Should You Buy a Touchscreen Windows PC?

The pros and cons of a touchscreen PC

Touchscreen technology burst onto the computing scene amid the rise of smartphones and tablets, changing the way users interact with devices. Microsoft has since incorporated touchscreen functionality into the Windows operating system interface. If you're purchasing a new computer, consider the pros and cons of a touchscreen Windows PC.

The information in this article applies specifically to Windows-based laptops and desktop computers.

Touchscreen Windows Laptops

A finger extends to calibrate a touchscreen on a laptop.
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Despite manufacturers' attempts to create trackpads that support multitouch gestures, touchscreen laptops allow for easier navigation than a built-in trackpad. That said, there are some downsides to touchscreens.

Cleaning the Screen

The most obvious downside of a touchscreen laptop is the need to clean the screen frequently. Constantly touching a screen leaves behind 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.

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

Cost

Touchscreen laptops cost more than non-touchscreen laptops. 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.

Touchscreen Windows 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 expensive than touchscreen monitors for desktop PCs, though prices vary widely according to specifications. 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 convenient.

Final Verdict

Touchscreens provide a few benefits, but they cost more and usually have a shorter battery life. Desktops equipped with touchscreen capabilities are probably not worth the extra cost unless you're eyeing an all-in-one system and you don't care about using Windows shortcuts.