Choosing a laptop can be a lengthy process, extended by the large number of configurations, manufacturers, features, and prices. One feature that might make or break a purchase is the ability to use an active pen on the touch display. With this ability, a laptop turns into a device that can be used for productivity or creativity — it's just as easy to jot down some quick notes as it is to sketch a figure. Not all laptops and their associated pens are equal, so we've rounded up the best right here.
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
Dell took its popular 13-inch XPS 13 and made it convertible, offering up a 2-in-1 laptop (starting at $1,000) (opens in new tab) with a display that rotates 360 degrees for tent, stand, and tablet modes. Inside, get up to a seventh-generation Intel Core i7-7Y75 processor (CPU), 16GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 1TB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD). The 1800p touch display uses an AES digitizer to work with the Dell Active Pen, and it delivers a satisfying experience with 2,048 levels of pressure. The pen has two side buttons that can be assigned shortcuts, as well as a button in the eraser position that can be used to bring up a notepad, even with the lock screen in place. The pen is sold separately and costs about $50 (opens in new tab).
Surface Book 2
The new Surface Book 2 (starting at $1,500) (opens in new tab) brings pro power in a slim chassis, offering performance hardware inside a 2-in-1 build that remains thin and portable. It's available in either 13.5- or 15-inch configurations, with the latter size boasting up to an eighth-generation Intel Core i7-8650U CPU, 16GB of DDR3 RAM, a 1TB PCIe SSD, and a dedicated NVIDIA GTX 1060 with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM. The Surface Pen (about $100) (opens in new tab), which uses tech based on N-Trig called Microsoft Pen Procotol (MPP), has a whopping 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and 1,024 levels of tilt sensitivity.
Lenovo Yoga 920
Available in FHD and 4K configurations, the Yoga 920's 13.9-inch touch display has minimal bezel and works with Lenovo's Active Pen 2 via Wacom AES, offering up 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. Configurations start at about $1,230, but you can get up to an eighth-generation Intel Core i7-8550U CPU, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 1TB PCIe SSD if you really need to perform. The Yoga 920 has a unique watchband hinge, letting you rotate the screen around 360 degrees for a tablet drawing experience. The Active Pen 2 is included with 4K configurations, but it comes separately (about $60) with FHD models.
If you love Surface but need something a little more versatile and a bit cheaper, the Surface Pro (starting at $800) (opens in new tab) might be just what you're looking for. The 12.3-inch touch display boasts a 2,736 x 1,824 resolution and can be completely detached from the magnetic Type Cover if you'd like to draw only on a tablet. Inside, get up to an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 1TB PCIe SSD. The Surface Pen (about $100) (opens in new tab) takes advantage of a version of N-Trig that Microsoft calls MPP to deliver 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and 1,024 levels of tilt sensitivity. A single eraser button can be configured for plenty of purposes, allowing you to launch your desired apps in seconds. And it comes in a few different colors, so you can match your fancy Type Cover.
HP Spectre x360
The convertible HP Spectre x360 (starting at $1,150) (opens in new tab) has been updated with eighth-generation Intel Core CPUs, plus you can grab a touch display in FHD or 4K resolutions in 13- and 15-inch models. Other hardware includes up to 16GB of DDR4 RAM, up to a 1TB PCIe SSD, and a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce MX150 GPU. HP's Pen, which uses N-Trig technology, is included with these laptops, so there's no need to pay extra. They offer up a decent 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, plus they have a couple of side buttons that can be assigned to shortcuts.
The Surface Laptop (starting at $1,000) (opens in new tab) is Microsoft's answer for anyone who just wants a standard notebook design with a slim build. You're still getting a beautiful 13.5-inch touch display with a 2,256 x 1,504 resolution, and for performance hardware you're looking at up to an Intel Core i7-7660U CPU, a 512GB SSD, and 16GB of DDR3 RAM. The Surface Pen (about $100) (opens in new tab) is compatible, using Microsoft's MPP technology to deliver a smooth inking experience. Enjoy up to 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and 1,024 levels of tilt sensitivity for a realistic pen experience. And again, you can get a colored Pen to match your Laptop.
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- Windows Ink: How to use Screen Sketch
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- These three hidden options mae Windows Ink even better
- How to find your Surface Pen in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update
- 9 best Windows apps for Surface Pen users
Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.
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