Not everyone needs a touchscreen- and some companies, even those that use them in wildly popular devices, seem to think that they aren’t all that handy in certain other gear. We’re talking about Apple, specifically, whose fortunes have lately been built on mobile, touch-friendly products like the iPad and the iPhone.
But their Macbooks have never included touchscreens, leaving the laptop field open for Microsoft’s Surface to offer something distinctive. And also leaving room for today’s company!
Neonode’s AirBar is simple- it’s a small bar that slides under your screen, plugs in via USB, and turns your laptop’s monitor into a touchscreen. We tested with a Macbook Air 13.3-inch model, though they offer to make a variety of other options for Windows users as well.
We liked that you can use gloves, or even things like pencils- thanks to infrared technology, it works almost as well as using a finger. And most any motion is recognized, from pinch/zoom, swipes to various sides, and of course taps and presses too. There are two magnets to help keep the AirBar in place, which worked pretty well but do require you to stick magnets to your screen as well.
You don’t need to download additional software or drivers for basic use, so you can plug and play if you want. For multi-touch support, extra drivers are required but installed in moments.
We tried it out in a variety of apps, and for artists, it can be quite handy- allowing you to brush and pencil with relative ease- if less pixel-perfect precision than you may want.
Similarly, we noticed fairly occasional issues with the AirBar seeming to see some ghost input and taking unintended actions. You also need to use the USB port on the right-hand side, which wasn’t an issue for us but maybe for those with specific setups.
The AirBar is sleek, and couldn’t be easier to use, plus it adds a nice bit of flexibility for those with handicaps or even just for kids who want to play.
You might wonder about closing your laptop while the AirBar is inside- and in fact, you do need to remove it. But it will remind you! If you’ve ever wanted your MacBook Air to have a touchscreen, now it can- without a lot of fuss, and without hurting your battery life noticeably.
Expect to spend around $99 for the Neonode AirBar, online and in stores now.