Water-Resistant Touchpad Takes a Dripping and Keeps on Swiping

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Many of today's more durable laptops have spill-resistant keyboards that can survive having some liquid knocked onto them. But what about the touchpads, which are just as likely to get wet? An upcoming touchpad from Synaptics not only survives small amounts of water, but allows you to keep moving the pointer with wet fingers. 

At Synaptics' Computex demo suite, I had a chance to try a prototype of the new touchpad, which had been added to a Dell XPS 13. After I dropped some water from a syringe onto the pad, I put my fingers in the droplets and swiped to move my pointer around the Windows 10 desktop. I noticed no lag, delay or jumpiness, despite the fact that I was pressing through some fairly-dense gobs of water. 

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Synaptics points out that the new touchpad works as well with sweat as it does with water. While most people probably don't spill drinks on their touchpads on a regular basis, a lot of users in warm areas find their fingers drenched in sweat. If you're working outside on a humid day or you're in a room that has no air conditioning, this pad might mean the difference between having to wipe down your finger every 2 minutes and being able to stay productive.

A Synaptics rep explained that, though the surface of the pad resists water, it's up to manufacturers to make sure that the area around it is sealed against moisture. If a laptop vendor chooses not to do that, then a spill which seeps into the gap between the pad and the palmrest could cause damage to the underlying components.

The new touchpad also features a proximity sensor, which senses when your hand is above it and automatically turns on the keyboard's backlight. When I started moving my hand toward the home row to touch a key, the pad detected it and immediately illuminated the keys. Your hand doesn't have to actually brush against the touchpad as the sensor detects objects as far as 10 to 20mm above it. Imagine being in a room that's so dark you can't find the function key to turn on your keyboard backlight. With this new touchpad, you don't even have to worry about it.

Synaptics hasn't announced a release date for the new touchpad nor has it released the names of devices or partners that will use it in their products. However, we look forward to seeing this helpful new product appear on laptops in the near future.

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Avram Piltch
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.