Whether you’re buying a touchscreen device for personal or commercial use (or both), you might be wondering which type offers the best picture quality. There are several different configurations used to create touchscreen devices, some of which include resistive, capacitive, surface acoustic wave (SAW), optical and infrared (IR). While they all support the use of touch commands, there are subtle nuances between them, including picture quality. So, which of these touchscreen configurations offers the best picture quality?

First and foremost, it’s important to note that resistive touchscreen devices typically come last in terms of picture quality. Because they are designed with an extra layer over the actual display screen, they tend to lack the image quality of other touchscreen configurations. This doesn’t necessarily mean that resistive touchscreen devices are a bad choice; rather, they produce lower quality images than devices utilizing other touchscreen technology.

Capacitive touchscreen devices, however, deliver better picture quality than their resistive counterparts. As you may already know, resistive touchscreen devices identify touch based on pressure. Touching the interface pushes an upper layer down into a bottom layer — and this contact is used to identify the location of the user’s touch. Capacitive touchscreen devices, on the other hand, identify touch by measuring changes in capacitance. Touching the interface creates a disturbance in the device’s uniform electrostatic field. Because the human body is an excellent conductor of electricity, touching the interface changes the device’s capacitance; thus, allowing the device to accurately identify the point of touch. Since it doesn’t require an extra layer over the display screen, capacitive touchscreen devices offer a better picture quality than resistive devices.

IR touchscreens, however, offer the highest picture quality of all touchscreen types. IR touchscreens use a grid-like array of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and photodetector pairs to identify touch. The LEDs are constantly beaming light across the interface. When you touch the screen, it disturbs the light, which allows the device to determine when and where you touched. IR touchscreens are often preferred because of their exceptional picture quality. This is because they don’t require patterning over the glass.

To recap, resistive offers the lowest picture quality, while IR offers the highest. Of course, picture quality is only factor to consider when choosing a touchscreen device. You should also consider whether or not the device is resistant to moisture, how much battery it has, and the overall size of the device.