Best Pens for Microsoft Surface Duo Windows Central 2021
The Surface Duo delivers Microsoft's dual-screen vision through an experimental foldable Android smartphone. The device marks the first pocketable device under its premium hardware family, geared toward on-the-go productivity. It also boasts inking support, allowing for quick sketches and handwritten notes. The best inking experience demands a stylus, with the Microsoft Surface Slim Pen the best at launch.
Best Overall: Microsoft Surface Slim Pen
While the Microsoft Surface Duo supports the majority of existing Surface-branded pens, there's no competition with its latest and greatest, the Microsoft Surface Slim Pen. It's the one in the commercials, product renders, and store listings often found adjacent to the Duo. And when paired, it's suited for note-taking via OneNote, annotations in Office, or signing documents with apps like Adobe Acrobat.
The Microsoft Surface Slim Pen boasts the same high-quality construction and in-hand feel of other Surface Pens. It has the expected high-precision hardware inside, as first shipped with the Surface Pro X in 2019. This slimline revision of the stylus trims extra fat from the legacy design, parting with the traditional pen-inspired silhouette for one akin to a carpenter's pencil.
That provides low latency to ensure a responsive feel, acceptable precision, and an LED light for connectivity status and battery levels. Sadly, pairing does little at launch, with no pen button mapping on the device. The move to condense the pen into a smaller, squared-off shape also provides portability, ideal for the mobile market. It measures 136.8mm long, while 11.3mm by 6.3mm thick — weighing just 14 grams in-hand. It also magnetically connects to the Duo, sort of, due to the magnets that keep the screen closed. It's not intentional, but it works.
While the pen was the first to ditch disposable batteries for a rechargeable lithium-ion solution, it won't charge through the phone. When you run down its expected 15-hour battery life, you'll need to hook up the included wireless charging tray to a power outlet.
The Microsoft Surface Duo supports an extensive range of styluses, but this is the one that genuinely fits the device. It may not be cheap at $150 in the U.S., but an ongoing Microsoft Store discount cuts it down to just $112 throughout the Duo preorder window.
- Premium build quality
- Accurate inking
- Portable size
Best Value: Microsoft Surface Pen
When looking to save on a Microsoft Surface Duo stylus, it's worth revisiting previous-generation accessories. The standard Surface Pen also works on the device, and if you have an existing Microsoft Surface tablet, the same pen fully works on the Duo. While it may misalign on some minor details, it delivers all the inking benefits for less.
The Microsoft Surface Duo supports almost every existing Surface Pen, including those designed around PCs like the Surface Pro and Surface Book, or even the 50-inch Surface Hub 2 whiteboard. The only Surface Pen that doesn't work is the first-generation design shipped in 2012, designed back when Microsoft used Wacom over its newer N-trig tech. The shift in technology means those oldest peripherals won't function, requiring one of three succeeding generations instead.
While the Surface Slim Pen is more like a pencil, its chunkier counterpart mimics your everyday ballpoint. The latest revision serves Microsoft's best to date, with advancements to ensure low-latency and precise tracking on the Duo or other Surface devices. The hardware includes buttons that currently don't work with Duo, although with interchangeable pen tips, and more color options if your style, too.
Opting for the basic Surface Pen has its setbacks, including reliance on disposable AAAA batteries. It's also a little less portable, but that shouldn't be an issue if you're slapping it in your bag between home and the office. Those minor differences result in a lower RRP, also frequently on sale below $70, which is significantly cheaper than other Microsoft-approved pens.
- Premium build quality
- Accurate inking
- More affordable
- Less suited for mobile
- Requires disposable batteries
The Microsoft Surface Duo launches with a handful of stylus options, but the latest and greatest leads the pack. The Microsoft Surface Slim Pen delivers that ideal balance of precision and portability, both functional and easy to store when inking on the move. The slimline, lightweight design conveys a premium in-hand feel, and its rechargeable battery gets you writing with a moment's notice. This is among the best Surface Duo accessories for inking on your new dual-screen phone.
But the slim variant isn't your only choice, with the standard Microsoft Surface Pen also compatible with inking. The second-generation design and up still maintains all the signatures you'd expect, including accuracy and ergonomics akin to a real ballpoint pen. It's not as mobile-friendly, both bulkier and non-rechargeable, but helps keep your funds in check.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Matt Brown is a staff writer at Future for Windows Central. Following years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he's focused on the Xbox platform, alongside Microsoft's broader ecosystem and business. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.
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