The Surface Pen

While you don’t get a keyboard with Surface Pro, Microsoft does bundle a digital pen with the device. Based on Wacom’s technology (presumably Electro-Magnetic Resonance), the SurfacePen supports 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity. The pen itself is passive, all of the power consuming circuitry is contained within the display stack itself. A weak EM field is generated by Surface Pro which enduces a current in the digital pen that then powers its resonance circuit, which in turn impacts the EM field and is used to determine the position and angle of the pen itself. Surface Pro will recognize the pen starting from about an inch above the display. The pen won’t work on Surface RT as the requisite Wacom EMR grid and logic don’t exist on that tablet.

It's not clear to me whether or not Microsoft is using Wacom's RRFC to enable capacitive touch in addition to digital pen support. Regardless, I didn't notice any impact on touch response when using Surface Pro without the digital pen.

The Surface Pro pen doesn’t store anywhere inside the device, but it can be docked to the magnetic power connector as long as you’re not charging the tablet. The magnetic dock doesn’t charge/power the pen in any way, it just holds it in place. The tablet is a bit awkward to hold with the pen in place, and there’s also the problem of where do you store the pen if you’re using the tablet while plugged into the wall, but I suppose it’s better than nothing.

Microsoft does a good job of palm rejection with the pen in use, although I did occasionally have to erase an errant line or two caused by the edge of my hand in a drawing app.

Tracking and responsiveness were both excellent in using the pen. I’m not much of an artist but I did have a good experience sketching with Surface Pro’s pen. Creative professionals who are already Wacom users will probably appreciate the inclusion. Surface Pro doesn’t really offer the same drawing surface area as some of the larger Wacom tablets, but I can see how it’d be a nice addition for those who don’t want to carry around a separate drawing tablet.

You can configure Surface Pro to work in second screen mode, allowing you to use the entire display as a pen surface while using the integrated miniDP out to drive your display to an external monitor. In this mode Surface Pro approximates a Wacom digital tablet, although without the software customization that you get with those tablets. The biggest issue I had in second screen mode is the lack of a toggle to switch between pen and mouse positioning, Surface Pro operates exclusively in the former.

In pen positioning, every point on the Surface Pro display corresponds to a similar location on your external display. To draw something in the upper right corner you need to move your pen to the upper right corner of the Surface Pro display and draw there. Wacom’s own tablets let you switch to mouse mode, allowing you to use the pen as a mouse to place your cursor wherever you want it. Pen mode is something you may or may not be able to get used to, but it’s worth pointing out that the inflexibility is a limitation of Surface Pro’s pen implementation.

 

Touch and Type Covers Surface Pro as a Tablet
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  • Scootir - Saturday, February 09, 2013 - link

    As someone who administers these types of devices for major hospital organizations I can guarantee that docs and nurses (and the administrator's who select what they get to use) would hate this device. it's poor battery life alone makes it a complete failure in this space, not to mention it's price. A clinical shift is 8 to 12 hours, not 3.something. We don't need much at all in terms of processing power - hospital electronic medical records run on Citrix farms and the Citrix receiver runs acceptably on the cheapest smartphone anyone can buy. I'm sorry, but from a healthcare perspective, iOS and Android devices make the Surface Pro look like a joke. Reply
  • jamawass - Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - link

    Are you mentioning productivity, then using facebook and light web as examples?
    Anand clearly stated in the article that the Surface pro isn't for that market but can be used as a laptop replacement so one can use real Adobe products not the kids' version on an ipad for example.
    Reply
  • JimTC - Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - link

    For consumption I'll stick with my iphone5 - i certainly am not interested in carrying around a bigger version of it.

    I'm looking for tools I can use. This one seems to be it (or at least getting there).
    Reply
  • DogmaHunter - Thursday, February 07, 2013 - link

    The "post-pc era" is marketing talk. It doesn't actually exist.

    Here's why: not a single person who has a smartphone or tablet threw out his laptop or desktop or is planning to do so.

    Tablets and smartphones do NOT replace pc's. At the very least, we are in the "pc plus era". And even that is stretching it imo.

    And tough to justify that price for media consumption?
    Here's the thing... Surface Pro is not a media consumption device. It can consume media, but so can my 4000$ desktop. Surface Pro is just a pc like any other.

    If people can justify the price they pay for a desktop, laptop or ultrabook... I see no reason they couldn't justify the price for Surface Pro.
    Reply
  • GotThumbs - Thursday, February 07, 2013 - link

    Based on your stated needs, it wouldn't make sense to purchase the Surface Pro unless you had money to burn or knew your future needs will need the power/flexibility of full program installs over Apps.

    But you could still save money and avoid Apple's Walled Garden by purchasing an Android powered tablet.

    Your choice at the end of the day,

    Best Wishes on your selection,
    Reply
  • Daeros - Tuesday, February 05, 2013 - link

    Seems a little steep for what you get... I think the Yoga 13 or MBA does better for the same amount of money, and several ultrabooks are a bit less if you don't need the "tablet" experience. Reply
  • DogmaHunter - Thursday, February 07, 2013 - link

    I bet you can't find me a single device with the same or comparable specs for much cheaper. Reply
  • Alucard291 - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    Which just means that all typical devices in this spec range cost roughly the same. So you start picking from other things, like battery life (which this piece of trash has none of) and screen quality (welp not this trash again too bad) and so on :) Reply
  • yesno - Tuesday, February 05, 2013 - link

    I appreciate the focus on performance, but what about the size, aspect ratio, and weight? The smaller size of the iPad mini, and the ability to read off it one-handed, makes it a better tablet than the iPad 4 in my usage. But it is creamed in every benchmark you could imagine.

    Whatever its performance, the Surface won't make a good tablet if its not comfortable to use as a tablet--even though this is much more subjective.
    Reply
  • LetsGo - Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - link

    Agreed, I'd love a true 8Inch portable Windows Pro machine.

    It should be under 700g if 10inch or greater this is no good.
    Reply

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