Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Touch-Screen Laptop.

When you use a smartphone all day long, it’s easy to think that every screen in your life should respond to touch. Touch screens are necessary on handsets, tablets and 2-in-1 hybrids that transform from notebooks to slates. They even provide a lot of benefits on large-screen all-in-one PCs that sit in your living room. However, no matter how badly vendors want to sell you one, a traditional laptop with a touch screen is a terrible idea and a bad buy.
Here are five reasons you should just say “no” to touch-enabled notebooks.

Usually More Expensive

While some laptops are available only with a touch screen, others offer touch as a pricey option when you configure your system. For example, Lenovo charges $240 more for a ThinkPad T450s with a touch screen than the same model without a touch screen, and Dell puts a $300 premium on its XPS 13 with touch, though it also bumps the resolution up from 1080p to 3200 x 1800. Acer’s inexpensive C720 Chromebook costs $80 more with touch — which doesn’t sound too bad, until you consider that it’s 30 percent of the price.

But even if the touch version isn’t any more expensive, or if you find a notebook that’s only available with touch, you should avoid it like an email from a Nigerian prince.

Worse Battery Life

Regardless of whether you use it, the touch digitizer is on all the time and thus sucks up significantly more power. For example, on the Dell XPS 13 we tested, the nontouch version lasted 11 hours and 42 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi. However, the touch configuration lasted only 7 hours and 24 minutes —a delta of 37 percent. (To be fair, the touch XPS has a higher, quad-HD resolution, which sucks more power than the full-HD nontouch version.)
When we tested the original ThinkPad X1 Carbon with and without touch, the difference in battery life was 24 percent — 5:52 compared to 7:45.
Unfortunately, you can’t do anything about this battery penalty after you’ve bought a touch-screen laptop. When we tried disabling the touch screen (using Windows Device Manager) on two notebooks and ran our test, the results were nearly identical. The digitizer continues to slurp power, even if it can’t respond to your taps.

A Thicker, Heavier PC

If you choose a laptop with touch, prepare to literally carry the burden of your mistake with you wherever you go. Adding touch to a laptop pumps up its weight by 0.2 to 0.4 pounds. For example, the Lenovo X250 without touch is just 2.88 pounds, but the touch-screen version weighed in at more than 3.2 pounds on our scale. The difference between the touch and nontouch Dell XPS 13 is a still-noticeable 0.2 pounds (2.8 versus 2.6 pounds).

Like to Reach Across the Keyboard?

When you touch a tablet or smartphone, you usually bring it closer to your face. However, with a clamshell laptop, you have to reach across the keyboard, which is awkward at best and injurious at worst.
“You are going to have to be doing a lot more reaching and a lot more movements of your wrist and your hand if you’re going to be typing and then doing the touch screen,” Cindy Burt, an ergonomics expert at UCLA, told Laptop Mag when we interviewed her for a previous article. She said that retail workers who have to extend their arms and poke at touch-screen point-of-sale systems all day — a gesture similar to touching a laptop screen — have developed shoulder problems.
If you’re buying a traditional laptop that does not transform into a tablet, you’re probably doing it because you want the good productivity experience that comes from having a sturdy hinge and a fully functional keyboard. So why reach your hands off of the home row or the touchpad and jab at the screen? Windows 8 has a few gestures — such as swiping in from the left Charms menu, or from the right to switch apps that seem to work better with touch — but all of those functions can be accomplished more quickly with keyboard shortcuts or track-pad swipes. Windows 10, which is a free upgrade, eliminates the Charms menu.

Poorer Viewing Angles

If you want your laptop to double as a mirror, get one with a touch screen. All touch screens are made from glossy material, which limits viewing angles and shows reflections. Just imagine trying to give a presentation or watch a movie with two people gathered around your notebook. You can see the images just fine because you’re looking at the display head-on, but your buddies, who are 45 degrees or more off-center, see washed-out pictures covered by their own faces.
Some systems promise an “anti-glare” surface, but some light still bounces off of them. Unfortunately, many nontouch consumer notebooks also have glossy screens. But if you want a matte display — the kind with the widest viewing angles and no reflections — you can’t have touch.

Bottom Line

When you can bend your 2-in-1 hybrid into a tablet, you need a touch screen. However, with a touch screen on a clamshell-only laptop, you pay more to get less — less battery life, less portability and less usability. Unfortunately, PC manufacturers keep making touch-screen laptops because they think piling on this extra but useless feature will help them sell units. Maybe, in the future, the difference in battery life, viewability and weight between touch and nontouch screens will be so small that no one will notice. However, today, when you see a laptop with a touch screen, make like the light and bounce off, and keep going in the other direction.

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