Soladapt TouchGenie Touchscreen Overlay full review
The TouchGenie from Soladapt makes any display into a touchscreen monitor. It's incredibly easy to set up, too. But is it worth £160 of your hard-earned cash? That will depend on how much you need a touchscreen, and how well you need it to work.
Soladapt TouchGenie: what it is
A robust sheet of clear glass set into a black metal frame, the Soladapt TouchGenie is a multitouch display that attaches to any monitor and works with Windows, Android or Linux. It makes any monitor a touchscreen - which is quite a claim.
There are no drivers, calibration or installation required, you simply get the correct size TouchGenie, attach it to your display using the supplied velcro straps, and plug in the USB port. And just like that you have a touchscreen monitor.
Let's roll back a little, however. Unlike your smartphone or touchscreen laptop the TouchGenie is not capacitive. Instead it uses infra-red technology to measure your touch. In essence invisible light is beamed across the glass from the frame, registering a touch where your finger or the stylus breaks the beam.
In addition to the touch capabilities of the Soladapt TouchGenie, you also get a dedicated stylus.
Soladapt TouchGenie: what it costs
There are various choices to make, but the Soladapt TouchGenie costs from £99, and ranges in size from 17in to 42in. The one we tested was a 22-inch display, with a 16:10 aspect ratio (this will become important) and 2-touch input, and that costs £160.99.
Soladapt TouchGenie: build and design
There's not much to the Soladapt TouchGenie. It's a pane of glass with a black metal frame. On that black bezel, at the bottom in the middle, is a Soladapt logo. We felt this was a little cheap looking, and it moved a little when we applied pressure. (Why you would apply pressure is another question, but we like to test out how well put together are gadgets.)
The frame itself seems solid, although with a little pushing we could make the pieces separate slightly at the corners. From the bottom lefthand corner of the frame protrudes a silvery USB cable 149cm in length, which will be plenty for any use scenario we can envisage. The cable is no-one's idea of stylish, but I'm not sure what USB cable would look good on your touchscreen display, so let's not be churlish here.
Around the back we find the means of attaching the Soladapt TouchGenie to your display. Two large velcro straps - so in reality four pieces of material - and a section of sticky padding with a protective cover in case you don't want to use the Soladapt TouchGenie all the time.
Overall the feeling is functional if not stylish. And we would expect the Soladapt TouchGenie would stand up to reasonably robust usage, although we'd like something this expensive to feel a bit more solid.
Soladapt TouchGenie: what it's like to use
Let's start with the positive things. Once attached to the front of your non-touch display simply popping in the USB cable does indeed make any display attached to a Windows PC into a touchscreen. Moreover, the set up process couldn't be much simpler. Attach to front of display, hook up USB port. Start touching.
In terms of our tests that's where the good news ends, however. We tried the Soladapt TouchGenie on multiple displays with desktop- and laptop Windows 8 PCs, but we couldn't get a satisfactory touch interface for our digits. It wasn't so bad touching the screen with the stylus, although that too was far from a great experience (and if you're using a stylus wouldn't you just as easily use a mouse?).
But when we tried even single touch interactions with just a single finger we found that where we pressed rarely corresponded with the impact on the screen within the OS. Even if we worked out how to offset the point at which we were aiming in order to hit a larger touchpoint, it often took two or three increasingly frantic stabs to get the input to register. And that meant we lost count of the times we accidentally closed a web browser tab or hit the wrong page or link in a document. On the plus side selecting a Windows 8 app via touch was relatively successful.
That's just trying to interact with Windows 8's interface via touch, however. Trying anything more complex, such as cropping a photo or drawing was next to useless.
Overall then we had very little good to say about the Soladapt TouchGenie's touch capabilities. Soladapt claims a linearity error of less than 1.5mm and a sub-15ms response speed. Suffice to say that was far from our experience.
In defence of the Soladapt TouchGenie we were trying a two-touchpoint display. Perhaps the six-touchpoint adaptor would have worked better.
And there was a problem anyway, according to Soladapt. Subsequent to our testing Soladapt told us that we tested a 16:10 TouchGenie on 16:9 displays. It is certainly true to say that we thought we were testing a 16:9 device because that is what we were told, but we matched it up to displays (of which we have many) that fit well, physically. And we did try mulitple displays to get a perfect fit. So we're a little sceptical as to this being the explanation for the device's poor performance on test. However, we are happy to test again with a new device that Soladapt is sending over, and will update this review when we have done so.
We had some other gripes to do with the design and setup. Attaching the display is really a two-person job. The Soladapt TouchGenie is heavy - around 1.54kg according to our scales. That's as heavy as a laptop, attached to the front of your display. Try fitting that on your own and you'll find yourself playing a lengthy game of tighten the velcro.
Of course I could have used the supplied sticky pads to permanently attach the Soladapt TouchGenie. But, well, I didn't want to spoil any perfectly good displays.
Other issues: there's no oleophobic coating to protect against smearing, so the display quickly picks up finger smudges. And under our office lights the Soladapt TouchGenie turned out monitor into an especially reflective mirror. Soladapt told us that in the UK it is partnered with Clear Diamond who produce an overlay film with a number of benefits - anti-fingerprint, anti-glare, anti-scratch and anti-bacterial. The glass is toughened.
Finally, there is a subtle design flaw that became apparent only after we attached the Soladapt TouchGenie to a couple of monitors. If there are any buttons or menus on the front of your display they will be out of use when the Soladapt TouchGenie is attached. If this includes the power button you have another irritation with which to contend.
Soladapt TouchGenie: what it's good for
To be fair to the Soladapt TouchGenie it is very simple to set up, if not physically always that easy. And it is a simple solution if you want to make a standard display into a touchscreen. I can't imagine it ever being useful as part of a home or office PC setup, but if you have a public-facing display that requires interaction the Soladapt TouchGenie could be a boon.
Think of the touchscreen that greets you at the GP's surgery, or the self-service checkout at the supermarket. If you or your business requires something similar the Soladapt TouchGenie could be a good and relatively inexpensive solution. Or you could just buy a touchscreen monitor.
Soladapt TouchGenie Touchscreen Overlay: Specs
- 22in touchscreen adaptor
- 2 touch
- USB 2.0
- InfraRed touch technology
- toughened glass
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