Capacitive vs. Infrared Touch Screens

Capacitive vs. Infrared Touch Screens

Capacitive vs. Infrared Touch Screens

Apr 17, 2024

Touch screen technology has revolutionized human-computer interaction, offering intuitive control and seamless navigation. Within this realm, capacitive and infrared touch screens stand out as prominent options. Capacitive screens operate on the principle of detecting changes in electrical charge, providing high sensitivity and multi-touch capability. Meanwhile, infrared touch screens use an array of infrared LEDs and sensors to detect touch, offering reliability and resistance to surface contaminants. Shenzhen Wanty, as a leading customization solution provider, offers a diverse range of services tailored to both domestic and overseas customers. These services include customization of PCAP capacitive touch panels, TFT LCD displays with varying brightness levels, HDMI & USB touch displays compatible with Raspberry Pi modules, spanning sizes from 0.96 inches to 55 inches.

Capacitive Touch Screens

Operation Principle

Capacitive touch screens rely on capacitance, exploiting the conductive nature of the human body. They comprise a transparent conductive layer atop a glass panel. When a conductive object, like a finger, interacts with the screen, it disrupts the electrostatic field, altering capacitance. The touch controller detects this change, facilitating precise position detection.

Components and Structure

Key components include the conductive layer, glass panel, and touch controller. Typically, the conductive layer utilizes indium tin oxide (ITO) coated beneath the glass. The touch controller interprets signals from the conductive layer to pinpoint touch locations.


  • Multi-touch Capability: Supports intuitive gestures like pinch-to-zoom and swipe.
  • High Clarity and Sensitivity: Transparency and sensitivity are maintained due to minimal additional layers.
  • Durability: Resistant to scratches and abrasions, suitable for harsh environments.


  • Susceptibility to Interference: Vulnerable to electromagnetic field disruptions, potentially causing erratic behavior.
  • Reliance on Conductive Input: Requires conductive input, limiting functionality with gloves or non-conductive styluses.
  • Cost Considerations: Intricate manufacturing processes contribute to higher production costs compared to alternative touch screens.

Infrared Touch Screens

Definition and Principle of Operation

Infrared touch screens operate by emitting a grid of infrared light beams across the screen's surface. When a touch occurs, the interruption of these beams at specific points is detected, pinpointing the touch location. This principle of interruption distinguishes infrared touch screens from capacitive ones.

Components and Structure

Key components include infrared LEDs situated along one or more edges of the screen and infrared sensors aligned on the opposite edges. When activated, the LEDs emit infrared light, forming a grid. Sensors detect any interruptions in the grid caused by touch, enabling precise location detection.


  • Immunity to Surface Contaminants: Since infrared touch screens rely on the interruption of light beams, they are immune to surface contaminants like dust, dirt, or liquids
  • High Reliability: Infrared technology offers consistent performance over time, with minimal degradation in accuracy or sensitivity.
  • Low Cost: Compared to some other touch screen technologies, infrared touch screens are relatively cost-effective to manufacture and maintain.


  • Limited Touch Detection: Infrared touch screens may struggle with detecting very light touches or stylus inputs, leading to limitations in precision and sensitivity.
  • Susceptibility to Ambient Light Interference: Bright ambient light sources, such as sunlight or overhead lighting, can interfere with the infrared light grid, affecting touch detection accuracy.
  • Potential for False Touches: In environments with high levels of ambient infrared radiation, such as near heating elements or other infrared devices, false touch detections may occur, leading to unintended inputs or commands.

Comparison between Capacitive and Infrared Touch Screens

Sensitivity and Accuracy

Capacitive touch screens typically boast superior sensitivity and precision when compared to their infrared counterparts. They excel in detecting even the slightest touch with remarkable accuracy, making them ideal for tasks demanding intricate control or detailed input. In contrast, while infrared touch screens generally offer sufficient accuracy for most applications, they may struggle with registering extremely light touches or stylus inputs, leading to a slightly lower level of sensitivity.

Durability and Reliability

Both capacitive and infrared touch screens exhibit durability and reliability, albeit with differences in their resistance to various forms of damage. Capacitive touch screens, constructed with glass panels, demonstrate high resilience against scratches and abrasions, rendering them suitable for demanding environments. On the contrary, infrared touch screens rely on the interruption of light beams, rendering them impervious to surface contaminants like dust and liquids. This attribute makes them particularly suitable for environments where contamination poses a concern.

Multi-touch Capability

Capacitive touch screens shine in their ability to handle multi-touch gestures seamlessly, facilitating intuitive interactions such as pinch-to-zoom and swipe. This functionality is indispensable for applications necessitating advanced interactions, such as gaming or graphic design. While certain infrared touch screens offer multi-touch support, their performance may not match that of capacitive screens, especially in terms of responsiveness and accuracy.


In the realm of cost-effectiveness, infrared touch screens typically hold an advantage over capacitive screens. The manufacturing process for infrared technology is simpler and more economical, resulting in lower production costs. Additionally, infrared touch screens require fewer layers and components compared to their capacitive counterparts, further enhancing their cost-effectiveness.

Application Suitability

  • Consumer Electronics:
Capacitive touch screens dominate the landscape of consumer electronics, including smartphones, tablets, and other handheld devices, owing to their exceptional sensitivity and multi-touch capability. Infrared touch screens find their niche in applications where resistance to surface contaminants is paramount, such as kitchen appliances or outdoor displays.
  • Industrial Applications:
Capacitive touch screens are favored in industrial settings where durability and reliability are critical, such as control panels or manufacturing equipment. Infrared touch screens may be preferred in environments characterized by high levels of dust, dirt, or moisture, such as factories or warehouses.
  • Public Kiosks:
Capacitive touch screens are popular choices for public kiosks like information terminals or ticketing machines due to their responsiveness and intuitive multi-touch support. Infrared touch screens also find relevance in public kiosks, particularly in outdoor or high-traffic areas where resistance to surface contaminants is imperative.


Selecting between capacitive and infrared touch screens hinges on the demands of the application. Capacitive screens excel in sensitivity, multi-touch features, and durability, fitting well in consumer electronics and industrial settings. Yet, they might face interference and higher expenses. Conversely, infrared touch screens resist surface contaminants and are cost-effective, ideal for public kiosks and rugged environments. Understanding these distinct traits is pivotal in choosing the optimal touch screen for a specific purpose.