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

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

Summary: It's easy to touch-enable your existing PC without breaking the bank. Here are a few recommendation,along with some pros and cons for you to note.

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Time to answer a popular Windows 8-related question from the Hardware 2.0 mailbox:

I've decided that my problem with Windows 8 is not Windows 8, but my PC's lack of support for touch. Can you suggest a way I can add touch to my PC without replacing my entire PC?

I sure can. In fact, I can suggest a number of ways you can add touch support t an existing PC.

Touch monitor

When we think of touch, we automatically think of touchscreen devices such as smartphones and tablets, which is why when we think of a touch-enabled PC, we think of a touchscreen PC. And there are a number of touchscreens on the market that you can buy to add to an existing system.

(Source: Dell)

There are a number of displays on the market, but here are three worth taking a look at.

  • Acer T232HL: 23-inch display with 10-point touch support. Price: $550.
  • Dell S2340T: 23-inch display with 10-point touch support. A gorgeous display packed with features such as a webcam, USB 3.0 ports, and a versatile stand. The only drawback is the steep price tag. Price: $650.
  • Viewsonic TD2220: A nice, cheap 22-inch display. The biggest drawback of this is that the bezel around the display makes getting to the edges for edge-gestures a bit of a pain. Price: $285.

There are pros and cons to touchscreens.

Pros:

  • Easy and intuitive to use.
  • Easy upgrade to carry out.

Cons:

  • You have to replace the whole monitor (unless you keep the old one and add it as a second screen).
  • Expensive.

Pen tablet

Another touch option is to add a pen tablet. This gives you a quick and easy way to add touch at a low price and without much fuss.

I recommend taking a look at the Wacom range of tablets, in particular the Intuos5 range, which come in small, medium, and large, and can not only be used with a pen, but also feature a touch-sensitive surface. Prices range from $230 to $500, depending on size.

(Source: Wacom)

Pros:

  • Great dual-use tool.
  • Perfect for artists, photographers, and creative types.
  • Option to switch between pen and tablet.

Cons:

  • Quite pricey.
  • Tablets take up a lot of desk space.

Touch-enabled peripherals

Windows 8 has spawned a mass of touch-enabled peripherals from companies such as Logitech and Microsoft, ranging from touchpads to touch-enabled mice.

(Source: Logitech)

Pros:

  • Cheap.
  • Easy to add to a system.
  • Plenty of choice.

Cons:

  • Can be confusing to set up.
  • Not as intuitive to use as a touchscreen.
  • Not a pure touch experience.

Topics: Windows 8, Hardware, Microsoft

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75 comments
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  • How could you miss it?

    You missed the best product on the market. It isa HP Compaq L2206tm 21.5-inch LED Backlit Touch Monitor. It has an optical touch screen. Price: $280.

    http://shopping1.hp.com/is-bin/INTERSHOP.enfinity/WFS/WW-USSMBPublicStore-Site/en_US/-/USD/ViewProductDetail-Start;pgid=jDJwlVlq2W9SR0Yk2kO1Yuen0000HVBQHeVL;sid=bi5do8jCsxpMo5lYJzNDKhDNvCBl0qhSD7M=?ProductUUID=_pEQ7EN5lhcAAAE2t9csSNT3&CatalogCategoryID=IQIQ7EN6C2cAAAE2HK5Z.WAO&JumpTo=OfferList

    Actually I can kind of understand how you missed it. HP makes it hard to find. It has been very popular and large contract customers have been sucking them up. In several places on the web you will pay more. I have seen them as high as $400 but most of the time they are closer to list price.

    I have several and they work great.
    MichaelInMA
    • big mistake

      desktop with touch screen is a big mistake, so provides for arms hurt and have a bad experience!
      something good for touch screen has to be in the format of a clipboard!
      Henrique Dourado
      • Really?

        We have one on the kitchen counter top and is perfect there. Well what should I expect from a troll like you!
        Ram U
        • But that is not a good example of a "desktop"

          A kitchen counter is not a natural place for a "desktop" computer setup with a monitor and keyboard.

