Best Dell Active Pen or Stylus Windows Central 2019

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 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. In addition, 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, and 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). The only device you can't use it with is the Dell Canvas. 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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Can't be used with Dell Canvas

Best Overall

Premium Active Pen (PN579X)

Best of the best

The Premium Active Pen is Dell's best digital stylus, offering incredible quality and versatility for a high, but fair, price.

Best Value: Active Pen (PN557W)

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.

In addition, 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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • Less features
  • Can't be used with MPP devices

Best Value

Active Pen (PN557W)

Awesome value

The PN557W variant offers less features and performance than the Premium option, but it's also less expensive.

Best Basic Functionality: Active Pen (PN556W)

The PN556W variant of the standard Active Pen is essentially the exact same as the PN557W, just without the magnetic functions or the support for a stylus tether. This means that you won't be able to travel with it as easily and you'll likely need a way to store the pen when not in use.

if you don't mind that or have a solution for that problem, you can save a decent amount of money by opting for this configuration of the Active Pen.

Pros:

  • Less expensive
  • Great pressure sensitivity
  • Compatible with many Dell devices

Cons:

  • Less features
  • Can't be used with MPP devices
  • Harder to travel with

Best Basic Functionality

Active Pen (PN556W)

Go with the basics

The PN556W version removes the magnetic function and pen tether, which reduces the price but also makes it harder to travel with.

Best Dedicated MPP Pen: Active Pen (PN350M)

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, but even that level is good enough for basic activity and you won't have any issues.

In addition, 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.

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Works with all Inspiron devices

Cons:

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

Best Dedicated MPP Pen

Active Pen (PN350M)

Affordable specialization

If you're looking for something that specifically works on MPP devices, then the PN350M variant of the Active Pen is perfect for you.

Best Basic MPP: Active Pen (PN338M)

The PN338M version of the Active Pen is identical to the PN350M one, but it doesn't have any magnetic connection capability. If you don't care about the lack of magnetics, or you simply don't own one of the two devices that work with the magnetics of the PN350M, then this version of the pen will be a great choice for you to save a little money.

Pros:

  • Most affordable
  • Works with all Inspiron devices

Cons:

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

Best Basic MPP

Active Pen (PN338M)

Get the MPP basics

The PN338M Active Pen only offers the bare minimum in terms of function and features, but it's also the most affordable MPP pen Dell offers.

Best for Dell Canvas: Canvas Pen

The Canvas Pen was specifically designed for the artist-focused Dell Canvas device, and it's the only pen on this list that works with it. It has the two best things that make the Premium Active Pen amazing in terms of quality, which is 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt support, but it doesn't come with the extra third programmable button, although two is still very useful. The Canvas Pen being so great does mean that it's on the pricey side, but it's worth it if you want to get the most out of your Dell Canvas.

Pros:

  • Excellent pressure sensitivity
  • Tilt support

Cons:

  • A little expensive

Best for Dell Canvas

Canvas Pen

Paint your (Dell) Canvas

The Canvas Pen is an awesome digital pen for Dell Canvas users, and will give you the quality you'll need when creating artwork.

Bottom line

Each of these pens are 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.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. He's relatively new to the writing scene, but he counters that lack of experience with a rock-solid work ethic and a desire to improve at every opportunity. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

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