Buttons on pens don't do anything for me. In fact, I think they're often a nuisance as I frequently find myself clicking them accidentally with my thick knuckles.

However, many of you swear by your pen buttons and I've been hunting high and low for a readily available Surface Pro pen replacement that will accommodate your needs. I've tested five pen replacements to date and none have more than one button. And the three higher end pens don't even have eraser tips either. 

Thanks to a tip from reader Steven Weitz, I finally wrapped my fingers around the replacement stylus you've been clamoring for, although you'll have to pay a relatively steep premium for the privilege.

That pen is the Modbook Pro Digitizer Pen, which retails for $70 from the Modbook Store. The plastic pen is virtually identical to two other pens I've reviewed previously: the Wacom Penabled Tablet PC Eraser Pen and the Samsung Electronics Slate PC Digitizer Pen, both of which cost about 50% less than the Modbook pen.

Modbook doesn't offer any precise specifications, but the pen is 5.5 inches long from eraser to nib and is very light, weighing about half an ounce, just like the Wacom and Samsung stylii. I can only assume that Wacom produces all three pens as the nibs are interchangeable as well.

Modbook clearly charges a hefty premium for its boutique product, but they at least offer a generous selection of nibs: five felt, four pencil and three stroke tips. The stroke tip is grey with a small spring.   According to Wacom, these nibs are supposed to provide a more "brush-like" feel.

Packs of five nibs cost $5-$10 from Wacom, so the additional nibs are definitely welcomed.

Performance is very consistent across all the tablet pc pens I've tested. Some users have reported that one pen is more precise than another, but I haven't found that to be the case in my testing. With calibration, every stylus displays the same accuracy.  

I personally prefer heavier, slightly thicker pens that are closer to real world instruments. However, any of the replacements I've identified will offer a more satisfying experience than the standard Surface Pro pen.

I appreciate that the Modbook Pen's button is angled high enough from the pen's barrel to avoid most accidental presses. And assigning button actions is a simple matter of finding the Pen Tablet Properties in Control Panel.

I'm told that there are other two-button options out there, but I think most of them are for older devices and not easily obtainable. So if you absolutely need that second button, the Modbook Pro Digitizer Pen is the way to go.

Each Modbook Pro Digitizer Pen also includes a pack of pen tips, containing the following:

5 × Felt tip (Black) 
3 × Pencil tip (White, factory installed) 
3 × Studio tip (Grey, spring-powered) 
1 × Pen tip removal tool

Except for its dual button, the Modbook Pro Digitizer Pen is almost identical to the much lower priced Samsung (above) and Wacom pens (below).

A while back, a reader asked  about replacement nibs for the Surface Pro pen.  I hadn't considered the question until that moment because many months ago I had replaced my standard pen with a Wacom Bamboo Stylus Feel - Carbon (a name only a Japanese company could bring to market).

Unlike the standard stylus, all replacement pens come with extra pen nibs. In addition to the Carbon, I've purchased three other Surface Pro compatible pens and I had assumed all along that  the nibs were interchangeable. That assumption turned out to be incorrect. 

The standard Surface Pro pen's blue nib (center) doesn't match either the older wider nib above or the shorter Stylus Feel nib below.

The older Samsung and Wacom stylii I reviewed here have a wider diameter and don't fit in the Surface Pro pen's barrel.

The nibs for the Bamboo Stylus Feel pens are the correct diameter, but almost imperceptibly shorter in length.  Before realizing this, I put a Feel nib into the Surface Pro pen and had a devil of a time pulling it out again.  I've seen some posts on the TabletPCReview.com forums state that the nibs are compatible. They are not.    Take my word for this, DON'T TRY IT AT HOME!

Searching the Microsoft online store turned up no replacement nibs for sale.

Recently, the official Microsoft Surface blog posted a feature dedicated to the Surface Pro pen that included a new email address for "like-minded pen enthusiasts." I wrote asking for advice about nib replacements. Last night, Microsoft's Markus Weickenmeier, whose title is Manager - Surface wrote back confirming that Microsoft doesn't sell nib replacements.

So when your nib wears down (and it will), the only Microsoft solution is a replacement pen for $30. 

My advice is to pick up one of the available alternative stylii and store the standard pen as a collectible or for when you pass it along on eBay or Gazelle. Although the alternatives cost the same or more, they feel better to write and draw with and come with several replacement nibs. And when you run out of those, additional sets of five nibs cost only $5 - $10 direct from the Wacom Store. 

Wacom Customer Care overview of how and when to change the nib of a Bamboo or Bamboo Fun pen. The tips provided here apply to Surface Pro compatible stylii as well.


