The world of mobile computing is constantly in flux, with the development of new technologies and user interface possibilities. One of the biggest shifts in the last couple of years has been towards touch screen technology. While mostly visible on smartphones and tablets, we take a look at some of the laptops that are designed with full touch screen control.
There are more fully featured laptops being designed with touch screen control all the time, even though the mouse and keyboard remain the interface of choice for most people. However, touch enabled laptops are still rare, and there are a number of reasons why people have been slow to accept them into their laptop lives.
Some of these issues include the additional expense involved in producing touch screen devices, the compromises that are often made to the appearance of screens and display resolution, and the difficulty in changing the way people think about laptop use.
It is interesting to note that while touch screens are more popular than ever before, it has taken the development of entirely different mobile computing forms like the smartphone and the tablet for people to embrace this technology. One of the main reasons why smartphones and tablets have become so popular is because of how they can be used, which offer people a new way to interact with technology and software.
Despite the fact that they are underpowered and come with small screens, people love the ‘hands on’ feel of smartphones and tablets, a fact that is easy to see when you look at the sales figures of the iPad in 2010. However, not everyone is happy to purchase a separate touch screen device, especially when you have to make so many compromises in terms of power and connectivity.
Luckily, even though they are still quite rare, there are more manufacturers making dedicated touch screen laptops all the time, and incorporating touch screen technology into existing laptop designs. GWL take a look at some of the best options available right now in 2010, to prove that you can have your laptop and touch it too.
Toshiba Satellite M505-S4020
This offering by Toshiba is a standard 14.1 inch laptop design, with the addition of a customised touch screen panel. Toshiba are good at designing well balanced laptop configurations, and the Satellite M505 is a solid computer even without the touch screen. However, when you include the touch screen it is almost like a new computer, with gestures for scroll, drag and drop, rotate, and pinch – making navigation and zooming easier and more fun than ever before.
The Toshiba Satellite is not the most powerful laptop in the world, with an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB or RAM, and Intel Graphics Media Accelerator, but this is not such a bad thing if you want to get your hands on a touch screen laptop at an affordable price. If you are looking for a sub-$1000 machine with full touch capabilities and a solid all round spec sheet, the Toshiba Satellite M505-S4020 starts from around $850.
Lenovo Thinkpad T410s
This is a laptop designed and marketed more toward the business end of the market, with an understated business-like design and a durable magnesium case. There is even the inclusion of a solid state 128GB hard drive, to protect all that important corporate data if your new laptop should ever come crashing to the floor. Other business features include a fingerprint reader, TPM, and the inclusion of Windows 7 Professional.
Along with these features and a powerful Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost Technology, there is the inclusion of a rather lovely touch screen panel. With multi-touch gesture support, zooming, and scrolling abilities, this touch screen is easy to use and fun as well. However, this machine does not come cheap, especially when you add the solid state drive and a few other additional features. The Lenovo Thinkpad T410s sells for $1599 with the touch screen and the SSD, and as a solid business solution it is worth every cent.
Dell Studio 17 – with multi-touch
While mostly known for their budget laptop range, Dell have always produced more high-end and innovative designs as well. They are well known for their design of touch screen PCs and tablet laptops, technology that they have used in the design of the Studio 17 laptop. This is a regular Studio 17 laptop with the addition of a touch screen control, so the specs are the same as any non-touch version.
There is a 17 inch laptop with an Intel Core i3 processor, 3GB of RAM, and a 250GB hard drive. While the bigger screen will not be ideal for everyone, it does provide more screen real estate when using the multi-touch panel. The Dell Studio 17 is very reasonably priced starting from only $849, so it is a good budget choice for people who don’t need a fully powered laptop.
Armada Touch MT20X
This is a fully powered touch capable laptop with a very impressive spec sheet and a price tag to match. However, if compromise is simply not an option, this is a great choice. The MT20X comes with an Intel Core i7 quad-core processor, Mobility Radeon HD 5650 1GB graphics, and 4GB of DDR3 RAM. As far as the screen goes, it is a 15.6 inch design with full 1920 x 1080 HD resolution and capacitive multi-touch capabilities.
While all of those specs probably have your mouth watering by now, there is a downside to having a machine this powerful. Apart from the high price of $1400, there are also the issues of weight and portability. While its 15.6 inch screen mean that it is not the biggest laptop around, it does have a weight of almost 6 pounds. However, for gamers who spend a lot of time on the move and want to have access to a multi-touch display, the Armada Touch MT20X is a great choice.
Lenovo ThinkPad X201
This is a very desirable – and very fast – machine with a 12.1 inch screen, Intel Core i7 processor, matte black design, and touchscreen that rotates into tablet mode. You can use both Windows touch functionality and the Lenovo SimpleTap interface, with an elegant usability that is fantastic in both a business and personal computing setting.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X201 also features great viewing angles and a responsive keyboard build. One thing that lets it down a little is the short wrist rest area, which makes extensive use uncomfortable for people with large hands. Battery life is also less than average at a little over 5 hours, although it is certainly not bad enough to be a deal breaker. While the thinkPad X201 starts from $1549 for the basic version, we are interested in the touchscreen version which comes in closer to the $2000 mark.
HP TouchSmart TM2
The HP TouchSmart TM2 features a lovely form that also rotates into tablet mode. The ability to work in tablet mode or laptop mode gives this computer a much more flexible approach, although there are some compromises you have to make. Unlike most of the other laptops on this list, the TouchSmart TM2 has a smaller 12.1 inch screen, no optical drive, and a less powerful Intel Core 2 Duo processor. However, you do get switchable ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4550 graphics and impressive battery life.
The TouchSmart TM2 manages to straddle the middle ground between a laptop and a tablet quite successfully, although with the small screen but still quite heavy build, you are often aware that this is a compromise. However, if you are looking for a tablet that runs on Windows 7 and has a full QWERTY keyboard – and you have a spare $1800 – the HP TouchSmart TM2 may be ideal for you.