I confess that I’m not as much of a fan of the revised Surface Pen, which magnetically clamps to the side of the Surface Pro 4 tablet. Say what you will about the SP3’s pen – that fabric loop meant that thing wasn’t going anywhere. With the SP4, you may find that the Pen slides off and disappears into your backpack every so often—although carrying the SP4 with the Pen at the top helps, too. I still think inserting the pen into the chassis, as the Samsung Galaxy Note series does, is the way to go.
The Surface Pen has quietly evolved into a fourth input device for the Surface line, beyond trackpad, keyboard, and touchscreen. There are some features I really like: For one thing, simply flipping it upside down and sliding it across the screen erases what you’ve written, like—well, an eraser. Clicking the top of the Pen launches OneNote, clicking it twice saves a screenshot. Clicking and holding launches Cortana’s oral search—which is really quite handy while in tablet mode.
But something about the Surface Pro 3’s pen resonates with me a bit more, especially when writing. Microsoft’s new SP4 boasts a technology called PixelSense, which helps reject your hand when inking. That worked flawlessly—but, then again, I haven’t had many problems with the Surface 3 or Surface Pro 3’s pen, either. And maybe it’s the way I scrawl notes, but the Surface Pro 4’s stylus just didn’t feel as comfortable on the glass as the SP3. Some people won’t like how the SP4 eliminates the right-click button from the Pen, either.
Can you use your older SP3 Pen on the new Surface Pro 4? Well, not really. My SP3’s Pen wrote on the Surface Pro 4, but that’s about it. I suspect that the SP3’s Surface app may be updated to allow the the SP3 Pen to launch Cortana, however.
Both stylii still leave a trail of e-ink that lags behind the stylus when making broad, sweeping strokes. Still, if you didn’t like how pressure distorted the SP3’s display, you’ll be happy to know that’s vanished from the SP4.
The Surface Pen’s battery isn’t rechargeable, so you’ll have to replace the $60 Pen when it expires, in what Microsoft says will be a year’s time. Microsoft also sells a $10 pen tip kit which may very well provide a more comfortable solution than what the Pen offers, but I didn’t have a chance to try it.
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