Windows 8: How to touch-enable your existing PC without breaking the bank

Windows 8: How to touch-enable your existing PC without breaking the bank

Summary: It's easy to touch-enable your existing PC without breaking the bank. Here's one recommendation, but there is one downside to note.


Question from the Hardware 2.0 mailbox:

"I've downloaded and installed the Windows 8 Consumer Preview onto my desktop PC and I'm very impressed with it. One thing I wish I could experiment with was the touch interface. The trouble is, I don't have access to a tablet system, and I don't want to buy one yet because I think they'll get better by the time Windows 8 is out for real.

Is there a way I can touch-enable my existing PC without having to throw the whole thing out, and without having to sell my kidney?"

Yes, there is a way, and it's actually quite simple to do. You can replace your existing monitor with a touchscreen panel. And it won't break the bank in the process.

If you're looking for a hardware suggestion, I suggest you take a look at Acer's T231H 23-inch LCD panel. Not only do you get a really nice 1920 x 1080 full-HD screen, but you're adding touchscreen support to an existing system for around $320.

The Acer T231H is a great touchscreen, but there is one irritation you need to know about before you buy. The screen has a bezel around it, and this makes it tricky to get to the edge of the screen to make use of Windows 8's edge gestures.

If you have large fingers this can make getting to the edge tricky. A solution to this problem is to use your graphics card driver to underscan the display slightly to bring the edges in a little. You'll lose a few pixels at the edge, but chances are you won't notice it. Both AMD and NVIDIA offer an underscan--overscan ability in their drivers, so it's quite easy to do.

By the time Windows 8 is released I expect touchscreen monitors to feature a bezel-less design so that edge gestures will no longer present a problem.

If you've got the space and a second output on your graphics card, you could keep the existing monitor on your system and give yourself a dual-screen workspace. You'll be amazed just how much extra productivity you can get from adding a second screen to your system.

Touchscreen monitors

Image Gallery: Touchscreen monitors Image Gallery: Charge Image Gallery: Charge
Image credit: Acer.


Topics: Banking, Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Tablets, Windows

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  • Hmmmm.

    Only $320 to get an aching arm. Not bad.
    • Exactly...

      I have a gesture for that...
      • Gesture

        Me too. [Why would I want to discard a perfectly good monitor on my desktop and also scrap a perfectly good laptop, just to get "touchscreen" capability?]
      • Two monitors!

        Doesn't go astray.
    • Tell that to James "Gorilla Arms" Kendrick

      He loves his iPad + keyboard.

      I'm currently looking at my iPad + keyboard combo. Now I'm looking at my arm. It isn't aching. Perhaps I'm in far better shape than you are?
      • "Perhaps I'm in far better shape than you are?"

        Could be. Your arm probably gets lots of exercise (from pushing that "-" button so much).
      • You joke but I do find it hilarious

        When people complained about how much heavier the iPad is compared to something like the Kindle eReader, the common cry from the Apple community was "you are just a weakling, the iPad is only a bit more than a lb".

        Yet when anyone dare suggest that holding [b]nothing[/b] in your hands at all is easy, we get those same people telling us that this is too difficult.

        I've used my iPad + keyboard for months now and have no gorilla arm issues. You can make jokes but that won't distract anyone from the truth: gorilla arm complaints have not held back the adoption of the iPad. Gorilla arm complaints are used by the Apple community only when it is convenient for their agenda. The rest of the time, it is sold as a "non-issue".
      • Gorilla Arm is a bit ridiculous because it assumes...

        Gorilla Arm is a bit ridiculous because it assumes you're going to leave your arm in that position and no one with a touch screen monitor does that.

        Besides this goes back to the days of RSI where we would get sort wrists from using a mouse for such a long period of time. Sure it's possible and has happened to me but we're talking 2-3 times maximum in 20+ years of using one.

        Windows 8 Metro simply needs touch to work properly and at least on a laptop I don't plan to be touching the screen constantly.
    • Touch screen needs to be almost horizontal (20o) for long use

      Which means it is better to keep your current one, and make the touch screen the primary one.

      The main issue with the almost horizontal is that the screen needs to be iPS to see well at low angles. I don't know if the Acer is IPS. The Dell ST220T is (and is cheap), and touch works well on it for Win7, but it does not have drivers for Win8 (Dell, get ahead of the curve here - Samsung has already put out Win8 drivers for it Slate so people could experiment).

      The other issue with horizontal is that if you noticed that dust gathers around your monitors stands, it will now also gather over your touchscreen!

      The only problem with Win7 is that it natively only supports one touch monitor, and I am not sure if Win8 does either.

      I did find a multi-touchscreen driver (UPDD from which only allowed basic touch (ie. non-gesture, mouse emulation) on monitors other than the primary. Unfortunately the demo driver started losing its alignment and the calibration process could not correct it.

      While it worked, my two ST2000Ts were functional under Win7. I used them for digital audio mixing and being able to touch control mixers and various GUIs was great, so much so that I wished that the 30" monitors were also touch for those times when a direct touch is the quickest way.

      The beauty of native touch is that any window is touch enabled simply by dragging it to the touchscreen - no setup required.

      While touching small controls used to be hard, using a tablet a lot has enabled me to be more accurate, more quickly.

      As for the bezel, most touchscreens for PC are based upon NextWindow technology that uses IR beams (ie, it is not touch at all) and that requires a raised bezel. It would require actual touch technology to do away with the raised bezel.
      • Dell Drivers

        The ST2220T does not need specific drivers. It works out-of-the-box when connected to a Windows 8 system.

        Also, Windows 8 does detect it as a legacy touchscreen (not specifically designed for Windows 8) and activates the "mitigation" system for gestures. It makes the monitor fully usable as the only input device.

        I used the ST2220T before the "mitigation" system and I can tell you it was simply impossible to use the OS without a keyboard or mouse.
      • Thanks TheCyberKnight

        I'll have a go at it again soon.
    • 2 monitors isn??t that bad...

      Most PCs today is able to use 2 monitors, so with an extra touch monitor you??re able to rule the world. My old and new laptop do have the ability to run an extra monitor and I often use that ability for my tasks.
  • What I want

    What want is a touchscreen monitor on an articulated arm that can easily be pulled forward and tilted so that it sits in front of you like a big tablet, then just as easily pushed back for when a mouse and keyboard are the preferred input methods.
    • Very easy to do

      Most of these monitors have VESA mount
  • Blasted Bezels...

    I actually mentioned this back in January, but it is good to see there are other monitors available. And thanks for the underscan tip, its quite important.
    • It's priceless

      Bezel creating problems with edge gestures. Only a small issue;-)

      Reaching across to the monitor, or as one post requests an articulated arm to move the monitor so it can be used comfortably.

      This is hilarious!
      Richard Flude
      • I agree

        The next person who suggests to me that Linux is no good because it doesn't have 100% hardware compatibility is going to be reminded about the MS-hardware vendor upgrade cycle cash cow and needing to worry about bezels and articulated arms just so that their OS' new interface can be usable on a desktop. :-)
      • Touch allows other scenarios ...

        ... which may be better served by having the touch screen real close.

        Self recording digital audio would be one use that would benefit by being able to swing the touch monitor over to where one is playing/singing, but being able to put it back to its normal position for other work.

        You guys with pathetic imaginations should take up another vocation.
  • Acer? Not a chance!

    I've tried Acer before. Inferior products and dreadful value for money. Never again! I'll wait for a better brand...
    • True

      I tried to sell about 5x 22" monitors of the same series from them a while back and every one of them overheated and burned out within 6 months.

      I had read shortly after that in the comment section here on ZDnet that someone else did a deployment of 25 of them in a hospital and returned them all in about the same time frame due to the same reason.

      Their margins are too small for resellers, often in the 3-4% range even for sub-$300 netbooks. They're a joke, and they're following the same business model as all of the big-box electronics retailers, and look where they all are now. Fry's, Best Buy, Circuit City...they're all closing down due to marginally breaking even. NewEgg's profits were 1.4% in 2008, and "doubled" (whoop-dee-doo) to 3.3% to when they wanted an IPO, which fell through. Amazon's margin is the same! This is the new US business model. Who is the exec that thinks this is a good idea? He should be dragged out into the street and shot!