A new laptop. Should I get touch-screen or 2-in-1 or conventional?
April 3, 2018 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Ancient lenovo thinkpad has died, so I am now looking for a replacement.

This will serve as backup for a relatively new desktop, and for travel. Use is mostly for everyday browsing, financial spreadsheets, filing (I am paper-less), and someday just for fun learning Phython and writing the great American novel, but not for watching movies or gaming. I'm looking at the Dell xps13 or similar with an 8th gen i5 and a 256gb ssd.

Is there any point to getting a touch-screen or 2-1? I have an ipad for reading etc so maybe a conventional form factor is sufficient. But these days non-touch and non convertible seems archaic. Assume cost is not a factor but I don't like to be wasteful or incur extra complications.

Specific question: how do you take advantage of touch screen and tablet mode on a laptop, especially if you have a separate tablet?

posted by Kevin S to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The only time touchscreen mode helped was when I had to force it out of multi monitor mode. The smudges and smears on the screen drive me BANANAS
posted by tilde at 9:22 AM on April 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a retired work Yoga that is mostly a surfin' machine, plus lightweight work backup, and I have never deliberately used the touchscreen or tablet mode in 4+ years. I have an ipad, iphone, and kindle if I have any real urgent high-portability needs.

I have accidentally used the touchscreen a few times, and it was annoying and smeary. Your question has just prompted me to look up and turn off both touchscreen and tablet mode. Thank you!

(My former boss, who had the same Yoga as me, kept asking me if I was having problems with mine, which I wasn't. She said it was messing up her spreadsheets and sending emails, and I was like that sounds more like a virus or demonic possession you should get that looked at. One day we were working onsite together and she said "look, look, it's doing it!" as bubbles appeared all over her screen as if a dozen invisible fingers were tapping all over her screen, and sure enough they'd touch all over her spreadsheets and Outlook and start sending/moving emails and messing up formulas and stuff. I literally jumped out of my chair to get away from it, it was like a modern-day horror movie, and asked if she had a lighter. Since then I have been less interested in ever buying a touch screen on purpose, though I realize eventually they'll all come with them.)
posted by Lyn Never at 9:40 AM on April 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

I have a Chromebook 2-in-1, which has a touchscreen and can convert into a heavy tablet or go into tent mode.

The best use for touchscreens is when I’m lying in bed and using the Chromebook in full 180-wide mode, so I can rest the bottom of it on my chest instead of holding it with my arms. The touchscreen works passably in this way since the keyboard is too low to use. I find this better than holding a tablet since my arms don’t get as tired, and I get a bigger screen.

The main other reason won’t apply to your situation: using Android apps, where many don’t have mouse/keyboard support.

Using convertibles in tablet mode is very awkward. It’s very heavy and thick, compared to a normal tablet. You generally start looking immediately for a place to put it down.

If I am seated at a desk, using the touchscreen is very inconvenient. It’s slower, there’s a lot of reaching, the screen keeps getting moved, and a lot of web pages and apps on a normal computer are sized weirdly (buttons are too small to accurately touch) or just plainly don’t work.
posted by meowzilla at 9:50 AM on April 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have an older Lenovo Flex that shipped with a touchscreen. I turned it off after a while because of all the smudges and because there was just one spot on my screen that constantly got pressed slightly to make my cursor click incessantly on a random part of my screen. The only way to get it to stop clicking was to restart.

Then I had a Windows Update that made my touchscreen even more wonky because the driver for touchscreen didn't (still doesn't?) have an update. At that point, I just turned it off. Definitely would not recommend a touchscreen!

Aside from the touchscreen issues, I've had a really great experience using this Flex. It's going on 5 years old!
posted by astapasta24 at 10:07 AM on April 3, 2018

In my considered opinion, touch screens are nothing more than a horribly impoverished substitute for proper hand control peripherals on a computer.

Asking whether a new laptop needs a touch screen is like asking whether a new car needs a Flintstones-style open floor for all those times when the engine is just too much trouble to turn over.
posted by flabdablet at 10:09 AM on April 3, 2018 [7 favorites]

My theory is that touchscreens on laptops are just to increase the supply for touchscreen screens, which helps keep the price of tablets down.
posted by rhizome at 10:31 AM on April 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don't use the touch features of Windows 10 often, but I use them just often enough that I find myself reaching for the screen of non-touch laptops and being annoyed that I can't do so. As to what I do with the touch screen, I sometimes find it faster to press links/buttons/icons on the screen than to maneuver the touchpad. Especially while flying, as I have giant limbs and it's easier to reach forward than to try to use the touchpad without elbowing the people next to me. I use the zoom gestures to enlarge specific parts of the screen. I sometimes use the Action Center/Task view shortcuts. As I said, I don't use them all the time, but just often enough that I prefer to have them if they're an option. It's one of those things that if you never start using it, you may never miss it but once you get used to it, you notice its absence.

If battery life is a concern, IIRC, the only models of the XPS 13 current generation that have the touch screen are the 4K ones, which have something like 15% less battery life as a result. I do have the current gen XPS 13 with a touch screen and can confirm that it's nice pretty much all around, other than the cost.

