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Pen Reliability on new Pro (5)

InspectHerGadget

Active Member
My motivation to buy the Surface Pro 3 was that I had a Surface Pro 2 and I loved the pen on it and it was a pretty cool device in its own right as well.

I bought the 3 but was right away disappointed with the pen performance. I really mean reliability.

The 2 had the sensors for inking built into the screen with a passive pen. It was 100% reliability. It meant it never failed to work or fail to work as intended and the feel of the pen was lovely. Now I use it for writing text for customer notes, not drawing so the ability to draw into the corners was never an issue.

I bought the 4 thinking that the pen issues would be fixed. Well, not entirely although much better. The problem is for the pen to be a business tool it has to be close to 100% reliable, very close and the 4 wasn't. It still was capable of independent thought at the wrong time.

I remember at the time on the forums, the battles between those trying to convince people like me that the pen was wonderful and almost perfect.

I should dare to ask if they finally got a pen with the 5 that just does what it is told and doesn't mind that I am left handed and just works every single time without excuses of a driver updated needed, a possible faulty pen, a new battery or other excuses that make inking on these devices problematic. For me the issue is it has to work flawlessly on a daily basis, no excuses. I can handle the occasional hiccup like if the battery is on it's way out but that is the extent of it. So far the pen hasn't been good enough and I have long stopped using it as a result. Oh, gosh maybe after 18 months you will tell me it is now perfect?

I also find that I get issues with keyboard connectivity that I guess I have to live with which happens several times each week.

The Windows Hello function I gave up on too about a year ago too but may give it another go.

Overall, I have been happy with this as a business tool. I keep getting sucked into buying the next gen version thinking that these three problem areas inking, facial recognition and connectivity of the keyboard will get better. Here in Oz the prices have gone up. The pen is now $99 here and is NOT included. The price of the new keyboards have gone up too. The price has gone up but has the reliability of these functions? My hard experience is that there is no way to tell until you have bought one and so far my experience of buying the next generation is that, behind the hype, it will be pretty much the same issues presenting themselves again.

I am thinking of not worrying about the pen, having a nice normal laptop with a great keyboard that always works, no Windows Hello and probably cheaper as well.
 

convergent

Active Member
I don't think anyone can comment on long term reliability of the pen. What I can say is that the new pen on the new Surface Pro (to me) is a lot better than the SP4. I find it to be very natural and fluid, in comparison to the SP4. One of the main reasons I got the nSP was for pen based not taking; so this is important to me. I am still having some usability problems with just how in OneNote to do what I want... had some issues with my wrist causing a problem, but thing I've figured that one out. I need to make sure the pen is seen near the screen before dropping my wrist down for the first time. I can't comment on the left handed thing because I'm not left handed.

As for Windows Hello, at least for me it appears to be completely broken on the nSP. I will train it and it will work great for the first few times, and then after that nothing. Others have reported similar, so hopefully its a software update that is needed. The one thing that is frustrating about it is that you can only give it one image to train on. So even if it is working, the lighting will need to be similar. So for example when I want to use it in tablet mode to browse news in bed before turning out the light, it is a much darker setting then at my office desk. They should allow you to train several images that it can compare, in different lighting.
 
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InspectHerGadget

Active Member
I think Windows Hello requires good light to work so it is impractical for a mobile device used in different light settings. It would need to use IR or some combination of lighting that would always highlight features sufficiently to provide a consistent and reliable response.

I have Windows hello setup now, set it up again yesterday and it will work fine here at home but even then sometimes it doesn't. If I go out to see a customer it may or may not work, depending on amount of light, backlighting etc. It also takes some time to figure out it won't work, which is very annoying as you sit there waiting to get onto the computer before it finally lets you get on with a PIN. Overall it has caused more annoyance to me than any other feature. It has been a year since I used it last so maybe it has improved in the meantime.

The pen needs not to feel more natural or have a quadrillion pressure levels although that is nice but have a 100% reliable setting where palm detection always works and the pen always works predictably.

The keyboard I think is a driver thing rather than contacts as if you restart the Surface it always works.

I'm thinking today of getting an HP Pavillion x360 with 8G RAM and 250G SSD for $1098 AUD. It has an i5-7200 chip in it and 1920 x 1080 13.3 inch screen and a much longer battery life. I can't help thinking I don't need the ultimate portability of a Surface or the high resolution screen. I think laptops generally have gone past the optimum screen resolution which probably is standard HD and it takes less battery to power it too. I kind of miss a solid laptop keyboard.

I was looking at the Microsoft Surface Pro(5) but it is $1499 here with no pen or keyboard, 4G RAM and 128G SSD. It is quite expensive for what it is. The Microsoft Laptop is the same price for the same spec. I didn't like in the reviews that they said that there was some flex in the keyboard.

I guess we get spoilt for choice but I am looking closely at what vendors charge and a premium is paid for least weight and also screen resolution (which I reckon is overrated). The HP I was looking at weighs about 350G more than a Surface with keyboard cover. Not a lot of difference really.
 
