Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil: Which is Better? [2023]

Due to popular demand from a lot of readers, I pitted the Apple Pencils with the Surface Pen to see who came out on top.

The answer seemed very obvious at first glance, but things did take quite a few twists and turn to warrant a comparison article on its own.

Here is a brief rundown on the various differences between the Surface Pen and the Apple Pencil:

Surface PenApple Pencil 1Apple Pencil 2
Tilt recognition


Rubber eraser

🞫

🞫
Pressure sensor


Palm rejection


Gesture support
🞫


Magnetic charging🞫🞫
Latency21ms20ms9ms
Price$71$99$129

The Apple Pencils and the Surface Pens are evenly matched. The Surface Pen excels in battery and overall value for money, whereas the Apple Pencil offers more features for a digital artist

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Design: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil 2

Design: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil

Surface Pen

The Microsoft Surface Pen is as well designed as any other first-party active stylus solution in the market.

It features a sleek rounded design with a metallic finish that comes in different eye-popping colors to suit your compatible Surface product.

The tip is made of a much softer rubber compared to the Apple Pencils, making the tip glide much more smoothly on the screen.

The Surface Pen also has a soft rubber blunt end on the other end that lets you use the Surface pen as an eraser and houses the AAAA battery.

The whole body also attaches magnetically to a compatible Surface tablet or laptop just like the Apple Pencil 2, making sure you have a place to rest your Surface Pen.

Apple Pencil 2

Design: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencils have been touted to be one of the most iconic designs for an active stylus for many users.

Though this might be a direct consequence of Apple's market dominance and popularity, it is a design that third-party competing brands often copy.

The Apple Pencil 1 sports a glossy white cylindrical and tubular body, with one end housing a lightning connector inside a cap, and the other end leading to the tip.

Despite the design being very iconic, there were some serious concerns that it felt a lot less polished than what Apple is usually known for.

The lightning connector is a straight-up male connector that is supposed to be plugged into the iPad.

While this adds points for convenience, it calls for some serious cause of concern as the Apple Pencil sticks out in its entirety from the iPad during charging.

This adds quite a lot of rupture points to its design, making many users question its overall durability while charging.

The round cylindrical design, while being eye-catching, was very eager to roll off flat surfaces making it quite hard to manage for digital artists.

All this cumulated in Apple receiving a lot of flak for the Apple Pencil 1's radical design, making Apple extra wary about the strategies of their future products.

Fortunately, they didn't disappoint with the Apple Pencil 2.

In fact, it is often regarded as one of the most well-rounded designs that Apple has pushed forward in years with regard to electronic devices.

The Apple Pencil 2 ditched the whole lightning connector end, and instead went for a magnetic charging implementation that complemented the magnetic pins on compatible iPads.

The rounded glossy cylindrical body of the Apple Pencil 1 was also replaced with a flat face matte design, inspired by a regular stationary pencil.

This negated almost all issues that users had with the Apple Pencil 1 while improving on other ends.

Verdict

In terms of design, it is fair to say that both Apple and Microsoft compete with a very balanced set of pointers on both sides.

Apple Pencils might have a design that inspires a lot of third-party stylus peripherals, but that only points to just how influential Apple is in the market.

This matchup is a straight-up tie.

Features: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil 2

Features: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil
Surface PenApple Pencil 1Apple Pencil 2
Tilt recognition


Rubber eraser

🞫

🞫
Pressure sensor


Palm rejection


Gesture support
🞫


Magnetic attachment

🞫

Magnetic charging🞫🞫
Latency21ms20ms9ms

Surface Pen

The Surface Pen packs in plenty of features that are considered the industry standard when it comes to active stylus options.

The Surface Pen boasts the following features:

  • Tilt recognition

The Surface Pen can recognize when you tilt your pen for a more varied shaded stroke and inputs the stroke accordingly in the most natural way possible.

  • Rubber eraser

The other end of the Surface Pen houses a rubber end eraser that allows you to erase your inputs without any additional steps, making your workflow as uninterrupted as possible.

  • Pressure Sensor

The Surface Pen has a pressure sensor built in that detects up to 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity.

Do note that select Surface Products like the Surface Laptop only support up to 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity.

What this essentially means is that now you can adjust the intensity and style of your stroke naturally, as you would with a normal stationary pencil.

Apple Pencil 2

Features: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil

Apple Pencils, being the benchmark for all its competing active stylus options in the market, has almost all the features that you would look for in a stylus.

Both the Apple Pencil 1 and 2 sport the following features:

  • Instant Pairing

This allows the Apple Pencils to pair instantly with compatible iPads without requiring you to fiddle around with the Bluetooth menu every time.

The pencil will pair automatically when you bring it closer to your iPad.

  • Tilt recognition

The Apple Pencils can recognize the tilt of the tip up to 60°, allowing you to accurately incorporate different shading and strokes.

  • Pressure recognition

This is a feature that complements very well with tilt recognition.

The Apple Pencils can detect the amount of pressure you input on the pencil and adjust the shade and stroke quality accordingly.

Though Apple doesn't explicitly state the upward limit of pressure sensitivity that the Apple Pencils are capable of, it is somewhere in the ballpark of 4096 levels.

  • Palm Rejection

Apple Pencils can differentiate between a tip input and any input from your palm, and therefore negate any unwanted input from your palm.

This is a fantastic feature for digital artists, whose palms are constantly on the screen.

  • Gesture support

The Apple Pencil 2 has a touch area on the body that allows you to set up custom gestures such as enabling an eraser.

This shortcut feature is a timesaver and an absolute must for artists who are already used to a shortcut gesture feature of a similar sort.

Unfortunately, this is one feature that the Apple Pencil 1 lacks.

Verdict

Despite the Surface Pen trying its best to stay relevant in the features segment, it is plenty clear that Apple Pencils reign supreme in this regard

The Surface Pen does have a few unique features such as the eraser tip, but it doesn't stand a chance against the sheer quantity and quality of features that Apple provides.

Furthermore, Apple's control over its own operating system in iPads just means that the features are much more flushed out.

Sure, Microsoft is the developer of Windows, but iPad OS is just more intuitive and reliable for touch screens than Windows at the moment.

Battery life: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil 2

Battery life: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil
Surface PenApple Pencil 1Apple Pencil 2
Battery typeAAAA batteryRechargeableRechargeable
Battery life1 year12 hours12 hours
Charging timeNil25 mins15 mins

Surface Pen

The Surface Pen, being a product that is almost half a decade now, has a rather rudimentary approach to the battery situation.

Instead of opting for a rechargeable implementation, the Surface Pen is juiced up by an AAAA battery.

Now, this can seem outdated at first glance, but it does have its fair share of benefits over other options.

For one, the Surface Pen is rated to last up to a whopping 1 year on a single battery.

This bonkers level of the battery is with regular use of the pen, with a daily use case in mind.

With my casual use, my Surface Pen has been running great, with still 39% left in the bank after 2 whole years!

Replacing the battery is also as simple as popping in a new AAAA battery, ensuring you absolutely forget you even need to charge your pen.

Apple Pencil 2

Battery life: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil

Both the Apple Pencil 1 and 2 can last up to 12 hours on a single charge, making them an excellent choice for any digital artist.

Also, the fact that both Pencils can charge via the iPad is a huge boon and does not require you to carry around a separate charging cable.

The Apple Pencil 1 uses the male lightning port to connect to the iPad and charge.

Despite this being a huge design flaw, the convenience of such an implementation still stays true.

The Apple Pencil 1 also charges quickly, with a full charge needing no more than 25 minutes.

The Apple Pencil 2 takes things much further by magnetically attaching to the side of the iPad to charge, making it a great resting place for your Pencil as well.

Also, the Apple Pencil 2 charges to full in just 15 minutes, with support for quick charging that tops up the device for 15 minutes of use in just 30 seconds.

This completely changes things up, as this gives you a super-fast implementation that makes you forget that you need even to charge the device.

Verdict

Both the Surface Pen and the Apple Pencils boast very reliable battery life numbers, despite them going through with the implementation from totally different angles.

The Surface Pen is one of the most long-lasting active stylus options in the market right now, and changing the battery on the go is not at all a big deal.

The same can be said about the Apple Pencils, with the Apple Pencil 2 having fantastic charging speeds and an overall reliable design.

This naturally would have resulted in a draw, if not for one key factor: battery health.

The frequent charging and discharging of the batteries in the Apple Pencils is bound to degrade at some point, and you will have to replace the cell after a few years anyways.

This would mean you would need to pay a visit to the Apple store for the replacement, and that is only if Apple has the spare part available and hasn't made the product obsolete.

Whereas the Surface Pen uses a traditional AAAA battery, which you can get from any electronic store for a fraction of the cost that Apple might ask you for the Pencil's replacement.

In short, the Surface Pen takes a slight edge here for the win.

But it is not a huge difference, and this just shows just how much of a battery behemoth both the Apple Pencils and the Surface Pen are.

