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Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil: The Battle of the Styluses

Apple Pencil Surface Pen

For a very long time, Apple stood against styluses. It was an abomination in the Jobs era. But the forces of the market are more powerful than the spirits of dead genius. Hence, it is that Apple Pencil has now arrived on stage. But is it too little too late? Let’s find out. This is: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil.

In case you didn’t already know, the Apple Pencil is Apple’s stylus that works with the iPad Pro series of devices. Surface Pen, on the other hand, is manufactured by Microsoft and words with their entire line of Surface products.

How do they measure against each other?

Let’s see. Here’s a summary by iMore:

  • Apple Pencil: Unspecified pressure sensitivity, 20ms latency, tilt support, 12 hours battery life (rechargeable), Bluetooth 4
  • Surface Pen: 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, 21ms latency, tilt/rotation support (on some devices), 9g of activation force, 1 year battery life (replaceable), Bluetooth 4

As you can see, specification-wise, they are both more or less the same. Unlike the computers that these two companies make, the two styluses are roughly of the same internal build.

Where they do defer, however, is the way they work with their respective devices.

Charging

Apple Pencil charges with connecting to the iPad. It has a Lightning connector at the back and that takes about half an hour to fully charge.
The Surface Pen, on the other hand, comes with removable AAAA batteries included, which can last for nearly an year with moderate usage.

Buttons

Apple Pencil has an all smooth, no buttons design. Duh! Like Apple would put a button on anything if they could help it.
Surface Pen, meanwhile, has one single button on the side. In typical Windows fashion, you can fully cusomise how you make use of this button. It also supports single, double, and triple clicks.

Apps

Until iOS 10, Apple Pencil only worked with a handful of drawing and painting apps in the iPad Pro. It was never a perfect substitute for the human touch. With iOS 11, however, Apple has integrated the Pencil more deeply into the OS. Now it can be used to interact with the iPad, like a touch input device, rather than just a very expensive paint-brush.

Meanwhile, the Surface Pen is so much more than just a “pen”. It can be used to interact with the Surface devices almost seamlessly. It works like an extra, high-tech pointing device, and can be programmed to be so much more than that.

Cost

At about a 100 dollars each, the two are identically priced. So it’s actually kinda hard to say if the Surface Pen is really expensive or if the Apple Pencil is really moderately priced!

As a concluding remark, there’s only one thing I would like to add:

The two may belong to the same category of devices, they certainly can’t be compared. It’s worse than comparing apples and oranges. The two work in two totally different ecosystems and therefore it’s very hard to say with certainty which one performs better.

What I’d like to see, therefore, is to have these products evolve cross-platform compatability. We ought to be able to use one Stylus with the products of the other company. And then we’ll know which is better!

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