Windows 8

Review: HP Compaq L2105 touch screen

The L2105tm is proof-of-concept that touch-enabled displays can be productivity enhancing, even for business desktop PCs.

Several months ago I purchased an HP Compaq L2105 touch screen (PDF) display in anticipation of touch-oriented interfaces for Windows and Linux platforms. This 21.5" Active Matrix display has a 1000:1 contrast ration, a 5ms response time and a native resolution to 1920x1080. It accepts finger and stylus input and has "2-point plus" gesture capabilities. It supports DVI-D and VGA input, but has no HDMI input. At under $300 retail with a 3-year warranty, it is among the least expensive touch-display options for desktop PCs available.

More product information from HP is available.

Out of touch

When I received the display, I hooked it up to my Windows 7 workstation, installed the Touch Pack and played around with it for about a week - then promptly stopped using touch. In fact, my experience with Windows 7 convinced me that Windows 8 was probably destined to be a failure. When I installed the developer's preview of Windows 8 I was so unimpressed that I completely abandoned the idea of pursuing Touch Screen solutions on the desktop until just before the commercial release of Windows 8.

Around that time I realized that I've spent so much of the last three years absorbed in ARM-based mobile devices, I hadn't bought a new PC in five years. My fastest machines were running Core 2 Duos. I realized I should probably consider one of the Windows 8 Hybrid/Convertible ultrabooks. I spoke with Deb and Tom Shinder and realized how far out of touch with Microsoft I had become. I directed my lead system engineer to start testing his TechNet copy of Windows 8 Pro, and decided to do the same thing myself.

I dug up a Centrino laptop, installed Windows 8 and began to play with it. I quickly found that Windows 8 works awesome on a device that doesn't have touch capabilities. I had the nagging feeling that if the device were touch-enabled, it would deliver an even higher level of enjoyment. I struggled with the idea of just going out and buying a new Yoga 13 ultrabook. I couldn't bring myself to commit to a premium Intel based device in an emerging market. Instead, I slogged on with my beat-up old laptop.

And then I remembered the HP Compaq L2105tm.

Touch revisited

After a little disruption in my home office, I was able to connect the test laptop to the monitor. Windows 8 instantly detected and recognized it, transparently installing the correct drivers and enabling multi-touch capability.

I'm not sure why I waited so long to do it.

The L2105tm is a little bulkier than a typical LCD monitor. There is actually a space about 1/16th of an inch between the bezel and the surface of the display. I get the feeling the sensors are hidden in this space and that the surface of the display isn't actually touch. I sometimes notice it registering input before my finger has actually touched the surface. I'm sure this is why it works with the included plastic stylus as well. Neither capacitive or resistive, this is an optical touch-screen device. The stylus stores in a slot on the lower right hand corner of the monitor, and reminds me quite a bit of an old HP/Compaq iPaq arrangement. As an LCD and not an LED display, the back is also bulkier than newer displays.

The L2105tm supports two-point touch. This might present problems in more advanced apps, but so far, it seems that two points of touch are plenty for every Windows 8 Modern app I've downloaded. Games like Cut The Rope and Angry Birds Star Wars are playable with the mouse, but they really shine in the touch-screen environment they were designed for.

The place where you really see the pay-off is in the multi-touch navigation gestures of Windows itself. Remembering awkward alt-key combinations or dragging the mouse to the edge of a screen are poor attempts to replicate real-world actions. The Windows gestures are not as intuitive as those on an iPad or Android device - but once you learn them they are remarkably natural, fluid, and logical.

Instead of switching between apps using alt-tab (which still works if you just can't let go of your old ways), you simply swipe from the right edge with the same motion you would use to flip through a book. I find that when I alt-tab I inevitably go too far and have to complete another whole circuit to get back to where I want to be. The gesture is more natural. Scrolling through screens and using the advanced Modern-UI features, (like displaying two Modern apps in a split screen,) also becomes much easier, and therefore more likely to be used when using touch instead of a mouse.

Right track

Things are not perfect. Windows 8 is Microsoft's first stab at a touch-enabled OS and you'll find that depending on where you are in the OS, things may not work consistently. While frustrating, these are problems with the OS that will be discovered and improved over time. Regardless, the L2105tm is proof-of-concept that touch-enabled displays can be productivity enhancing, even for business desktop PCs and that Windows 8 is on the right track.

Also read:

Donovan created a YouTube video demonstrating how the HP Compaq L2105 touch screen works with Windows 8.

About

Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his profession...

4 comments
JJFitz
JJFitz

"I quickly found that Windows 8 works awesome on a device that doesn’t have touch capabilities." Would you look at that? Do you know why you figured that out Donovan? It's because you gave Windows 8 a try on a traditional desktop. You probably tried it for more than 2 hours too. Thank you for posting this.

nyteryder1
nyteryder1

At my organization we have used the L2105tm screens for over a year. They work great when they work, but the USB connection on the monitor seems to be a weak point. HP has replaced 40% of our monitors under warranty because the USB connection that allows touch screen communication with the PC fails. In one case, the warranty replacement (always another L2105tm) failed less than a week and needed replacement.

dcolbert
dcolbert

The other thread, we've got lots of people talking about why they will refuse to use Windows 8, why Windows 8 is a bad idea, why touch won't work on the desktop. This article, and the video, illustrate just how well it can work. The truth is that I use it as a hybrid device in the role of a desktop machine. Once I added the touch-screen, I stopped using the mouse for the most common gesture activated activities... it just feels far more natural to reach up and do it on the screen as opposed to using a mouse. It is faster. It doesn't hurt your arm... it is a logical way to interface with your PC, even on a desktop. But that doesn't mean you *can't* use Windows 8 with a non-touch enabled device. If you've only got a mouse and pointer solution, it works fine. If you want to pony up the extra dough for a touch-screen interface or a high end Logitech touch-pad that mimics touch-screen interaction, you'll probably find those solutions are what you prefer. As Windows has been doing for nearly 30 years, the platform offers the flexibility to work around your style and preferences. This is unlike the leading competitor - they've maintained for the last 30 years that the best way to do things is the way *they* tell you to do. It is all about your personal preference at this point. Do you want something simple and fool-proof where you are *forced* to only color within the lines, or do you want something more powerful and flexible where you have to think a little more about what you're doing? Really - when you boil it down like that - nothing has really changed at all.

dcolbert
dcolbert

The odds of me catching a design failure like this with my single monitor are slim - so it is something to be aware of. I haven't had any problems with mine so far (knock on wood) - but I'll know what to keep my eyes on the lookout for. I believe this monitor features a 3 year warranty, if I remember the specs right - which isn't too shabby and really makes it still a decent value as an inexpensive way to experiment with touch-screen. This is really more about how Windows 8 and touch-screen on a business desktop has a place, despite a lot of negative opinion about the idea. This monitor is just one way to realize that goal.