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
POST A COMMENT

229 Comments

View All Comments

  • Morgifier - Tuesday, February 05, 2013 - link

    The design of the (as yet unreleased) Asus Transformer Book seems preferable, with the external keyboard providing rigidity, additional battery life and extra storage. I wonder if Microsoft have considered this?

    Although I'm yet to use Windows 8, I do like the idea of device convergence...
    Reply
  • cmikeh2 - Tuesday, February 05, 2013 - link

    I totally agree with you that Transformer Book seems a lot nicer (especially with the bundled dock) but they're sort of in two different product classes since the Transformer Book (1.9 kg) is about twice the weight of the Surface Pro. Reply
  • althaz - Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - link

    If you want something that is three-in-one (desktop replacement, tablet, notebook replacement), the Asus or the Samsung ATIV with similar specs to the Surface Pro are a much better choice.

    For me though, I never, ever want to type with this thing in my lap. I want to watch videos or play games (mostly Football Manager) while I'm on the train. I want to hook it up to a bunch of XBox controllers and a TV for playing on the multitude of old-school emulator with my buddies, I want to plug a keyboard and mouse into it to play starcraft at my mate's place and my wife wants to surf the internet and play angry birds at home.

    I have a desktop at home and at work, this is for everything else which means I don't need the dock (the touch cover would be handy for typing things up when I'm say, on an aeroplane or on a holiday though), or the added weight and price it includes.

    I can't wait to get one of these!
    Reply
  • jeffkibuule - Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - link

    The Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro has typical Samsung tablet build quality. I wouldn't touch that thing with a 10" pole. Perhaps their Ultrabooks are of better build quality, but the ATIV isn't it. Reply
  • LetsGo - Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - link

    Nothing wrong with my Samsung 7.7 Tabs build quality.

    When they update there 8" Note to a Octo-core I will get one, a tablet should be light therefore being made out of plastic is good design.
    Reply
  • B3an - Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - link

    Does anyone know when the Transformer Book is actually going to come out? Been waiting for this for ages. Asus are taking the piss. Might just go for Surface Pro. Reply
  • PubFiction - Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - link

    IMO, the whole point of surface was to bring to market something the other OEMs were not doing. Transformer is a great form factor, but so what ASUS whom is a big MS partner is already making it why would MS step in and build another transformer when one already exists? The draw to surface is the light ultra thin keyboard. But are you going to get the best typing experience from that? No, of course not, will it be better than typeing with the softboard? Yes.

    Surface brings one major thing to the table, the ultra thin tablet / laptop combo device. It can do everything, but of course in certain situations it will not be the best device. But compared to the price of other ultra books it is very good. It sports a good CPU, touch screen, digitizer etc. Ultimately you see an over abundance of negative posts which are simply stupid because they compare apples to oranges. People compare this to a mac book air, which has no, touch screen, no tablet mode, and no digitizer. Well duh if all you want is an ultra book then this isnt for you but its ridiculous to even bother comparing a device which is so different and lacks so many features.

    What we really need is for the OEMs to fill in the gaps in product lines not try to compete with each other in products that already exists. What we are still missing is a gaming level convertible. Alienware, samsung series 7 gamer, clevo et al. Lenovo has built alot of combinations of tablets and laptops but now we need something sporting at least a 660M that can flip into a tablet and has a built in digitizer.

    My biggest complaint with this device has to be the lack of slot for the digitizer pen, the big strength of surface was the compact all in one nature where the keyboard is not a clumsy accessory but an integral part of the device. The pen should have followed that lead.
    Reply
  • PubFiction - Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - link

    Of course the other issue is non remvable battery which means if you are dropping $900+ on this it wont last more than 2 years before the battery craps out like all sealed batteries. Reply
  • Netscorer - Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - link

    most ultrabooks have non-accessible battery. Not sure what your point is. If it is important to you to be able to access memory, storage, battery and other internals, buy a regular laptop, not a tablet.
    And realistically, batteries last more then two years. The performance may become degraded after some time but I've had batteries lasting 3-5 years on all my devices and by the time they are truly dead, the device is typically obsolete and needs replacement, anyway.
    Reply
  • spencer.p - Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - link

    That's true.

    I would recommend perhaps getting a Surface Complete warranty for it (if you get it from the Microsoft Store). $99 for two years of accidental, too.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now