Compatibility: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil 2

Compatibility: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil
Surface PenApple Pencil 1Apple Pencil 2
Surface Pro 5th GeniPad Gen 612.9-inch iPad Pro Gen 3
Surface Pro 6iPad Gen 712.9-inch iPad Pro Gen 4
Surface Pro 7iPad Gen 812.9-inch iPad Pro Gen 5
Surface Pro 7+iPad Gen 912.9-inch iPad Pro Gen 6
Surface Laptop iPad Gen 1011-inch iPad Pro Gen 1
Surface Laptop 2iPad Air Gen 311-inch iPad Pro Gen 2
Surface Laptop 3iPad Mini Gen 511-inch iPad Pro Gen 3
Surface Laptop 412.9-inch iPad Pro Gen 111-inch iPad Pro Gen 4
Surface Laptop 512.9-inch iPad Pro Gen 2iPad Air Gen 4
Surface Laptop Studio10.5-inch iPad ProiPad Air Gen 5
Surface Book 29.7 inch iPad ProiPad Mini Gen 6
Surface Book 3
Surface Go
Surface Go 2
Surface Go 3
Surface Studio
Surface Studio 2
Surface Studio 2+

Surface Pen

Microsoft has locked the Surface Pen to be used for only select Surface products and therefore won't work on any iPad.

This means that for most folks, compatibility might be a moot point to consider when comparing the Surface Pen and the Apple Pencil.

But even so, the compatibility list of the Surface Pen is shockingly low compared to the Apple counterpart.

Apple Pencil 2

Compatibility: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil

Instead of adding compatibility for all their iPads for their newer generation Apple Pencils, Apple has instead opted for splitting the compatibility situation.

This effectively means that the Apple Pencils are only compatible with select iPad models, and are not cross-compatible with each other.

Make sure to carefully check which Apple Pencil is supported for your iPad model.

So if you are using an iPad that supports the Apple Pencil 1, and you wish to use the Apple Pencil 2 then you are out of luck.

While this can seem like a downgrade, it also means that almost all iPads that have launched since 2015 have been compatible with either of the Apple Pencils.

Verdict

Compatibility is a very personal thing to consider, and therefore this fight is a tie.

Both the Apple Pencils and the Surface Pen are meant to serve different products owing to their parent company and therefore have a varied list.

The best way to move with this is to first settle on what you want to use your active stylus with an iPad or a Surface product and then make the decision.

Price: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil 2

Price: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil
Surface PenApple Pencil 1Apple Pencil 2
Price$71$99$129

Surface Pen

Sale
Microsoft Surface Pen
Microsoft Surface Pen Platinum Model 1776 (EYU-00009)

The Surface Pen can be bought from Amazon for about $65, which is insanely cheap for a proprietary first-party active stylus solution.

You can find it even cheaper from their official website, which makes it quite a striking peripheral to have on your arsenal.

For the features that the pen offers, the price it asks for is completely justified.

Apple Pencil 2

Price: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil
Apple Pencil 1
Apple Pencil (1st Generation): Pixel-Perfect Precision and Industry-Leading Low Latency, Perfect for Note-Taking, Drawing, and Signing documents.
Sale
Apple Pencil 2
Apple Pencil (2nd Generation): Pixel-Perfect Precision and Industry-Leading Low Latency, Perfect for Note-Taking, Drawing, and Signing documents. Attaches, Charges, and Pairs magnetically.

The Apple Pencil 1 is priced at $99, with frequent offers from online retailers like Amazon.

The Apple Pencil 2 is priced a bit more steeply, at $129.

Judging from the price, the Apple Pencils can seem like an expensive addition to your arsenal.

There are plenty of other third-party active stylus options that can provide far more bang for your buck at a cheaper cost.

But it is when you explicitly look at other professional-grade active stylus equipment will you come to realize that the pricing is in a lot of ways justified.

Verdict

The Surface Pen is a clear winner here, considering the price-to-performance ratio.

For half the price of the Apple Pencil 2, it offers a neat set of features without having a lot of compromises in between for casual to professional users.

That being said, it still stays true that the Apple Pencils justify its price point by offering a seamless experience overall.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

I hope my article on the differences between the Microsoft Surface Pen and the Apple Pencil has been a great read and has aided you in making an informed purchasing decision.

Have a good day!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is Surface Pen only compatible with Surface devices?

Surface Pen works on any laptop that supports the Microsoft Pen Protocol (MPP), which has Windows 10/11 laptop support from other select brands.

Is Apple Pencil compatible with iPods?

Apple Pencils are only compatible with iPads and won't work with any iPod device.

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About Doug Stevenson

Hey! I'm Doug, My passion for tech started by fixing phones and computers for my friends and family.

I started Blinqblinq to give reliable tech advice to anyone who needs it, for free! If you have questions on anything tech-related, feel free to contact me.

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Doug Stevenson

Hey! I'm Doug, My passion for tech started by fixing phones and computers for my friends and family.

I started Blinqblinq to give reliable tech advice to anyone who needs it, for free! If you have questions on anything tech-related, feel free to contact me.

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