The Importance of an Active Digitizer Pen

October 16, 2013

It surprises me the number of people I encounter who don’t realize there is a difference between the pens used on higher-end Windows and Android tablets and those used on, say, the older iPads. The key is having an active digitizer built into the screen of the device.

The Surface Pro has an active digitizer, as does the Samsung Note. The older iPads and most other tablets have only a capacitive touch screen—built mainly for touch use with your finger (or a stub-nosed pen).

[2017 Update: The newer iPad Pro line also has an active digitizer when combined with the Apple Pencil.]

Advantages of an Active Digitizer

The advantages of an active digitizer are many:

  • Automatic palm rejection. With an active digitizer, you do not need to worry about drawing stray lines when you rest the pad of your palm on the screen while writing. Sure, many software titles attempt a form of palm rejection by trying to predict where your palm will be, but the results are very mixed.
  • Much more accurate point placement, finer lines. With an active digitizer, you get much more accurate placement of a fine point. That leads to being able to write finer and more compact notes, for example (which is a big deal for me). And when running Windows 8 in Desktop mode on a small tablet, you need often a fine and accurate point to manipulate the controls on the screen.
  • Larger Range of Pressure Sensitivity. Should you be creating art work, having a wide range of pressure input matters.

One disadvantage: the pens are expensive, about $40 each if you buy them separately. And the screens themselves are more expensive (usually making the device higher-priced).

Read the Specs

So be careful when getting a tablet that says it comes with a pen. If it doesn’t say it has an active digitizer screen, you are getting less than you think. For example the new Lenovo Miix2 tablet (a brand new 8-inch Windows 8 tablet, $299) brags that it comes with a pen, but it’s not an active one. I suspect others will be skimping on this feature as more inexpensive tablets continue to roll out.

Other Windows Tablet Models that Have Active Digitizers

I focus on Windows tablets because they can run desktop Outlook, a primary tool in my MYN productivity system. So here are some other Windows tablets that have active digitizer pens.

First is my current favorite (but now dated) Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2. I would not buy one now as the processor is dated, but I am eager to see what Lenovo replaces that model with in the coming weeks—one with Bay Tray I am sure. Notice that the newish Lenovo Miix 10 does not (and has an old processor). The older Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx has no active pen. Lenovo is lagging on Bay Trail tablet announcements and so I am eager to see what they have up their sleeve.

The newly announced Dell Venue line has an active digitizer. That’s true in both the 10 inch and 8 inch models and it is built with Bay Trail. So this is the tablet to watch at the moment. [11/13/2013 Update: I mentioned this in a comment below, but thought I should move it up here. The blogs I've seen from people who have used the 8 inch version of the Dell Venue say the digitizer is pretty bad, that it's not accurate enough to take notes with it, for example. Sounds like the 10 inch version will use the same digitizer. Too bad.]

The Surface Pro 2 and the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix also have active digitizer screens, but they are too heavy to act as real tablets. But they do make good hybrid laptops (see below).

And I am sure many other Bay Trail tablets will come out with active digitizer screens in the months ahead.

Active Digitizers On Laptops?

Active pens probably make little sense on a larger laptop or large hybrid tablet; their screens are bigger and you are less likely to hold and write on them. But they might make sense on a smaller Hybrid laptop/tablet that you put in your lap or flat on a desk. Currently, very few such devices exist with active pens. The old Tablet PC’s had those, but they are out of date. As I mentioned above, the Surface Pro 2 and Lenovo ThinkPad Helix fall in this category (but the Helix has yet to update to Haswell).

One hybrid laptop line recently announced is the Sony Flip line that gets up to 15 inches in screen size with an active pen. The 13 inch model looks very good to me as an Ultrabook choice when doing real work on the road if you need a pen (but it’s rather pricey). Also check out the Vaio Duo 13.

I suspect other hybrids might come out in the months ahead that have active pens.

[Feb 3, 2014 Update from Michael]:

This post has received more comments than nearly any other post I’ve made, so I want to weigh in on a couple repeated themes. First, lot’s of people are asking which computers have what active digitizers, so I want to point you to the best list I know of:  https://skydrive.live.com/view.aspx?resid=A3E71B4BBE25C114!107&app=Excel&authkey=!AAO1lowxloMJjhM  It’s a link that is in a web page pointed to by BJ in the comments below (thanks!). Note that the Bay Trail devices are the ones listed in that list at the top of the Atom section (with CPUs marked in green). All the Atoms below that are the older (slower) Atom processors.

Next, buying a hybrid (heavier) with a pen, versus buying a 10-inch true tablet (around 1 pound) with a pen. I’ve written extensively on a similar topic here. Gist is I think you want a true tablet (with a pen) AND a laptop (with or without a pen). If the laptop is a 3 to 5 pound hybrid fine, but you’ll probably use the 1-pound tablet for most of your note taking and informal media consumption. Again, I think you need 2 devices–for two different purposes. As of this addition (Feb 2, 2014) I’ve yet to see a true 10-inch 1-pound tablet with the new Bay Trail processor and a good active digitizer. The closest is the Fujitsu Stylistic Q584/QH55, but it’s a tad on the heavy side (1.4 pounds) and over-engineered and over-priced for what most of us need. But if you need something today, that’s it. (I am going to wait a bit).

[Feb 14, 2014 Update: Lenovo just announced what looks to be a good Bay-Trail based Wacom pen tablet.]

Thanks again for all your great comments!

Michael Linenberger

121 thoughts on “The Importance of an Active Digitizer Pen

  1. christine

    AMEN!!!! While I’m surprised that the general public doesn’t seem to “get” the difference, I’m uber annoyed at most tech, mobile computing, & tablet review sites that don’t bother to address this differentiation when discussing individual models of tablets. Further, I’m amazed (and irritated) that tablet manufacturers, ESPECIALLY the precious minority that produce tablets with active digitizers, tend to bury this bit of product info deep within their marketing chatter- if they address it at all! Instead, I believe every release announcement, spec sheet, review, “best of” list, & “compare now” results should clearly state whether the tablet has an active or passive digitizer & whether it uses an Ntrig or Wacom stylus!

    As it stands, I’m on the lookout for a mini (under 10″/2#) windows based tablet with a min. of 5 true hours of bat life, an active digitizer, & a Wacom based stylus that will work snappily in Office… especially Outlook & OneNote. Initially, I thought it would be super easy to come up with a list of existing or soon to be released contenders. But, after slogging through a ridiculous amount of info, I can’t believe how much leg work it has taken to generate the short (and almost certainly incomplete) list that I have.

