Why You Shouldn't Buy a Touch-Screen Laptop

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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 $75 more for a ThinkPad T460s with a touch screen than the same model without a touch screen, and Dell puts a $350 premium on its XPS 13 with touch, though it also bumps the resolution up from 1080p to 3200 x 1800. 

XPS 13 pricing

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 a robocall saying you've won a free cruise.

Worse Battery Life

Regardless of whether you use it, the touch digitizer is on all the time and thus sucks up significantly more power, resulting in a battery life delta of 15 to 25 percent. For example, on two otherwise-identically-configured ThinkPad T460 laptops we tested the non-touch model lasted for an impressive 17  hours and 4 minutes while the touch version died after 13 hours and 12 minutes, a 22 percent difference. 

If you choose a laptop with touch, prepare to literally carry the burden of your mistake with you wherever you go.

On an HP EliteBook Folio G1 we tested, the nontouch version lasted a mediocre 7 hours and 22 minutes while the touch version crapped out after an awful 4 hours and 35 minutes, a 35-percent difference. To be fair, the touch Folio also has a higher, 4K resolution, which sucks more power than the full-HD nontouch version. We tested all of these notebooks, using our standard Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi.

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.

Battery Life Chart

 

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 usually pumps up its weight by 0.2 to 0.4 pounds. For example, the EliteBook Folio G1 without touch is just 2.14 pounds, but the touch-screen version tips the scale at 2.26 pounds. The difference between the touch and nontouch Dell XPS 13 is also a quite-noticeable 0.2 pounds (2.7 versus 2.9 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 want your laptop to double as a mirror, get one with a touch screen.

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? A powerful touchpad actually has more helpful gestures than a touch screen, offering helpful movements such as three-finger swipe, two finger rotation and more. Navigating Windows 10's desktop with a touchpad is just as easy and rewarding as with a touch screen. 

MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life

Poorer Viewing Angles

If you want your laptop to double as a mirror, get one with a touch screen. Most 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.

We've seen a few business laptops with non-reflective touch screens -- Lenovo's ThinkPad T460s and T460 stand out -- but most systems, even those that claim to have anti-glare panels, are extremely glossy.

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, there's still a huge difference.

Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
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53 comments
  • Bobby Says:

    Great article. Touchscreens on laptops are completely useless and will always be a gimmick. Some of the posters below need to justify their purchase by convincing themselves that reaching your arm out to touch the screen to point a cursor is as useful and accurate as using the trackpad which is conventionally right below the keyboard.

    You want the same smooth experience of a touchscreen without leaving smears all over the screen or obstructing what you are trying to point to? Get a Macbook or Dell XPS with their excellent trackpads which are far more accurate and less cumbersome to use than any touch screen will ever be.

  • John Scott Says:

    I bought my Wife a HP laptop with touchscreen and wished I had not. Much heavier, she never uses the touchscreen and if you mistakenly touch the screen you may get unwanted responses. I eventually disabled the touch screen in control panel.
    2 in 1's are not much better. Had one sent it back, in tablet mode it works fine but they are too bulky and heavy. Maybe a Surface device would be fine, or an 11" 2 in 1. But anything bigger in a notebook and skip the touch screen.

  • Edwin Says:

    I checked specs and on all of battery examples, whenever a laptop had touch they also had a display with higher resolution and thus higher graphics card usage. Touch probably consumes extra power but far less than the author believes.

    And yes, it costs more to have this feature but humans are used to physically touching objects. It makes some things more intuitive to use (e.g. pinch and zoom, rotating, sliding). The Star Trek Enterprise was controlled by touch, the Apollo 11 with knobs and dials. Which one could one use without much training? Isn't that a good value?

    Finally, the claim of injury is bogus. People get hurt from using the keyboard and clicking on mice too much. I have not heard of people getting injured from using cell phone touch screens for long times. Cashiers are constantly moving heavy objects and typing on keypads. They might have touchscreens but most the time they rather type vegetable codes directly which they have already memorized.

    So all of the points against touch were invalid!

  • Gerhard Says:

    Interesting article. It all depends on how you value the touch screen feature. I don't agree that a touchscreen on a 13" notebook is awkward to reach. Using the touchscreen instead of the touchpad gives my wrists a well deserved rest. It is also often more practical to just touch links or close windows by touch than navigating the cursor.

  • Kenny Says:

    Lol what a BS article. Can't reach the keyboard, really? There are some detachable convertible laptops out there in the market, if you don't like the idea.
    Power drainage? Disable touch in device manager and you're solved. But I found touch to be useful at times.
    Sounds like you spoken for everyone.

  • Paul Riley Says:

    Lenovo YogA 500 14" AMD quad core 8gb ram 1tb hd Built in Dedicated graphics with 1 gb dedicated memory rETAIL £400, Cheapest 14" laptop over £600.
    Found the touchscreen very useful for browsing & social media. Though it will spend most of its life as a laptop.