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InspectHerGadget

Active Member
Just thought I would add too. Just now I came back to the Pro 4. Windows Hello logged me in. No mouse or keyboard response. Restarted and it worked fine...this is the sort of annoying stuff that wrecks my workflow. Today, not an issue as it is the weekend but this happens just as often with customers when I have half a dozen programs open and it simply stops working.
 
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InspectHerGadget

Active Member
Problem solved. bought a Lenovo 910! First of all I had to solve a Qualcomm driver issue making the unit use CPU but aside from that and an awkward placement of the SHIFT key on the RHS, it is a great unit. I will miss the inking even though I never use it any more. I will miss the Windows Hello camera even though I don't use that any more as it only works in good light with no backlighting. This 910 uses Windows Hello fingerprint, which like my iPhone, always works and doesn't depend on lighting.

I never had an issue with battery life but on the Surface even though it wasn't great but this thing will last twice as long or longer with the 1920 x 1080 version.

I will miss the Surface forum though and I also have moved from Windows Phone which is MIA.

I didn't buy the Microsoft Laptop even though it looked good as I can get better value for money elsewhere. Shame though.
 
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InspectHerGadget

Active Member
I was thinking the problem with the Surface Pen is it doesn't use the Wacom EMS technology which is where the screen is active and the pen is passive. The obsession to screens as thin as possible has done the whole inking performance a disservice. This EMS technology was last used on the Surface Pro 2 where it worked wonderfully well. I miss it.

When I was using the Surface for recording notes, I would stop and start doing notes 100x per day. My idea of reliability is it should not misbehave more than once every week or so of constant use which makes reliability requirements 999 out of 1000 or better. The Surface reliability is way less than that in my experience. I now have a Lenovo 910 which has no inking ability at all, which suits me after my experience with the Surface. Microsoft have to look at the reliability and make it number one, not pressure levels or other secondary requirements.
 

jnjroach

Administrator
Staff member
I've been using TabletPCs since gen 1 in 2001 and EMR was fluid it struggles in the corners with jitter. Also, the SP2017 with the new pen is much better than the EMR I've used. As a note taker I've been very happy with my SP3, SP4, S3 and SB - but the latest updates push the performance of the pen to make it a better overall experience.

Wacom itself has moved to AES which is very similar to nTrig with the battery in the pen.
 
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InspectHerGadget

Active Member
I think that is the problem. Corner performance for note taking is irrelevant. How many people use a Surface for full blown art work? You may do but most people such as students and myself want it for diagrams and not taking. The most important think is instant response and 100% reliable palm rejection. I think Microsoft wanted thin displays and got them at a price. I accept though that they have kept artists happy but what about ordinary users?

I absolutely loved the inking and response on the SP2 which used the passive pen and I think that EMR technology but it doesn't suit ultra light and thin design goals. I definitely didn't get jitters but note taking doesn't require exploring the corners of the screen.
 

hughlle

Super Moderator
Staff member
I think that is the problem. Corner performance for note taking is irrelevant. How many people use a Surface for full blown art work? You may do but most people such as students and myself want it for diagrams and not taking. The most important think is instant response and 100% reliable palm rejection. I think Microsoft wanted thin displays and got them at a price. I accept though that they have kept artists happy but what about ordinary users?

I absolutely loved the inking and response on the SP2 which used the passive pen and I think that EMR technology but it doesn't suit ultra light and thin design goals. I definitely didn't get jitters but note taking doesn't require exploring the corners of the screen.
They've kept this student very very happy with daily, extensive note taking on both sp3 and sp4 over the past 3 years. Only pen issues I ever had was a temporary hardware fault which promptly vannished, an issue due to a low battery, and a couple of issues due to win 10 insider fast track builds. Other than those instances, it has been absolutely fantastic.
 
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InspectHerGadget

Active Member
I write left handed and it is mostly palm rejection issues (not rejecting) that seem to upset the apple cart for me. The SP3 was way worse than the SP4 and no doubt they keep updating drivers. I had this discussion over and over, over months previously especially when I was on the SP3. The number of times that people said they had no issues I lost count of and yet it made no difference to my issues. The SP4 was much better though but still niggling more than outright bad in terms of issues.

I think that the other thing is if I really needed inking, I would still be using it daily, issues or not and when seeking a replacement would have looked at another machine with similar abilities and maybe even another Surface. For me taking customer notes was merely a good idea rather than a necessity such as it might be if I were a student. I now just record notes in customer notes on MYOB or on the invoice itself.

The other thing was just the occasional disconnect between the keyboard cover and the machine which didn't seem to be the keyboard in that a restart would remedy it. It was an annoyance, a niggle I guess you could call it.

Finally I guess if you don't need the inking, the Surface becomes a less desirable proposition. I'm finding already with a laptop with a 360 hinge you can use it lying down and in all sorts of positions I would not use the Surface but my iPad instead. I'm also finding the Windows Hello fingerprint reader is more reliable than the camera. I didn't have the fingerprinter reader on my surface keyboard cover.

Anyway, it is time for a change and I have made the change.
 

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