    Keep fighting the good fight ;)
    Christine

    Reply
    1. JustDroppedBy

      Thank you so much for your blog Michael.
      I was so very close, in buying a Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 2 Pro. Ive had my eyes on Microsoft Surface 2 Pro.
      For several years now, ive tried moving over to digital when drawing. It never felt right for me with the Wacom Intuos 3, i kept dreaming of one day being able to draw directly on the screen, for an affordable price.
      My wife came home one day, with both and an iPad 4th gen 128GB and a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.
      I loved the Galaxy Note because of the digitizer and i could wireless connect both a mouse and keyboard. I soon afterwards sold our iPad because we didnt use it. Soon after that, I discovered how laggy and underpowered the Galaxy Note was when having multiple layers in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, so I sold that one aswell. Meanwhile our daughter was missing “her” iPad so much. We then bought an iPad Air 128GB.
      Now i was still going around and dreaming about the Surface 2 Pro. There was No Way! I was ever gonna try drawing on the iPad screen with an stylus….
      Then all of sudden a miracle happened when i found Wacom Creative Stylus and the ProCreate app. This combo is brilliant, so check it out guys. Im still dreaming of a much finer stylus point tho and will eventually buy some of the other stylus brands that offers 2048 preasure sensitivity aswell. Smaller pen tips are needed in apps like Inkpad.
      But im still looking for an all in one package like the rest of you.
      C’mon! Please Lenovo…. Your so close. Keep up with the creative thinking.

      Reply
    2. Hurricane

      Actually, I draw just fine on my Ipad. Yes I wish to all the computer gods that Apple would make an active stylus version of the Ipad, but, using a capacitive FABRIC stylus is a good compromise. If you want to draw or write freely ignore those rubber tip stylus’s, they drag too much. Look up “Stylus sock” and you will see what I am talking about. The greater news is you can make your own stylus. as thick or as thin, with whatever grip you desire. The only limitation is the fact that it is just an extension of the capacitive touch function so no pressure sensitivity or palm rejection. However considering the price points and the portability of the Ipad it does allow for decent sketching ability that you can easily move over to a real PC to finish off, Which I do alot. and with enough patience and practice you can in fact achieve a remarkable level of detail in your work.

      Reply
  2. Sui

    Finally someone makes this FUNDAMENTAL differentiation between active digitizer pen and passive capacitative pens ! And I agree with Christine. This shows indeed how reviewers AND marketers completely are ignorant about an essential feature that has great impact on productivity.

    I have been using active pens for years (they have been available on almost all “Convertible Laptop/Tablets” – what is new is that while they used to be non-touch screes, now we see devices that have both, multi-touch AND active digitizer functionality).

    But here is what even Michael missed:
    (1) There many more devices that have digitizer, such as ThinkPad Yoga Pro – among the best I would say.
    (2) Active pens offer another huge advantage not mentioned: You can hoover over the monitor to move the pointer to a button, and then click by physically touching the screen. With passive pens, you have one shot at hitting the button because the pointer only moves to where you touch the screen when you touch it. Thus, the active pen mimics a mouse: you can move the pointer around without actuating a click. This allows you to take advantage of mouse-over tool tips… which you cannot with touch screens!

    Reply
    1. Michael Linenberger Post author

      Thanks Sui for your comment. Your benefit listed in point #2 (hover capability) is also very important, thanks for noting that. As to the upcoming ThinkPad Yoga, been watching it, nice machine, should have listed it in the hybrid laptop category. Thanks again! Michael

      Reply
  3. Josue

    And the Samsung’s ativ tabs? Im still using my ipad 2 and noteplus, Im about to get an ativ tab 5, do i have to wait to see the dell’s venue 11? I dont know to much about processors, i would appreciate orientation.

    Greetings from México… Where active digitizers are a weird myth, an “extra” of the galaxytab… Thanks God amazon exists….

    Reply
    1. Michael Linenberger Post author

      Josue, Ativ tab 5 has the old processor. Wait for Bay Trail. Samsung will update their line in a month or two, I am sure. Or get the Dell due out in a few weeks. Or wait to see what pen-based Bay Trail tablet Lenovo comes out with. Best, Michael

      Reply
  4. Michael Linenberger Post author

    Well, the reports are out on the digitizer on the Dell Venue 8, now that it is released, and they are all pretty bad. Apparently it does not use a Wacom interface, but some less expensive one. Lots of complaints. Too bad. Other than that, good reviews of that unit. Michael

    Reply
  5. Max

    Since it looks that there are some likeminded people here I will ask my question here rather than in a Forum.

    I am looking for an 8″-10″ Tablet running full Windows 8.1 on a Baytrail Processor. Since I want to scribble down my Notes it should have an active digitizer and preferrably (in decreasing order of importance)
    - (micro)HDMI out
    - 3G connectivity
    - Better Display than 1280×800

    The Dell Venue 8 pro looked like the one for me even though it does not have the HDMI out and does not currently come with 3G but as pointed out above the writing on it appears to be worse than on a capacitive Display. Is there anything else out there that I’ve missed?

    Reply
    1. Michael Linenberger Post author

      Max, I don’t think you’ve missed it. I don’t think it is out yet. But only a matter of time. I am waiting to see how Lenovo updates the ThinkPad Tablet 2. Michael

      Reply
  6. Sid

    Hi Michael

    Do you have an additional information regarding whether the Dell Venue 11 pro has an active digitizer built into the screen of the device? Any reviews done on the handwriting capability of the device?

    Kind Regards,
    Sid

    Reply
      1. Sid

        Thanks for the response Michael.

        I am looking to obtain a tablet with windows 8 primarily for note taking at university using Microsoft OneNote. The SurfacePro2 looks like the right tool for the job but is expensive for students. Samsung ATIV tab 3 seems like it could be similar although I believe they keyboard is not available in the UK and there are a lack of reviews.

        Sid :)

        Reply
        1. Michael Linenberger Post author

          ATIV Tab has not yet updated for Bay Trail. I’d wait for that. Or wait for the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 upgrade to Bay Trail. Neither is announced however. Michael

          Reply
  7. Gabriel Gutiérrez

    Good morning.
    The problem with Dell Venue 8 Pro is the screen or stylus, someone has tried to work with another different brand stylus.

    I’ve thought about buying one, but the problem has me worried stylus.

    Reply
  8. Hammy Havoc

    Any recommendations on active desktop displays? Don’t really fancy the Cintiq due to the pixel density and I’d prefer to match several displays in a multimonitor setup.

    Reply
  9. Sarah

    The HP Elitebook convertable laptop/tablet series – now called HP Elitebook Revolve 810, have 11.6 inch capacitive screens. Because they are convertable, they are much heavier than slate style tablets, but they also have powerful processors. They’re expensive – over $1,000, but would work for those looking for a one-machine laptop and tablet with capactive screen and stylus. I’ve had two of the previous models – e.g., Elitebook 2760p and have loved the ability to switch between standard laptop mode and a slate/handwriting mode. But I too am waiting eagerly for a smaller slate tablet that runs Windows and has a capacitive screen, and I also wish that manufacturers made it much easier to tell which machines have capacitive screens and which don’t…

    From what I can tell, the Dell Venue 11 Pro has a capacitive screen, while the Dell Venue 8 Pro doesn’t?

    Reply
  10. tobs

    I was glad to read that my internet resaerch proved me right: good notetaking ist only possible with an acitve pen/digitizer, it took me days to know the difference you explain here so well, found the Fujitsu q584, expensive but I think its worth…

    Reply
  11. Josue again

    Hi!

    Does anyone know if the dell’s venue pen problem is really fixed??

    Does it use n-trig technology? I’ve been reading reviews of other devices using ntrig pens and those were positive impresions…

    Has anyone tried the venue’s pen!?

