Penny Arcade on Surface Pro 3 N-trig pen: 'If you were worried about the new tech, don't be'

The Surface Pro 3 brings a lot of new changes when compared to the Surface Pro 2. One of those deviations is the new N-trig pen, an adjustment from the previous Wacom technology found in the older Pro devices. Microsoft has written about the new technology and its benefits, but many are still rightly skeptical.

When it comes to non-digital-pen users (like myself), the differences seem negligible, especially if you just use the pen to jot down notes. However, for artists the change has caused quite a stir. Wacom is considered by many to be the industry standard, and N-trig has a lot of proving to do before professional illustrators accept it.

Famous web comic Penny Arcade ( and its illustrator Mike ‘Gabe’ Krahulik has been a longtime Surface Pro user, extolling the benefits of using the device for drawing comics. He’s often regarded as the shining example of how artists can use the Surface Pro series for their professional – and personal – lives. So when it came to the change in the Surface Pro 3, a lot of eyes were on what Gabe would think about it – yay or nay?

Penny Arcade

Gabe wrote a nice article touching on the particular subject of “how the Surface Pro 3 works for artists” and the part about the N-trig pen is certainly worth your attention. Here’s what he had to say:

“The pressure sensitivity has been reduced from 1024 down to 256 (for reference a Wacom Cintiq has 2048) and that scared the hell out of me. Numbers are supposed to get bigger with new computers not smaller. This isn’t Wacom though it’s N-trig and I have to admit whatever wizardry they are using is pretty impressive. The pen is still incredibly responsive with very little drawing lag and I still feel like I’m getting nice smooth lines.I can still make my little wispy line and draw them out into nice thick curves. The lines show some jagginess when zoomed way in but it’s not a deal breaker in my opinion and overall I was really impressed with the N-trig tech. Long story short if you were worried about the new tech, don’t be.”

So at least when it comes to the pen itself, Gabe is quite impressed with it and shows that Microsoft did know what they were doing when the switched technology. He also enjoys the new 3:2 display dimension claiming “…it makes the Surface 3 feel a lot less cramped when drawing”.

(For a detailed discussion on why Microsoft dumped Wacom, I suggest reading this excellent post on Microsoft’s Channel 9, which posits some good reasons for the switch)

N-trig Pen Surface Pro 3

That’s not to say that Gabe was 100% on board with the Surface Pro 3, indeed he levied a few complaints against it too from an artist’s perspective, including:

  • The Core i5 processor slows down at the new 2160 x 1440 resolution; this can be bettered by reducing resolution or presumably using the Core i7 version
  • Moving the Windows key to the right, which makes sense for the new keyboard, caused an issue when drawing and hand placement

The good news here is Microsoft is tightly working with Gabe on the Surface Pro 3, promising to get him a Core i7 version soon and taking his criticisms seriously:

“I’ve been really impressed with my MS contact Markus who has been listening to all my gripes about the new device. He’s been offering solutions when he could and passing all my feedback over to their engineers. I don’t like dumping on a product that I’ve loved so much in the past but I feel like this is important stuff that they need to hear. Markus told me today that “Artists are a really important audience for us and we want to make this a great device for artists – I want you to know that your honest feedback is helping us tremendously in getting there.” That’s a class act right there.”

In conclusion, at least from one high-profile artist, the N-trig pen controversy is no controversy at all. However, Microsoft and the Surface team still have a few quibbles that may need to be worked out before artists-at-large jump on board.

Go read the entire article at Penny Arcade and let us know what you think. Did Gabe’s observations change your mind about the N-trig pen on the Surface Pro 3?

Source: Penny Arcade

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • I have confidence that the design team wouldn't put out a pen that doesn't work exceptionally well. I'm not worried and artists shouldn't be either.
  • That's my take. It's not blind faith so much as just hearing how much thought went into the SP3. Microsoft is well aware of how important the pen is, and I doubt they wouldn't have switched if they didn't think it'd be better. Having said that, they obviously don't get everything right, which is where their outreach comes in to hopefully make those necessary adjustments.
  • What impresses me is that the SP series seems less of a"me too" attempt and more of a genuine approach to putting out first class hardware with a rarely heard of interest in community feedback. That will pay off in spades in the future. Disregard competing with an iPad this is way beyond that effort. I've been very impressed with Microsoft lately.
  • Agreed. MS really appears to be making an effort to differentiate the product from everything elder on the market.
  • Exact point and motivation for Microsoft
  • I've been using my RT for quite some time now and I think one of those adjustments is to eliminate the physical Start button altogether. I find myself ALWAYS swiping in from the right to access the Start charm, so the physical button - especially a touch one - is more an inconvenience than a help. On SP3, when you swipe in from the right, presumably there are two Start buttons next to each other! What's up with that?! The least they can do is allowing the user to disable the button through software.
  • Agree - what they NEED to do is have the physical button auto-disable when in landscape mode - problem solved!
  • I swipe mostly too! I have a feeling the Capacitive 'Windows' button is more of a vanity issue rather than being a really useful action tab, i.e. it's more a means for them to display their logo up front.   I believe they should disable it, give the option to disable it, or just turn it into a coloured light
  • This will probably be useful for Cortana, but maybe she will be listening all the time for commands in the future???
  • I think that, above all, people who are tearing the SP3 apart must not have realized that NO OTHER tablet on the market gets close to delivering the whole package an artist could need. No Mac supports touch screens, no iPad has real pen support, and if an artist wanted to get anything done prior to the SP3, it would probably require using an external wacom pad. I'm sorry but the SP3 is simply better in all respects.
  • Didn't sp2 have wacon support?
  • Both the original Surface Pro and the SP2 used Wacom digitisers. Rumor has it that the Wacom tech was too thick for a device this thin. (Look at Wacom's Windows 8 tablet and you can belive it.) See the link in the story for more discusson on the switch.
  • Lol, it was a rhetorical question to the person I was replying to. He said that all other tablets on the market required an external wacom pad.
  • I know what he is talking about regarding the windows key placement, but he can always flip the tablet around 180 and it will avert that issue entirely. That is provided his screen will flip...
  • It does and he tried that. The problem is now the kickstand ;)
  • I'm thinking since the kickstand is more ridig might it still hold 180 degrees reversed and it leans on it? I know doesn't work on Surface since kickstand is too lose for that but maybe it might work there?
  • Ahh, well I never imagined trying to draw or take notes while it was standing up as that seems/is awkward for me a least :)
  • I wish you could turn the Windows key off...
  • That's what he's ended up doing.
  • With mixed results since all hardware buttons were disabled and you still get haptic feedback. The question is if it's possible from software only to disable only the Windows 8 button and the haptic feedback. If that would be the case it would be big improvement in this case (but since he didn't get that solution probably not). Otherwise they might want to make some hardware changes to allow that but not sure that will happen until next model.
  • Well, he's probably had the device for all of 24 hours (he didn't get it on Tuesday like the rest of us). I wouldn't expect MS to "code" something that could do what he asked in that time; however, I could easily see them doing just that in a system update for the SP3.
  • Nope, That's easy as hell (as hell ;) wtf)
    They coulda made a little switch between the new and old code...
  • Microsoft just does not code and release after one night, no matter "how easy" it may be. There's a lot of testing that would need to take place.
  • I just created a remap key script using autohotkey and on my XPS 12 it works to disable the hardware Windows key. I wonder if this works as well on Surface 3. Probably won't disable haptic feedback but at least you can use all other hardware keys. I've put ahk script and compiled exe here (DisableWindowsKey):!12109&parId=A4AE3FB12A26635!1396&authkey=!&Bpub=SDX.SkyDrive&Bsrc=Share So the script is simply: Lwin:: To run the script you need to install autohotkey.exe (or run the exe I've put on the share). To stop it right-click the H icon in notificaiton bar and choose exit.
  • May or may not work on the SP3, and anyway won't this disable the Windows key on all connected keyboards too?   I'm sure Microsoft will release an update that will allow users to easily enable or disable only the hardware Windows key as well as the haptic feedback.
  • Yes it will disable both but you could change the script to use hotkey to toggle on/off and probably you could do it conditional if you can detect if no keyboard is attached. You can still get the start menu with usual swiping regardless. Isn't the haptic feedback a hardware feature? Maybe it's possible with BIOS change but not sure how that's implemented. Either way I think most will not need this so I doubt there will be out of band 'fix' but we'll see.
  • You my friend need to learn a bit more about how validation works for production level code. It can take much longer than you think to even add a single parameter to an if statement and then push it to the actual code being used.
  • Read the source article, he talks about it
  • As a lefty that is no problem for me.
  • I'm a lefty...sorted ;)
  • Its fine for a lefty like me :)
  • Same as you all
  • I was never worried. Microsoft didn't create this for internet armchair "artists." They are targeting business and students, i.e. "note takers." It's perfect for me. If you make a living off of digital art, get a Cintiq or something. The SP3 cannot possibly be everything to everyone. I lol at people crying about it not being able to play 10gig games at full resolution. For what it is designed (i.e. centered around One Note), it cannot be beat.
  • Then this is a really expensive notebook. Your argument is now invalid.
  • I'm not arguing anyting. All I know is I tried to write notes on my Macbook Pro screen with a stylus. Didn't work. The SP3 is 1/3 of the price as my 15" rMBP. That's a valid arguement because it's 100% true.
  • An expensive one cannot exactly means it will suits everyone's taste... Though it already proven jn this post that it will also works for Artist.
  • I'm not exactly sure what you consider an "internet armchair 'artist'", but it's clear that MS cares enough about artists to work with someone in real world scenarios to hammer out details, because the SP3 certainly has the technical specs to handle creating art, whether one is in an 'internet armchair', or travelling from their studio to a clients in the real world.  That's not exactly convenient with a Cintiq.
  • It's ironic that Microsoft should produce an artist's tool, while Apple seems content to screw their significant number of (Mac) creatives. This is one time when Steve Jobs got it really wrong. No iPad pen "alternative" exists that can match any version of the Surface Pro. Just read the reviews on the various iPad styli; they all have serious flaws and limitations. It's a damn shame.
  • If all you need is note taking with pen input, there are much cheaper tablets from Samsung.
  • I for one hate the Windows touch button. How hard is it to swipe from the edge and use the charm? Our make it a physical like on the Dell Venue 8 Pro.
  • I disagree. After using it for a few days, I really like the new location. When holding the SP3 in landscape as a tablet, your thumb is right there for quick access and app toggling. It's awesome. If it was where it were previously, I'd have to take my hand off from holding the device just to hit that button; that's just not efficient from my experience.
  • What about having if be physical like the Dell Venue 8 Pro? That seems like a pretty good suggestion.
  • Yes and no. Personally, I don't mind a physical key. I even like it on the ATIV series from Samsung. Having said that, every time it comes up for discussion, people are equally divided on that choice as well, meaning there's no consensus. From a design perspective, I'd say it detracts from the sleekness, though I can see how it may be more utilitarian.
  • Admittedly, when I first got my Dell I didn't like the physical button. But I think that was mainly because it seemed to very away from what had been a pretty well established standard.
  • I never even use the physical button on the DV8 Pro. I always use the swipe in charm. It is always right underneath my thumb when I want it.
  • Indeed. Even on my SP2, I always find myself either using the Windows key on my keyboard or, even more so, the swipe gesture that reveals Charms, then using the virtual key. Pretty much the only time I ever use the capacitive key is... Well, almost never. I understand I'm likely the minority, but nonetheless.
  • The real question is whether or not it gets in the way of the charms bar slide motion. When holding any Win 8 tablet by the sides, you just slide your thumb left to get the charms tray and that soft Start button does the exact same thing as the hardware one. I use that way more often than hitting the hardware button. I guess you save yourself a thumb motion with the new position, but I'd definitely worry about hitting the button with my thumb as I grip the device from the sides. I definitely don't like that they kept the capacitive hardware button for the SP3. When I had my Surface RT, I *always* had to warn people not to push the start button at the bottom because they would invariably grab it from the bottom. With my newer device, I never have to warn people about it because it's a hardware button and it's obvious that something will happen when you push it. I wouldn't mind if they abandoned the hardware Start button alltogether. I'm pretty sure on my old RT I hit it accidentally more times than purposefully.
  • "The real question is whether or not it gets in the way of the charms bar slide motion. "
    It does not. It's deactivated when you slide for Charms.
  • I agree with you. I am not a fan of the location.   I would love for the button to be a physical button willing toi live with its new placement.
  • Just like how more megapixels doesn't mean a better photo, I knew that there had to be more to a pen than the "levels of pressure".
    It seemed in the last article that there were a lot of artists who were all "Wacom or die" so hopefully this means more adoption of n-trig once people realize that it's not that bad.
  • My thoughts exactly. Lots of people commented without even trying it that they were not going to get the SP3. I understand being concerned, but that blind brand loyalty without personal and objective feedback from actually using it is asinine, imo.
  • Keep in mind that many comments weren't blind comments. They come from previous use of N-trying products. That's a very good reason to at least be wary. But what we're hearing more appears to indicate that they've grown leaps and bounds in recent years. So that's good to hear.
  • Well, like I said, being concerned is fine, but trying previous products versus this one, is still two different things ;)
  • It wasn't exactly a previous products since this is the same product but apparently Microsoft tweaked it well enough on the software side to make it better that was one of our worries because support for current N-Trig devices is pretty poor.
  • It is not just about pressure sensitivity that have artists worried. It is also about driver support. Adobe CC might be working on support, but it is currently not there. I don't expect Adobe to get anything out in a timely manner, look how long us with high DPI displays have been waiting for an update from Adobe...Also software like ZBrush, which works fine on a SP or SP2 with the Wacom driver, will not work properly with N-Trig and MS Ink. Until software companies implement MS Ink into their software (or until N-Trig's WinTab driver isn't a half baked, half working solution), there will be too many programs that will not work properly with this stylus, programs that many artists hold dear. You are going to find people buying this expecting it work with all of the software they currently use, and they will be sorely disappointed.
  • +1 on this.  N-Trig's new DuoSense pen has made some strides since their first iteration.  But, the driver issue still remains the biggest issue.  I'm waiting for the review. As for the Windows button, could MS program the palm rejection to extend out to the capactivie button?  That would seem the most optimal solution over a physical button (like on the Ativ).
  • Software makers should abandon WinTab altogether. MS Ink is a better driver, and has been for some time. Adobe support went so far as to suggest that WinTab was the 'generic Windows standard', as an excuse to pin the lack of NTrig support on HP and NTrig, which is just insane, when WinTab is a 3rd party patent encumbered driver. This thread in Adobe support is actually quite enlighening, and shows why ALL pen based software makers should abandon WinTab for MS Ink...
  • I blame you. I've been following that **bleep** thread down the rabbit-hole only to look up and find half the evening has gone! SMH :)
  • What a great tagline for the new SP3 pen, "It's not that bad!"
  • How about the tagline be "Try it before you diss it!"
  • It's less to do with the tech behind it and the levels of pressure (which is still very important in 3D modelling and sculpting programs - 256 isn't enough for that), and more to do with having to change tools. Many of us are used to a certain favourite pen, and having to use N-trig coming from Wacom is like having to switch pencils to use on a different type of paper.
  • Since the presesitivity is all in the pen, I wonder if Ntrig could release a "premium" pen for those that really need 512 or 1024 levels of sensitivity?
  • I love that MS seems really open to getting input.
  • Y are they keeping surface pro 3 so expensive and saying they can replace your laptops. By doing that they are killing relations with other OEMs in the future for survival.
  • Sorry, but I very much disagree. Nadella even said on stage that they were not competing with their OEMs and the whole presentation was going after one target: Apple (and their MBA). The Windows platform has plenty of low-end hardware for their OEMs to fight over. It's the premium experience, the direct competitor to the MBA and MBP that Windows needs help with. The Surface Pro 3 is that device, a unique, one of a kind creation. Should their OEM partners be sheltered against real competition? If they don't like the Surface Pro 3 then Dell, HP, Lenovo should go and make something better. That's how innovation works.
  • Keeping it expensive and super high quality is exactly what keeps it from competing against their OEMs.
  • Yeah but wont it result again into fail product again. I think they should release with the intention of tablet and not a pc replacement. We need more products like surface 2 with perfect price.
  • You have it all backwards. The previous Surface releases and ad campaigns were aimed at tablets, specifically the iPad. That has now changed with the SP3 and many think it was smart since targeting the iPad was not working.
  • The older generations are all perfect price now, hell MSFT could even keep pumping out the SP2 for now at the lower price points so it's not a "Fail" product as you so eloquently put.
  • No, the SP3 looks to be a perfect alternative to a MBP/MBA with Parallels or Bootcamp. I'm really pleased MS took this direction with Surface.
  • I don't get windows 8
  • It's an operating system that runs programs to consume and create digital bits ;)
  • I see what you did there
  • Then use the door
  • The Windows 8 GUI on the server (aka Windows Server 2012) can best be described as "annoying as all fucking hell."
  • Why are you using the GUI on a server? It should be all powershell all the time
  • Hahaha! Right. Quick! Give me the ps commands to configure a new RAID array.
  • I've seen it done
  • Are you serious? Posted via WPCentral App.
  • Windows server 2012 R2 is fantastic! Even with the Windows 8 GUI. I use it at work. The server manager is fantastic has everything you need in one place.
  • So upgrade to 2012 R2....problem solved.
  • Ever hear of Amazon Web Services, smart guy? Well, they don't offer R2 yet.
  • Upgrade to 2012 R2.  It's better, and R2 does have some improvements on the core OS.
  • Windows 8 doesn't get you :-/
  • Maybe you haven't paid for it yet. It's not like it's free.
  • I've been thinking about this since reading it yesterday. I think his performance issues are valid, but I think they are purely software issues, not really hardware. I think the i7 will mitigate his frustrations not fix them. I believe the real fault is Adobe (the lag doesn't exist elsewhere), and I think that either the app needs some additional updates or possibly that it just needs to be configured for better processor management (in preferences). It's possible, however, that he's accustomed to having more than just an Intel graphics chip too, but even then I think Intel graphics settings may just need some tweaking. Either way, I'm glad Microsoft is paying attention, and I'm sure some software updates will be coming down the road. Regarding the Windows button, Microsoft could (and should) easily make an option to disable it. They could also fix it by tweaking the palm rejection to include that part of the screen. But, I'm also confused by relocating it in the first place. They moved it, presumably, because they wanted to prevent the Type Cover from covering it during use... and yet, that's pretty stupid... the keyboard has its own Windows button, so covering it is fine... plus, you can always swipe in and touch it that way. It's a branding thing, I realize, but leaving it alone wouldn't obscure the branding in a negative way.  
  • Read my comment above on how moving the key to the right actually makes sense when holding the device as a landscape tablet. It means I don't have to move my hand (and hold the device one-handed) to go and tap the Win key (I get I can slide my thumb to reveal the hidden Win key, but this is still easier). It actually works pretty well from that perspective and I really like it.
  • Yeah, I think you're right, and maybe that's the prevailing logic, though I'm sure some branding went into the decision. I don't object to it, but I can see myself having the same "gripe" as Gabe, so I'm hoping that it can be disabled down the road.
  • Actually, there cursor lag is a known issue with N-trig in "hover" mode. Probably some inefficiencies in how the driver is written.
  • Well put GoodThings2Life.
  • Microsoft could do the the Windows button what they did with Windows Phone 8.1 in terms of playing games. If your fingers slides off of the screen and goes over the back, Windows, our search keys it won't activate them unless they're pressed.
  • Im not an artist (ive just started drawing again with the hope of improving on the match stick men) and from the posts ive read it looks like Wacom have a monopoly and charge ludirously high prices.  Be good to see SP3/SP4 in creatives hands and give Wacom a kick in the nads/run for thier money.  Looks like N-trig are going to do very well by partnering with MS if they really have caught up.  In fact, if they have caught up then why buy anything Wacom again!
  • Wacom does have a bit of a monopoly and if another company can get them off their behinds I'm all for it. It's not that their tech is bad but that they are starting to become the Apple of artistic tablets.
  • This'll only work if they keep support up for the product.
  • Anybody know if they sell the SP3 in payment plans? I really want one for my upcoming first year in college, but don't have $1500 to throw down lol
  • I think maybe you can do that at Best Buy, who will be selling the SP3 (they've already done preorders).
  • Ok thanks
  • As a matter of fact, BB often does 12 or 18 months same as cash. I am watching for one of their deals to get the SP3 with the i5 or i7.
  • How does one email Daniel Rubino? Basically, send your MS guy advice to include the type cover. How do you label it as a replacement laptop but then have to pay extra for the productive necessity - keyboard/ type cover.
  • Twitter
  • Microsoft is very much aware of that complaint, but due to the different color Type keyboards and various iterations of the SP3, it's hard to "combine" them (5 device SKUs plus 5 keyboard SKUs = 25 SKU combinations). I wouldn't think of it so much as paying extra, just adjust your idea of what a "full" SP3 system will really cost.
  • There was a time when SP3 was Service Pack 3...
  • Lol
  • There was a time WP was WordPerfect...
  • I agree to a degree (heh) in that it is difficult to combine the different combos. They are targetting this as a laptop replacement and directly competing with the Macbook Air (13 inch as shown in the presentation). The Macbook Air starts as $999 which includes the keyboard obviously so if Microsoft can't include the keyboard because of the 25 SKU combinations then they could at least deduct the $130 for the type cover from the $999 i5 equivalent of the Macbook Air. This would bring it down to $869.99 for the SP3 i5 128GB version then it wouldn't seem too much to pay $130 for the type cover because it would cost just as much as a MBA. Of course one could argue (I have) that the MBA does not have a touch screen or Pen support so that is why it has a price of $999 without a keyboard but the average customer won't notice or care about that...
  • I really have not seen any real evidence that this "not including the price of the keyboad" has had a real effect on people buying (or not buying) the Surface series. It seems like all conjecture and hypothesizing to me. I'm quite certain though that Microsoft has done the research (and polling) and has reached their own decision that this "issue" doesn't affect sales. This is their third time out with the Surface. It's clear they are listening to everyone and anyone about things that need to be fixed, so I don't think this complaint has fallen on deaf ears, it's just not a problem they are necessarily concerned about. The same argument goes for tablets. I'd argue that tablets are way less useful i.e. portable if you don't buy a cover for them. I bought an iPad Mini Retina and basically had to buy the mag cover for it ($25). Granted, that's a lot less than $130 but the principal is the same. The same goes for my ThinkPad 8, which became infinitely much more fun with the quickshot cover ($29). Those devices too can take an add-on keyboard, which is also not included.
  • In my humble opinion, what Microsoft should do is at the very least include a magnetic keyboard-less cover to protect the screen
  • Nonsense and dumb reason. Just add the black type cover as default accessory. Any other color pays extra money.
  • It just seems like Microsoft likes low sales.
  • Yes. That's exactly it. You've figured it the strategy. They like low sales.
  • He sure did, just like "fist to face style" kung fu and "I'm bleeding, making me the victor!". ;)
  • Yes. The black one should be included.
  • I hope Amazon doesn't take long getting the SP3. While I like my original Surface Pro, note taking is a chore simply because of the 16:9 aspect ratio and weight associated with it. It's just too wide and I've been suffering in silence. This new model appears to address all my concerns. Come on Microsoft, get Amazon some units that same week to sell. $$
  • imo ms has to improve 2 things in order for me to want to replace an ultrabook with this. ATM looks more a tablet with laptop functionality. 1. The keyboard. Make a real keyboard, an ultra thin magnesium one that gives me the look and feel of a laptop. 2. I have nothing against the kickstand, it's great, for a tablet. But when using this thing on the lap (or reduced space locations) the story is different. I think they have to introduce a new open mechanism (without removing the current kickstand) probably they can't do that with a leather/plastic keyboard, but a metal one could. That way the customer can opt to buy the actual keyboard which is great, for the casual laptop user, or the keyboard with the laptop experience. Sorry for my english, i know it must be a pain in the ass to read it.  
  • While I understand your concerns, I suggest waiting until you can actually try it. The Type keyboard is really, really good and the new kickstand in lap thing is awesome. Most reviews will easily concede that. Adding a mag keyboard will add weight and that is exactly what the SP3 is trying to avoid (if it weighs as much as an Ultrabook, then it's just an Ultrabook and nothing new).
  • i'll wait however i don't think the hole "ultrabook" experience will be that much different than the SP2. Concerning the weight thing, time will tell but would you bet anything that people who rely on ultrabook will move from MBA to SP3 because of the weight? i think not many will. On the other hand, think on giving the same experience (optional since keyboard are optional on SP) of the MBA plus having a tablet for free. If you don't need a true ultrabook experience you can always stay with the current keyboard.
  • "Concerning the weight thing, time will tell but would you bet anything that people who rely on ultrabook will move from MBA to SP3 because of the weight? i think not many will."
    It's more than that. Even Kevin Michaluk, who used my SP3 noted how it'd save him from carrying both his MBP and his iPad. If you just think of it as 'SP3 vs Ultrabook/MBP' instead of 'SP3 vs MBP + iPad", yeah, the benefit is certainly less. Microsoft is saying this will prevent you from having to carry TWO devices, which even I deal with when traveling i.e. should I take my Surface 2 and Ultrabook?
  • What does Kevin us his iPad for? I have an iPad 4, Galaxy Tab 2 and Dell Venue 8 Pro. The iPad is used to test software for our IT department and make process documents for our faculty and staff that use iOS plus a game here or there. The Dell Venue 8 Pro is my go to device since it has the power of Windows software compatibility behind it and it is the only tablet that leaves my bag daily. The Galaxy tab hasn't been charged in 3 months....
  • I totally understand the 2 in 1 but in one in order to REPLACE an ultrabook you need to offer a device that can offer the same experience (checked) and feeling (not yet), something they have already accomplished with the tablet. It's not like the SP3 is a crappy device in the specs department, hell no, my only concern is the keyboard and the kickstand. And i'm sure they could improve both in the future, it's not like they are stupid, they have a pretty neat device so far, but imo this version still wont replace your everyday ultrabook. Thank you for answering me :)
  • Interesting idea, but it would probably add a lot of weight if they offered a metal keyboard that could replace using the kickstand, and it would be more expensive. Probably wouldn't be too popular. And a quick read of your comment shows no errors in your English (besides not capitalizing "english"), or at least that I noticed. Native speaker here.
  • Yes, it will probably be more expensive. But how much does it cost a MBA 11" + Ipad 10"? 1400. If you could get a SP3 for 1k having the same experience of both, it's a no brainer. Right now we have to make some sacrifice, worst keyboard, worst stand. If weight was a really trully concern, no one wanting an ipad air would buy a SP3. Don't get me wront, the SP3 seem like a great device, but right now is more of a niche device.
  • SP3 size is more comparable to MBA13. So 1400 won't cut it. More like 1600.
  • I read his review just the other day, and I find hours problem with the Start Button to be... Weird.
    While it may have changed on the 3, whenever I have my pen on screen (or hell, just having the pen in course enough proximity to the screen for the little cursor to appear): My physical Start Button disables.
    It doesn't do anything, not even the haptic feedback "buzz."
    Did Microsoft change something on the 3? (aside from the obvious, that is)
  • I have a feeling that it is not the pen touching the Start button, but probably his hand resting on it.
  • I'm well aware. But what I'm saying is: On my current Surface, whenever the pen is in close proximity to the screen, the Windows button is completely disabled. Doesn't matter how many times I use my hand, palm or fingers to try and activate it: It remains unresponsive until the pen is fast enough out of range to not be detectable anymore.
  • Hell yes.
  • I wonder what would happen if artists truly didn't like the tech after trying it out. Considering how open they are to feedback, would Microsoft consider making a SP3 Wacom edition?
  • I think they'd just tell N-Trig to do better.
  • Makes me worry for the i3 version
  • It shouldn't. I have not noticed any processor issues even with games. Adobe Ps is...well it's Adobe. Plus, we need to see how the new touch version works too.
  • Wonder what the statement about slower performance at the native resolution with the i5 was about??? Edit: Sorry, late comprehension. :) You are saying the performance hit was most likely due to poorly coded software (Adobe) and not the machine itself, right?
  • hmm baby Daniel, the article in Penny Arcade (and here) shows Manga Studio, in the article he says it happened in PS and Manga studio, so it seems it wasn't just Adobe.
    I'm not saying Adobe is the best at coding and nothing slows down, specially in Illustrator, but you know!
    but maybe it's some bug or something... maybe Manga Studio has to be optimized too? who knows.
    But we know, Microsoft might just release an update and all that and everything would run better in SP3, like always happens. something I don't understand, he complains about the button, but can't he just turn the screen 180°? you know with the "horizontal flipped" option, so the button while reverted, it would be in left side. not bothering to him.
  • something I don't understand, he complains about the button, but can't he just turn the screen 180°? you know with the "horizontal flipped" option, so the button while reverted, it would be in left side. not bothering to him.
    Read the full review properly.
  • ehmm.. I did read it, but what do you want me to do? go back in time and delete that part in my comment I can't edit after some minutes?
    I read the full review after I actually commented... first I only went to check if it was PS or Manga Studio or both the ones that gave performace issues... and it was both, becuase it was consuing Rubino said PS/Adobe when the screenshot had Manga Studio, and not Photoshop. But before reading the full review, guess what I read? "Moving the Windows key to the right, which makes sense for the new keyboard, caused an issue when drawing and hand placement" what do you want me to think about it? "oh yeah he did all the steps! even the device manager one :D I can read mindzzzz...."!!!! ehmm NO. of course I could have read first the review, but then why Rubino wrote it here if in the end I had to go read it to know all the steps he made? also I can complain about the only photo of SP3 and no type cover was attached so.... but anyway next time tell Daniel Rubino to grab a little more information, because when I saw what Daniel Rubino wrote in this article and how long the review really was, well it was obvious many things were missing here.
    or Tell him just "go read first the full review, because I will not write 5% of what is in there, kthxbye" but please go back in time and edit my comment :)
  • Rotating the screen makes it impossible to use the kickstand to set the angle properly.
  • Capacitive buttons are cool and people like them, but for a note-taking device with such an emphasis on pen input, a physical button (if you must have one at all) seems like the logical choice. This should've been thought thru much better. And no, MS, flipping it to the other side next year will cause the same problem for us lefties, so don't even consider it!
  • They should keep offers. Exchange your macbooks for sp3. If this becomes successful. RIP mac within 2 yrs.
  • I love Gabe and Penny Arcade but I would love to see what a less cartoony comic artist could do on the device. Some known for working with digital, like Adi Granov.
  • I would say anything you want me to if Markus gives me i7 version too.
  • What ever... It will be better than the crappy digital Dell pen I have for my Dell Venue 8 Pro... That is awful and that's the newer one which is supposed to be fixed #MyArse
  • What's wrong with the venue 8 pro pen? Was thinking of recommending that for my mother who primarily wants something for note taking in OneNote.
  • Its not really digital inking like on the Surface Pro's.  You can write with their stylus for general notes, but its a bit more sloppy.  However, for your Mom, it may be fine enough.  There's a significant difference in how it feels, and translates.  SP's are more like writting / drawing on real paper ect.  On the Venue and other typical "pen input" devices, its more what we've had up until now which is obviously a different experience and precision.     
  • Thanks, B Sack
  • No regrets with my purchase of the i5 model.   1. I believe the firmware ect will be optimized quickly to reduce any sort of slowdown due to the resolution increase.  I also don't think this will effect everyday type programs for most people, only higher end production software. 2. The button on the right:  I think they will also add an optimization for disabling this while drawing ect.  IMO:  They should have just kept it where it was, and when the keyboard is up you don't need it anyways. 3. I can't wait to get my new computer :)
  • The performance is what worries me - though I'm guessing it must be optimisation issues or something like that. The other thing is the battery - the engadget reviews called the battery life "middling". I hope that isn't the case.
  • Anyone know where to buy N-Trig pen shipping to Indonesia??? I just lost my Sony one, and its lack of support for accessory is surprising... I can't find any in various Certificated Seller... Help!
  • >high-profile artist >Penny Arcade >high-profile artist this one made me laugh so hard that i've almost shit my pants
  • What would it have taken to push you a little more to fully commit to the act of shitting your pants?
  • This might still be good for drawing but i'm still not convinced. I use photoshop sure but I also use Zbrush and zbrush REALLY relies on presure sensitivty. I can always tell going from a 2048 to a 1024 level difference so this scares the crap out of me still when sculpting. 
  • Just ordered my SP3 yesterday and can't wait to give the pen a try. One thing is if an artist is good he's going to do awesome work with whatever tool he has. I've seen some iPad work that is beautiful and done with 0 levels of pressure sensitivity. I'm sure MS had good reasons to go with diff tech this time around.
  • What model did you order & what do you plan on using it for?
  • Dc d, sc
  • Ref: Anguis,
    Wow, you must have really saved alot of money by not wasting it on extra letters in your comment. They must be very expensive for you, to have resorted to such minimalist secret code.
    I don't know what you are saying?
    Best wishes, no worries. Unlimited free alphabet letters.
  • I think he said "Dreamcast dat, soul calibur"
  • Thanks for this words "Penny Arcade"... now the "wacom iz the bestz" trolls, can't say anything bad about ntrig, once again Microsoft shows how a good partnership and $$$ can change things, so hopefully Microsoft can help Ntrig to become really good alternative to wacom, you know, Microsoft and Ntrig really can make a cheaper and better citiq device.
    who knows? I really hope so though! we need something else than Wacom in the industry and if Wacom didn't like Microsoft making a onenote button and all that, well, then Microsoft can use more $$ to help Ntrig to be better than wacom.
  • That's a bit reassuring. Still would need to try it out myself though. Have had some bad experiences with N-Trig
  • Dunno.  I'm sure some of the more artsy people will be bummed by the quartered pressure levels.  Then again most people likely won't buy a Surface for artsy stuff.  I'd say that for note taking N-trig is a perfectly awesome trade off.  
  • did you read the article?... it seems you just ignored what Gabe an artist wrote about this. I'm sure he knows what he is talking about.
    it sounds like you are blinded by numbers and brand :) is that bad? no, but it's not good to say Ntrig in SURFACE PRO 3 (because it's not any other ntrig I'm sure, thanks to Microsoft $$), is super inferior and can't be used for artist, and that's why Microsoft is taking feedback from people like Gabe, to improve it. maybe Microsoft with Ntrig will be what industry needs so Wacom won't be the only choice.
    just look at the screenshots, and the article, they were made with a SP3.... again higher numbers (like 256 vs 1024) doesn't automatically make something inferior, of course Ntrig can improve in surface pro 4, but like Gabe said "This isn’t Wacom though it’s N-trig and I have to admit whatever wizardry they are using is pretty impressive."
  • Why did they go without Wacom? Would it make it more expensive? Wouldn't it fit in the smaller body?
  • well some people have said SP3 wouldn't have been as thin with wacom. also it's because wacom didn't allow a button in pen for OneNote and Microsoft wanted it. and maybe they just saw surface as competition for them and their Cintiq. also wacom wasn't the best experience in some stuff with SP2, like having to avoid edges and stuff like that. and maybe Microsoft saw Ntrig as an opportunity to use $$ to make a great product with less issues.
    many reasons and I think they might be true! but who knows.
  • Happy to read detailed reviews from people who have actually used to pen rather than just assuming how it will be. Just one question - there is an "eraser" button and one for the right-click; does this mean the top button will just be for starting OneNote or can it also be used as an eraser like to SP1&2 pen could? Thanks if someone can tell me, can't wait to upgrade my SP, the SP3 looks amazing!
  • The reviews I've read say that the top button is usually an eraser, and it only launches OneNote when the machine is locked.
  • "The lines show some jagginess when zoomed way in but it’s not a deal breaker" I am pretty sure for some artists, this matters a lot, especially when they want to do more detailed drawings.    
  • I am pretty sure those artists if they're pros already own Wacom tablets, and I am pretty sure no-one, least of all Microsoft, is pretending the SP3 is a one-size-fits-all device. There is no such thing. Try it when it launches, and buy it if it fits your needs. Couldn't be simpler than that really.
  • woo hoo thats great... :)
  • im confused about something.  the default reslution is laggy on i5?
  • The mouse cursor position when using the pen lags behind when the pen is not physically pressed on the screen. It's not the whole system lagging.
  • Good thing I wasn't worried lol
  • I am just curious as to how accurate N-Trig is on the SP3 vs Wacom on the SP2. I have used other wacom devices like the Thinkpad Tablet 2, and the accuracy is not that great; laying the pen on it's side makes the digitizer think that the tip is really an inch away from where it really is. It became exaggerated near edges too. Does the SP3 still have the same issues as Wacom?
  • There N-trig supposedly does not have the issue at the edges.
  • Strange that Microsoft didn't tell him he's holding it wrong and than offer a free bumper that covers the button up ;)
  • Such a long article and yet I did not learn a bit about what N-trig actually means. :-/
  • "I will keep you updated but for right now, I can’t tell artists to run out and buy the Surface Pro 3 today"..
  • Is 25th may is holiday for wpcentral :P
  • At DESITUNEZ - don't know how my comment was put here!!!! Yes, that was the concluding statement.
    I'm sure that's not what MS wants, and I'm sure they will address the issues presented - the system lag being the real issue.
    The button placement and issue placing the hand over said button... That is a personal and particularly frustrating issue for him... Something that could be addressed with a change of habit. Or some sort of driver from ms.
    The only real reason he couldn't recommend the system was the lag. That is the worry - that's a hugely impressive screen. If they'd put a better processor ( thinking the iris, I think it's called) that might address the issue... Though he's not specific about the test of the experience, using the browser, office, playing movies etc.
    The engadget review says pretty much the same thing. Lag.
    Now I don't know if these are pre production machines but the issue could be dealt with by optimisation our something. My sp2 hardly ever lags. I'd hate to see this beauty suffer..
    Can't wait for a full and unbiased warts and all review!!!!
  • A very beautiful apparatus, and a costly one.
  • This debate about turning the windows key off is hilarious because we had the same argument about turning it off in windows XP ;)
  • Do you think history is repeating itself? I really hope Microsoft makes an operating system with the XP feel, as in Luna, but with Aero transparency. Or, maybe like flat windows just like Windows 8, but rounded top left and top right corners and square window controls. That would be neat.
  • Aye - I personally think just getting out of the habit of putting your hand there, or perhaps some palm rejection something-or-other would sort that out.
    Really, the only thing I could take away from his report was that the performance was below par - but then driving that massive screen what would one expect?
    Need to get that low power nvidea Maxwell tech in there
    Though I've got a feeling a company like razor will bring that baby out...
  • And I thought 16:9 was the main aspect ratio in use today. Well, that makes sense, because my laptop is 16:9, while I think my tower monitor is 3:2, and the laptop screen always seems crammed. More vertical space is good for designers.
  • Hi,  I agree what Gabe is saying and the line quality is great, but is there a way to test the "painting" quality of the SP3.  I mean I am considering to get just a big Wacom Cinitq, or even the Yiynova for that matter,  but I want to know if the NTrig 256 pressure sensitivity is able to paint in Photoshop, painter or Sketchbook pro (I noticed he's using Manga Studio)?      
  • "BIG Wacom Cinitq" is right. I saw one being used by an artist two weeks ago at a convention and while he loved it, it was thicker than a Surface Pro 2 WITH the battery cover attached. The thing was a brick.
  • great to see intelligent pen discission.  i have the ntrig stylus with the sony duo pro.  the pressure curve in sketchbook  pro and one note is excellent--but is unacceptable light in artrage and freshpaint.  I dont believe any of these softwares use wintab drives--so my impression of ntrig is that it is inconsistant.  another potential shortfall is that the ntrig pen does not deactivate the capacitative touch screen until it is less than a quarter inch above the screen.  waom deactivates at about an inch.  so it is much easier to get palm issues with ntrig.  i'm hoping MS will invest in theire new partner and ntrig--an isreali tech sart up--will blossom into a wacom competitor.
  • Is it possible to use one of the side buttons on the pen as a eraser toggle? I don't like the idea of holding down one of the buttons to erase. I've got an old, crappy Samsung Ativ 500t that uses Wacom tech and I constantly use the inverted pen to erase inking mistakes while notetaking.
  • I am a professional 2D animator and illustrator and I am really looking foreward to SP3. But the NTRIG system scares me off big-time. The levels of sensitivity is fine, I agree that 256 is more or less as good as 1024 - so that isnt the issue. The issue is software compatibility (and to some degree windows 8). I currently have a cintiq companion, and although I have had zero compatibility issues running my software I find I am just not using it becuase it is so damn big and heavy. (Also windows 8 is a real mess, but, once configured I can live with it.) To me the SP3 sounds ideal in every regard except for the NTRIG software compatibility. As a side-note - I actually use my galaxy note 10.1 as a mobile workstation instead of the wacom companion, despite the limited software available for android OS. It is fast and light, the battery lasts forever, and I spend absolutely no time configuring the OS unless I want to. If the software compatibility issues that seem to plauge the NTRIG system are a non-issue on launch, for me this sounds like it would be worth every penny.