You may be too young to remember but working with laptops ‘back in the day’ used to be a Sisyphean ordeal of dragging blunted fingers across unresponsive touchpads and hoping that the cursor would eventually land where you needed it to be; and invariably failing.
Fortunately, though, after years in development at Hewlett-Packard, way back in the annals of 2008, the world’s first true multi-touch touchscreen laptop, the HP TouchSmart tx2 Notebook, was finally rolled out, revolutionising human/laptop interaction overnight. Okay, truthfully, it was a bit rubbish. But, jumping forward 38 years, from those first few tentative finger-steps, the evolution of the touchscreen laptop is finally complete.
Yes, while the days of the touchpad are not numbered just yet, the sheer, swift convenience of being able to open and close apps, drag and drop images and files, and deftly dance around your laptop screen using fingertip dexterity alone feels like the future is finally here.
And there are plenty of options now offering this ease of use, from those commanding thousands of your hard-earned to those, obviously lower-specced examples, that let your fingers do the walking for just a couple of hundred pounds.
However, there are also arguments against touchscreen laptops too; things such as the extra expense incurred, reduced battery life, the fact that, generally, the inclusion of a touchscreen makes for a heavier, thicker laptop and the difficulty in replacing a broken screen. But while all those perceived issues may be true, there’s still something undeniably cool about utilising your laptop like someone off an episode of Star Trek: Discovery.
So, you’re sold on going digital with your digits, the only question now is: which is best for your budget? Well, we’ve some ideas about that…
HP Elite Dragonfly Notebook PC G2
Best for: Doing ‘the business’
Remember mere moments ago when I mentioned that one of the perceived downsides of touchscreen laptops was that they tend to be on the chunkier, weightier side of things? Well, to contradict myself almost immediately, the first thing you notice about the HP Elite Dragonfly G2 is just how stunningly svelte it is, then incredibly light.
Ostensibly designed for the business-minded, this more than aesthetically agreeable powerhouse is fully customisable on the HP website, so the review model came packing Intel’s 11th gen i7 processor @2.80GHz, 16GB of memory, 256 GB NVMe SSD and Intel® Iris® Xe Graphics, but while such spec-porn is enough to satiate any Windows (10 Pro in this case) geek, we’re here to talk about the touchscreen.
Eminently usable in either laptop or tablet format (for the G2 is an x360 and can be both), the gorgeous 13.3-inch FHD (1920x1080) Gorilla Glass 5 display is responsive to the lightest touch, whether you use your finger or the bundled stylus, speeding up productivity and/or play.
It features fingerprint security, gigabit-speed Wi-Fi 6, an ‘Always-on’ function for instant access, a 720p HD+IR camera with integrated electronic privacy shutter, a spill-resistant backlit keyboard, and crystal-clear audio courtesy of Bang & Olufsen to boot.
The HP Elite Dragonfly G2 combines slick, minimalist design with cutting-edge specs and features to result in a touchscreen laptop that’s top of its class.
HP Spectre x360 14
Best for: The stylish all-demanding all-rounder
All-singing, all-dancing, with the Spectre x360 14, HP brought its A-game. Taking the top-spec option, the Spectre x360 14-ea0009na is driven by a powerful Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor (up to 4.7GHz) and Iris Xáµ Graphics - and it’s extremely fast and furious. 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD storage keeps things running smoothly and provides plenty of storage space.
Keeping you permanently in the picture, the Spectre x360 14 automatically adjusts to your environment to create the best view regardless of ambient light or the lack of it, while ‘Smart Sense’ adapts to your habits to deliver peak performance while not draining your battery.
The stunning OLED touchscreen is hugely responsive, so you won’t have to stab at things over and again, and – addressing battery issues once more – you can switch between OLED or FHD display options to keep consumption down (up to 17 hours on FHD, and 11.5 on OLED). Finally on this front, addressing the ‘360’ part of its name, the whole screen flips back through 360° to convert into tablet format, letting users take full advantage of its touchscreen talents.
Running on Windows 10 Home 64 and boasting Bang & Olufsen audio, a backlit keyboard, fingerprint security and Fast Charge to take you from 0 to 50% in just 45-minutes, not to mention a sleek, sexy design hewn from aluminium to keep the weight down to just 3lbs, the HP Spectre x360 14 may cost a lot, but then it’s a lot of laptop.