    Reply
  12. Melissa

    Thank You for the article!
    Agree with Christine; riDICulous amounts of research was needed to dig up this simple information on my own, wish I had found this first. And I second the comparison chart BJ cited, as a first-time laptop/tablet buyer, it was a little intimidating, but invaluble in determining I got the right device for me (Surface Pro 2 as it happens)

    Reply
  13. Jeremy

    Agree with all the sentiments here. 1 year ago I was feeling very lost midst reviews, mystery products that “might appear”, and basically a strange lack of these wonderful devices. Am about to evangelise about this topic at a local learning and teaching conference and wanted to check I was still up to date.

    I plumped for the Samsung ATIV Smart Pro 700T which does not seem to get a proper mention above. (The Ativ tabs 3 and 5 are only ATOM processors; 700T is a full i5 [if not "4th generation"]). I am delighted with it for University teaching – especially live handwritten lecture capture, and recording the working to solutions of exercises. It is powerful enough to act as my only Windows PC.

    By the way on any of these devices make sure you check out penattention to get the full benefit of the hovering of the pen to point at things in lectures if using e.g. OneNote. (Penattention turns the tiny dot into a much larger (and customisable) pointer.

    Reply
  14. Dowlass

    Nice to come across a discussion on digitising tablets – they do seem hard to find! Christine, would you care to share your list of candidates? It’s good to know that you’ve found some, but which are they!

    I presently have a Lenovo A310, which has a rather nice digitising pen – it’s a fairly hefty 10″ tablet but has some useful ports (incl. a full size USB, although I’m not sure what it’s for!), and a nice screen. The processor is probably very old hat (I’m no expert on processors) and browsing, for instance, is a pretty slow affair. But the ‘My Notes’ software shows the potential of the digitiser, even if it’s rather poorly executed . And while the screen won’t register the palm resting on it, it draws every movement of a little finger knuckle which most people will find resting on the screen! So plenty of work to be done in perfecting the technology, I think.

    The biggest drawback for me, wanting to draw fairly accurate vector drawings and maps/diagrams, is the lack of decent software. Granted my Lenovo is stuck in Android world which, while touting gazillions of applications, hasn’t really got one decent accurate vector drawing app. I’ve not investiagted under Windows 8 yet, maybe that will be the route to go.

    Sadly most of the tablets seem heading for the consumer market of browsing, games and video. Few manufacturers really seem to take the potential of digitising screens very seriously.

    Hugh

    ps. come on Christine, where’s your list!… ;)

    Reply
  15. Jochem

    Hi there. Questin: after using active tablet-laptops for a few years I’ve been foolish by buying a resistive touch screen Dell XPS12. I fell for the looks:( Stupid hormones! The thing is, I would like to get an active pressure sensitive stylus to turn the thing into an active tablet. I contacted Atmel, but they said that their active stylus doesn’t work with Dell…..
    Does anyone know of an active, pressure sensitive stylus to be used on the Dell XPS-12? Hope you can help me…
    Jochem

    Reply
    1. Michael Linenberger Post author

      Jochem. You cannot turn a capacitive touch screen into an active digitizer screen just by buying an active pen. The screen on the laptop needs to be already an active screen (and the screen on the Dell XPS 12 is almost assuredly not). Sorry, but you need a new computer to do that! Michael

      Reply
  16. Dowlass

    The Dell Latitude 10″ is in the list mentioned by BJ at http://forum.tabletpcreview.com/hardware/52592-list-windows-8-rt-tablets-convertibles-stylus.html

    Expert Reviews seem to give it the thumbs up, too… http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/laptops/1300996/dell-latitude-10

    But crucially they don’t say whether it’s a true digitising tablet? They say it’s a better choice than the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2, but if they’re missing a crucial distinction between the two, then that’s not much of a useful recommendation!

    They do say:There’s also the option of buying a Wacom stylus pen. This will set you back another £29 inc VAT, but we found it quite difficult to use. We either had to tap links multiple times or jab them very hard to open them and quite often the virtual pen was in a different place onscreen than the one in our hand. ….. which kinda leads one to think that it isn’t a true digitiser?

    Hugh

    Reply
    1. Michael Linenberger Post author

      Dowlass, the Dell Latitiude 10 has the older Atom. I’d wait for a tablet with a Bay Trail. Also, its a bit heavy at 1.6 pounds. Odd that it supposedly has a Wacom digitizer that does not work! Michael

      Reply
  17. Dowlass

    Michael,

    I was interested to see your ‘current favourite’ being a Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2 (as I already have a Lenovo 10″ android)….. so I thought to check out reviews of it.

    I was mildly (?) surprised to read on the review at Techspot http://www.techspot.com/review/687-thinkpad-tablet-2/page2.html that… It should be mentioned the stylus is passive (no batteries required). Even so, the tablet’s digitizer can sense the tip of the stylus as it hovers an inch above the screen.

    So it doesn’t have the advantages of an active digitiser?…

    Hugh

    Reply
  18. Sarah

    Hi Hugh,

    “Active” and “passive” are used in confusing and contradictory ways. In the older “convertible” laptop-tablets, as I far I know “active” refers to the active digitizer, and the stylus that came with these models didn’t have batteries – e.g., the Lenovo Thinkpad XT series, the HP Elitebook convertible series, or the Toshiba Portege convertible series.

    Some tablets come with a stylus with a battery, and that’s referred to as an “active” stylus – but I’m not sure what the battery does, or how that relates to the screen. But I wouldn’t assume that a stylus without a battery means that the tablet doesn’t have an active digitizer.

    Someone else may know more about this than I do – can anyone explain why some styluses have batteries?

    Thanks, Sarah

    Reply
  19. Dowlass

    Hi Sara,

    Yes, there does seem to be some confusion – that’s what I’m trying to get to the bottom of!

    You’ll notice that the Techspot review mentioned the ‘digitizer can sense the tip of the stylus as it hovers an inch above the screen’. That is what I most definitely do NOT want! I want an electronic pencil – I want it to only register a mark when I touch the paper (or screen in this case).

    Hovering pencils are out!

    Hugh

    Reply
    1. Josue waiting for the vivotab note

      Dont worry about “active” or “pasive” concepts, at times, i think its possible there is not an agreement about that.

      What i do is to look for “wacom digitizer pen support”.

      The wacom digitizers dont use batteries, but are “active digitizers” ( they move the cursor when floating over the screen, do a “click” when touching the screen, and enables “palm rejection”)

      Besides the wacom digitizers, there are other pens that do the same, but using a different technogy, and those use batteries.

      best regards
      From Mexico, sorry for the english

      BE CAREFUL, THE “WACOM BRAND” ALSO MAKE PASSIVE DIGITIZERS FOR IPAD, THOSE DONT WORK AS I DESCRIBED. (The passive digitizer is kind of a finger extension)

      Reply
    2. Marc

      You do want the hovering pencil! Nothing happens before the pen touches the screen, but you can actually see where the pencil is before it touches. This is a really great feature and is the difference between the “touch” stylus used on “normal” touch screens without a digitizer and the real digitizer like stylus.

      Also, I have the n-trig version on my Taichi and it works like the wacom, but has a battery. I can see the advantage of not having a battery, but the actual pen works very nice. So if you can live with a battery, then the n-trig devices shouldn’t be ruled out.