          On the other hand, it is a natural place for an "all-in-one" computer with a touch monitor, without an external keyboard. Most of the work will be viewing existing content, so the lack of a keyboard is not important. A "normal" keyboard in the kitchen is a disaster waiting to happen.
          Ron_007
          • A desktop may not be on a desk.

            Many computers are used for far more, or less, than classic working spreadsheets and writing letters usage.

            A computer is like LEGO, you can basically use it for hundreds of ideas. The touch screen for a kitchen computer makes sense because flour and liquid egg and tomato juice do not do well when you roll a mouse over them, or drip that into a keyboard.

            Just because you do not see the practicality, does not mean it is not so.
            Kieron Seymour-Howell
        • The Ram U shill is cooking today

          From all the arguments you could have made this is best you came up with? Touch on the desktop is useless or a niche market at best.
          mil7
          • Here is something for your reference:

            http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=shill
            Kieron Seymour-Howell
        • Touch on the desktop - no way

          My monitors sit beyond arms length from me. I just need my keyboard and marble mouse within reach. Having to reach and do gestures on the monitor would be a real pain in the neck, and the arm, and wouldn't improve my productivity in the least. Some sort of mouse that can interpret the gestures (slide in from the right to pull up charms sort of thing) could be useful.
          boomchuck1
          • Depends on what you do and how you set it up

            One of the options I am looking at (mainly for music production, where multi-touch is going to be simple awesome, but also more general use) is those monitors which allow you to "rotate" them to be flatter on the desk, so you have a touch screen running at say 10-15 degrees angle on the desk and the second monitor behind it - less reaching and a much more normal touch experience. And you can always push it back up to a "normal" position when wanting traditional two-screen setup....

            ... which just goes to show that we could well start to see quite a lot of innovation around what a "desktop" is going to be like on the back of Windows 8.
            AndrewLMacaulay
          • Counterpoint...

            Hello Boomchuck,

            I think that your opinion is valid, but as AndrewLMacaulay points out, the user may have a vastly different experience depending upon needs, physical capabilities, and speed versus precision when interacting with their computer system. If you do not have touch, the screens are generally placed in a different configuration, than if you do.

            Once you have a touch enabled system the monitor becomes more than just a visual device and you will position it accordingly. Just as the POS systems have an inclined screen mounted lower down, so you would position your screen. If you lower the height of the screen, and rake it back at a 20° to 50° angle, then bring the base closer you will find that it is actually a far more natural position to work in. Your keyboard slides under the near edge accordingly and is right there if you need it. It is more intuitive and easier for a new computer user to reach out and touch something that to do the hand-eye-mouse feedback loop that is required with a mouse. You only have to watch young children interacting with a touch computer to realize it really is an advancement for user interaction.

            The hand-eye-mouse feedback loop is rarely is ever 1:1 and that makes the forearm muscles tense and will contribute to various repetitive motion issues with some susceptible people. Sure at first moving your entire arm will hurt, but I can guarantee it is far less of a strain on the skeletal system and because the coordinates are 1:1 you completely remove the feedback loop that a mouse requires.

            Some tasks are not practical with a touch-screen, just as some tasks require a mouse, or a digitizer, or a stylus. Most computer users rarely require all of the interface options are they cannot be skilled in all aspects of computer use. You buy what you need. Just as some need a pickup truck, and others need a trailer, a sports car, or a camper. Everyone has a different requirement and it is far beyond your personal experience to judge. Just by your reaction it is now known that your computer experiences are limited.
            Kieron Seymour-Howell
      • To each his own.

        Adding an alternative interface is not really something is possible for one person to state to someone else clearly or not. What may work for one, another may hate. Humans rarely follow logical reasons, as it is more of an emotional and conditional response based upon assumptions and arbitrary preferences.

        Ergonomically the user experience can go both ways. Stretching out the arm to work on content creation would get very tiring after a few hours, but the simplicity and increase of precision for aiming the cursor may be more than enough compensation to stick with it.
        Kieron Seymour-Howell
    • I prefer to NOT touch my monitor

      when looking at porn. Are touchscreens easy to clean?
      BCF1968
  • Thanks, I Think Touch is Underestimated but Now Not Overpriced

    and approaching a good Value point.

    For the past five years I have designed my apps to be touch optimized. If done a few PoS Apps in the past and seen the productivity. It turns out other Apps gain benefit from touch. Multi-touch takes it a lot further. when it come to scrolling.

    Now with Win 8 developers may start recognizing the benefits of touch optimization to the user experience. Then we will see less and less resistance to both Win 8 and Touch by users.

    I like the Dell LED over the Acer LCD. Although the brightness is about the same.

    I have been looking for an LED Multi-Touch Monitor with a stand that Pivots. Portrait makes more sense for everyday work. Most documents are portrait. Landscape is great for Video but that's what TVs are for.
    Patrickgood1
    • how many monitors are in portrait?

      Yes, most documents are portrait but who's monitors are in portrait nowaday? My previous boss used to have a portrait monitor long long time ago and that's the only time I have seen one in use.
      WillyThePooh
      • Try it, you'll Love IT!

        I've been using a 2 monitor setup for the last 6-7 years.

        My laptop is naturally landscape and my second monitor is permanently rotated to Portrait.

        Portrait is great for Word, and Web access. Many web pages are longer than they are wide, so it is easy to size them fill screen width then scroll to see rest of content.

        Give it a try. After you use it a while, you'll find you miss it when you don't have the option of doing it.

        At the very least, for a desktop computer I now make sure the monitor has a stand that can be easily rotated.

        Heck, even my old 17" CRT monitor was "rotated" (laid on it's "side") because I found portrait more useful than landscape. I was willing to put up with the weird look of the stand sticking out of the side.
        Ron_007
      • Most People Say They Did Not Know a Monitor Copuld Be Rotated

        If I do need landscape the two Main Portrait Monitors are side by side so I have the equivalent of 2400 x 1920. Plenty wide. The gap in the center due to the monitor's bezel quickly becomes imperceptible.
        Patrickgood1
      • That is not a vaild reason to negate their orientation.

        Most people have not seen a computer screen oriented in portrait because of a few simple reasons.

        The cost of screens that can be rotated and effectively used is prohibitive for most home users. Companies will not pay out for ergonomics unless they are forced too. Most people do not have a positive attitude toward efficiency and comfort because they are ignorant and greedy.

        On-board video drivers often do not have a screen orientation feature, since the majority of users do not know about it, and will not pay extra for a screen that supports it. The system feeds itself.

        Screens really require a 16:10, 5:7, or 4:3 ration to work better with the portrait mode. The wide narrow content consumption screens do not have enough vertical pixels to fit toolbars and other GUI elements efficiently across the top of a 16:9 screen for some advanced software.

        I would firmly state that the real reason you have not seen it, is that most people are not knowledgeable or aware of the power-user features of their OS. Also, they are likely lazy and unwilling to try new things, do research, or spend extra money when the rest of their life is mundane and "goof enough" at best.
        Kieron Seymour-Howell
  • It should be noted...

    Those "touch enabled" pads aren't exactly touch enabled. They don't send multitouch information directly to Windows, but convert to gestures first and send keystroke sequences, so they don't work with all applications. They're ok for basic multitouch though.
    TheWerewolf
    • Important to understand if...

      .... someone is out to spend $10 and thinks they will get the same quality and feature set of a $500 tablet digitizer. Most sales people have no idea of the difference and don't care, as long as you buy something, anything, to get out and let them sell to the next one in line.
      Kieron Seymour-Howell
  • Patrickgood1..... It turns out other Apps gain benefit from touch.

    Yes if your imputting orders at any type of retail anything where you are standing or on a tablet. But sitting down at a desk where your monitor is 30/36 inches away how is touch a REAL improvement over a mouse? Going back and forth all day between inputting on a touch screen and a mouse, to me would be silly and tiring on the arm reaching over on a constant basis.
    Over and Out