Microsoft Surface Pen vs. Dell Premium Active Pen: Stylus showdown

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

Overall, the Microsoft Surface Pen is the better choice in terms of sheer performance — provided you're using a Surface. If you have a device that uses Wacom AES, or if you want a pen that can be used across both a Wacom AES device and a Surface device, the Dell Premium Active Pen will be perfect for you.

Surface Pen vs. Premium Active Pen: Performance or versatility?

When it comes to raw performance, these two digital pens are nearly identical. Both of them have 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and support for tilting, which is very useful for artists, and both of them also have three programmable functions that you can configure (the Surface Pen has a single button that can be activated in three different ways; the Premium Active Pen has three buttons). On top of this, both of them can be magnetically attached to the side of devices, making taking them with you a breeze.

However, one key difference that gives the Surface Pen the edge is that you can use the bottom end of the pen as an eraser, which is something that both artists and note takers will love. While you can swap to the eraser tool by pressing and holding the Premium Active Pen's lower button, this isn't the same as having the manual erasing functionality that the Surface Pen does.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Microsoft Surface PenDell Premium Active Pen
Pressure levels4,0964,096
Programmable buttons1 (with 3 different inputs)3
Tilt supportYesYes
EraserYesNo
MagneticYesYes
ProtocolMPPWacom AES, MPP

However, don't count out the Dell Premium Active Pen if you're either not using a Surface or using both a Surface and a Wacom AES device, as it works with both Wacom AES protocol and MPP. Since the Surface Pen only works with MPP, you are limited to using Surface devices with it. If versatility and device compatibility is more important to you, then Dell's option will be a better pick.

Surface Pen vs. Premium Active Pen: Which should you buy?

The Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 with a Dell Premium Active Pen

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

At the end of the day, there isn't really a definitive winner in this match-up. Rather, it depends on what you're looking for in a digital pen, and what will be the most useful for you.

If you're someone who only uses a Surface device and would prefer to have an eraser for higher performance, than the Surface Pen is the pen you should choose. It doesn't work with devices that have other protocols, but if you only plan to use Surface, that won't matter to you anyway.

However, if you do want to have the ability to use your pen with Wacom AES devices, such as most of Dell's, than your best bet will be the Dell Premium Active Pen. Aside from the lack of an eraser, Dell's pen performs identically to the Surface Pen, and the compatibility with both Wacom AES and MPP gives it excellent versatility.

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.