5 Types Of Touch Screen Technology.
Which One Is Best For You?
Touch Screens have become very commonplace in our daily lives: cell phones, ATM’s, kiosks, ticket
vending machines and more all use touch panels to enable the user to interact with a computer or device
without the use of a keyboard or mouse. But did you know there are several uniquely different types of
Touch Screens? The five most common types are: 5-Wire Resistive, Surface Capacitive, Projected
Capacitive, SAW (Surface Acoustic Wave), and Infrared.
Below is a basic description of each technology, and the advantages/disadvantages of each to help you
decide which touch screen type is most appropriate for your needs:
5-Wire Resistive Touch is the most widely used touch technology today. A resistive touch screen monitor is
composed of a glass panel and a film screen, each covered with a thin metallic layer, separated by a narrow
gap. When a user touches the screen, the two metallic layers make contact, resulting in electrical flow. The
point of contact is detected by this change in voltage.
• Can be activated with virtually any object (finger, stylus, gloved hand, pen, etc.)
• Has tactile feel
• Lowest cost touch technology
• Low power consumption
• Resistant to surface contaminants and liquids (dust, oil, grease, moisture)! !
• Lower image clarity compared to other touch technologies
• Outer polyester film is vulnerable to damage from scratching, poking and sharp objects
Surface Capacitive are the second most popular type of touch screens on the market. In a surface
capacitive touch screen monitor, a transparent electrode layer is placed on top of a glass panel, and covered
by a protective cover. When an exposed finger touches the monitor screen, it reacts to the static electrical
capacity of the human body; some of the electrical charge transfers from the screen to the user. This
decrease in capacitance is detected by sensors located at the four corners of the screen, allowing the
controller to determine the touch point. Capacitive touch screens can only be activated by the touch of
human skin or a stylus holding an electrical charge.
• Better image clarity than Resistive Touch
• Durable screen
• Excellent resistance to surface contaminants and liquids (dust, oil, grease, water droplets)
• High scratch resistance! !
• Requires bare finger or capacitive stylus for activation
• Sensitivity to EMI/RFI
Projected Capacitive is similar to Surface Capacitive, but it offers two primary advantages: in addition to a
bare finger, it can also be activated with surgical gloves or thin cotton gloves; and it enables multi-touch
activation (simultaneous input from two fingers). A projected capacitive is composed of a sheet of glass with
embedded transparent electrode films and an IC chip, which creates a three dimensional electrostatic field.
When a finger comes into contact with the screen, the ratios of the electrical currents change and the
computer is able to detect the touch points.
• Excellent image clarity
• More resistant to scratching than Surface Capacitive
• Resistant to surface contaminants and liquids (dust, oil, grease, moisture)
• Multi-touch (two-touch)
• Sensitive to EMI/RFI
• Must be activated via exposed finger, or thin surgical or cotton gloves
SAW (Surface Acoustic Wave) touch screen monitors utilize a series of piezoelectric transducers and
receivers along the sides of the monitor’s glass plate to create an invisible grid of ultrasonic waves on the
surface. When the panel is touched, a portion of the wave is absorbed. This allows the receiving transducer
to locate the touch point and send this data to the computer. SAW monitors can be activated by a finger,
gloved hand, or soft-tip stylus. SAW monitors offer easy use and high visibility. ! !
• Excellent image clarity
• Even better scratch resistance than capacitive
• High “touch-life”
• Will not activate with hard items (pen, credit card, or fingernail)
• Water droplets may cause false-triggering
• Solid contaminants on the screen can create non-touch areas until they are removed
Infrared touch screen monitors do not overlay the display with an additional screen or screen sandwich.
Instead, infrared monitors use IR emitters and receivers to create an invisible grid of light beams across the
screen. This ensures the best possible image quality. When an object interrupts the invisible infrared light
beam, the sensors are able to locate the touch point.
• Highest image clarity and light transmission of all touch technologies
• Unlimited “touch-life”
• Impervious to surface scratches
• Accidental activation may occur because the infrared beams are actually above the glass
• Dust, oil, or grease buildup on screen or frame could impede light beam causing malfunction
• Sensitive to water, snow, rain
• May be sensitive to ambient light interference
• Higher cost