New Surface Pro Offers a Faster Inking Experience

Posted on May 24, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface, Windows 10 with 26 Comments

New Surface Pro Offers a Faster Inking Experience

It’s not clear to me why Microsoft isn’t highlighting this more, but the new Surface Pro provides an important performance advantage related to Windows Ink and the new Surface Pen. And this change neatly explains why Microsoft making its own hardware is so important.

Put simply, using the new Surface Pro with the new Surface Pen and the latest version of Windows 10—which, yes, comes with the device—users will see superior Windows Ink performance, with lower writing latency, than will users of any other PC. And the key to this advantage is a combination of hardware and software.

The hardware requirements are two-fold: You need the new Surface Pro and the new Surface Pen.

The new Surface Pro is the first Surface device to include a “Pixelsense Accelerator chip” that “runs Windows Ink acceleration code natively on hardware.” Yes, the new Surface Pro actually includes hardware-accelerated Windows Ink capabilities.

But you’ll also need the new Surface Pen, which offers double the performance of the outgoing model. This new Surface Pen also provides other advantages, like tilt support, 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity, and half the required activation force.

And then there’s Windows 10. With the Creators Update, Windows 10 has been updated to support “low latency Ink that virtually eliminates lag when you write” … Assuming you have the right hardware. Which right now is the new Surface Pro with the new Surface Pen. Only.

“This [combination of hardware and software] is how we achieve a new milestone in inking, virtually eliminating lag between the pen tip and the ink that flows out of it, creating the most natural writing experience with Windows Ink,” Microsoft’s Jerry Koh explains. “It is the result of a close partnership between hardware and software.”

So if you’re a digital artist, note-taker, or someone else who really needs pen-based capabilities, there’s your reason to upgrade to the new Surface Pro and new Surface Pen. You can’t get this level of performance on any other Surface device or non-Surface PC, and you never will be able to on existing models. Presumably, future Surface devices will add support for the Pixelsense Accelerator chip down the road. But for now, the new Surface Pro is the only game in town.

 

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Comments (27)

27 responses to “New Surface Pro Offers a Faster Inking Experience”

  1. Jules Wombat

    Yep, the pen performance on SP4 is OK, but not really good enough for a decent note taking or drawing, despite Microsoft claims. Surprising that this inking performance was not introduced in Surface Studio first.

    • Chris Blair

      As a frequent user of a Surface Pen, with a two-year-old Surface Pro 3, I must disagree a bit. The Surface Pen, while not the same as a real pen (or pencil) and paper, is currently quite acceptable, in my experience, for sketching back of the envelope new product ideas, writing equations, or taking hand-written notes. Having said that, I'm looking forward to trying the improved inking experience that MS claims will be provided by the new Surface Pen and Pro.


    • amosclan

      I'm probably going to upgrade from the SP3 to the new Surface primarily for the new inking capabilities. With the longer nibs, if I lean the pen too far, the target moves slightly under the pen, so I have to hold it more upright than I'm naturally used to. The tilt sensor will fix that. I can't speak for the SP4, but I've used the SP3 extensively for art (Sketchbook Pro) and note-taking (OneNote), and while it's not perfect, it's been incredibly useful.


    • Tsang Man Fai

      In reply to Jules Wombat:

      Compared to SP3 Surface Pen, the SP4 one is way better - appropriate friction between the pen tip and the screen makes writing much more natural and accurate.


      I also tried Apple Pencil of iPadPro - which is, to be honest, slightly better than SP4 in terms of writing accuracy.  But Apple Pencil gave me some "screen-scratching" feeling as I write, which makes me feel not so good.

  2. chaad_losan

    Take that apple! But really. No one could have envisioned Microsoft being able to control hardware and software so tightly that they could achieve such amazing results and performance. This was a hallmark of Apple for many years. But now Microsoft has done the unthinkable and is now building hardware with the software in mind and writing software for specific hardware in mind. Under Balmer this would never have happened, he would never have taken such risks to this level. I'll give Satya Nadella and his team credit for achieving this and pushing computing forward in ways that have been considered impossible.

    • Locust Infested Orchard Inc.

      In reply to chaad_losan:
      Quote: "Take that apple!"

      Microsoft long ago had taken a bite out of Apple, with the effects so severe, Apple make a point of pictorially representing Microsoft's preemptive strike in their logo. And once again, Microsoft continues with its technological prowess by launching a Surface-to-Surface assault on its barren competitor.

  3. Olen Ronning

    What if you use the new pen on an existing surface pro 4 or surface book? Which, if any, of these enhancements apply?


    The most interesting to me is actually the lower pressure needed to make a mark - I find using the current stylus for sketching and writing a bit tiring in extended use.

    • Detective Polarphant

      In reply to Olen Ronning: It looks like the tilt support works with Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3, as well as all Surface devices after that (all the Ntrig models)- except for the Surface Laptop - which is weird - I wonder if they disabled the feature on the laptop because the shading feature might be annoying  when you can't fold the screen flat.
      https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/store/d/surface/8ZL5C82QMG6B/43DC?icid=Cat_SurfaceAccessory-ContentPlacement2-Pen-052317-en-gb
      The improved latency only works with the new Surface Pro - it requires a sensor that's built into the screen...
      About the lower pressure sensitivity - it looks like that will work - maybe someone else has more info on it...


  4. MutualCore

    Too bad Apple stole the thunder on this with the iPad Pro in 2015. Big whoop, Microsoft finally figured out that the pen has to be low latency, have tilt support and lower activation force.

  5. SDreamer

    I've never thought of the ink flow laggy. There is the illusion that it is laggy though because the cursor lags behind when you hover the pen. Turn that off and you'll find that latency is gone since you're mind isn't trying to find that cursor before you ink. That's been my work around for that. Interested to see if they fixed the cursor hover latency with that new chip.

  6. timwakeling

    Any word on whether these enhancements automatically apply to other apps that use the pen (I'm thinking Photoshop, primarily) or only to built-in Windows apps? Or will Photoshop need to be updated to support the improvements, and if so, are Adobe working on it? :)

  7. TheJoeFin

    I agree Microsoft should be talking this improvement up, but personally I expected this to happen earlier. Here is a Microsoft Research video from 2012 talking about input lag https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOvQCPLkPt4 it must be a really hard computer science problem because they have been working on it for a long time.

  8. michaelpatricehuber

    The new pen is also compatible with previous Surface models, but unclear which features will be supported. Obviously not the new acceleration feature, but the video about the pen shows someone using tilt on a Surface Studio. Does anybody have clarity on that?

  9. gjsmyth

    I use the pen quite a bit with my SP4 and recently replaced the default pen tip via the Pen Tip kit to the 'HB' (yellow) option.

    Whoa boy! What a difference that made!

    So much smoother and more natural feeling to write with.

    There is definitely a short delay on SP4 so this new configuration sounds like a fantastic way to keep improving.

  10. Chris Blair

    Useful information for us inkers and possible buyers of the new Surface Pro. Thank you.

  11. ezraward

    The accelerator chip is a welcome addition to the Surface Pro. I believe I had seen some complaints about ink lagging when running on some of the lower-end versions of the Pro and using heavier drawing programs. I wonder if this chip in the device across the board will improve that situation.

  12. PeteP

    I'd love to pre-order one to go with the Surface Pro that I've pre-ordered. The button is greyed-out in the Microsoft Store, and their chat has no info on when it will be available. Curiously, Microsoft's announcement of the Surface Pro concludes the paragraph on availability with "The new Surface Pen will be available in the coming weeks." I hope that doesn't mean that the pen will be LATER than the Surface Pro itself!

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