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Best Dell active pen or stylus 2022

The Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 with a Dell Premium Active Pen
The Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 with a Dell Premium Active Pen (Image credit: Windows Central)

Digital pens, also known as styli, are incredibly useful tools that can be used to browse the web, write, and draw with on devices with touchscreens. Dell sells a wide variety of these, known as Active Pens, and each one of them will appeal to a different person based on what device they own and what they plan on doing with it. Overall, though, we think that the Premium Active Pen is the best out of all of them since it has fantastic pressure sensitivity as well as a large handful of useful features.

Best overall: Premium Active Pen (PN579X)

The Premium Active Pen magnetically attached to the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1.

The Premium Active Pen magnetically attached to the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1.

Premium Active Pen (PN579X)

Best of the best

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent pressure sensitivity
+
Tons of useful features
+
Can magnetically attach to devices
+
MPP compatible
+
Compatible with nearly all Dell touchscreen devices

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Can't be used with Dell Canvas

The main thing that makes the Premium Active Pen such an amazing stylus is the fact that it supports 4,096 different levels of pressure sensitivity, which is an outstanding result. This means that artists can use it to perform nuanced strokes, and it will allow them to add tiny details that simply aren't possible with less advanced digital pens. Also, the pen can be tilted, which further gives people flexibility with how they use it and doesn't force them to use the pen in an upright position all the time.

The Premium Active Pen comes with three programmable buttons, which is an upgrade from the rest of Dell's Active Pens that only offer two. The stylus is also Dell's most versatile; you can use it with every Dell AES touchscreen device there is. It can also be used with Microsoft Pen Protocol (MPP), which is the type of touch protocol that Microsoft uses with its devices (Dell uses it for some of its own as well). Lastly, the pen can be magnetically attached to the side of many devices, and you can also use a pen tether with it.

All of these extra bonus features increase the price considerably, but at the end of the day, we think that it's worth it. The sheer versatility and usefulness that the Premium Active Pen offers is unmatched, and while it is pricey, you get what you pay for and then some.

Best value: Active Pen (PN557W)

Active Pen (PN557W)

Awesome value

Reasons to buy

+
Less expensive
+
Great pressure sensitivity
+
Compatible with many Dell devices
+
Can magnetically attach to devices

Reasons to avoid

-
Fewer features
-
Can't be used with MPP devices

The PN557W variant of the standard Active Pen offers the best overall value for the average consumer. It has 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, which, while not as incredible as the Premium Active Pen, is still great and will work perfectly for standard tasks like note-taking or scheduling.

Also, it doesn't have three programmable buttons; instead, it has two. It also doesn't have tilt support or MPP support, but it does come with the ability to magnetically attach to devices and can be used with a tether. It doesn't work with any of Dell's Inspiron devices, but it works with every Latitude and also with both the XPS 13 and 15, meaning that it's still pretty versatile overall.

At the end of the day, the regular Active Pen is a less expensive, less premium alternative option that will appeal to people looking for something on the simpler side.

Best dedicated MPP pen: Active Pen (PN350M)

Active Pen (PN350M)

Affordable specialization

Reasons to buy

+
Very affordable
+
Works with all Inspiron devices

Reasons to avoid

-
Basic pressure sensitivity
-
No AES support
-
Very few features

The PN350M version of the Active Pen is designed specifically to work with MPP devices such as Dell's Inspiron line. It's less advanced overall than any of the other pens so far, only supporting 1,024 pressures of sensitivity. Still, even that level is good enough for basic activity, and you won't have any issues.

Also, it's also less expensive than most of the options on this list, and it can be magnetically attached to both the Inspiron 7390 2-in-1 and the Inspiron 7590 2-in-1.

Best for rugged tablets: Rugged Active Pen (PN720R)

Rugged Active Pen (PN720R)

Durable inking

Reasons to buy

+
Less expensive
+
Great pressure sensitivity
+
Very durable
+
Compartment for replacement nibs

Reasons to avoid

-
Fewer features
-
Only usable with rugged Latitude devices
-
Not magnetic

If you use one of Dell's "rugged" Latitude laptops and need a compatible active pen, the Rugged Active Pen is your best (and only) option. It's essentially a special version of the PN557W that isn't magnetic, but does come with an IP55 water- and dust-resistance rating and a compartment that can hold up to four replacement nibs.

Note that unlike many of the other pens on this list, this active pen only works with rugged Latitude laptops. Therefore, only buy one if you use one of these devices.

Bottom line

Each of these pens is amazing and have their own pros and cons, and one of them is sure to appeal to you whether you're looking for a basic note-taking pen or something that you can use to create professional-grade digital artwork. Of course, the more complex your task, the more likely the pen will also be expensive, but that's the price you pay for more features.

At the end of the day, though, we think that the Premium Active Pen is Dell's best stylus since it combines fantastic pressure sensitivity with tons of great features and the ability to work with nearly every Dell touchscreen device.

For other great options to consider, don't miss our roundup of the best tablet pens for drawing. Don't worry if you don't plan on using an active pen for artwork, as they're perfect for note-taking and other tasks, too.

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.