Acer Chromebook Spin 513
Best for: Students and those on a budget
Further rubbishing my opening remarks about touchscreen laptops being both heavy and lacking battery life, the Chromebook Spin 513 is a natty-looking little laptop that not only weighs in at a piffling 1.2kg but it’s capable of running for up to 13.5 hours on a full tank, depending on usage, of course.
Another flexible friend that bends backwards to switch to tablet mode, the stunning 13-inch Corning Gorilla Glass FHD IPS display cries out for you to dab your fingers all over and responds to your touch free from any perceived lag.
Under the hood sits a splendidly speedy octo-core Qualcomm Krya 468 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 64GB eMMC (embedded Multi-Media Card) of storage, Qualcomm Adreno 618 graphics and optional 4G LTE to keep you connected when out of range of the WiFi.
Supermodel slim at 0.61-inches deep and ultra-light at just 1.2kg in weight, the extremely portable Acer also offers up to 14-hours of battery life from a full charge (the backlit keyboard can also be deactivated to preserve power), while the 360° hinges mean it converts from a clamshell laptop to a tablet in the blink of an eye.
USB ports aplenty and all the usual connection bells and whistles keep you connected at all times (including optional 4G LTE), culminating in a truly talented touchscreen laptop at a low, low price.
Razer Blade 15 3080
Best for: Top level laptop gaming
Slick, sexy and packing more power than a powered-up Pacman, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model - OLED 4K Touch 60Hz - GeForce RTX 3080, to give it its full name, is a gamer’s gift from the gods. Spec is obviously optional, so prices for the 15 start from just £1,700 for the base model and rocket up to well over £3K for the fully tricked out touchscreen dream machine.
Here the spec reads like the ultimate wish list; an 11th Gen Intel Cor i9-11900H 8 Cores (2.5GHz/4.9GHz), 1TB SSD (M.2 NVMe PCIe 4.0 x4) + Open M.2 PCIe 4.0 x4 Slot for easy expansion, 32GB DDR4 3200MHz dual-channel memory (slotted), NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 (16GB DDR6 VRAM), Intel UHD Graphics, Per-Key Backlighting and, of course, a simply breath-taking 15.6-inch OLED UHD (4K) HDR touchscreen display which is individually calibrated at the factory, all running on Windows 10 Home. And breathe.
As you’d expect from a gaming laptop with this level of tech, the touchscreen works effortlessly, responding to even the lightest fingertip caress instantly, making gaming more immersive than ever.
On top of all this comes a 1080p camera, stereo speakers, a 4x mic array, a precision glass touchpad and all favours of WiFi compatibility. Surprisingly light, too, at 2.01kg and slim at 0.67-inches high when closed, if you game and you touch, welcome to the Holy Grail of touchscreen laptop gaming.
Razer Blade Stealth 13
Best for: Ultraportable gaming on the go
The latest and easily the greatest version yet of Razer’s Blade Stealth 13 ultraportable touchscreen laptop barely bothers the scales at a featherweight 1.4kg - making it the go-to gamer for those who like to travel light.
But what it lacks in bulk it more than makes up for in spec, with an 11th gen Intel Core i7 processor, a case clock speed of 2.8GHz and 4.7GHz Turbo Boost, mighty GeForce GTX 1650 Ti graphics, and what Razer tout as the “world’s fastest 13.3-inch 120Hz Full HD display” – and we find no reason to question that. Indeed, in use, the touchscreen offers a perfectly intuitive way to work… and play.
Bolstering the brilliant HD screen and seamless graphics, are four stereo speakers and a smart amplifier for enhanced audio, while the inclusion of THX Spatial Audio delivers advanced 7.1 surround sound to take games (and movies, obvs) to the next level.
Built from high grade aluminium, and featuring a customisable backlit keyboard, Thunderbolt 4, USB-A, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1 and HD webcam for full connectivity, the Blade Stealth 13 may not be able to completely compete with its much larger peers, but as littler touchscreen laptops go, it’s a performance powerhouse.