      Best regards,

      Marc

      Reply
      1. Dowlass

        You do want the hovering pencil! Nothing happens before the pen touches the screen, but you can actually see where the pencil is before it touches. This is a really great feature…

        Nope, you’ve completely got me there, can’t see any value in that whatsoever! If I have a pencil in my hand I know where I am going to put it on the paper…but nothing happens until I do touch the paper. I know where I’m going to put my stylus on the screen, too!…. ;)

        So no, I do NOT want the hovering pencil, thankyou!

        Reply
        1. Jeremy Craven

          You need to try out a system with a pen to see why the hovering pencil is so vital.

          With the finest system in the world there is always the problem that the stylus will not go EXACTLY where you think you are pointing it. Partly this is due to the inevitable piece of glass between where your stylus touches and the LCD screen that you see the mark on. By seeing a dot before you commit yourself to a mark your hand eye coordination is very soon based on the dot rather than the exact end of your stylus. This is why you can draw one line, take the pen away, and draw another line that neatly joins onto the end of the line you have just drawn. I have tried out a sympodium system which has an active digitiser but for some reason does NOT give the hover effect – it is MUCH MUCH MUCH harder to do anything neat. Careful (and possibly repeated) “Calibration” to an extent compensates these problems, but you get into issues of your head positioning, and the “dot” will always, I believe, guide the fine tuning that your brain will need to do.

          So “I know where I’m going to put my stylus on the screen, too!…. ;)” is in practice almost certainly not true. But you do know that the mark will appear where the dot it.

          Another thing is that the hovering mimics the hovering of a mouse over an object which very often will have some effect before you actually click the button. You would not want your mouse to have no “pointy arrow” when you move it around on the screen, and only be forced into seeing where it was when you clicked the button.

          (In any lecturing/screencasting application hovering is vital for being able to point at things on the screen without making a mark).

          Jeremy

          Reply
          1. Dowlass

            Some fair comments there, Jeremy, and I don’t deny your rationale. But I have worked with the hovering pencil and can only say it doesn’t work for me. I’ve also worked fairly extensively with a Wacom pen tablet attached to a Mac, and that had a hovering effect and drove me nuts; I found absolutely no benefit from it, just irritation.

            So, different strokes for different folks, I guess! But the points you make are valid and I’m sure will be relevant for some users.

            Hugh

    3. David Goss

      For what it’s worth, I purchased a Lenovo Yoga 2 on the advice of a retailer (who will remain nameless) after telling them specifically that I wanted a fully functioning computer with tablet and stylus capability (at that point I didn’t realize the distinction between capacitive styluses and digitizers); they also sold me a Wacom digitizer stylus to use with it. Well, I couldn’t get them to work together. So I contacted Wacom and after a long wait they told me that their records showed that the Lenovo Yoga 2 didn’t work with a Wacom digitizer and they couldn’t understand why the store had paired the two together. So then, mystified, I contacted Lenovo, figuring that the store had simply sold me the wrong pen. Lenovo told me in no uncertain terms that there was no active stylus that was supported by the Lenovo Yoga, which seems fairly definitive to me. But am I still missing something perhaps? Did I get incorrect advice from them? And if they were correct does anyone have a suggestion for a Lenovo Yoga-like computer/tablet that uses a digitizer stylus???? It seems like an odd omission to me, given the many uses a digitizer stylus can be put to (taking meeting notes, marking up PDF documents…I’m a lawyer and this capability would be invaluable to me! More than invaluable, actually; it would transform how I do my work.) Anyone have any thoughts? THanks. Also, any insights on a successor to the Lenovo Yoga 2?

      Reply
      1. Marc

        I think the newest Yoga works with a digitizer, but not the older ones? I am a patent lawyer and am also looking at new ways of working. I bought a Taichi which is a hybrid like the yoga. I however found that I still want my computer on for normal work while I take notes at the same time. With my taichi, I can either take notes or work, but not both at the same time. Therefore, I don’t really use the note taking effectively. I have decided to drop the hybrid computer and try to get a very lightweight tablet with digitizer and a normal but also lightweight Laptop. I would then need to carry around two devices, but I would have my “note taking” device and my work device. After looking at a number of devices, it seems that (as Michael recommends) the best tablet at the moment is the Thinkpad Tablet 2. However, it is a bit dated, so there is probably something new coming. I found a slightly used Thinkpad tablet 2 that I will buy to play with and then when the new one comes out will get that.

        /Marc

        Reply
        1. David Goss

          Marc–thanks! (And BTW, I can’t believe someone else admitted they are an attorney; admittedly, patent attorneys probably don’t rate quite as high on the Dr. Evil scale as corporate finance attorneys (me) do, but….). It’s quite interesting , though, that your work thought process has been working exactly along the lines mine has: it seems so obvious that professionals who spend most of their life commenting on documents and taking notes/marking up docs at meetings really need a high quality device with both computer and digitizer/tablet capabilities. Apparently the computer designers don’t bother with customer focus groups. ANyway, enough venting. I agree with your thoughts on the Taichi. Your thought about getting two devices is probably the best solution, I guess, since there doesn’t seem to be a one device solution, at least so far as I’ve found. One last question–you mentioned that you thought that “the newest Yoga” works with a digitizer, but I know that the Yoga 2 doesn’t–are you referring to a successor to the Yoga 2–I assumed that one would be coming along at some point, but I haven’t seen any references to it–do you (or anyone else) know when that might be arriving? THanks. David

          Reply
  20. djasli

    Salutation from a tiny little dot on the map called Singapore. I stumbled across this your blog, sir while doing research on the new Win 8 tablets. I have to say, you and my fellow commenters, get it.

    It is an almost impossible task educating my fellows on the difference between an active digitizer pen vs fat capacitive stylus; so much so that I’ve given up. Yet people keep asking me how I accomplised my tasks and projects with an ancient HP TC1100 that is still going strong after all these years. My mind boggles.

    I do supplement the abovementioned workhorse with a Galaxy Note 8 and 10.1 of which the former is also my phone and notetaker.

    I have rambled enough. Wacom and its technology has been a godsend. I’ve gone paperless for the last decade or so.

    Great and informative blog Mr Lilenberger.

    Reply
  21. Marc

    Great discussion! I am also frustrated with the lack of information on digitizers on tablets.

    It seems that lenovo has announced an 8″ version of their Thinkpad Tablet with stylus… http://www.tomshardware.com/news/lenovo-thinkpad-8-tablet,25559.html

    Looks nice, but for real notetaking, I still think a 10-11″ would be better?? I had the Galaxy Note 8 for a while and that worked quite nicely, but I missed OneNote which I think is much better for real notetaking. It is strange that with all the apps out there for Android, there is not one really good notetaking app. I think I went through/bought 20+ different note taking apps and none of them are as good as OneNote.

    I then bought an Asus Taichi 21 with an i7 processor which I think is really nice. It works very well. I think the setup is really nice since I do work in laptop mode where I don’t need a touch screen and then I have the tablet function for notetaking or playing. However, I found that I often want to take notes while doing real work on the laptop. For example I have a report/CAD model open on the laptop and I want to take some notes, draw some figures, etc. at the same time. So I decided I need both a tablet and a laptop, so that I could view one thing on the laptop while taking notes on the tablet.