  • Ron Abate Says:

    As a previous time & motion analyst, I believe that a mouse and keyboard are the best combination for efficient computer use.

  • Efjay Says:

    Codswallop. I've had a couple of touchscreen laptops now, most have detachable screens and become great tablets.

  • Iokepa Says:

    whats this non-sense about "reaching" across the keyboard? this guy is really grasping at straws on this one. I have to say, when i first got mine, i thought it was just a gimmick. over the past 3 years however, I have since come to use it for all kinds of things and now know that i could never go back. ive even caught my self accidently trying to use touch features on my non-touch desktop (and one day, when i can afford it, i certainly intend to make that touch as well). its so intuitive and easy to use. its not perfect, and the mouse definitely still see's extensive use. but if anything, the only valid argument for not getting a touch screen laptop, is that you could get a 2-in-1 instead. infact, im moving forward in buying myself a 2-in-1 since i often find myself in situations where im just holding my little 11" laptop with one hand while navigating using the touchscreen with the other, in situations without a table top, or when im just standing. im also upgrading to a 13" since ive found the 11" to be a bit small for my needs, but i still want it to be as portable and easy to bring out as my 11". the 11" also isnt powerful enough for what i need at this point in my engineering degree. just gonna finish up by saying, everyone i know who has gotten a touch screen laptop has agreed that once you go touch, you never go back.

  • pogo support Says:

    its a great news dude! thnx for this appreciation.

  • Simon Says:

    My son just came across this article and cited it is a reason not to get a touch screen laptop. The article has a basic flaw and even mentions it. There was no like for like test at all. One screen is full HD the other 4k. Higher resolution screens generally use more power as the article mentions. How can the writer assume that a significant proportion of the power draw is due to the touch aspect?

  • Connor Paterson Says:

    It is the resolution of the screen using all of the battery power! NOT THE TOUCH SCREEN! When you turned off the touch screen and you got slightly more use out of it, that was how much power the touch screen uses. The rest of it is the higher resolution.

  • Taryn Says:

    I've read your article about why not to buy a touch screen laptop. What do you suggest for my son's college computer for being able to draw on the screen it self. Desktop? He's doing an art major.

  • Thomas Says:

    Really? Those are you're reasons for not purchasing a touch screen laptop? Doesn't sound all that serious. As an artist, I prefer a touch screen for digital painting and drawing and it would be easier than dragging a Cintiq around.

  • Jennie Kelley Says:

    This article stinks. Ever go from a touch screen to a non touch? Looks like our friend here is a bit biased but the price difference isn't much anymore and this is misleading.

  • Brian Hartman Says:

    I have an Asus Q503ua touchscreen laptop I got about two weeks ago. I don't have any problems with it so far.

    Mylaptop's a bit too large to be used comfortably as a tablet, but it does have that functionality.

    I don't agree that the touchscreen is useless. If you have good touch gestures built into the OS, it can be a benefit. I like the swipe left/swipe right features in Windows 10. Swiping in from the left is a bit more convenient than clicking on the task view icon.

  • Mick55 Says:

    Stop talking prices and remember one thing ... functionality. Some things are intuitive and others aren't. Of course you don't use a touchscreen keyboard to write a document when a proper keyboard is closer. Also, you don't mess around with an over-sensitive touchpad when navigating websites if you can simply touch/point to what you want.
    That's my point.. think like an engineer not a critic.

  • David Says:

    Touchscreen computers are great. This is hurriedly written clickbait.

  • Kyle O Says:

    There are some BS comparisons and reasons here. Yes there are functions of the touch screens that might slightly affect certain aspects of use, such as battery (which the quad hd screen is the main reason the battery did not last), but about every other reason like viewing angles can be fixed with ips screens or laptops that are flexible. Yes it will cost more or weigh a bit more but that is a price for the feature; it is not necessarily a reason that touch screen laptops are inherently inferior to other laptops.

  • Shewa Says:

    I have an I pad with a key board but n USB so I feel I need a lap top n I'm new at this.
    What will be best to buy ?
    Limited money can u direct me to a good deal

  • Hans Thoma Says:

    An author of a laptop industry publication insulting a significant percentage of the products in that industry. That's really intelligent.

  • Aristarkhos Says:

    One big issue I have just learned about with regard to touchscreen laptops is the cost of replacement. To the tune of 15,000 Indian rupees (223usd). That's way too much. People are willing to spend up to 4-5k but not 15k.
    I want to know if it is possible to replace a touchscreen with a non-touchscreen. It sounds stupid but if I am to minimise losses then I would consider this.
    However, tech support says it cannot be done due to compatibility issues. Is this true? Are they referring to physical incompatibilities?

