Microsoft yesterday released a series of fixes to its Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book Touch and Pen drivers that appear to have resolved a long-standing problem with pen stroke tapering and smoothing.

As many readers discovered last month, Wacom's recent Feeldriver update introduced a bug which disabled the Surface Pro 1 and 2's volume buttons.

The company has now posted a new version, ISD_7.2.1-24, which corrects the issue as well as several others. You can download it here.

According to Mike Bagdanoff at Wacom, "The uses too much CPU. We tracked the problem to an expensive API call that someone slipped in (the culprit has been punished). On slow units it can cause a delay in the cursor movement in some apps."

The Feeldriver should work with any Wacom-equipped tablet PC. As the Wacom website states, "note that Surface Pro 3 is not a tablet with Wacom feel IT technologies and the driver should not be installed on Surface Pro 3." If you have any doubts about compatibility, download and run the WacomHardwareCheck utility found on the same page.

I haven't had a chance to test this new version yet, but please post your findings below. 

AuthorRick Rodriguez
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Although this piece is dedicated to note-taking instead of art, it's always nice to see the lowly pen getting some respect in the media. Enjoy!

Deep inside Microsoft's brand new device laboratory outside Seattle, hundreds of designers are spending millions of dollars to perfect something we've all been using since grade school -- the pen. Meanwhile, startups like MailLift are building an entire company on the power of handwriting.


AuthorRick Rodriguez

Revision 3's Technobuffalo has put together an excellent introductory video to the new Surface Pro 3 pen. Host Jon Rettinger focuses primarily on OneNote, but there are a couple of shots in the video that zoom in to demonstrate the accuracy of the pen tip. Well worth five minutes of your time.

Surface Pen Hands-On  

Surface Pro 3 Unboxing: The Surface Pro 3 is Microsoft's new all-arounder, a device designed for both work and play. This is the company's most recent attempt at reinventing the laptop/tablet hybrid, and the company's message is crystal clear: it's going straight after Apple's MacBook Air.

AuthorRick Rodriguez
12 CommentsPost a comment

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ron2k_1 of Belize City, Belize posted this very detailed review of the Wacom UP-911E pen over at the TabletPCReview forum and his post inspired me to order it so I could compare it head to head with the discontinued Axiotron Studio Pen (see my review "I have a new favorite tablet pc pen and you can't have it" Don't know why I'm really proud of that bitchy headline).

My pen should arrive within a week or two and I'll post my findings as soon as I can.

In the meantime, I asked Ron's permission to reprint his article and amazingly detailed photos here. The UP-911E is expensive at $90-and-up from third party Japanese sellers on ebay, but I am fond of bigger pens and you may like its size better than the only other two-button pen currently available, the Fujitsu T5000. 

The Wacom UP-911E

The Wacom UP-911E

GUEST POST by Ron2k_1, reprinted by permission from this TabletPCReview forums thread.

So I finally got a chance to go to the post office to clear my UP-911E Pen.

It all started after searching and searching for the ever-elusive Axiotron Studio Pen every digital artist out there venerated. I found the following website for reference and started looking for its closest match: Wacom Asia Pacific | Pen Compatibility

So, if you're still reading, here are my observations.

First, my lot of pens for visual reference if anybody else have any of my other pens:

Left to right: UP-911E, Bamboo Feel IT Carbon, Motion Computing, Surface Pro, Fujitsu Lifebook 5010, Lenovo x230t, Galaxy Note 2 pen

Left to right: UP-911E, Bamboo Feel IT Carbon, Motion Computing, Surface Pro, Fujitsu Lifebook 5010, Lenovo x230t, Galaxy Note 2 pen

And here are the specs of the above pens (Profile measurements):

First, the UP-911E as it is a very irregular shaped pen:

And for the others (Tried to keep in 16ths of an inch; 8/16 is 1/2 and 4/16 is 1/4 and so forth):
Pen-------------------------------Length------------Width (Profile)
Motion Computing-------5 12/16----------------7/16
Bamboo Feel Carbon--5 15/16--------------13/32
Surface Pro-------------------5 8/16----------------5/16
Fujitsu Lifebook-------------5 4/16----------------6/16
Lenovo x230t----------------5 2/16----------------6/16
Galaxy Note 2----------------4 7/16----------------4/16

I'm really not sure if the nibs used by the UP-911E are standard or not. I guess the only way to know is to buy a few and try them. But at least I can notice that the nibs used by Fujitsu, x230t, motion computing and UP-911E are all interchangeable and at the same length of 1 1/16" and same standard circumference. So if anybody can confirm that any of these pens use Standard nibs, then we can say that the UP-911E uses Standard Nibs as well, which would be great.

Still reading? Artists, this may be of interest to you:
On Photoshop on my Win 7 HP, i7 x230t, the UP-911E is almost as accurate (with very small nib offset) as the most accurate pen I've ever tried - my Bamboo Feel IT Carbon pen.

Here are some screen shots. First, the UP-911E (notice the cursor, not that off from the tip of nib):

Then, the Motion Computing (this one felt pretty bad..):

And finally, the dead-on-center Bamboo Feel IT:

Next, my pressure buildup test done on sketchbook pro. I tried to build pressure consistently with same amount of press with all three pens. The Bamboo Feel seems a bit thicker as it is heavier:

EDIT May 7, 2014: At the request of forum member dream3 in post # 5, I tested the three pens on light stroke mode. I tried several brushes (knife, pencil, air brush) and I had a hard time noticing any difference between the UP-911E and the Bamboo Feel IT pen. I believe that the Bamboo Feel IT is probably infinitesimally more responsive to very VERY light strokes but the weight of the pen may have something to do with it. On the other hand my Fuiji pen and Motion Computing pen require significantly more force to register the same pressure level

Now, here is where the UP-911E scored high marks. This pen is so comfortable to grip and make long strokes with. It is not as heavy as my Carbon pen (28g), or as light as my Fujitsu pen, but it weighs maybe a gram or two more than the motion computing pen, which according to surfaceproartist blog weighs 15g. So this pen weighs IMO around 16g or 17g.

Here are some screen shots of how it looks in your hand. Note that I'm not a leftie, but was forced to awkwardly hold it that way as I needed my right hand to take pictures:

Now for note-taking, I gotta say that my Carbon pen still reigns supreme. I can make short strokes and draw letters better and more comfortable and fluidly with my Bamboo Feel Carbon than any other pen I've tried; even my newest addition UP-911E. Here are the results:

On my Galaxy Note 2, nothing beats the stock 4.5" pen. I remember reading that the digitizer on the Galaxy Note 2 were slightly different than the standard Wacom digitizer.

To wrap up, this pen cost US$90 from a Japanese supplier (which reminds me, I need to leave him some feedback) on ebay. It arrived super fast and in a very secured outer package. I didn't take pics of that package but I took pics of the inner package which is the UP-911E box that is labeled Cintiq on the outside:

Contents: Regular hard white nibs, rubber grip with no aperture for side button, Pen Stand, spare side button. That's it, no nib removal ring or additional nibs...

Contents: Regular hard white nibs, rubber grip with no aperture for side button, Pen Stand, spare side button. That's it, no nib removal ring or additional nibs...

If you notice from above it even came with a little stand:

If you were brave enough to read all that and still have questions, just shoot them up (at the original TabletPCReview forum thread located here).

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).