Resistive vs. Capacitive touchscreen, what’s the big deal?


I’ve been to quite a handful of tech events already and when it comes to touch-based devices, I still can’t figure out the big deal between resistive and capacitive touchscreens. Until I did some light research.

From tablet PC’s, to the iPhone and other touchscreen phones to gaming devices such as the Nintendo DS, there are only two types of touchscreen as of now: resistive and capacitive. Ok so?

You might see a device’s specification that it has capacitive touchscreen but what does it really mean? Is it better than the other type? Which type should you aim for?

Well both types have their own uses but first let’s look at the technology behind those two, how they are made. Let’s go wiki:
  • Resistive. A resistive touchscreen panel is composed of several layers, the most important of which are two thin, metallic, electrically conductive layers separated by a narrow gap. When an object, such as a finger, presses down on a point on the panel’s outer surface the two metallic layers become connected at that point. This causes a change in the electrical current which is registered as a touch event and sent to the controller for processing.
  • Capacitive. A capacitive touchscreen panel consists of an insulator such as glass and coated with a transparent conductor. As the human body is also a conductor, touching the surface of the screen results in a distortion of the body’s electrostatic field, measurable as a change in capacitance.
Boring. Now that’s out of the way, let’s look at the key differences between the two:
  • Capacitive is the newer technology and more expensive to manufacture.
  • Too much layers on a resistive panel reflects ambient light so display is poorer against sunlight compared to capacitive.
  • Capacitive uses your electron-rich finger as contact. Gloved fingers or inanimate objects doesn’t work.
  • Resistive panels only require pressure. You can use your fingers, stylus or even your fingernail.
  • Multi-touch won’t work with resistive touchscreen as opposed to capacitive.
So now you know which devices uses a capacitive and a resistive touchscreen. I hope you would also learn that there’s no clear winner here. Each technology has its own use. It is also clear that it is a major disadvantage for capacitive touchscreen-based devices to sell well in cold countries.


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Raymond said...

You have a great idea about resistive and capacitive touchscreens, these 2 technologies have key differences. Thanks for sharing your research about this. I agree in your explanations, that the capacitive touchscreen is the newer technology and more expensive to manufacture nowadays. It uses electron-rich finger as contact to work the touch screen. The gloved fingers or an inanimate object does not work in the screen. The multi-touch won’t work in resistive touchscreen as opposed to capacitive. The resistive panel has too much layer with poorer display against sunlight than the capacitive. We can use our fingers, stylus pen or even our fingernail to work the resistive panels that require only pressure. In the 2 technologies there are different uses and functions. We also consider the disadvantages and advantages of the capacitive and resistive touchscreen technology for the needs of the device and the users. I like to read your blog, you have explained it well.

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