Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2 unveiled with new features to rival Apple Pencil

Surface Slim Pen 2 in profile
(Image credit: Microsoft)

The Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2 was unveiled this week during Microsoft's Sept. 22 Surface event (handily summed up in our Microsoft Surface event recap) as a complement to the company's fall lineup of Windows 11-ready Surface devices.

The successor to Microsoft's Surface Slim Pen stylus doesn't look very different from its predecessor, but the Slim Pen 2 has some new features which make it a potentially exciting product for anyone who needs a stylus for their new Surface device.

While the Slim Pen 2 is compatible with all Surface devices and any PC that supports the Microsoft Pen Protocol, some of its new features currently only work with the newly-announced Surface Pro 8 and Surface Laptop Studio

Here's a quick rundown of all the new functions and features you can expect from the Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2.

Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2 price and availability

The Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2 was announced Sept. 22 and is available as a $129 add-on when you pre-order the new Surface Pro 8 or Surface Laptop Studio, which are expected to ship the first week of October 2021.

Because Microsoft sells the original Surface Slim Pen as a standalone product, it's a safe bet that you'll soon be able to buy the Slim Pen 2 on its own as well, likely via Microsoft's Surface accessories page. 

Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2 specs

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Surface Slim Pen 2 spec comparison
Row 0 - Cell 0 Surface Slim Pen 2Surface Slim Pen2nd Gen Apple Pencil
ButtonsSide button, top button w/ eraser functionalitySide button, top button w/ eraser functionalityNone
Pressure sensitivity4,096 pressure levels4,096 pressure levelsUnspecified
ColorMatte blackMatte blackWhite
BatteryRechargeable Li-Ion, advertised to last up to 15 hoursRechargeable Li-Ion, advertised to last up to 15 hoursRechargeable Li-Ion, advertised to last up to 12 hours
Dimensions5.38 x 0.44 inches5.23 x 0.44 inches6.53 x 0.35 inches
Weight0.03 pounds0.02 pounds0.04 pounds

Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2 design

Microsoft appears to have changed very little about the Surface Slim Pen 2's design, as it looks nearly identical to the original Surface Slim Pen. It's still a slim, matte-black stylus sporting a side button, plus a top button where the eraser would be on a traditional graphite pencil.

Surface Slim Pen 2 plugged in and charging via USB-C

Surface Slim Pen 2 plugged in and charging via USB-C (Image credit: Microsoft)

Like its predecessor, the Surface Slim Pen 2 charges via a built-in USB-C connector, so you can just plug it directly into a USB-C port to recharge it. It can also wirelessly charge when slipped into the Signature Keyboard (compatible with the Surface Pro 8 and Surface Pro X) or magnetically attached to the Surface Laptop Studio — just like the 2nd Gen Apple Pencil, which can attach magnetically to most modern iPads for pairing and charging.

Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2 new features

While the Surface Slim Pen 2 looks almost the same as its predecessor on the outside, on the inside are new features that rival those of the 2nd Gen Apple Pencil.

Most notably, the Surface Slim Pen 2 is pitched as being more accurate than its predecessor, and it has a new haptic motor that's designed to provide tactile feedback which replicates the sensation of putting pen to paper. 

Microsoft calls this feedback "tactile signals", and it's currently only supported when you're using the Surface Slim Pen 2 with either the Surface Pro 8 or Surface Laptop Studio running Windows 11.

In addition to making drawing and sketching feel more natural, Microsoft also uses this haptic feature to provide feedback when you're using the Slim Pen 2 with select apps. 

In Microsoft Word, the haptic motor will both replicate the feel of writing on paper and vibrate when you successfully execute gestures like highlighting text, for example. In Microsoft Whiteboard, it will make the various pen, highlighter, and eraser tools feel distinctly different to use. 

This is a feature Apple's Pencil can't yet match, though we've seen multiple Apple Pencil patents which suggest an updated model with haptic feedback is in the works.

Surface Slim Pen 2 in use on a Surface device

Microsoft claims the Surface Slim Pen 2 will deliver a smoother, more accurate sketching experience than its predecessor (Image credit: Microsoft)

Zero-Force inking is another new feature debuting in the Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2. This appears to be a fancy way of saying the stylus will do a better job of detecting when it's near the display so there's less delay between touching the screen and seeing what you've drawn appear on it.

Surface Slim Pen 2 charging

The Surface Slim Pen 2 can wirelessly pair and charge when placed into the cubby carved out for it in the $179 detachable Surface Pro Signature Keyboard (Image credit: Microsoft)

The Surface Slim Pen 2 offers the same convenient wireless charging capabilities as its predecessor. You can slide it into the charging cubby on the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard, magnetically attach it to the Surface Laptop Studio, or slide it into the Surface Duo 2's Pen Cover for convenient charging when you're not using it. 

The 2nd Gen Apple Pencil does the same thing when you magnetically attach it to compatible iPads, and it's one of the features we appreciate most.

Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2 outlook

Microsoft's new Surface Slim Pen 2 is about $30 more expensive than its predecessor, but the improved accuracy and new zero-force inking feature should make writing and sketching with it feel more natural. 

The new haptic motor is undoubtedly the Slim Pen 2's most exciting feature, but right now the only devices that support the Slim Pen 2's expanded haptic feedback features are the Surface Pro 8 and Surface Pro Studio running Windows 11. So unless you're investing in those devices, you won't enjoy the full functionality of the Slim Pen 2.

Still, the same can be said of the 2nd Gen Apple Pencil: It's a decent stylus in its own right, but it truly shines only when paired with one of Apple's flagship tablets. Now Microsoft appears to have a solid competitor in the Surface Slim Pen 2, and Apple is playing catch-up on the haptic feedback front. 

Of course, we'll have to wait until we get a new Surface device in for testing and review to find out how well the Slim Pen 2 actually performs when the stylus meets the screen. 

Alex Wawro
Senior Editor Computing

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice. 

  • joenathandoe
    This article is misleading. it says that the pen can be charged directly via USB-C however that is not the case. The pen has no ability to be charged via USB-C at all. You need to try and find the charging cradle that comes with the gen 1 pen. I read this article and bought one expecting it to be chargeable via USB-C. Can't trust tomsguide to report devices accurately I guess. Probably just copy pasted whatever marketing fluff Microsoft gave them.

    The image that the article says is the pen charging by USB-C is actually not. It is the pen sitting in the chargin cradle from gen 1 that you cannot even buy seperately, and the cradle is perhaps charged by USB-C I dunno but it doesn't come with the pen so unless you have the charging dock from gen 1 pen you are SOL and can't charge the pen unless you have one of the devices that can wirelessly charge it.