ADVERTISEMENT

Purchasing from these links directly supports this blog

After writing my review of the two Wacom Bamboo Stylus feel replacement pens for the Surface Pro, I honestly thought the debate was settled: those two options are clearly better than the standard pen that ships with the Microsoft tablet and it's really a personal/monetary call as to which you decide to buy.

Therefore I was a bit surprised this week when cartoonist Joel Watson, creator of HijiNKS ENSUE (gotta get that capitalization right!) tweeted his displeasure with the Surface Pro ("I want to redesign nearly every aspect of it") and the Wacom Bamboo Stylus in particular ("That one's awful.")

As I remind every reader constantly, I'm no artist, so I really wanted to understand what a professional found wrong with the pens. There was no sense trying to change his mind about the Surface Pro because I agree with most of his complaints; I just believe that warts and all, the Surface Pro is still the best "poor man's Cintiq" on the market. 

@hijinksensue's complaints about the Wacom pens rang true to me: "can’t find the button without looking at it, no eraser and the textured tip has too much resistance." 

He suggested I look at the following pen options, two nearly identical options built by Wacom and Samsung respectively for the prior generation of Series 7 Slate pc's. 

The generically named Digitizer Pen Stylet and Penabled Tablet PC Eraser Pen ship in suitably generic packaging.

The generically named Penabled Tablet Pc Eraser Pen (Model UP710E) by Wacom sells for $27 on Amazon.com. It features a pressure-sensitive tip, a single-side switch and a pressure-sensitive eraser. The pen is 5.5 x 1.5 x 0.5 inches  and weighs 1 ounce according to the product specification page.

The nearly identical  Samsung Electronics Slate PC Digitizer Pen (AA-DP0NE2B/US) sells for $34.58. The product specs page says that this stylus is 7.4 x 2 x 0.7 inches  and weighs 0.5 ounces. One or both of these descriptions is clearly wrong, as the pens are the exact same length. It's possible that one weighs more than the other, but the difference is too small for me to notice. From tip to eraser, I measure the pens at 5.5 inches long.

The barrel of the Wacom version is slightly wider, which I prefer. The Samsung pen has a clip which the Wacom lacks. Both are significantly smaller and lighter than the Bamboo Feel Carbon and Black. Judging by weight and finish alone, I'd pick the Bamboo Stylus Feel Black because I prefer its matte finish. 

Although they're both plastic, I do prefer the finish of the Wacom and Samsung pens over the standard Surface Pro stylus, whose slick finish and thin diameter just doesn't feel right in the hand. The buttons on the Wacom and Samsung pens are also slightly curved so they slightly cradle the index finger vs. the flat Surface Pro button. 

I absolutely agree with Joel that that the raised button and eraser tips on both pens are a huge improvement over the Bamboos.  I'm either always accidentally pushing the flush Bamboo button or searching for it to activate a feature. I've mapped Undo to the button, but that's mostly because the Bamboo Feels omit the eraser tip. Why do manufacturers make such odd design choices, especially on an $80 pen? Are they conscious decisions meant to protect existing higher end products? 

The Samsung Digitizer Pen/Stylet (left) and the Wacom Penabled Tablet PC Eraser Pen each ship with five nibs and an extractor ring.

Both pens ship with five plastic nibs. Here's where I have to disagree with Joel: I can't appreciate any difference drawing with them vs. the Bamboos with their plastic nibs installed. I actually preferred the textured nibs that the Bamboos also include by default. The tactile feedback is just enough to convince me that I'm not gliding on glass. But it's nice to have the option, which the two less expensive stylii don't offer.

In my quick tests in Manga Studio, I found that Samsung pen's pressure response seemed a little higher than the Wacom stylus. But once again, I can't offer a precise measurement beyond my "feel." That's the odd thing about pressure sensitivity. You can't really appreciate it except when it's missing.

So will I switch? I respect you Joel, but no I won't: I simply prefer the weight, balance and finish of the Bamboos. But if I have a project where I need to have the button and eraser at the ready, I'll have no problem making the switch then.

Between the Samsung and the Wacom, I'll have to go with the Wacom, due to its slightly lower price, larger girth and the lack of a clip, which I find distracting in my hand.

So what do you think? What's your personal preference? Am I right or wildly off the mark? Do you know of any other pens I should test?  I look forward to reading your comments below. 

Never mind the lens distortion: the Bamboo Stylii are signifcantly larger than the standard, Samsung or Wacom options.


ADVERTISEMENT

Clicking on these links directly supports this blog.