To touch or not to touch, that is the question. Yet another choice to be made in this Digital Age we live in when buying a new laptop computer. There are a number of technical decisions to be made such as processor speed, amount of memory, disk space, and even screen size. But on top of all that now you have options for touchscreen or non-touchscreen.

As with all these decision points, how you intend to use the computer and your technical savvy should be the decision drivers. It won’t matter how much you save on a bargain laptop, or that your machine has all the greatest possible specs, if it does not do what you want to do, the way you want to do it! But let’s focus on the touchscreen issue here.

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Operating System:

Which operating system will you use, and does it even support touchscreen interfacing? These days that is becoming less of an issue, and if you are purchasing a new laptop with the OS installed, you can be certain if it has a touchscreen, the OS version selected by the manufacturer is designed and configured to use the touchscreen. But if you are a “technology tinker” and plan to install your current favorite Linux, BeOS or Remix OS version, or are planning to use virtualization software, touchscreen may not be supported.


Not all applications support touchscreen interfaces yet, and some probably never will. There are usability issues to consider. For example, word processing and spreadsheet work are likely to stick close to the keyboard for a long time. If this is where you will spend your time, the touchscreen may be an additional feature that simply never gets used. If it is going to cost more to have it, and you are not going to use it, well you know what that’s all about!

Work area set-up:

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Do you tend to use your laptop as a stand-alone device, or at a desk with an external mouse and keyboard? Or do you go back and forth frequently? This is an issue since the touchscreen has to be within a comfortable arm’s reach from where you will be using the laptop. If you tend to be at a desk with the laptop docked in order to take advantage of a larger keyboard and monitor and a traditional mouse, then likely the screen will be at a “lean and reach” distance, making it less convenient and potentially a strain to use.


If you are comfortable with your technology and can move easily from mouse to touchscreen, then having a touchscreen will probably be great! Much of the user experience these days is moving toward the mobile format, which dictates scrolling screens and flipping pages or pictures, and other “gestures” such as pinching and spreading to zoom out and in.

This trend is going to continue wherever it makes sense, and even possibly some cases where it doesn’t. And just as the tablet benefits at times from having a keyboard, even a laptop used in traditional ways can benefit from having a touchscreen at times.

The bottom line, as with most technology issues, the answer is “it depends”. It depends primarily on you and your comfort level with new tech gear and your intended use for the device. All else being the same, the prevailing thought would be get the touchscreen unless you absolutely know you do not want or need one. Touchscreens will only become more useful as time marches on, and the sooner you master it the better.

Image: By Intel Free Press [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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