  • Teresa Says:

    I bought my touchscreen Acer in 2014, I love it, I have bought 2 other laptops since (oen for hubby and one for when grandkids come) and everyone wants the touchscreen, I have not had any of the problems you talk about and movie viewing with 2 people on a laptop is absurd, we plug into the big screen tv and go to Netflix!

  • resident seditent Says:

    The article waits too long to admit the issue is only with clamshell touchscreens.
    There's NO reason to avoid touchscreens any more than is true for all devices -- don't buy poorly designed devices.
    Thee gist of it is: touchscreen is great, so buy a good one.
    Personally, if the device has pinch-zoom and touch in a 4K display with zero parallax and with desktop graphics and cpu performance, why stick with keyboard and mouse?

  • Giuseppe Adamo Says:

    Dovrebbero costruire un computer 2 in 1 per usare anche come tablet con processore i7 di sesta generazione, grafica 3800x2800, con GPS e antenna per navigazione off line (tachimetri off line) in comunicazione con i satelliti, con memoria video di almeno tre GB e Ram da 10 o 14 GB, con magnetometro, giroscopio, bussola come gli iPad di quarta generazione Apple e con scheda Sim card. Insomma, completi in ogni parte e con software specifici.
    Ogni casa fabbrica computer , tablet e oggi 2 in 1 sempre che gli manca qualcosa.

  • Ainah says Says:

    Wow! Interesting, never had a clue. For me it jst seemed cool nd easy using a touch screen laptop. Bt all d same d article makes sense to sm level.

  • Carrie O'Connell Says:

    I agree with David Rosen. I really prefer the touchscreen in place of scrolling and moving the cursor. Just point at the spot and there you are! On a small laptop it is not cumbersome at all to go beck and forth between the keyboard and screen. It becomes easy and automatic as all technology does through practice. Lastly, I like being able to easily and automatically enlarge the screen for my ever-worsening eyes. To me, the touchscreen is very convenient.

  • Gavin Says:

    I have a touchscreen laptop. sony vaio 13". it is very thin and light and 9hr battery???
    touch is very handy for google maps, web browsing and many other tasks.

  • Alex Alex Says:

    It cannot be disputed that touch screens are one of the worst market ideas for the past several years. The author highlighted some of the minor problems that people have to face when resorting to pushing and obstructing small icons with their bulky fingertips, besmirching the glossy screens. Mouse and keyboard are far superior to using two fingers out of ten, and those who still buy tablets or praise smartphones without the physical keypad are absolutely limiting themselves. I remember using touch-screen technology in 1985, and it was novel, yet weird. Then, '90s came; but the consumer was still gifted with reason. Nowadays, masses buy useless junk with that abysmal touch-screen iThumb ADHD technology.

  • Julie Says:

    Before using a touch screen, I believe it is useless. My husband bought I and it turns to be great!
    When we are reading the laptop at the same time, maybe he is using the mouse while I am using the touch screen, rather than saying, "hey, no, the one on the top right corner".

    And after a few use, when I came back to other PC/laptop/MacBook, I think I will really appreciate if they have the touch screen. I always touch the screen but find it does not response.

  • Yo Mama Says:

    Tablets weigh less than normal laptops.
    some even have better battery life.
    performance can equal to a normal laptop.
    If this was made in 2010, maybe its fair but in May 2015, touch screen laptops have gotten far better.

  • Jurijs Says:

    Very subjective article. I rarely use touch screen on my laptop, but when I do I really grateful that I have this possibility.

  • Mohit Ebenezer Says:

    While I may agree on the lack of good batter life, I don't quite acknowledge on the viewing angle and thicker, heavier PC.

    I'm using a Dell Precision 3800, and it's incredibly slim, light weight (for its size), and has a fabulous display, from all angles.

    That said, I almost never use the touch screen.

  • TheLastOtaku Says:

    Touchscreen? sounds like a trackpad on my macbook pro to me.

  • nick cha Says:

    cheap touchscreen laptops have poor displays. my surface pro 1 has excellent display, viewable in daylight.
    in bed lying down, I put it beside me without the keyboard, and use the touchscreen to do stuff. I wouldn't want to have to use the keyboard or mouse just to type something or click.

    playing pinball game, is it fun with keyboard ? or is it better being able to use the surface as a tablet?

    I will always go for hybrid touchscreen laptops now for the flexibility and convenience.

  • Merijn van Wouden Says:

    Although they are great for developers. I found out how useful my touch screen is when I developed a phone/tablet app and being able to test them on my computer with touch saved me so much time

  • Developer Says:

    How you paint everything oh-so subjectively black and white makes you look really dense and narrow-minded.

    I am a web developer who happens to own a touch-screen laptop and let me tell you, it has saved me from opening a website on a phone time and again to test touch-capacitive features of the UI. Please try to understand that not all people have the same workflows or preferences in what hardware they use.

