Ask Mr. Modem: Computer user wants to have the right touch with Windows 8

Posted Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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I am planning to purchase a new computer that has Windows 8. I know Windows 8 can be used with a regular mouse and keyboard, but since it was designed for use with a touch screen, I’d like to get one. The problem is, I have no idea what to look for. Can you give me a few pointers? Thanks, Mr. M.

If you have a smartphone, iPad or other tablet, you know how convenient touch-screen gestures are when you tap, swipe and flick the various screens. Windows 8 enables you to use oodles (it’s a technical term) of hand gestures (be nice!), many of them involving 10-point multi-touch interaction, which is a fancy-shmancy way of saying that the display will recognize input from all 10 fingers — well, eight for Uncle Rudy due to an unfortunate fireworks incident back in ’64.

Many touch-screen monitors (also called multi-touch) are available, but you want to be sure whatever you purchase is Windows 8 Certified. Microsoft’s certification requirements for Windows 8 devices are quite rigorous. To be Windows 8 Certified, a monitor must be able to react to five simultaneous touch points, though the best choice for current-generation displays is 10-point. These sensors are pricey, which contributes to the fairly high price of these monitors. Microsoft also established stringent guidelines governing how displays should integrate side bezels (screen “frame” borders). Various Windows 8 gestures involve swiping inward from the edge of a bezel, which requires a new approach to display design.

Because large, desktop-size touch-screen monitors are fairly new, they are a bit pricier than regular flat-screen monitors, running in the $500 range for a 23-incher. Prices are continuing to fall, however, so if history repeats itself, it probably won’t be long before touch-screen monitors will come with a set of festive juice glasses.

You can work around awkward monitor stands and poorly located cable connectors, but if you will be staring at your screen for hours every day — or four hours every day, for that matter — and you want to avoid excruciating eyestrain, splitting headaches and dreaded RES (Restless Eyeball Syndrome), don’t skimp when it comes to monitor resolution.

You typically won’t find touch-screen desktop displays with resolutions higher than 1920 x 1080 (also known as “full HD”), but display quality is generally excellent at that resolution on most touch displays. The current generation of touch screens, though expensive, generally use high-quality components and most displays utilize IPS (In-Plane Switching) technology, which offers a wide range of viewing angles, plus excellent color separation.

A number of subscribers have asked about Windows 8 support for multiple touch-screen monitors. Realistically, you probably won’t need two or three touch displays, because most of your touch opportunities (TouchTunts?) will occur on a single screen within Windows 8 apps and the Win 8 Start screen, not on secondary or tertiary (Big Word of the Day) screens.

If you have already invested in a high-quality monitor for your current PC, you can take advantage of the Windows 8 touch interface in other ways. Microsoft and Logitech offer a line of multi-touch-enabled mice, for example. And perhaps even more useful is Logitech’s T650 wireless, 5-inch touchpad (approximately $50), which fully supports Windows 8 gestures.

Mr. Modem publishes “Ask Mr. Modem!” each week, featuring PC tips, tricks and plain-English answers to your questions by email. For more information, visit

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