There are over a half-dozen touchscreen technologies on the market. Of all those different types, however, resistive and capacitive are the most common. You’ll find a variety of touchscreen devices — smartphones, tablets, human machine interfaces (HMIs) and more — powered by either resistive or capacitive touchscreen technology. Even if you’re familiar with capacitive touchscreen technology, though, you might be unfamiliar with resistive touchscreen technology. In this post, you’ll learn more about resistive touchscreens and how they work.

The Basics of Resistive Touchscreens

Resistive touchscreens are characterized by the use of two sheets, also known as layers, made of an electrically resistive material. These sheets are separated by a layer of air or inert gas. When you tap the surface of a resistive touchscreen, the two layers make contact — and this is how resistive touchscreens are able to identify where, exactly, you touched.

The two layers of a resistive touchscreen contain electrodes. There are different configurations for these electrodes, some of which include matrix and analog. In a matrix configuration, the electrodes are arranged in a striped formation on opposite sides of the layers. In an analog configuration, the electrodes are placed on opposite sides of the layers without any specific patterning. Regardless, pressing or touching the surface of a resistive touchscreen allows the two layers to make contact, and when the electrodes touch each other, it triggers a touch command.

How Resistive Touchscreens Compare to Capacitive Touchscreens

While capacitive touchscreens are more common, there are still reasons to choose a resistive touchscreen. Only resistive touchscreens, for example, support the use of a stylus. If you attempt to tap an icon on a capacitive touchscreen using a conventional stylus, it won’t register your touch command. Capacitive touchscreens identify touch commands by measuring capacitance changes. Because conventional styluses aren’t conductive, they won’t work with capacitive touchscreens. Rather, you’ll need to use a bare finger or a special capacitive stylus instead.

Resistive touchscreens typically cost less than capacitive touchscreens as well. If you’re looking to buy multiple touchscreens for your business, you may want to stick with resistive touchscreens for this reason. For consumer applications, though, capacitive may prove worth the investment.

On the other hand, resistive touchscreens aren’t as sensitive to touch commands as their capacitive counterpart. They require greater physical force to trigger touch commands. If you don’t press down hard enough, resistive touchscreens won’t register your command.