The only use I have for convertibles is reading in a book-like format so unless you expect to be without the iPad a lot, I wouldn't bother with getting a convertible.
posted by Candleman at 10:36 AM on April 3, 2018

I have a Lenovo Yoga and I find the touchscreen very useful when I'm using the laptop without a peripheral mouse. If I'm filling out a form, for example, or completing a purchase, it's just easier to touch the screen than to use the trackpad or arrows. When I use my non-touch screen work laptop without the peripheral mouse, I find myself annoyed that I can't touch the screen, so I use it enough that I miss it if I don't have it. It still isn't something I'd pay extra for, but when I shopped for my laptop about 2 years ago, there really wasn't much of a difference in price. Most just came with it.

To me, the key thing I looked for when evaluating my laptop was the keyboard. I'm a fast touch typist and need my keys to have 'spring' - so I went to Best Buy and just started typing away on all their models. The Yoga had the right combination of feel and price for me, and I've been very happy with it.

The phenomenon that Lyn Never mentions is real - it's called ghost touch and I had it too. I called Lenovo and they fixed it remotely for me and I've never had any issues with it since. Really freaky when it happened though.
posted by widdershins at 10:46 AM on April 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

We have a yoga and use it in tent mode a lot to watch movies. When it's in that mode it's a lot easier to just hit the touchscreen to hit the play controls.
The other way we use it is that we put it in tablet mode and set it on a bookstand to use with a wireless keyboard and mouse- it's like a normal desktop computer that way.

We are about to get a new computer (I dropped our current one) and I think we'll stick with the 2-in-1 for those reasons alone. I haven't seen that much of a price difference.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 11:07 AM on April 3, 2018

I have an HP Spectre x360 that can go into tablet mode. I don't ever use tablet mode for two reasons: 1. I don't like feeling the keyboard on the backside of the device. 2. Switching in and out of tablet mode temporarily resets the screen resolution which jumbles things like Chrome's scroll position in long Metafilter threads. :)

With that said, I occasionally touch the screen when it is in laptop mode mostly while demonstrating/presenting to colleagues. Scrolling on screen can also be nice when on an airplane.
posted by mmascolino at 11:27 AM on April 3, 2018

I have a touchscreen laptop. On exactly no occasions have I felt the need to touch the screen. It's a lovely screen and a lovely laptop, but if I could have saved even $5 to get the same laptop without touch capability, I'd have done it. It's that pointless.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:09 PM on April 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I used to have a regular laptop with touchscreen, and always found the touchscreen annoying. I now have a 2-in-1, and I feel lukewarm about it. From time to time I use it as a tablet, but not as often as I thought I would (I rather end up using my phone for casual browsing).
The one situation in which I find the 2-in-1 functionality actually useful is when I'm on a plane - I use it as a tablet then and don't have to worry about people suddenly leaning back in the front seat (which always made me worry they might damage the screen when I was using my regular laptop - tiny economy seats booo).
posted by CompanionCube at 12:19 PM on April 3, 2018

I'm shopping for a new laptop right now too and am finding myself dismayed at the lack of touchscreens in the specs I want. I've had a touch Dell Inspiron for the last 4 years and I do touch it a lot. I'm usually reclining on my couch while internetting and I find it much faster and easier to touch the screen rather than scrunch up and get my finger on the track pad and mouse that way, or find the arrow up and down buttons on the keyboard. Things like scrolling a web page or clicking links, I'm 100% touch. I'm constantly trying to touch the screens of laptops that aren't touch, I'm so used to it.

My husband has a convertible and I actually find going in to tablet mode to be super annoying--it does reset the whole screen and Windows wants to change up the entire UI and, like, no. Stop. I don't want a tablet, I want a laptop that I can hold more easily.

But a non-convertible touch screen is my idea laptop interfacing state.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:11 PM on April 3, 2018

Thanks everyone for your detailed responses.

I started out assuming no-touch, no 2-1 and then had second thoughts when a knowledgeable friend told me he found those features useful. But in all likelihood I will eschew touch screen and 2-in-1.

FYI - I can appreciate the advantages on an airplane. Not a problem since retirement! But back then I would put the laptop on a glossy mag so that if the person in front reclined everything would just slide back. That was the theory - don't think it was ever tested.

Lyn Never - great story, I'm still laughing outloud.
posted by Kevin S at 2:49 PM on April 3, 2018

Glad you’re not going with a 2 in 1. I’ve had to fix the fan on my low-end convertible H.P. twice (and it still hums!).
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:58 PM on April 3, 2018

Just to support what you're already thinking: I bought a Lenovo Yoga 920 (so, a 2 in 1) 3 months ago and it developed a crack VERY easily and the touchscreen stopped working. I took it to a Lenovo-authorized repair shop and first they quoted me $750 for a replacement screen and then they told me they couldn't get repair parts at all, which seems common for Lenovo touchscreen machines, from what I've gathered from their forums. It is still fine as a laptop but I have been very frustrated with the whole experience.

I actually enjoyed the touchscreen features a lot--it was nice to take screen shots and make notes right on the screen. I went ahead and bought a $60 USB drawing tablet instead to replicate those features.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:41 PM on April 3, 2018

Laptop touch screens are great for scrolling and zooming in and out on laptops. They're also really good for displaying recipes while cooking. You can use a rubber tipped pen to scroll, and some recipe apps have a full screen touch mode with big fonts that makes seeing the recipe easy from across the room. I wouldn't buy a laptop without one.
posted by cnc at 10:36 PM on April 3, 2018

« Older Have photos, need system.   |   Mastodo's and Mastodon'ts Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments