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Apple Pencil 2 vs Surface Pen: Which is Better for Drawing & Note Taking?

Apple Pencil 2 vs Surface Pen: Which is Better for Drawing & Note Taking?

When comparing the Apple Pencil vs Surface Pen For drawing and note taking; the differences are not functionality, but rather compatibility since both stylus pens are ideal for pro level graphic design, drawing and note-taking. In this post, I’ll be covering these differences as well as an additional comparison of the Apple Pencil vs Surface Slim pen.

When tested, the Apple Pencil 2, Surface Pen, and surface slim pens had similar pressure sensitivity and are very similar regarding drawing and note taking capability (with some slight pros and cons).

Which you choose will largely be based on which iOS you prefer and which apps you plan on using the stylus pen for.

Many professional artists claim the Apple Pencil to be the better stylus for drawing for two reasons: 

  1. It’s compatibility with the Procreate App
  2. The Apple ‘gestures’ shortcut feature.

Related: Which is the best iPad for Procreate??

Microsoft’s Surface Pen can’t use ‘iOS exclusive’ apps, such as Procreate; which is a con for many looking to draw and create digital art. Apple pen and iPad Pro/Air can however use One-Note and Microsoft apps for those taking notes.

See: Surface pro 7 vs iPad Pro for drawing and Digital Art (Compared)

In this post, I’ll be comparing all the different features, characteristics, and capabilities of the Apple Pencil vs the Surface Pen & Surface Slim Pen for drawing and note taking. I’ll be addressing expert opinions, side-by-side tests I’ve ran, as well as how the two pens have evolved from their previous models.

Apple Pencil vs Surface Pen: Comparison (at a glance)

Apple Pencil vs Surface Pen_ Comparison at a glance

There are a few, subtle core differences between the Apple Pencil 2 vs Surface Pen. For those note-taking, the Surface Pen works very nicely with One-Note, while the Apple Pencil felt a bit more on point with a few slight advantages for drawing.

A big difference between the two is the weight of the stylus pen; since the Apple Pencil has a very tiny Lithium ion battery, it’s lighter.

The Surface pen is heavier as it requires a AAAA battery that adds extra weight. A third option, the evolved Microsoft Surface slim pen, is lighter as it has upgraded to the similar rechargeable battery like the Apple pencil models have. (See Surface Pen alternatives)

The gesture shortcut feature on the Apple Pencil 2 allows you to swap between a drawing tool and eraser. You can instantly swap between the color pallet, a tool, or the eraser seamlessly in the middle of drawing. 

The Surface Pen and Surface slim pen on the other hand has an eraser and is very useful for note-taking. However, many argue it’s which tablet and pen you’re used to navigating and it’s compatible apps t hat will drive the overall best choice.

Related: Apple-pencil 2 vs 1: what is the difference? (comparison)

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Apple Pencil 2 vs Surface Pen: Which is better for Drawing & Taking Notes?

Apple Pencil 2 vs Surface Pen_ Which is better for Drawing & Taking Notes_

As far as drawing, the latency attribute for drawing of the Surface pen is 21ms while the Apple pencil 2 has been upgraded and competes at 9ms when tested by several drawing experts. 

The difference in latency isn’t a game changer for most because when drawing the difference is not significant, or even noticeable unless you are creating pro-level artwork.

The Pressure sensitivity felt almost exactly the same at 4,096 pressure levels of the surface Pro. Apple on the other hand doesn’t calculate their sensitivity based on a number. Both had tilt technology for shading and drawing as well as near flawless palm rejection.

Don’t want to use an Apple Pencil? See the Best Drawing tablets for Mac

If you’re a big windows fan, then going with the Surface pen and surface Pro will suit you well, it can run all the windows based apps. Certain apps can only be accessed on windows and others only able to be accessed on Apple’s iPad iOS.

Size and Weight

The Apple Pencil 2 weighs .73 ounces, however the Surface Pen weighs .70. Now, it can be hypothesized that for the microsoft surface pen, the battery adds an enormous amount of weight (for a pen). If weight is an issue, you can always grab the surface slim pen which has a rechargeable battery… which is clearly more slim.

Note Taking differences between Apple Pencil 2 and Surface Pen

Note Taking differences between Apple Pencil 2 and Surface Pen

When taking notes, the Microsoft Surface Pen and Surface slim Pen are preferred by many who are professionals as OneNote particularly runs quite smoothly on windows devices. 

If you are not running OneNote and you are used to the navigation of the iPhone or iPad, then the Apple Pencil is likely best for you because both pens have very similar properties excluding the charging and app compatibility features.

In some ways, the Surface Pen is nice because you don’t have to think about recharging it at all. In otherways, it’s nice to have the rechargeable option from Apple. So it comes down to preference since both are fairly similar in terms of capability.

As mentioned, the big difference between the Apple Pencil and the Surface Pen is the battery; the Apple Pencil 2 is rechargeable and lasts for roughly 11 hours per charge, whereas the Surface Pen requires 1 AAAA battery which will last up to 12 months. There is also the surface pen slim option which is rechargeable for the Surface Pro. We will dive deeper on this later in this article.

Related: How Long Does a Microsoft Surface Pro last? (the truth)

Drawing differences between Apple Pencil 2 and Surface Pen

Drawing differences between Apple Pencil 2 and Surface Pen

When understanding the differences between the Apple PEncil l2 and the Surface Pen, it is important to know the capabilities of the device the stylus pens are connected to. 

The iPad for example is much lighter and very portabile, while the Surface Pro is a bit more bulky, but allows for desktop versions of apps you may already be used to.

When drawing, the Apple Pencil has a slight edge because of its compatibility with Procreate. It’s design is also aimed at working well for drawing and brush tools on the tablet.

Related: Which iPad is best for Procreate?

The Surface and Surface slim pen have an advantage of compatibility with specific windows-only softwares-which many engineers or professionals performing very advanced work may use. The Microsoft Surface pen is more ideal for professional or work related uses since it has native compatibility with the Microsoft office apps and windows-only softwares.

Both pens are designed for very smooth drawing, shading, tilt technology and creating art. In fact I know many artists who use the surface pen because they prefer windows. 

I also know many artists who prefer Apple iPad because of Procreate and the seamless connectivity and integration amongst the Apple ecosystem. Apple pencils also pair instantly and communicate very well with the iPad. 

Here is a chart on the differences between the Apple Pencil, Surface pen, and Surface slim pen:

Stylus TypeWeightLengthPressure sensitivity levelsTilt ControlShortcut ButtonsProcreate CompatibilityLatency
Apple Pencil 2 gen0.736.92 inchesSimilar to Surface PensYesYesYes9ms
Surface Pen0.645.7 inches4096YesYesNo21ms
Surface Slim Pen
5.53 inches4096YesYesNo21ms

Pressure sensitivity & responsiveness (Apple Pencil 2 vs Surface Pen)

Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil 1 & 2 pressure sensitivity comparison

Pressure sensitivity is probably the most important feature for an active pen. Most leading brands on drawing pads like Wacom mention their stylus’ sensitivity. However, Apple doesn’t reveal the pressure sensitivity the Apple Pencil utilizes. 

This decision was made for marketing purposes. In fact, Apple Pencil 2 utilizes a unique technology behind it, as developed by experts in the digital art field. Accordingly, many professionals believe that Apple’s latest stylus is the best stylus for tablets for pressure sensitivity. 

On the flip side, Microsoft lets us know that the latest Surface Pen includes a vast number of 4096 individual pressure points, one of the best on the market. Thus, both pens are extremely accurate and great choices for drawing on a tablet (iPad Pro/ Air and Surface tablets). 

Of course, the tablet’s display plays a great role in the final drawing or note-taking experience.

Accordingly, both iPads and Surface tablets have amazing screens of great size. If we had to choose the best screen for drawing, that would be the breathtaking 12.9” Retina display of the latest iPad Pro due to it’s portability and on-the go lightweight design.

However, If you’re seeking alternatives outside the iPad, then view the top drawing Tablet with screen built-in

When it comes to the feel of drawing on the tablet’s screen, the Apple Pencil is more responsive, offering the most natural feel for an artist. Due to the incredible 9ms delay, Apple’s pen is simply the best. Still, the latest Surface Pen and Surface Pen Slim also try to keep up by including an advanced tilt shading feature and a 20ms response delay.

Apple Pencil 2 offers the ultimate drawing experience, Apple also achieved this through some recent updates on the iPadOS. Nevertheless, Apple’s active stylus has everything a professional needs and more. We have to wait for Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s superiority. 

Pairing & Shortcut buttons

Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil 1 & 2 pairing and shortcut buttons

Now that we have explored the technical features of both pens and their differences, let’s have a look at the more generic experience by analyzing the shortcut buttons and the pairing process of each device. 