    As a general note taking observations, on my Taichi, the inside facing screen is matte and the touch screen is glossy. I seem to feel that for note taking, a matte screen would be better, but most tablets are more glossy?

    By the way, I would like to subscribe to your blog to get updates on this tablet/digitizer discussion, but is it possible? I am in the same search as you and you have some interesting hands-on reviews of the different products…

    Best regards,

    Marc

    Reply
    1. Michael Linenberger Post author

      Marc– you can subscribe to the blog in the lower right corner of the blog page. MICHAEL

      Reply
  22. Emes

    For those interested in graphic design via Adobe: CS6-Illustrator etc…..
    There appears no mention on this site that Adobe software offers support only to WACOM digitizers – NOT N-Trig!, and appears to have no intention of ever doing so…. This make the problem rather larger than first thought.

    emes

    Reply
  23. dowlass

    Emes, I am interested in graphic design – in fact it’s one of the main reasons I want a decent tablet, so that’s interesting – nay, vital to know! But would Illustrator not work at all with another stylus platform, or are Adobe just throwing their lot in with Wacom (brown envelope?..!) and taking sides for safety?

    Hugh

    Reply
  24. Dowlass

    Good for N-trig digitizers!….. But at 5lbs in weight for the Sony Flip, I might as well lug around my Macbook Pro ;)
    If the technology makes it into a pure tablet weighing a pound, we might be talking !

    Reply
    1. Michael Swift

      I have just obtained a 22″ Yiynova pen digitizer tablet monitor (MVP22U+IPS 1920×1080 FHD). Cost $900, that’s less than half the cost of a Cintiq, and much more portable.

      Reply
  25. Dowlass

    Very nice! I read the review of the 19″ model (http://frenden.com/post/38693256477/yiynovamsp19u) and at $569 it seems a very good price (although I’m in the UK and it will cost twice as much!)

    However, it doesn’t have its own operating system by the looks of it?…requires hooking up to a machine with an OS? So not a true mobile note-taker/drawing tool in its own right.

    For the timebeing I will plough on with my original Thinkpad Tablet 1838 10″ Android – while it’s old tech it can still do quite a lot at an affordable price. And it has (wait for it…) a full size USB port, full size SD card slot, 3G SIM, lovely display, HDMI port, manageable size, reasonable battery life, good screen, and an active pen with built in storage cubby! Still not much to beat it at the price point.

    Hugh

    Reply
  26. joel

    Thank you for a good overview on the differences between capacitive styli and active digitizers. However, what I’m missing in your post is a discussion (or at least a hint) on capacitive pressure sensitive bluetooth pens (like many of the iPad pens that are for sale). These offer many of the advantages that a digitzer layer on the screen does (like palm rejection and pressure sensitivity). Astonishingly, no manufacturer has bothered to develop a Windows 8 counterpart just yet even though there is certainly a huge market for such a pen. Nevertheless, once someone gets through with a pressure sensitive bluetooth pen for Windows, I believe the higher costs for the additional digitizer layer may not proove a real advantage for many users.

    What’s your opinion on this?

    Reply
    1. Michael Linenberger Post author

      Joel, we haven’t played with them much. We tried out the early version of the iPen for iPad, and it was horrible–it was not usable. I think without a digitizer in the screen itself, it is very hard to accurately locate where the tip is, and keep the drawing point under the tip of the pen. So we gave up reviewing them. You know of one that works well? Michael

      Reply
      1. joel

        From what I hear, the Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus (ICS) may be quite a good tool, did you try that one also? However, I haven’t had the chance to test it myself since I neither have pen nor iPad – I’m still waiting for that pressure sensitive pen for Windows that hasn’t been built yet.
        Cheers, Joël

        Reply
        1. JustDroppedBy

          Hi Joel.

          My reply was kind of missplaced at the top first reply, sorry Michael.

          So here i go again:

          I was so very close, in buying a Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 2 Pro. Ive had my eyes on Microsoft Surface 2 Pro.
          For several years now, ive tried moving over to digital when drawing. It never felt right for me with the Wacom Intuos 3, i kept dreaming of one day being able to draw directly on the screen, for an affordable price.
          My wife came home one day, with both and an iPad 4th gen 128GB and a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.
          I loved the Galaxy Note because of the digitizer and i could wireless connect both a mouse and keyboard. I soon afterwards sold our iPad because we didnt use it. Soon after that, I discovered how laggy and underpowered the Galaxy Note was when having multiple layers in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, so I sold that one aswell. Meanwhile our daughter was missing “her” iPad so much. We then bought an iPad Air 128GB.
          Now i was still going around and dreaming about the Surface 2 Pro. There was No Way! I was ever gonna try drawing on the iPad screen with an stylus….
          Then all of sudden a miracle happened when i found Wacom Creative Stylus and the ProCreate app. This combo is brilliant, so check it out. Im still dreaming of a much finer stylus point tho and will eventually buy some of the other stylus brands that offers 2048 levels of pressure-sensitivity aswell. Smaller pen tips are needed in apps like Inkpad.
          But im still looking for an all in one package like the rest of you.
          Keep in mind the iPad Air screen resolution is 2048 x 1536
          264 pixels per inch (ppi)

          Reply
  27. Bob

    Firstly I like to say I’m very glad I found this blog as I’ve been looking for a hybrid with active stylus and it has been very difficult because so few models are capable of using an active stylus. I really don’t know why more manufacturers don’t offer hybrids w/ active stylus capability as it is such a useful feature. To the best of my knowledge about zero new Windows hybrid laptops w/ active stylus capability were introduced at CES this year.

    What I haven’t been able to discover in my research is does for example a Lenovo Helix allow a signature on a PDF (non-digitized version, the actual signature pictured on the pdf document) natively or does it require additional software to do so?

    I’ll be able to answer that question for myself next week but if anyone knows I’d greatly appreciate your posting the answer.

    I am going to purchase the Helix because of the current price point, $1500 US for the 256GB SSD 8GB RAM w/ active stylus version. I had originally excluded it from consideration because it’s not yet been upgraded to Haswell however it’s battery life surpasses many new Haswell models owing to the dual display/dock batteries. I’ve read user reviews mentioning the heat issue in a small portion of the back of the display but what convinced me to get the Helix were the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon virtually all of them from advanced users and the current pricing and the mini-DisplayPort which should allow me to run my dual Dell U2414H monitors daisy chained. Surprisingly to me Sony’s Duo & Flip lines don’t have mini DisplayPort and the DUO is only a 5 touchpoint screen.

    Ideally I would have liked to have an Asus Taichi 31 w/ Haswell but Asus does not sell the 31 in the US nor has it been upgraded to Haswell and there are numerous negative reviews on the Taichi 21 on Amazon, enough to steer me away from it despite the fact that it also has very attractive pricing currently.

    Reply
  28. Joshua Lieder

    What a nightmare I have had with original Surface Pro and the Kindle App (any and all versions) with trying to highlight. Instead of highlighting the digitizer pen makes me lose my place and jumps me back several pages in documents within Kindle.

    On my Logos Bible Software app the digitizer pen actually closes the book while I am highlighting leaving a weird icon in the middle of my screen that looks like a bookend and says “Close tab”.

