.

For an in-depth review of the best touchscreen monitors, take a look at the 8 Best Touchscreen Monitors of 2019.