I've just purchased the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 and Slim Pen 2.
I'm putting out the artist review for the Slim Pen 2 first as the tablet review takes more time to create.
The Microsoft Slim Pen 2 was released in late 2021 together with the Surface Pro 8 and Surface Laptop Studio. Below's the list of compatible devices that supports this pen at the time of this review:
- Surface Laptop Studio
- Surface Pro 3 to Pro 8
- Surface Pro X
- Surface Duo, Duo 2
- Surface Go, Surface Go 2, Surface Go 3
- Surface Hub 2S
- Surface Laptop 1 to 4
- Surface Studio 1, 2
- Surface Book 1 to 3
- Non-Surface devices that support Microsoft Pen Protocol (MPP)
As long as your device supports Microsoft Pen Protocol (MPP), it should work with Slim Pen 2.
I've always been hesitant to recommend Surface devices for creating professional art because the Surface Pen has the jitter or wobble when drawing diagonal lines. I'm happy to say the new Slim Pen 2 has finally solved the diagonal line jitter-wobble issue. Microsoft finally fixed the problem after 8 years since the original release of the Surface Pro and Pen in 2013. So now the pen's drawing performance is now noticeably better, however I would still rank it below the Apple Pencil and Samsung S Pen for reasons you shall see below.
Design of the Slim Pen 2 looks just like a carpenter pencil. It's flat but thick enough for a good grip. While I personally prefer a more cylindrical design, this flat design is something I can get used to. Build quality is solid.
There's a side button that can be used to right-click, and an eraser button that can be configured to selected pre-programmed shortcuts using the Surface app.
The battery is built-in and not removeable unfortunately. Battery life is rated at 15 hours.
The matte textured body is nice to hold. The pen tip is also matte textured but it's still quite smooth, not too slippery, when drawing.
Microsoft has added haptic functionality to the pen to mimic the tactile experience of writing on paper.
For some reason, when holding the pen with the flat side facing you while tapping on the screen, the pen feels slightly springy. But when holding the pen with flat side facing away, the pen loose the springy feeling.
Anyway, the haptics feedback is interesting. There are two types of haptics. First is a brief vibration/buzz that can happen when you select tools (dependent on app). The second is tiny vibrations created to mimic the tactile experience of pen on paper. It does work well enough to create the illusion of that tactile experience that artist like, but it's not real pen on paper since you're still drawing on smooth glass. The drawing haptics will also react to pressure sensitivity. The more pressure you apply, the more vibration there is, creating this illusion of friction. It's pretty cool.
However, not all apps support the haptics functionality. For example, Photoshop, Medibang, Clip Studio, Krita, Affinity Photo, Sketchable, Sketchbook Pro do not support haptics. Only apps I've tested that support haptics are Concepts and Adobe Fresco.
The Slim Pen 2 is a Bluetooth 5 stylus so it uses a battery (built in) but no charger is included. The pen can be charged with the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard, by the side of the Surface Laptop Studio, with the Surface Duo 2’s pen cover, and with the wired Microsoft Slim Pen Charger (shown above, priced at US $34.99).
Before you buy the pen, please think about how you're going to charge the pen. The Slim Pen 2 is priced at US $129. If you don't already have something to charge the pen, you'll have to budget $34.99 for the Slim Pen Charger, bringing the total cost of the pen and charger to US $164.98.
By the way, the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard case is US $179.99. The keyboard case and pen bundle is US $279.99. There's variant of the keyboard case with fingerprint sensor (above, right) for US $199.99.
All the prices listed are official retail from Microsoft's online store. Those links you see above are to the same products on Amazon where prices are slightly lower. Regardless of where you buy the accessories, they are still considered pricey.
The best deal is probably to get the keyboard case with pen bundle. And there's a slot on the keyboard case for storing and charing the pen.
Here are line tests created with Medibang Paint Pro.
1. Initial activation force is minimal. Thin lines can be drawn very easily with minimal pressure.
2. Strokes don't taper as smoothly as I want. This is where Apple Pencil and the Samsung S Pen performs better with smoother and sharper tapered strokes. See my review of the Samsung Tab S8 Ultra.
3. Dots can be drawn easily by just tapping the pen.
4. Line transition from thin to thick is smooth.
5. It's easy to maintain consistent pressure to draw lines with consistent widths. There's still slight jitter but if you look at the drawings, the jitter is not noticeable.
With the jitter-wobble issue resolved, the pen is now more accurate and is something that can be used to create professional art.
There's still the issue with the strokes not being able to taper as smoothly (see the strokes on the right) which can be an issue depending on the type of art you create. If you're creating mostly line art, e.g. comics, the tapered strokes could affect your work. However, there are apps, e.g. Clip Studio Paint, where you can customise how strokes taper.
Tilt sensitivity works well.
I enjoyed drawing with this pen so much more compared to the previous Surface Pen simply because it's now more accurate. The lines come out just the way you expect them too.
The Slim Pen 2 is backwards compatible with selected devices but I can't say much about how the pen will perform on older devices. If you have the new Surface Pro 8 or Surface Laptop Studio, and you're into drawing, I highly recommend the Slim Pen 2. And if you're thinking of getting a Microsoft Surface device to create art on, I'm glad to say that yes, the Surface Pro 8 and Surface Laptop Studio are now good enough for creating professional art.