    I finally am throwing in the towel on Surface Pro as the digitizer pen is a nightmare. I downloaded wacom for it and followed the instructions the Microsoft tech gave me dutifully. The Suface is not reliable with its pen – at all – even after tweaks and calibration!

    Reply
  29. Randy Williams

    Beyond the recent ASUS VivoTab Note 8, what is the outlook for new tablets with active digitizer stylus?
    - The reviews on the Dell Venue stylus are poor, and it’s not a true active digitizer
    - The Surface Pro 2 looks like the best option, but it’s pricey
    - The new ASUS VivoTab Note 8 could be appealing, but I’m looking for a 10-12″ screen
    Any chance Samsung, Lenovo, ASUS or someone will come out with a tablet that is: a) 10-12″ screen: b) an active digitizer; and 3) Bay Trail or Haswell processor? If so, what is the timing?
    Any chance Microsoft will lower the price of the Surface Pro 2?

    Reply
    1. Bob

      I wouldn’t overlook the Levono Helix despite the lack of a Haswell CPU because as I stated in my original post the battery life w/ 3rd generation i5 or i7 surpasses many if not all the Haswell hybrid/tablets w/ active digitalizers owing to the dual batteries (tablet & dock). I got one last week through Amazon at what I thought was a very attractive price, $1,539 w/ 0% 12 mos financing for the i7 256 GB SSD 8 GB RAM model. From what I’ve researched the Haswell chips are not ultimately as high performance as the 3rd generation, the Haswell advantage is longer battery life & less heat.

      I can’t comment to the drawing abilities because I will use the Helix for having clients sign pdf contracts in a picture of the actual signature as opposed to digital signature format which I discovered is possible with the free Adobe Acrobat XI reader but not with the Nitro Pro 8 trial software that is (was) pre-installed. And I’ll probably use One Note for note taking.

      The Fujitsu models are probably overall the best i5/7 available choices available right now but IIRC they are over $3K so I don’t see the value at over twice the price of the Helix. Also, I don’t think you can compare Bay Trail to i core processors as the available SSD memory and overall capabilities are not at all comparable. The Helix’s most direct competition I think would be the Surface Pro 2 and IIRC the 500 GB Surface Pro is about $1,800 but reading user & professional reviews leads me to believe MS has some issues to work out on that version. Also, I think the Helix is a lot more ergonomically usable in the laptop mode on your laptop than the Surface Pro owing to the weight of the keyboard/dock.

      Reply
  30. Leah

    Hi,
    I’m about to purchase a Sony Vaio Flip 15″ and I’m looking for a good pen to use for it that’s also maybe not overly expensive(I understand $40 can be a standard price but $80 is a little much) . I’m not sure however what I should be looking out for exactly. There’s so many different types of digitizer pens and I’m not sure how the cross compatibility works between companies, models, etc. Any suggestions?

    Reply
      1. raph

        Do you think the std1 is compatible with sony vaio flips? In europe they dont sell the vgp std2 anymore, but they do have vgp std1 for sony duo. The only question is, does is work for sony vaio flip?

        Reply
  31. Jeff Baxla

    glad to have made a stop here and will absolutely stop in tracks, need fully digitized solution

    was looking for full power notebook with full power tablet to take copious notes by hand, does not sound like we are there yet

    I have not owned one and would like to shortcut to best tablet for note taking to allow me to save as Word document , will wait another year for xps12 to digitize

    Reply
  32. Brent McDonald

    Good morning, I’m reaching out for a bit of advice.

    About 75% of my work day is spent in an office where I use a Lenovo laptop hooked up to a couple external monitors. I need to be out meeting with real-estate agents and clients a bit more. I intend to purchase a Win 8 tablet for Outlook/MYN and switch to paperless note taking with OneNote. I’ve got a budget of about $400 for the tablet and accessories. I figure that if I do become committed to this, I’ll upgrade tablets in a year or so.

    I’d like your help with the final choice:
    1) Asus Vivotab Note 8 – This has the BayTrail processor and a Wacom digitizer and really seems to fit the bill. It sells for about $300

    2) Lenovo Thinkpad 2 – I’d buy a used one on eBay. This has an older processor than the Asus but a larger screen and an HDMI port. It sells for about $300-350 used on ebay.

    The questions bouncing around in my cranium are:
    1) Will an 8” tablet be adequate for taking notes or do I need a 10” tablet?

    2) Is getting the newer Bay Trail processor important?

    3) My IT guy uses a Surface Pro 2 says that Microsoft will introduce an important update for Windows and that many of the next tablets will be true 64bit. Would any of this be worth the wait for my Productivity type use?

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
    Gratefully yours,
    Brent

    Reply
    1. Marc

      I think you need a 10″+ tablet for proper note taking. I had a samsung galaxy note 8 and it was a bit too small for my liking. I now have a thinkpad tablet 2 with a 10″ screen and I still think it is a bit small. I would love to have the new galaxy pro with its 12″ screen and digitizer, but with windows 8.1. I think one note is the best note taking program and I could not find anything on android that worked as well.

      I bought my tablet 2 used on ebay, but I am a bit unhappy that I did so. The digitizer does not work very well for me. Around the edges of the screen, the digitizer seems to be very inaccurate. Also as I approach the edge of the screen while writing notes, the calibration seems to go off. I also have a taichi 21 with the n-trig pen and I don’t experience the same issues and I did not seem to experience the same thing with my galaxy note 8 with the wacom pen, so I expect that it is an issue with my used tablet 2. The price has come down so much now that i would recommend getting a new one instead of a used one.

      The battery life on the tablet 2 is okay, but it won’t last a whole day of note taking. Also, the charger that comes with the tablet 2 is a usb charger at 5V, but it has more power than a normal USB charger. So normal USB chargers won’t charge the tablet 2 while it is in use. If the tablet 2 has the screen turned off, then normal chargers will work, but if the screen is turned on you need to use the charger that it is supplied with. Something I found out afterwards.

      /Marc

      Reply
    2. Michael Linenberger Post author

      I agree with Marc’s reply. I think 10 or 11 inch is optimal. And yes Bay Trail (or better) is almost essential if you want to use the computer as a computer–you’ll probably feel like the computer is too slow for web browsing, Office use, etc, otherwise. But if notetaking only, my ThinkPad 2 lags a tiny bit on notetaking, but it’s acceptable. Michael

      Reply
  33. Mathieu LeBlanc

    Hi Michael,
    Is there anything coming with bigger screens in terms of tablets equipped with digitizers? I have had lenovo’s tablet PC with the 12.5 ” screen but you would look a quarter inch all around due to inaccuracy of the hardware. Plus, the calibration was only accurate in certain places on the screen. Since then, I have been dreaming of a larger screen with more space to work with. Something similar to a paper notebook. I know there are some quite large tablets out there (18”) but none are equipped with the digitizer from what I have seen! A 15” tablet pc or tablet equipped with the digitizer would be the best tool for me, anything out there? Apparently, there has been an alert from sony that the flip causes burns.
    Thanks,
    Matt

    Reply
      1. David Goss

        What about the Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga, which uses (I’ve been told) a digitizer pen and has a pretty large screen. Other than the reputedly slightly off color rendition, are there other problems with it?

