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4-Wire vs 5-Wire Resistive Touchscreens: What’s the Difference?

Resistive touchscreen technology is often preferred over capacitive because it supports the use of both bare and gloves fingers. This is in stark contrast to capacitive, which only detects the presence of a bare finger. Since resistive touchscreen devices identify touch by pressure instead of change in capacitance, however, they can be used with a bare finger, gloves finger or stylus. However, there are several different types of resistive touchscreen technology, the two most common being 4 wire and 5 wire. So, what’s the difference between a 4-wire and 5-wire touchscreen device?

In a standard 4-wire resistive touchscreen configuration, an upper and bottom layer are used to detect touch commands. One of these layers contains electrodes in the Y direction, whereas the other layer contains electrodes in the X direction. The two layers are designed to measure the voltage created by the opposite layer. When you touch the surface, it presses the upper and bottom layer together; thus, allowing the device to determine the precise point of contact. This is essentially the basis on which 4-wire resistive touchscreens operate.

5-wire resistive touchscreen devices follow a similar format, also using two layers to determine the precise point of contact. However, only one of these layers contains electrodes. In a typical 5-wire resistive touchscreen configuration, the bottom layer contains electrodes on each of the four corners. These electrodes are designed to emit a small but noticeable amount of voltage. The other layer, the top layer, is designed to measure the voltage of the bottom layer. When you touch the surface, it presses the two layers together, similar to how the 4-wire resistive setup works; thus, allowing the device to determine when and where the touch occurred.

In recent years, 5-wire has become the preferred format for resistive touchscreen devices. This is due largely in part to their unmatched strength and durability. When compared to 4-wire resistive touchscreens, 5-wire is regarded as being more durable. Because of this, they can be used in harsh environments where other touchscreen devices cannot be used.

Of course, resistive is just one of many different touchscreen technologies. There’s also capacitive (as described above), infrared, surface wave acoustic, optical imaging, dispersive signal and acoustic pulse recognition. There’s no such thing as a single “best” touchscreen technology. Each of these technologies has its own strengths and weaknesses. So, familiarize yourself with the different types of touchscreen technology to determine which one is right for your needs.