Lenovo Yoga 9i 2-in-1 Convertible
Best for: The ultimate touchscreen experience
Another entry into the ever-growing ‘convertible’ touchscreen laptop arena, the latest super-slick, full-spec laptop from Lenovo comes in 14- or 15-inch iterations and with a range of spec options. The latter sized example looked over here weighs up at a reassuringly robust 2kg and immediately flaunts its aesthetic USB – the cover comes trimmed with actual black leather which, while this sees Lenovo lose sales amongst vegetarians and vegans, married to the aerospace-graded aluminium body makes for one classy looking laptop.
But it’s not all about shallow looks, the 9i has tech chops aplenty: a 10th Gen Intel Core i9 chip with 6 or 8 cores depending on opted spec, clocking at 2.60GHz up to 5.00GHz with Turbo Boost and 2.40GHz, up to 5.30GHz respectively, 12- or 16GB of RAM, 512GB or 2TB of SSD, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti tackling graphics, a beautiful 15.6-inch UHD touchscreen display that cries out to be stroked which is optimised by the inclusion of Dolby Vision to deliver simply stunning streamed media and, of course, for media editing.
On top of this already impressive bundle of spec comes WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5, awesome audio courtesy of a rotating sound bar boasting Dolby Atmos with 2x subwoofers, 2 x tweeters and 2x webcam mics, a 720p HD camera with privacy shutter, backlit keyboard, ClickPad plus Active Pen for scribbling on your screen, and a battery life of around 8-hours with UHD.
Dell XPS 13
Best for: Elegance and excellence
Look at that; it’s a thing of beauty. Yes, the XPS 13 from Dell has been winning admirers ever since it first emerged from its tech cocoon thanks to a combination of its sleek good looks, stunning 13.4-inch UHD+ (3840 x 2400), WLED, Touch Display, and impressive spec.
Crack open the case (do not crack open the case) and you’ll find a 10th Generation Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor at its heart, clocking up to 3.90GHz, 16GB of memory, 512GB SSD, an Intel Iris Plus Graphics card, and stereo speakers with Waves MaxxAudio Pro taking care of the sound side of things.
The stunningly sculpted, super-thin MagLev edge-to-edge keyboard is bliss to use, and the extra-large touchpad makes use considerably easier, but that’s not why we’re here. No, Dell’s new variable torque hinge design makes quick work of converting the XPS 13 from cool-looking clamshell into tablet format, bringing that 13.4-inch highly responsive Touch Display to the fore.
Just 0.51-inches in height when closed and weighing a feeble 1.33kg, battery life comes in at around the 10-hour mark (roughly 7.5-hours of Netflix streaming), which is undeniably impressive given the diminutive dimensions of the beast.
Running on Windows 10 Home 64bit, there is also WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, a widescreen 720p camera, all the ports your need, dual array digital microphones and a backlit keyboard. And there you have it: the Dell XPS 13 – a thing of both beauty and brains.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
Best for: Microsoft multitasking
Available in both 13.5- and 15-inch screen sizes and four colour options which include ‘Sandstone’ and ‘Cobalt Blue’, it’s clear that Microsoft were keen to sell a laptop with more of a lifestyle bent, despite the rather pedestrian name they saddled it with.
Looking over the 13.5-inch option, what we have here is a quad-core 10th Gen Intel Core i5 running the show, with Microsoft’s PixelSense touchscreen display (2256 x 1504 resolution), complete with Intel Iris Plus Graphics, SSD options from 128GB up to 1TB, 8- up to 33GB of RAM, WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, Omnisonic speakers with Dolby Audio, dual far-field mics and a 720p camera.
But how does it handle? Well, firstly, weighing about 1.3kg, its easy enough to carry about and, secondly, the touchscreen performs like an absolute dream, even when dabbed at by my often-inaccurate sausage-like fingers.
Running on – unsurprisingly – Microsoft Windows Home 10, the Surface Laptop 3 offers up to 11.5-hours of battery life and all at an entry level price that makes it a strong contender for those in need of a reliable, everyday use workhorse.
In life you generally get what you pay for; and touchscreen laptops are no different. While all we looked at here passed the touchscreen test with flying colours, some stood out more than others… and for me as a tech-obsessive who wants all the toys but isn’t into gaming, my standout has to be the HP Dragonfly G2 – it’s slim, it’s slick, it’s sexy and for my wild and varying laptop needs it ticks all the boxes.