Surface acoustic wave (SAW) has become one of the leading touchscreen technologies on the market. While not as popular as capacitive or resistive, it’s a viable alternative that offers several noteworthy benefits. As a result, it’s steadily gaining ground on its counterpart technologies, with more and more consumers as well as business owners choosing SAW touchscreens. If this is your first time hearing about it, though, you might be wondering how SAW touchscreens work and whether they are really worth the price.

The Basics of SAW Touchscreen

A SAW touchscreen is a unique type of touch-controlled device that’s characterized by the use of ultrasonic sound emitters and receivers. Also known as acoustic pulse recognition, SAW technology identifies touch commands by looking for interruptions ultrasonic sound waves. When you touch a SAW touchscreen, your finger — or any other object or device — will disturb the ultrasonic sound wave on that specific area of the device. The device will then identify the location of this disruption and register it as a touch command.

A typical SAW touchscreen uses a combination of sound emitters and sound receivers to detect touch commands. Found on the surface of the touch interface, the sound emitters and sound receivers work together to identify touch commands. As their respective names suggest, the sound emitters produce and project ultrasonic sound waves across the surface of the device, whereas the sound receivers capture the sound waves.

How SAW Touchscreens Differ From Capacitive Touchscreens

SAW touchscreens differ from capacitive touchscreens in several ways. First, they don’t require the use of a bare finger or capacitive stylus. With a capacitive touchscreen, you can only perform touch commands using a bare finger or capacitive stylus. Capacitive touchscreens identify touch commands by measuring capacitance, so if you attempt to perform a touch command using a non-conductive object, the device won’t register your command. SAW touchscreens detect touch commands using ultrasonic sound waves, however, so they support both conductive and non-conductive objects.

Second, SAW touchscreens don’t suffer from interference created by other electronic devices. When using a capacitive touchscreen, you may discover that it some electronic devices cause interference when placed near the touchscreen. This is because the electronic devices trigger ghost commands, essentially tricking the capacitive touchscreen into thinking that you are touching the display interface with a conductive object.

Of course, there are still reasons to consider a capacitive touchscreen over a SAW touchscreen. The presence of dirt or debris can affect the performance of a SAW touchscreen. It will not, however, affect the performance of a capacitive touchscreen.