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
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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.
- Wacom Bamboo Ink is an excellent alternative to the Surface Pen
- Windows Ink is the best new thing in Windows 10 Anniversary Update
- Windows Ink: How to use Screen Sketch
- Windows Ink: How to use Sticky Notes
- 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
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Cale Hunt is formerly 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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