Albatron gets all touchy-feely

Computex 2010: Monitors from large to small

Albatron LogoALBATRON IS ONE of those companies that continues to do cool things, but rarely gets much press. Last year they had the best mobo of Computex, this year their big push is into touch screen monitors.

By far the most innovative motherboard at Computex 2009 was a two piece board from Albatron. One PCB had the CPU, the other carried whatever I/O and additions you want. What was shown as a prototype last year is now in production as the K3780E-S / K3780E-D. I think the whole concept has great potential; buy a bunch so Albatron makes newer versions.

Another cool thing that the company is doing is making PCIe 1x graphics cards as well as PCI GPUs. They aren’t anything amazing, the best you can get is a Nvidia G210, but if you need a GPU for either slot, there are precious few choices out there. I would hold out until they make a G310 version, it will be 100 better.

The most impressive thing Albatron is doing has to be their multitouch monitors. A lot of companies are doing touch screens, but Albatron is the only one doing it in a way that doesn’t get shatteringly expensive as you scale up the size. You can get them from smallish desktop monitor to TV sized, 18.5, 20, 21.5, 23.6 and 42″ to be exact.

Touch screens

The overlay panels

It is inexpensive for two reasons, the panel uses two IR modules that each contain a light source and a sensor, one in each of the top corners. They then surround the screen edges with a reflector. The IR modules are a pretty inexpensive little PCB, and the reflectors are just a thin reflective sticker.

Albatron sensor 

The heart of the screen

Normal capacitive or inductive touchscreens put an expensive multi-layer film on the screen, so cost goes up with the square of the screen size. The Albatron solution has the cost scale linearly with the screen size, and it is only the reflector that needs to scale, not the much more costly, relatively speaking anyway, PCBs.

The largest one, a 42″ 1080p panel, has an MSRP of less than $3000, quite a bit cheaper than competing solutions. The panels register one and two points of touch, and also support some gestures. If that is too small, there is a larger 55″ panel coming soon. It adds a third IR module at the bottom, so it may support a third simultaneous point of contact.

For kiosk or public use and abuse, these panels are better than film based solutions. They are not easily damaged, you can’t really hurt the reflector, and if the panel gets dirty, oily, or covered with fingerprints, it isn’t a big deal because it doesn’t contribute to the sensing. If the reflectors get dirty, just wipe them off, unlike a film, you can’t easily hurt them. There has to be a killer app for this type of screen somewhere, anyone got a good one?

Killer app?

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Last up, Albatron did the intelligent thing and is selling a touch screen overlay for most monitors. This is just a plastic surround with one of the glass panels, reflectors, and IR modules in the corners. They come in several sizes, retailing for about $150 each. If you want to add touch to your computer, well, buy a complete touch screen, you are far better off. If for some reason you are in love with your current monitor, Albatron lets you add that feature for a reasonable price.S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate