Before I begin, let’s get the most obvious caveat out of the way: a touchscreen is going to be necessary for certain Android apps for certain users. I’m in no way trying to say that touchscreens are completely unnecessary, but my time spent with devices like the Acer Chromebook 516 GE has changed my mindset on this particular feature being a necessary inclusion in the overall ChromeOS experience: especially when we talk about clamshell, non-convertible Chromebooks.
There have actually been a few Chromebooks I’ve been using recently that have confirmed this notion: the Acer Chromebook 516 GE, the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook, and the Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition. All of these devices have a similar take on the ChromeOS experience, giving users a large, bright, screen to consume content on and a solid keyboard and large trackpad to use for navigation.
With the Acer especially, I began to notice pretty quickly how infrequently I found myself reaching for the screen. With the large Ocean Glass trackpad on that device, all my gestures for navigation work just like you’d expect, allowing me to scroll, multitask, and glide through virtual desks with precision and ease. After using that Chromebook for a bit, I went to the Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition and then to the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook and noticed the exact same thing: I didn’t really miss the touch screen.
I then began watching my wife navigate her touch-enabled Chromebook and quickly realized she doesn’t reach up and touch the screen that often, either. Her device is a larger convertible, but she rarely uses it in any way other than the standard clamshell setup. In that mode, the large trackpad and solid keyboard are plenty enough to get the job done on most tasks she uses her Chromebook for as well.
That’s not to say touch panels are worthless. I do like being able to reach up and press a button on screen from time to time, but when push comes to shove, I sure do like a thin, bright, anti-glare 120Hz screen a lot more. I’m sure they could have included touch on these gaming Chromebooks, but if that bumped the price and added weight and/or thickness to these devices, I’m completely fine with it being left off when the overall experience simply isn’t hindered because of it.
Where I once considered touch input on Chromebooks to be an absolute necessity, I’m moving now into the camp that sees it as a nicety or a perk. Am I going to turn it down if its available? Absolutely not! But I’m no longer going to make purchase decisions based on it. And I’d encourage all of you to consider the same.
With fantastic Chromebooks out there like the Acer Chromebook 516 GE and the Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition, you’d really be missing out on great devices if touch input was a requirement. Again, for convertibles and tablets this isn’t a discussion, but for clamshell Chromebooks, it might be time to realize the trackpad experience has arrived at the place in ChromeOS where a touch screen simply isn’t a necessity any longer.