        Reply
        1. Sarah

          I have an HP Elitebook convertible laptop (screen twists around to tablet mode). The screen is 12.1 inches and is remarkably similar to writing on a 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. According to the wonderful excel spreadsheet to which Michael sent us the link, the two slates with similar screen sizes are the Motion R12 and the Cintiq Companion, as well as one hybrid, the Fujitsu Stylistic, all in the $2000 range. As these brands and prices indicate, it seems that a pc-equivalent, large screen pen-enabled tablet is still seen as a niche market. It does seem as though there are several hybrids and slates with 11.6 inch screens, which might be large enough to still feel like a piece of paper?

          About the problem with losing calibration on the margins of the screen – the Elitebook sometimes has this problem, but increasing the view to 150% usually takes care of it. For my purposes – grading papers – this workaround is fine, because I read and make comments in full screen mode, and then increase the view as needed. This also helps with forms or anywhere that small writing is needed.

          Reply
          1. Kal Goren

            What pen do you use with the HP 810? The Executive Pen they sell with it doesn’t calibrate to any degree of the size lines or if it does my technical people cant find it
            thank you

    1. Bob

      Acer makes a 15″ that uses an active stylus. They’re sold exclusively through Best Buy or on Acer’s webstore for $899 + the stylus. I looked at one at my local Best Buy and thought it was a nice computer. It lacks a SSD but that’s not a deal breaker for me & could probably be upgraded. It has a unique floating screen & touchpad above the keyboard. If you read the professional reviews they pan it for that reason but if you read the user reviews on Acer’s website owners like it. Only detraction to me was the lack of a dedicated number pad which the 15″ Sony Flip doesn’t have either and I don’t know why because 15″ is enough real estate for it. Acer also has mini DisplayPort for external monitors. I would have bought one but decided to have better mobility so bought a Lenovo Helix.

      Reply
  34. Mike Palmer

    I purchased a Lenovo 230u Twist, thinking it would work for drawing on PPT slides and handwriting only to learn that it is no better than an iPad.
    Do you know whether it will work with a digitizer pen? If not, I will need to replace it.
    Thanks for your help.
    Mike Palmer

    Reply
  35. Me

    Well, how about the MS Surface Pro 3? I would enjoy a single piece of gear that can be tablet (13″) and Laptop, use stylus input for note taking (hey clicking the pen to open OneNote is a great idea), have a keyboard attachable (I would add another mode of operation, letting the keyboard work wireless as well).

    Reply
    1. Michael Linenberger Post author

      Yes, I am eager also to test the new Surface Pro 3. To me, the key is if it feels light enough to use as a tablet, and if the battery life is long. Once they are released and I can play with one, and I get some real-world batter-life numbers, I’ll write something up. Michael

      Reply
        1. Michael Linenberger Post author

          Ian, no I tested the Surface Pro 2 and sent it back because it was too heavy for use as a tablet. If I needed a small Ultrabook laptop, I’d definitely get the Surface 3, it gets great reviews. Michael

          Reply
  36. Des Carroll

    Fabulous blog. I hope reviewers are reading it to learn what’s important to users!

    I am struggling between buying Surface Pro 3 and ASUS Taichi 31. I love the size and form of the Taichi but am buying either primarily for note-taking and being able to project drawing & writing on a large screen in group meetings. My understanding is that both use NTrig technology but I would like to hear feedback about stylus performance from anyone who has used both tablets. I used to have a Surface Pro 1 but found the screen a bit small for note-taking, hence my interest in the 13.3″ Taichi although the SP3 at 12.2″ sounds good.

    I’ve just read a very interesting article about stylus technology which may add value to this blog. It’s at http://surfaceproartist.com/blog/2014/5/27/microsoft-addresses-n-trig-concerns-in-reddit-response

    Reply
    1. Michael Linenberger Post author

      Thanks Des, for that N-Trig link, very useful. Regarding your question, I have not used either yet. The Taichi sounds interesting, but from the specs I’d lean away from it compared to Surface 3 because 1) older processor–the Surface has a newer Haswell, 2) a lot heavier–3.5 lbs vs. 2.0 lbs, and 3) possibly shorter battery life (though you’ll want to research that). Still, good press on the Taichi when it came out; here’s one review: http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Asus-Taichi-31-CX003H-Convertible-Ultrabook.92862.0.html
      Michael

      Reply
    2. Bob

      To the best of my knowledge Asus has never imported the Taichi 31 to the U.S., I was very interested in it as well and read many foreign reviews but I finally had to pull the trigger because my backup laptop was XP and the hardware was not robust enough to upgrade the OS. I needed something before MS ended XP support.

      On a side note I heard on the news today MS is ending Windows 7 support I believe January 2015. They said MS will continue security updates for 5 years after that so I’m not exactly certain what the meaning is of discontinuing Windows 7 support.

      Reply
      1. Marc Münzer

        I really like my Taichi 21. It is a real laptop with a real keyboard and I can use it to do real work. The keyboard is heavier than the screen, so when doing normal work, the laptop feels very stable just like a real laptop. When I flip the screen down I can also use it like a real tablet. I also have a Tap 11 and I get about the same battery time out of both devices even though the Taichi is the older generation device. The Tap 11 is a lighter, but the difference is not so great. I find that when I have both the tablet and the keyboard option, I usually find a way to use the keyboard. I really get frustrated by the lack of a keyboard on the tablet like devices. It is really hard to do real work without a proper keyboard. The taichi 21 is really light and is easy to transport. I like taking notes on it as a tablet at meetings and then going back to the office with the same device. I use the taichi 21 as my main computer and do simple CAD work, word processing, etc and have never felt that it wasn’t fast enough. All in all a really nice device.

        The pen on the Tap 11 is however much better than the pen on the Taichi 21. However they work interchangeably, so I now use the pen of the tap 11 on both the tap and the taichi.

        Once in a while the Taichi has some problems with screen drivers due to the different screen setup, but Asus seems to solve it pretty quickly. Just don’t upgrade windows so quickly.

        /Marc

        Reply
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  38. Brandon B

    Equally important for a digitizer stylus is high PPI (Pixels per inch). The flagship Apple and Android devices always have excellent PPI (usually > 175ppi). Whereas the Windows 8 flagship, Surface Pro 3, has a comparatively meager 216ppi. I need to read and mark up a lot of PDFs, so the better the ppi the better it is on the eyes. Tablets need BOTH a digitizer and high resolution.

    Reply
    1. David C Goss

      Does anyone know what the pixel per inch count is for the digitizing stylus on the Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga? I would really appreciate the info. I have been going crazy trying to find a tablet with true computer capabilities and also a digitizing stylus and the Lenovo Thinkpad seems to be the best even though it’s a little heavier than I’d like; it anyone has an alternative suggestion I’d be happy to look at it.

      Thanks.

      David G

      Reply
    2. David C Goss

      In your 9/21/14 Linenberger blog comment you stated that “Equally important for a digitizer stylus is high PPI”; that I understand and it makes a lot of sense. What I don’t understand is why you then state that flagship Apple and Android devices “always have excellent PPI (usually > 175 PPI)” whereas the Surface Pro 3 “has a comparatively meager 216 PPI”. Obviously I don’t understand something about PPI calculations; why is “>175 PPI” better than “a comparatively meager 216 PPI”? I would have thought that 216 PPI would be superior to 175?

      this question is important to me because like you I need to read and mark up a lot of PDF’s, so I want to make sure I get a tablet with the best possible digitizing stylus. THANKS!

