Capacitive vs Resistive Touch

Capacitive vs Resistive Touch

Touchscreen displays have become a standard piece of technology in our daily lives. Many  LCD and OLED applications now include touchscreen technology to improve functionality or enhance user experience.

However, there is not a universal touchscreen for every application. You'll need to decide which touchscreen is suitable for your project. Like deciding between OLED and LCD, choosing the right touch screen will depend on your application's requirements.

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Capacitive Touchscreen Displays

A capacitive touchscreen panel is made of an insulator, usually glass, that is coated with a transparent conductor.  Capacitive touchscreen displays respond to conductive inputs like a fingertip and don't require pressure to activate a "touch event."

Capacitive touch panels are the more modern and advanced touchscreen option because of their advanced capabilities. They are commonly found in consumer products like smartphones, tablets, appliances, and monitors.

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How do capacitive touchscreens work?

A capacitive touchscreen detects and responds to changes in capacitance caused by the screen's electrostatic field when the screen's surface is touched.

Capacitive touchscreen diagram
Capacitive touchscreen diagram

Capacitive Touchscreen Advantages

Capacitive touchscreen displays allow for touch gestures and respond to multi-touch inputs. You’ll typically be able to enter one to five touch inputs simultaneously, but some capacitive touchscreens can process even more.

Capacitive touchscreens deliver brighter, higher contrast images due to the makeup of their panels. Displays with capacitive touch screens are more durable than resistive touch screens because they are designed with cover glass on their top layer. In fact, all of our capacitive TFT displays have standard 0.7mm thick built-in cover glass and can be further customized for extra durability.

Related: LCD Cover Glass Impact Test

Capacitive Touchscreen Disadvantages

The cost of a capacitive touchscreen is slightly higher than a resistive touchscreen panel due to more complicated manufacturing processes.

While the cost is currently higher than resistive touchscreens, capacitive touchscreens are quickly becoming the industry standard in touchscreen technology.

The enhanced responsiveness can be a downside depending on how and where the display is used. For example, a capacitive touchscreen would not easily respond to the user while wearing certain types of gloves. Although capacitive touchscreens don’t respond to inorganic inputs, they can still be accidentally activated by other conductive elements. One of the the most common elements that causes interruptions is water.

Rain, humidity, and condensation on the surface of capacitive touchscreens will often cause accidental inputs and reduced accuracy until the water is removed. This is one of the main reasons why a resistive touchscreen would be chosen over a capacitive touchscreen in certain situations.

Related: LCD Screen Types

When to Choose a Capacitive Touchscreen

Any device that utilizes touch gestures like swiping, pinching, or multi-touch will require a capacitive touchscreen. These features often help make capacitive touchscreen displays more intuitive and user-friendly than resistive touchscreens. Capacitive touchscreens are best suited for applications requiring improved touch responsiveness with better image brightness and contrast.


Resistive Touchscreen Displays

Resistive touchscreen panels sense pressure on the display's top layer and send a signal to the circuit layer to activate the touchscreen functionality. Because they use pressure to activate the touch inputs, resistive touchscreen displays can be used with a stylus, gloves, and other items. Resistive touchscreens are built without cover glass and made of plastic, making them more susceptible to dents and scratches.

Resistive touch panels were the original touchscreen to enter the market and are still widely used.

How do resistive touchscreens work?

Resistive touchscreens are made of two resistive coating layers with a gap or space layer between them. A "touch event" occurs when these two layers make contact with each other (closing the circuit) by the user's action of pressing into the soft, semi-flexible top layer. Each layer consists of horizontal and vertical lines (x,y matrix) that detects the exact location of the touch.

The gap or space layer typically consists of air or inert gas and some spacers whose only purpose is to separate the soft top layer from the bottom layer.

Resistive touchscreen diagram
Resistive touchscreen diagram

Resistive Touchscreen Advantages

Resistive touchscreens are often seen as the less advanced variety of touch panel compared to capacitive touch panels. However, being able to interact with non-organic inputs keeps these touchscreens relevant in specific industries.

Resistive touchscreen displays are less sensitive than capacitive touchscreen displays. This is considered an advantage in some cases and is why they’re chosen for specific applications. Resistive touchscreens will not respond to accidental inputs from the environment, so they won’t be interrupted by things like water spills or lightweight debris landing on the screen.

This type of touchscreen requires more intentional inputs from the user, making them more reliable in rugged and unstable environments. For example, a resistive touchscreen is the perfect solution on a construction site where water or debris might land on the screen. They’re also the best touchscreen display option for situations where the user is wearing gloves.

Resistive Touchscreen Disadvantages

Resistive touchscreen panels are unfortunately more susceptible to dents and scratches. Their poor visibility in direct sunlight does not make them ideal for outdoor applications. Their inability to respond to multi-touch inputs can be a disadvantage in fast-paced applications requiring such. Because resistive touchscreens rely on the pressure applied to the top layer, they tend to be abused and mishandled, which makes them less durable over time than capacitive touchscreens.

Related: How to Clean an Electronic Display

When to Choose a Resistive Touchscreen

Resistive touchscreen technology is ideal for low-cost applications involving rugged environments, indirect sunlight, and simple touch features. Fewer accidental touch inputs, better resistance to heat and moisture, and the ability to be operated with pretty much anything (stylus, pen, gloves, fingers, etc.) make this touchscreen technology a more reliable solution when user input is crucial.


Capacitive vs Resistive Comparison Table

  Capacitive Resistive
Activation type Light touch (conductive) Pressure touch
Cost Higher manufacturing cost Lower manufacturing cost
Touch sensitivity More sensitive Less sensitive
Brightness and contrast Best Good
Durability Best Good
Capable of multi-touch Yes No
Can gloves, pen or stylus be used? Yes (but Limited) Yes
Uses Multi-touch, accurate applications. Rugged environments with simple touch features.

Conclusion

While it’s clear that capacitive touchscreens are dominating the consumer electronics market, resistive touchscreens still have an advantage in some ways.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective touchscreen that can operate with simple tap inputs in rugged environments, resistive is the way to go. For more advanced and intuitive touchscreen technology with higher quality applications, choose capacitive touchscreens.

To learn more about touchscreen displays, or anything related to display technology, we’re always here to help!  Get in touch with our engineers today.

Aug 17th 2022 Newhaven Staff

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