  • David Rosen Says:

    Can't say that I agree. Touch screen systems will inevitably replace some keyboard functions. There is a natural division of labor between the keyboard and the screen. The keyboard is obviously suited to entering text and numbers and to keyboard shortcuts. Position on the screen, on the other hand, is clearly better suited to touch screen for a number of functions and to touchpad for others. Two-handed multi-finger gestures on both screen and touchpad will become indispensable.

  • tourofrooms Says:

    Such a subjective review with very personal opinions. I find the use of touch screen and immense improvement for the type of workload me and several others I know do on a a large 17.3 inch laptop and I am not living with a mistake. I understand how different people could have different preferences, but if it's my personal opinion that a touch screen is better for me, I would never push my opinion at others and predestine them to be foolish for even considering a non touch screen but that seems to be the motive of this article. That is some of the most subjective thinking I've ever seen and packaged in a way that almost pushes the uneducated to trust someone who is obviously a very biased person. That's not even fair to be presumptuous and assume others should think the same way. I say let everyone think for themselves. Not everyone cares about portability, battery life, and ther details like some people. Maybe there is a following for the opinions stated here but please try to be more open to those of us who feel completely opposite for our own reasons that you may not be aware of.

  • Grant Says:

    Futurama is on the TV right next to me as I'm reading this. Zoydberg just entered the room exclaiming that a king from Nigeria had just passed away and he was the next of kin, he just needed his credit card. This just after reading Sam Olukoya's comment. You probably would have laughed at it on the show...

  • Ray Oro Says:

    I used to believe what the author states but after using one for awhile a whole new bunch of ways of working incorporating touch into the routine makes it more intuitive and efficient. Can't go back to non touch and so far my should is fine. When on nontouch catch myself reaching over to perform a task and lament that I cant. The new takes a while but for me it works.

  • mspence Says:

    I like to write and I just prefer a keyboard. A touchscreen seems designed mostly for apps and mobile devices where it is more useful IMO.

  • parrotcam Says:

    there's a small benefit to touchscreens though. I find a lot of touchscreen IPS displays tend to be higher quality, displaying brighter, more vivid colors and sharper images. Yes, it's more reflective and does cost more. But, the displays are better visual quality than the usual non-touch ones.

    With the non-touch displays, they tend to look washed out, fuzzy, grainy and just generally don't display images, text as great. I'm being very non-technical but that's just because I am speaking in as a general non-techical user.

  • sam olukoya Says:

    As a Nigerian I take serious exception to your highly insultive remarks about Nigerians. Hard to imagine that in this modern age there are people who still find it convenient to make such offensive remarks

  • Rainmaker Says:

    touchscreen makes some actions on laptop screen easy, like very easy and faster than any other option. So, thank you but personaly i believe that touchscreen is laptop future.

  • Elias Says:

    Successfully avoided a touchscreen option when I was buying a laptop for myself; it is that boss feeling when you want to show something exact and small on a screen to your partner and simply reach out with the finger - just as if it was a newspaper. That's enough of touchscreen on my phone already.

    "Windows 10, , eliminates the Charms menu."
    That's it. You got me with just these six words. Thank you.

  • Illuminatus66 Says:

    Well OK.

    I completely suppressed the craptastic Metro UI on Windows 8.1 on my Thinkpad Yoga 14. Added the menu bar back into the mix as well

    I do like to touch the screen from time to time. It can be handy for some things, especially if I'm watching movies or something in tent or stand mode. An increasing number of hybrid laptops have this alternate modes.

    Totally dig my laptop. Like touching it too.

  • Jim Says:

    SO TRUE! I can't even read a newspaper without smudging the print. Why would I want a bunch of skin oils blurring my screen? For the same reason I don't own a tablet, or smart phone. People are not all alike, and I wish the companies pushing this technology on us, would realize that.

    Are you listening Microsoft?

  • Phillip Tracy Says:

    I respectfully disagree. Not with the points you made, they are all quiet valid. Except the shoulder problems, that seem ridiculous. I played baseball through high school and never had shoulder problems. Anyway, the truth is that Windows 8 is not ideal without a touchscreen. I use the touchscreen 9 out of 10 times to open up the search feature on the right side panel. There are also times when it is useful to use the onscreen keyboard, or simply when your trackpad is giving you trouble.

    Yeah, you lose precious battery life. The laptop will be marginally (not that big of a deal) heavier, and the glossy touchscreen material is rather reflective, but until Windows make another OS that is fluid with a mouse, the touchscreen is a really nice addition. Plus, there are still thin, light laptops with great battery life that have a touchscreen.

  • Michael L. Says:

    i personally don't like touch screens on Laptops! That's why I opted for a MacBook Pro when it came time for me to purchase my Laptop! That and the quality of build and the performance of the trackpad makes a touch screen unnecessary!

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