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How well does Surface Pen work with Surface Go?

The Surface Pen with the Surface Go.
The Surface Pen with the Surface Go. (Image credit: Windows Central)

How well does Surface Pen work with Surface Go?

Best answer: The Surface Go is completely compatible with the latest Surface Pen, offering 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt support for a smooth inking experience.Microsoft: Surface Go (opens in new tab) (From $399)Microsoft: Surface Pen (opens in new tab) ($100)

Surface Go and Surface Pen offer an outstanding inking experience

Compared to the well-aged Surface 3 — to which the Surface Go is often compared — and its 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, the latest Surface Pen and Surface Go together offer 4,096 levels of sensitivity. That's a big leap, and it's immediately noticeable when drawing or writing on your Go.

There's also tilt support here that allows for better control while drawing and sketching (think shading), which is usually considered a premium feature. There might not be the same inking co-processor for lower latency like the Surface Pro has, but overall you should be satisfied with what the Surface Go can offer.

Adding to the combination is the physical size of the Go, which is about that of a notebook or sketchpad. It can be easily held in one hand while you draw or write with the other.

How does the Surface Pen connect to the Surface Go?

To communicate with your Surface Go, the Surface Pen uses a Bluetooth connection. Thanks to settings in Windows 10, you can change pen shortcuts and change which hand you predominantly write with, as well as adjust handwriting recognition and enable or disable extra effects. There's also a dedicated Surface app you can use to adjust pressure sensitivity levels and keep an eye on battery levels.

When you're not using your Surface Pen, strong magnets on the side of your Surface Go keep it in place. It's a handy way to carry your Pen around, and while it will fall off with enough force, the magnets are strong enough to pull the Go across a desk.

There are plenty of great apps compatible with Surface Pen

The Surface Pen can be used anywhere in Windows 10, but there are about 40 apps available from the Microsoft Store that are recognized as "Digital Pen Apps" designed specifically for use with a pen. We have some favorites if you're wondering where to start.

  • Autodesk SketchBook
  • Bamboo Paper
  • CollaBoard
  • Drawboard PDF
  • Index Cards
  • Nebo
  • OneNote
  • Sketchable
  • StaffPad
  • Xodo
  • Zen: Coloring book for adults

What about the older Surface Pen?

Those of you with an older Surface Pen — the current version released alongside the Surface Pro is considered fourth-generation — can still use it with their Surface Go, though you will not get the same pressure sensitivity or tilt support as with the latest Surface Pen.

Note that the first-generation Surface Pen from 2012 uses a different technology and does not work with new Surface devices.

Cale Hunt
Senior Editor, Laptop Reviews

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.

10 Comments
  • The new pen has similar jittery issue that existed on SP 2017. Here's a good review of it: https://www.surfaceproartist.com/blog/2018/8/8/surface-pen-performance-n... Hopefully, Microsoft will correct it as soon as possible. The previous version of the pen (Surface 3/SP3-4) works better.
  • Why are links in windows central app's comment section not working?
  • As of the August 15 firmware updates I believe the 2017 Surface Pro and Pen ink offset and jitter issues have been fixed. Inking on my SP 2017, when using my 2017 Pen, both purchased about a year ago, is now fast and accurate. If the Surface Go and the current Pro Pen offer a similar experience, then I for one would recommend it. I should also note that I now much prefer using my 2017 Pen over my SP4 pen. In particular, the tip to ink offset is less, almost zero, regardless of pen angle, making pen to touchscreen "calibration" unnecessary.
  • To those considering using the surface go with your old surface 3 pen: don't. The problem is the initial activation pressure needed to register a 'click' on the Surface Go. It is way to hard, meaning you literally have to smash the pen on the screen to click. Windows Central staff members really should have tested this and criticized Microsoft on this one. It's very easy to test out: put your surface Go and Surface 3 side-by side with a pen program. Then, lightly drag the pen against each screen. You will notice that Surface Go will not register the pen dragging, while your old trusty S3 will.
  • Windows central staff like me probably realize there is an app for adjusting the sensitivity of the Surface Pen.
  • Dear snarky staff member, if you actually tried it out, you would see that the sensitivity app does not solve the problem of initial activation pressure. Below is a video of an artist that tested the Surface Go with the old pen. Let's see what he has to say... https://youtu.be/htqRHxFQyls?t=1m13s
  • Sometimes I don't get it.
    That Pen is one forth the price of that PC?
    4 of those dog gone pen = Surface Go? Microsoft: Surface Go (From $399)
    Microsoft: Surface Pen ($100) How is that possible?
  • Microsoft: Surface Studio (From $2999) So it takes 30 Surface Pens to equal one Surface Studio. Sounds like you should purchase that instead of a Go, to ease your math concerns.
  • Folks The Surface Go is about the same size as the original Ipad Air so it's is a nice
    sized device to draw a quick sketch on as people do with an ipad air. I hope that
    Developers write software to make the Surface Go have the Apps the Ipads have.
    I think The Surface Go will sell better as time goes on and they lower it's price. I
    think Microsoft has a Winner device. If they Microsoft make an ARMs CPU
    version of the Surface Go running Windows 10 on ARMs. it will be a small very
    light Tablet/Laptop hybrid that will be nice fore some People to OWN.
  • I'll add Adobe XD to that list, don't have a go but Galaxy 10 and it works really good on it so it should work on the Go