Best answer: Microsoft Precision touchpads use a standardized set of drivers that offer a consistent, smooth, and accurate pointing experience. Although Precision drivers first appeared in the Surface Pro 2 and have since been used in every Surface device, many laptop manufacturers beyond Microsoft also take advantage of the drivers to deliver the best possible pointing.
Why are Microsoft's Precision drivers preferred?
Back in the Windows 8.1 and Surface Pro 2 days, Apple was kicking everyone else's butts with its touchpad experience. There really wasn't much competition between iMac and Windows laptops (at least in the touchpad game), so Microsoft decided it was time to create a set of drivers that would deliver a standardized experience across its Surface devices.
Precision touchpads include drivers and gestures that are upgraded with Windows 10 feature updates, and altogether offer consistent and smooth pointing that is accurate and responsive. If you've ever used a touchpad with Synaptics or Elan drivers (two common competitors) and quickly switched over to a laptop with a Precision touchpad, the difference is noticeable.
Microsoft doesn't seem to differentiate between the physical hardware of the touchpad, which is why we see plenty of laptops in the Precision touchpad category despite considerable differences in size and materials. You might find a budget laptop with a small plastic touchpad alongside a premium Ultrabook with an enormous glass touchpad, and both are using Precision drivers. This ultimately gives third-party manufacturers like Dell, Lenovo, HP, Samsung, Acer, and Razer a lot of flexibility when designing machines.
With a Precision touchpad, you get the full gamut of Windows 10 gestures, including multi-finger taps and swipes for shortcuts to everything from prompting Cortana to quickly switching between windows. You can also go quite deep when it comes to customizing Precision touchpad settings if the stock settings aren't acceptable.
Can you install Precision drivers on a non-Precision touchpad?
If you have a laptop that uses Synaptics or Elan drivers — which used to be commonly found in HP laptops and some budget devices — and want to switch over to Precision, there is a way to do it, though it's understandably not a foolproof process.
We've created a guide that will walk you through the entire process, but know that Windows 10 updates have caused the process to not work as well as it once did. If it doesn't work, the solution is to buy a laptop that comes with Precision drivers straight from the factory.
If you're curious whether or not your laptop is using Precision drivers, there's a simple way to check just by following these steps.
- Right-click the Start button.
- Click Devices.
At the top of the window, you should see a note that says "Your PC has a precision touchpad" if indeed it's using Microsoft's drivers.
What laptops come standard with Precision drivers?
Until Microsoft makes a decision concerning mandatory Precision drivers in all Windows 10 laptops, the market can be confusing. HP's business lineup of EliteBooks, for example, has been using Precision drivers for quite awhile, while the consumer side, including the impressive HP Spectre x360 13t, only switched over to Precision drivers late 2019.
You can be assured that all Surface devices use Precision drivers, but if you're shopping elsewhere, be sure to double-check the touchpad before making a final decision. Our ever-growing collection of laptop reviews is a great place to start. And to get caught up on all the best hardware available now, be sure to check out our collection of the best Windows 10 laptops.
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