Surface Pen tilt support is coming to other Surface devices in an update

One of the coolest parts of the Surface Pro's reveal was the new Surface Pen, which has been improved in various ways.

Designed to complement the Surface Pro (2017), the Surface Pen benefits from the Pro's custom co-processor which reduces the latency between the pen and the screen to "imperceptible" levels. Additionally, the new Surface Pen supports tilt shading on the new Surface Pro, mimicking a real inking tool more closely.

Since many of you have been asking, it does seem that the new Surface Pen's tilt capabilities will be coming to previous Surface devices via Windows update.

As per the Surface Pen's US Microsoft Store listing, it says the following regarding tilt:

"Surface Pen tilt functionality is available now with Surface Pro. Available with other Surface devices via Windows Update."

Whether that refers to all previous Surface devices with inking or just the more recent ones, we're still trying to find out, but it's pretty safe to presume that at least the Surface Book, Surface Studio, and perhaps Surface Pro 4 will all make the cut.

The new Surface Pen has 4,095 levels of pressure sensitivity, which is a massive boost from the previous versions. Microsoft says the new Surface Pen beats Apple's iPad Pro Pencil in every way, we'll have to test their claims once we get our review unit in the near future.

Thanks for the tip, TheScarfix

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • Will the update improve the existing pen or would we need the new pen and software update for tilt?
  • New pen. It's hardware.
  • Any idea how it works?  Is it a tilt sensor in the pen that's fed over Bluetooth, or is the digitizer in the screen able to determine pen angle (with whatever new goodness is in the pen)?  
  • Will the new pen on an SP4 support the 4k pressure levels? Or is it a function of an improved screen on the SP(2017)
  • Pressure sensitivity is in the Pen's hardware, so I don't see why not.
  • I wonder how that actually works, since there is no "communication" between the pen itself and the device. But I can imagine it might have to do with some kind electrostatic feedback to the screen depending on the tip pressure instead of screen pressure.
  • Actually, there is communications between the pen and the computer. It's connected by Bluetooth. I suspect that the pressure, tilt and button information is sent that way. So upgrading is mainly just upgrading the driver for the Pen.
  • I would imagine that it comes in a firmware update, or perhaps that the information is decoded in software.
  • Just check the Pen's specs on MS's store and this is what it says: Surface Studio
    Surface Laptop (no tilt functionality)
    Surface Book
    Surface Pro
    Surface Pro 4
    Surface Pro 3
    Surface 3
  • Real Cool! I hope it still has the intercheable tips when you buy the pen. Sorry if I missed it if they mentioned it. I have a feeling that the Surface Laptop tilt support was disabled on purpose because the pen is always tilted on the screen when trying to do things with the pen, and that would make it hard to use properly (I mean, if it had the tilt tracking)
  • Yeah, I was wondering why the Surface Laptop wouldn't support it as it's newer, but you make a good point, it may actually get in the way as it would be hard to control while writing on a vertical surface. Really surprised the 3 series will support it!
  • Yea, I am real happy that the SP3 is supported. I need to replace my SP3 in any case, I was about to get the SP4 pen.. glad I waited. Will get the SP5 one.
  • However, I'm kinda afraid if by supported, Microsoft meant 'pen' support, not 'tilt' support. Tilting is a feature. Not sure if the 3 series will get it. Here's to me hoping...
  • I am happy that Surface 3 (non-pro) is supported!
  • I just bought one a couple of months ago for my sp3 -_-
  • So just get the new pen to enjoy this on old surface hardware?
  • Seriously hope SP3 will support tilting. Fingers crossed!
  • so, pen not included, but they lowered the base price by $100?
  • Riiiiight.....just like the on-screen Dial support we were getting? 
  • the dial support is already shown in the new videos. Pro 4, New Pro, Book all getting it
  • The video I saw showed it on a Surface Pro 2017...I haven't seen it on a Pro 4 or Book. Where was that announcement?
  • I wonder the reduced latency applies to the usage with Surface Pro 4... Other than that, the tilt and increased levels of sensitivity is already leading me towards upgrading the current pen.
  • latency is because of the new coprocessor. does nobody read anymore?  
  • Actually it is only in part due to the coprocessor. using the new pen on my book right now and it certainly more responsive, just not the 20ms the pro will offer. still no tilt support for me unfortunately.
  • Microsoft's trackrecord of keeping even their older users happy with their newest accessories is becoming amazing! My SP3 started out with a purple type cover for the SP3 and the in-box stylus. Since then, it's gotten a boost with the SP4 alcantara type cover and a blue SP4 stylus. Who knows, maybe my SP3 might even get an upgrade to the latest stylus. In any case, I think Microsoft knew that people might be holding onto their Surface devices longer than average, and went to lengths to help people keep their old devices fresh with the latest accessories (and get at least some extra revenue in the process).
  • I hope the SP3 is supported.
  • Please check the ever present slow line jitter and line tapering problems. Been a Surface Pen problem from the beginning sadly.
  • no more jitter tests.
  • The tilt coming to other other surfaces with an update is great.  What about the improved latency?
  • They claim 20ms now which is better than Apple Pencil.
  • Now the studio is coming to more markets, what pen version will it ship with, Anyone know?
  • so the pressure and latency improvements won't work with Surface Book?
  • Has the update for the new pen already been published to work with the Surface Book?
    If so, how can we get it to work?