A touchscreen on your desktop: Three new displays

Getting Windows 8? You're going to want a touchscreen. We look at three of the latest monitors from Acer, Dell and ViewSonic.

Your next touchscreen may not be on a phone, tablet or laptop, but part of your desktop system. The latest touch displays work well with Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system, but can tilt or fold flat on a desktop to make swiping, tapping and forming complex finger gestures a lot more natural than with a vertical orientation.

"The current touch monitors add a new dimension to Windows 8," says Linn Huang, senior research analyst at IDC. "They make interaction second nature and put the software at your fingertips, literally."

In this roundup, I look at three of the newest touch monitors: the Acer T232HL bmidz, the Dell S2340T and the ViewSonic TD2220.

While all three displays deliver a sharp HD image and have active viewing areas of between 21.5 in. and 23 in., they also differ in a couple of significant ways.

Number of individual inputs. While older touchscreens could handle only one finger input at a time, the latest multitouch capacitive displays can work with up to 32 separate inputs, although most are limited to 10 at a time. This allows software designers to create complex applications that allow for a wider array of gestures and accept input from more than one user at a time.

Of the monitors covered in this roundup, the Acer and Dell can work with up to 10 separate inputs at a time, while the ViewSonic can only work with two fingers at a time.

Display mount. The way the display is mounted makes a big difference as well. While the ability to adjust the height and angle of a traditional monitor can make viewing more comfortable, it is de rigueur with a touchscreen.

That's because the display has to have two personalities: It has to stand upright for displaying vertically but be able to quickly and easily tilt to make writing, drawing or interacting with the software easier.

While the ViewSonic and Acer displays can tilt moderately, only the Dell can smoothly transform itself from a traditional vertical posture to being fully horizontal -- and all angles in between. It is also the only one of the three displays to offer the ability to move up and down. A marvel of mechanical design, the Dell is also, by far, the most expensive of the three.

Finally, keep in mind that cost is still a major stumbling block for touch-capable monitors. While notebooks with touchscreens generally carry a price premium of about $100 vs. non-touch models, the cost difference for monitors can be a two- to threefold increase. For instance, the touch-based Acer T232HL display lists for $549 while a similar no-touch display, the Acer S235HL, has a list price of $200.

"At the moment, touchscreens are an expensive niche," says IDC's Huang. "But that will change over time as they become more popular [and] the volume increases and touch becomes more of a consumer technology."

However, if you don't want to wait to take advantage of this new technology, one of these three monitors may be right for you.

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