One of the best additions to the modern home electronics system is the touch screen. There are many shapes and sizes of these devices – they’re available big or small: 5-inch to 17-inch, portrait or landscape, table-top or wall-mounted. They can be used for a variety of functions, including an intercom, a music control center, a wall-mounted remote control, access to the security system, and more. They may differ in physical characteristics and functionality, but the goal is always the same: to make the system easier to use. A large, well-integrated home system shouldn’t be without a few of these in key locations throughout the house, as I’ll discuss more below.
Touch Screen vs. Tablet
Before we begin, I should mention that there are two major approaches to this concept – a true, dedicated touch screen device, and a wall-mounted tablet, such as an iPad. There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these approaches, frankly, so you’ll have to decide which works for you. Personally, I’d recommend mostly dedicated touch screens, supplemented with a couple of tablets in the rooms where the system is most used.
A tablet mounted to your wall is generally removable, so it has the advantage of being portable. It can be brought to where you need to operate the system, such as in front of the TV. But you must run an app on your tablet (e.g. the Control4 or Crestron Home app) to access your system control. This generally means a delay in response time as the app comes up, unless you always leave that app open. On a dedicated touch screen, it only runs your system, so it is much more responsive to commands. In addition, dedicated touch screens have built-in software that sometimes isn’t offered on a tablet, such as a video intercom system. Dedicated touch screens are generally more expensive than the tablet approach, however.
Touch Screens vs. Remote Controls
Often our customers feel that they must choose between a dedicated remote control and a touch screen for any given room/area. But in many cases, however, I believe they are better served with both devices. A remote control has nice buttons that are great for adjusting volume and flipping through channels. But if you want to, say, choose your music playlist, a touch screen is much easier to use and more effective. Furthermore, a touch screen is the clear way to go for adjusting and programming things like lights and thermostats.
Other Touch Screen Functions
In addition to being a great, always-available source for controlling and programming your system (“who has the remote control?!”), touch screens can also serve several other functions. In homes that contain two or more touch screens, for example, we can activate a video intercom system that allows you to communicate with someone at the other touch screen locations. This is the modern equivalent of the old Nutone intercom systems we had in our homes 40 years ago – only much more effective and easier to use! In addition, your touch screen can act as the keypad interface to your security system. Simply place a touch screen at the main entrances to your home, and you can arm/disarm the alarm, in addition to performing all of the other features mentioned previously, such as turning on/off the lights in the house. No need for an ugly, minimally functional alarm keypad.
They are admittedly a luxury item, but the modern touch screens are, in my opinion, a must-have for any serious home entertainment and electronic system. They provide both better performance and ease of use for a modern system. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely!