Q&A – Capacitive vs resistive touchscreens – what’s the difference?
With the arrival of smartphones and tablets, touchscreens have all of a sudden become big business. However, it doesn’t normally register highly on those who are buying a device for the first time, when it probably should.
The difference between capacitive and resistive touchscreen in practice comes down to the pressure you need to apply to activate a command or icon you want to launch.
Capacitive touchscreens require far less pressure and are designed to be operated by just touching the screen with little pressure. Resistive screens require more pressure and are typically operated via a stylus.
Resistive screens are cheaper to make than capacitive models, which is why you’ll see most cheap tablet devices under $500 in Australia will far more likely have resistive rather than capacitive screens.
However, over time as demand for capacitive touchscreens grows, prices for larger, higher-resolution options should reduce, making them a more affordable option for manufacturers in budget devices.
That’s the simple answer.
Now for the more technical one.
Capacitive touchscreens use a layer of electrical charge-holding material. Placing your finger on it changes that charge and the device monitors that change. By locating the point you’ve touched, the device can work out what you want it to do. Resistive screens rely on pressure to change the electrical resistance between two thin layers of material. Again, the device can measure the point you pressed and work out what to do. The bottom line is that the resistive touchscreen element requires pressure to change the resistance whereas the capacitive touchscreen only needs a change in electrical charge, which is something that can be achieved by simply touching this screen type.
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