Pen support in the Surface Laptop makes more sense than you might think

When Microsoft announced that the Surface Laptop supports pen input, I couldn't help but wonder why. Why put pen support into a device that doesn't transform into a something where pen makes sense? I simply couldn't understand it. Even in the demo that Panos Panay did on stage, using the Surface Pen on the Surface Laptop looked like a terrible user experience. But after using the Surface Laptop for a couple of weeks, I can confidently say I'm glad Microsoft did.

Upon opening up my new Surface Laptop, the first thing I did was grab the pen from my Surface Book and attempt to write something on it, just to test the hinge and see if the experience was as bad as it looked. Surprisingly, it wasn't. From a third person perspective, the experience looks ridiculous, but using the pen on the Laptop yourself? It's surprisingly okay. Of course, you're not expected to be writing proper notes on the Surface Laptop, but that's not what the Surface Laptop has pen support for.

See Surface Pen at Microsoft

When it was announced, I simply couldn't figure out what the Surface Laptop had pen support for. It isn't for note taking or drawing because the Surface Laptop doesn't transform into anything where using a pen like that would make sense. Instead, the Surface Laptop has pen support for when you need it. If you're not someone who ever needs a pen, then that's fine. But if you are someone who occasionally needs to use a pen, whether that's for signing a virtual document, making a quick note in Edge or Sticky Notes, or just tapping on things at a distance, the pen support in the Surface Laptop is a godsend.

An occasional note taker

For example, just the other day, I was using my Surface Laptop and needed to take a couple of quick notes on a web page in Edge. This isn't something I need to do all that often, keep in mind. Instead of opening up Notepad and typing out those notes with the keyboard, I was able to use the built-in inking support in Edge and quickly highlight and write out the notes I wanted to make directly on the web page. On a typical laptop, that's not something you can do with a pen.

9 essential apps if you own a Surface Pen

9 essential apps if you own a Surface Pen (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The pen is also really nice to use just to interact with the Surface Laptop while sitting up in bed, for example. I'll often be lying in bed, with my knees up and the Surface Laptop resting on my lap, and in this position poking at the screen with the Surface Pen isn't that bad of an experience. The pen can be used as a mouse in a lot of cases, offering precision targeting when selecting text or adjusting scroll bars. Of course, I can use the trackpad too, but sometimes using the pen is just as comfortable.

Now, it's important to note that the Surface Laptop doesn't have pen support because Microsoft expects you to use it all the time. Buying a Surface Laptop with the intention of using it with the pen would be silly. It's there for those of you who may occasionally need a pen, or in that rare scenario where a pen makes more sense as an input method over typing or a mouse.

See Surface Laptop at Microsoft

Would I say buying a Surface Pen is worth it as a Surface Laptop user? No. At least not for me. I don't take notes nearly enough on a Surface Pro, let alone on a Surface Laptop. However, when I did need it, it was super convenient and just made sense. I already had a Surface Pen thanks to my Surface Book. That's the only scenario where I can say using a Surface Pen on the Surface Laptop makes sense. Buying a new pen outright for the Surface Laptop seems wasteful, but using a pen you already have? Surprisingly useful when you need it.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter and Threads