      Reply
  39. Andrew

    Thanks for your blogpost. I’m looking into picking up an Acer R7-572 which seem to be around second had for about $500-$600. I’m hoping that I’ll discover pen input to open up a new and more interesting world. Are there any suggestions on good cheaper pens than Acer’s own brand one – this is a bit of a learning curve. I hear their technology is from N-trig – does that matter? Thanks!

    Reply
  40. Jason

    I’m using a Fujitsu digitizer pen with the Yoga 2 – well, attempting to, anyway. Does anyone know how I can get this to work?

    Reply
  41. Bill

    I have been considering the Yoga pro 3 but would have really liked the active digitizer on it-anyone with experience of using ?bluetooth or other stylus with such machines?

    Reply
    1. Ivan Miller

      The Yoga 3 pro’s near 4K screen resolution is awesome for streaming video, but it doesn’t leave much processing power or battery life for you to get much work done on. The other trade-offs compared to the Thinkpad Yoga is the Mg alloy case, great keyboard, digitizer, and durability.
      See comment below.

      Reply
  42. Janine

    I’ve been living with a Sony Vaio Duo 11 with a digitizer that works like a charm for two happy years now. It also confuses me how few users I talk to see how active pens change the way of digitally working.

    So now I am trying to get one step further: I’m looking for a way to write on an all-in-one touchscreen PC. There are a few great models that come with the possibility oft laying the screen down on your office table. Sadly none oft those models Seen to come with a digitizer pen, so my last hope would be to buy the pen separately – which leaves me with one important question: Am I correct by assuming, that any digitizer pen only works with the touchscreen it comes with? Vor does anyone know a way (software solution) of using a pen with another divice?

    Reply
    1. Bob

      To the best of my knowledge an active digitizer does not work with any touchscreen, the screen must have been built to accept active digitizer usage. There is no software program capable of making a non active digitizer touchscreen screen capable of using an active digitizer.

      Reply
  43. Ivan Miller

    The digitizer pen is an option with Lenovo’s Thinkpad (business grade) products. The upgrade runs approximately $250 more for the necessary screen, pen, & program.
    The option is not available on their consumer models (including the Ideapad line.)

    Hint: Form fits function.
    Consumer computers are optimized for media consumption; business computers are aimed at productivity & durability for a bi-directional flow of data.

    Reply
    1. yefet

      just bought a lenovo thinkpad twist- an ultrabook introduced at 2012, definitely a business model. almost all thinkpad products comes with a digitizer option, so i didn’t even bother checking. what a mistake! no digitizer included i can understand, but i dont even have it as an option- rendering my all-new and quite expensive “convertible” close to useless for me!

      Reply
  44. eintex.pl

    I’m not sure why but this site is loading incredibly slow for
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  45. Charlie

    I’m looking at the 12.2 inch Samsung galaxy note pro digitizer quality vs the Lenovo 12.5 inch notepro. Anybody have info regarding the comparison of the 2 products? Thx

    Reply
  46. Billy

    I’m surprised that with so many comments, no one has mentioned the significant number of educators out here who use convertible laptops with active digitizing displays as presentation tools. In math and math-intensive sciences, there is no better digital successor to a wall of chalk (or white) boards than a tablet PC and a projector. “Smart” boards are tiny and (to me, anyway) not good for much beyond middle school. Using an attached stylus input pad (with the associated hand-eye coordination requirement) is not nearly as intuitive as a write-on-screen unit.
    I’m trying to find suitable replacements for a couple of very durable mid-2000s Toshibas with 14.4″ displays, hoping to get even bigger displays. Screen real estate is (almost) priceless, and because the device typically sits on a lecture desk or podium, weight is not a limiting factor. I say almost priceless because I just can’t see paying several thousands for Wacom’s Cintiq (but I’d love to use one). I just found out that Toshiba no longer makes *any* computing device with an active screen. Sad…

    Reply
    1. yefet

      try acer aspire r7-572, comes with an n-trig pen. i5 4gen, 8gb ddr3, 1tb hdd, can be found new for around 650$ (even 550 if willing to wait for a good deal to show up). 15.6in screen!
      http://www.digitaltrends.com/laptop-reviews/acer-aspire-r7-572-review/#/5
      i’m an engineering student and my trusty old hp tx2500 just died on me… i’ve bought this one after reading user comments. didn’t arrive yet- let me know if you want a quick review in a week or so.

      Reply
      1. Andrew

        I agree that this is probably a good choice. I’ve been thinking of purchasing one for a while. My only concern is the small four-cell battery. Do you have any suggestions of where to purchase for a reasonable price as I’d prefer to buy new rather than secondhand.

        Thanks,

        Andrew

        Reply
  47. Paul

    I have the new Toshiba Encore 2 Write tablet and it is absolutely amazing. Have been holding out for the Surface Pro 4 until this baby came out. I don’t know how they could make the pen experience any closer to pen and paper. Really didn’t need all of the horsepower of the Surface, but I’ll be watching out for it anyway.

    Reply
  48. cad

    Extremely annoying. I bought a Lenova E15, and only clumsy big fingers work on the screen. Sad that my old touchpad which sells for $300 can use both inputs. Another case of screwing the customer by crippling products.

    Reply
  49. Cam

    Can you recommend larger All-In-Ones that might support both a digitizer and capacitive interface? I own the Helix and love it – however I would love a 26 inch screen all that much more…

    Reply
  50. Peter Horam

    Thanks for this article. I’m starting to get annoyed at companies dropping what I consider is one of the key reasons to buy a hybrid 2 in 1 laptop over a traditional clam shell style. This year both HP & Lenovo have dropped active pen support. What alternatives to a surface book does this leave?

    Also how well do active digitizer pens such as the HP Pro Active Pen .work in comparison? I’m assuming these weren’t around when this article was written.

    Reply
    1. David Goss

      Please let me know what answers you get to your post! I spent nearly a year looking for a laptop/tablet with active stylus capability (this Michael Linenberger Blog was the only intelligent discussion I found on the subject) and ended up with an Acer Aspire (basically the only laptop/tablet I could find with active stylus capabilities and a fairly large screen, to make my sorry excuse for the purchase); the active stylus worked very poorly. Suffice it to say that in my opinion “Friends don’t let friends buy ACER”.

      Reply
    2. Michael Linenberger Post author

      I have not been tracking models for a while. The best list I know of is at this link, the owner kept it pretty up to date. I have not checked it recently: https://skydrive.live.com/view.aspx?resid=A3E71B4BBE25C114!107&app=Excel&authkey=!AAO1lowxloMJjhM
      That list goes along with a forum thread here:
      http://forum.tabletpcreview.com/threads/list-of-windows-10-tablets-and-convertibles-with-stylus.67533/
      Good luck and report back what you find! Michael

      Reply
  51. kathleen

    So many hours researching ending in virtually no results. Also going mad trying to discern which current 2 in 1s support Active Digitizer pen. Manufacturers keep this spec secret so it’s almost impossible to know your options. TY for article and discussion, at least now I’ve something to go on. keyboard died or i’d write more. ugh.

    Reply

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