Microsoft Details The Surface Pro 3 Pen Experience, Less Latency And Improved Accuracy Are The Key Improvements

Surface Pen Details

Along with the announcement about the new Type Cover for Surface Pro 3, Microsoft also revealed the new premium Surface Pen with pressure sensitivity enables a more natural writing experience. The pen does a lot more than take notes, and Microsoft has worked with some pretty amazing partners to bring this to life in a variety of apps. Today, Microsoft detailed the Surface Pro 3 Pen improvements. Microsoft was focused on Pressure Sensitivity, Accuracy and Latency in offering the best inking experience.


Let’s look at accuracy first – ink needs to flow out of the tip of the pen exactly where it touches the screen. Stevie Bathiche is our Distinguished Engineer on the Applied Sciences team – he’s the man behind many of the innovations in Surface. He and Chris Whitman, our Program Manager for the Surface Pen, perform a simple test to validate their work in this area: a robot touches the display of Surface Pro 3 every 2 mm on a grid across and up/down the glass. They then track the level of accuracy as the cursor moves across the screen.



Let’s look at latency because of those using the Surface Pen for extended amounts of time, especially for drawing and sketching this is the most noticeable of performance metrics. Latency basically describes the distance between where your pen tip drags across the screen and where the rendered line appears. On pen and paper latency is 0 and many of us experience latency for the first time when we use a stylus on a tablet. Because we are digitally rendering the ink on the display, the PC has to interpret a lot of different data in order to display the “ink” in just the right place with the right properties. Depending on the device and the application you are using latency can vary, but our team has optimized our inking experience on Surface Pro 3.


Pressure Sensitivity

If you have ever made a drawing or sketch with pencil on paper you have probably used varying pressure to create thicker, bolder lines, or very soft and gentle lines. With an active pen like the Surface Pen in Surface Pro 3 we translate the force which you apply to the pen tip on the display into line weight and quality. Surface Pro 3 measures pressure on a spectrum of 256 different levels of pressure sensitivity. This gives you an incredible amount of control in your drawings and sketches. While each application will interpret the pressure curve differently, you can create beautiful strokes with subtle differences in line weight and opacity.


Microsoft Surface Pro team worked with many artists, architects, designers, and illustrators that use Surface Pro for creating this amazing experience. Read about the improvements in detail at Surface blog here.

  • Thoughtful

    I have read complaints from commenters about MS using the N-Trig pen technology instead of Wacom in the Pro3. From the demo I saw, it works really well, so the brand they optimized isn’t a concern for me. Maybe we could give MS the benefit of the doubt that they assessed both technologies and this was the best choice for the Pro 3.

    • peterfares

      I’ll wait until I try it for myself but I really doubt this new pen is as good as the old Wacom one. At the edges N-Trig works better but that’s the only thing N-Trig is better at unless the SP3 is using a whole new generation of N-Trig technology.

      I think they went with N-Trig because it’s cheaper and they wanted to lower the cost of these tablets. N-Trig has an all-in-one solution where capacitive touch and active stylus are handled by the same digitizer. But it’s just not as good.

      • Bugbog

        Given the manner in which they’ve had to optimize and adapt all the relevant technologies in order to create the ‘thin’ SP3, we can expect that they would have done the same for the N-Trig tech used also.

        Yes, we’ve all heard Wacom has been the leader for the last 10-20yrs, that doesn’t mean they can’t be bested, does it? Additionally, with two versions under their belt, and with the level to which they’ve ascended with this release, I would be somewhat sceptical that they would backslip on this, their supposed greatest triumph to date, and the flagship feature of the new device.

        So, at least some level of circumspection is required, otherwise you may be eating crow soon.

  • spydaweb

    I can vouch for the awesomeness of the pen. I got my non-journalist hands on a unit at a MS event tonight. It’s a great piece of hardware. The Surface is cool too. The unit was running vanilla Windows with no third party designs apps so, I can’t vouch for any “issues” when used with wacom supporting apps like Photoshop, but it works like magic in One Note.

    I should add though that I shoot (photography) professionally and have a Lenovo Helix which has a Wacom stylus and it’s nowhere near as cool to use or as accurate feeling as this implementation. I use the latest versions of Photoshop and Lightroom.