Microsoft has created the first stylus with no perceived lag: the new Surface Pen


Microsoft claims to have created the “fastest pen in the world,” but what does that even mean?

It's quite simple actually: after years of research, Microsoft has finally been able to make a stylus that works with almost no visual delay, a paramount change in the experience. This is the new Microsoft Surface Pen, and it's got other super-powers as well: a whopping 4,096 pressure levels and the ability to recognize tilt, so that you can use it to shade things, just like with a regular pensil.



Diving deeper in the tech details, the break-through achievement with the new Surface Pen is that it works at only 21 milliseconds of latency. 

This number alone is hard to understand, but you understand it better when you see the below video by Microsoft Research. It shows a typical device that works with a latency of around 100 milliseconds, and compares this to a futuristic, 1-millisecond input. We are not quite at those levels, but the Surface Pen is getting the stylus much closer to that magical territory.


Compare to the previous Surface Pen, this new edition is over two times more accurate, with four times more pressure sensitivity.

“We did a huge step with the pen, a massive step,” Surface co-inventor Stevie Bathiche said for The Verge. “I’m so pumped about this.”


Another part of the Surface Pen experience magic is the PixelSense Accelerator, a piece of custom silicon that enhances colors and interaction for the 12.3" PixelSense display on the Surface Pro.

The Surface Pen is available in Platinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue and Black. The Pen will be backwards compatible with earlier Surface devices, but certain aspects like Tilt might not work.

source: Microsoft

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37 Comments

1. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

that's great :D now it's your turn, WACOM..

2. ibeginner

Posts: 19; Member since: May 23, 2017

>> Diving deeper in the tech details, the break-through achievement with the new Surface Pen is that it works at only 21 milliseconds of latency. iPad Pro with Apple Pencil works on 240Hz. 240 Hz = 4.1666 ms. So claim : "NEVER HAS THERE BEEN A DIGITAL PEN LIKE THIS ONE" not completly true..

3. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Very good catch! +1

4. T-1000

Posts: 1; Member since: May 23, 2017

No, The ipad pro doesn't have 240Hz display and your magical 4.1666ms response time. Stop making things up out of thin air and your lying claims.

6. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Unless CrappIe is lying, what he claims is 100% backed by what's on their website: https://www.apple.com/ca/apple-pencil/ "When iPad Pro senses Apple Pencil, the subsystem scans its signal at an astounding 240 times per second, giving it twice the data points it normally collects with your finger."

8. zacsaturday

Posts: 262; Member since: May 09, 2014

Latency and input per second are two different things

10. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Really? I think they're merely the inverse of one another. Hz = input/s. Latency = s/Input. So, 240 inputs/s = 240 Hz => Latency = 1/240 = 4.166 ms/Input. What's wrong with that thought? Do share...

13. arman9953

Posts: 49; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

And when does the Processing take place in your Theory ? :D

19. sachouba

Posts: 266; Member since: Jun 08, 2014

Imagine a long train going through a tunnel, at a speed of one car per second. Imagine that you can see both ends of the train. Now, there is a red car entering the tunnel. Since the speed of the train is one car per second, does it mean that you will see the red car going out of the tunnel in 1 second ? Nope. Because it takes some time for the car to go through the tunnel. - Tunnel = processing of the touch data by the CPU and GPU, - Speed = frequency of the touch panel, - The car going into the tunnel is when you touch the display, - The car going out of the tunnel is when the line appears on your display. Do you understand it now ? Even if the frequency is very high, the time it takes to process the data (latency) can be much longer (or shorter, if the tunnel is shorter than a car).

24. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

That makes sense and also explains why the pencil has higher latency in some apps than others. Thanks for sharing, lesson learned.

31. JumpinJackROMFlash

Posts: 464; Member since: Dec 10, 2014

Doesn't mean the display can be updated just because the input has been measured. Get a grip if you're ignorant.

14. arman9953

Posts: 49; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GprJAYr4lu8 thsi shows how the Processing in Apps affects the Latency and that is something completly different than your Input per Second numbers from Apple.

16. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

^ Good catch!

9. sachouba

Posts: 266; Member since: Jun 08, 2014

Nope, a working frequency of 240 Hz doesn't mean that the latency is 4 ms. It means that the position of the time of the stylus is measured every 4 ms. There is absolutely no link between the latency and the frequency. A smartphone display's touch panel works at a high frequency and yet the latency can be higher than 50 ms...

12. arman9953

Posts: 49; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

no comment on this one... -_- it sends 240 times a second information to the iPad. The CPU needs to take that data and run it trough a few programs (App you are running), then send it to the GPU to render the animation and then display it on the 60hz Monitor of the Ipad Pro for example and this is what the takes the time. My Mouse has 1000hz, does this mean every game will run at 1000fps on my s**t PC ?! :D Made my day man thx

18. ibeginner

Posts: 19; Member since: May 23, 2017

Typical ios app( grid with pics on iPad) with good code work on 60 fps = 16 ms. See WWDC sessions. 16ms still less than 21 from M$

30. vincelongman

Posts: 5696; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

The Surface is also 60Hz, apps will also run at 60fps Plug the Surface into a 200Hz monitor, apps will run at 200fps But that doesn't mean the Surface pen will suddenly become 5 ms (same for the iPad) See sachouba's comments

33. ibeginner

Posts: 19; Member since: May 23, 2017

iPad can do all work - read image from memory, Calc coordinates and put it to GPU memory in 16 ms - for 60 fps animation. So, I don't understand why iPad cannot in that 16 ms get pencil data in 4ms and draw line in other 12 ms.

34. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Look at the linked video in post #14, not even the stock iOS apps give that "4ms" latency you claim, much less 3rd party apps. Post #19 logically explains why your thought process is incorrect.

36. vincelongman

Posts: 5696; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Just watch the video arman9953 linkedhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GprJAYr4lu8 Pen latency is far more complicated than move a cursor Look at teardowns, there's lots of little components in the Apple Pencil and iPad Pro screen That applies to all tablets, no matter iOS, Windows or Android

5. zenun12

Posts: 205; Member since: Oct 31, 2016

PA, it's pencil, not pensil. :)

7. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

The pen is now also sold separately in order to bring the price down to exactly that of the iPad XL ($799 although with quadruple the storage, 32GB vs 138GB). Wonder how much the pen will cost stand-alone... Eitherway, no Thunderbolt 3, no sale.

11. L0n3n1nja

Posts: 1568; Member since: Jul 12, 2016

Previous Surface Pro devices were $799 and included the pen.

20. microsoftnokiawin

Posts: 1268; Member since: Mar 30, 2012

probably the LTE antenna cost and decent speakers

21. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

And they had 64GB storage and no biometric authentication. The base Pro 4 was $899: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surface_Pro_4

15. MRWINDOWS

Posts: 14; Member since: Mar 01, 2014

Microsoft knows a hell of a lot more about this than apple . . . . . . . . . . . . IBEGINNER HAS ONLY BEEN A MEMBER SINCE 4 HOURS AGO LMFAO .... TROLL

17. TerryD

Posts: 546; Member since: May 09, 2017

£979 for the i5/128gb version. Ouch. Then you need to add on the extra for the keyboard and pen. You're looking at £1200 all in. I got the Surface pro 4 with keyboard for about £950. Quite a difference, probably due to the crap pound. There's no way I could deal with a mere 4gb now either. Just load up PA on Chrome and all your memory has been gobbled up. Glad to see that they've improved the pen, I hated the pen on the 4. Not sure why they have to copy Apple by removing the clip. They'll be removing the buttons next.

23. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

No more pen clip? That's a ridiculous and backwards move. It should at least come with some pen cap with a clip like a normal pen...

22. mudcat626

Posts: 229; Member since: Jul 13, 2016

Lol, Microsoft is hilarious, still not up to par with Apple Pencil. Usual Mafiasoft marketing......

25. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Lol @ "not up to par", it's beyond the pencil, it's got a tail eraser, 4 built in shortcuts, magnetic storage, and all year battery life...

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