Just like the 1st gen Pencil, the Apple Pencil 2 doesn’t have any shortcut buttons for you to use. Even though this would be a disadvantage, Apple found the best way to overcome this lack: Gestures! With the latest iPadOS 14, the brand added even more gestures to create an ultimate, quick drawing experience.

Thus, even though Apple Pencil 2 doesn’t include any shortcut buttons, the latest iPads combined with top-tier software like Procreate make us feel we don’t need any. See: The 7 Best Stylus for Procreate

On the other side, both the Surface Pen’s classic and slim versions have an amazing rubber eraser on their tail that will make you feel like using a traditional pencil. The Surface Pen has a multi-functional side button that you can use to right-click, select multiple items, etc., easily.

Thus, both pens have their own unique way of offering an amazing shortcut experience. When it comes to the pairing process, both Apple and Microsoft have developed innovative ways of pairing. For you to use the latest Apple Pencil, all you have to do is attach it to the magnetic connector on the side of your iPad.   

The Surface Pen is easily connected via Bluetooth by holding your pen’s button for 5-7 seconds until the LED flashes. Thus, connectivity feels like a piece of cake for both devices.

Related: 7 Best Cheap Tablets for Watching Movies

Applications and Software: Apple Pencil vs Surface Pen

Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil 1 & 2 pairing and shortcut buttons

As mentioned above, your tablet’s OS plays an important role in the drawing or note-taking experience. In fact, creators can only use the Apple Pencil 2 to draw on Apple tablets and the Surface Pen on Surface tablets. 

What that means is that in both cases, you are limited to the apps and software developed for the Operation System of your tablet (iPadOS and Windows 10).

The most evident advantage of Apple’s Pencil is the possibility to use it with Procreate, the best drawing app on the market. Although Microsoft’s Sketchable is also an amazing drawing software, Procreate easily outshines it, mainly due to iPad’s gestures and flexibility. Apart from that, designers can easily use both pens on third-party apps like Photoshop and Illustrator.

Another great advantage of Apple Pencil is the newly-developed feature called Scribble. Since the introduction of the iPadOS 14, Apple Pencil 2 has become an amazing tool for everyone.

If you are a student or use your iPad for note-taking, you will be extremely pleased with Scribble. This new feature allows you to automatically transform your notes into text by utilizing Apple’s advanced text recognition technology. 

Microsoft has a similar feature that you can access by opening the handwriting panel and then use it on apps like OneNote and Whiteboard. However, Apple’s technology is growing more advanced in this aspect. 

To sum up, although both pencils offer amazing experience on drawing software, Apple has managed to develop better technologies and apps to support their Pencil and offer an amazing experience. 

Ease of use

Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil 1 & 2 ease of use

Both Microsoft and Apple pride that their active pens are very easy to use. Thankfully, both brands tell the truth. In both cases, after you connect the pen to your tablet, you are ready to draw, sketch, navigate or take notes in no time. The fact that both pens are tilt-sensitive makes them very responsive and easy-to-learn. 

As mentioned above, even though Apple Pencil 2 has no shortcut buttons, Apple has developed a vast number of gestures to make your experience quick and effective. However, this means that there is a learning curve, especially for those of you who haven’t used Apple devices in the past. 

On the other hand, if you enjoy learning new things (or if you are an Apple user), you will find that those gestures are pretty easy to master. When it comes to Microsoft’s pen, using the eraser and the side button is very easy. In fact, during our review, we learned all the side button’s different functions in just a few minutes.

Pen nibs

Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil 1 & 2 ease of use

An artist or designer has to pay attention to a nib’s different sizes and features. The Apple Pencil’s 2 nib weight is just 0,03 grams, and its dimensions are 3.12 x 2.57 x 0.59 inches. Apple also offers a pack of 4 extra nibs for your pen at a reasonable price. 

If you’re new to which stylus pen to choose, how they work and the beginner guide artists need to know about which pen artists use, then see our highly informational post on What stylus pen do artists use to draw on iPad?

On the other hand, the Surface pen and Slim pen’s tip weight and dimensions differ as the brand chose to develop different nibs. Although the Surface Pen is coming only with one tip, the standard HB, Microsoft offers a full pack of nibs at a great price (H, HB, B, 2H).

Thus, if it is important for you to have different pen nibs for drawing, then the Surface pen gives you more options compared to the Apple Pencil 2.

To sum up, both pens have a great, realistic feeling when drawing. In fact, all three models have durable tips, meaning you don’t have to worry about changing them anytime soon. 

Design and Feel of the Apple Pencil vs Surface Pen

Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil 1 & 2 Design and feel

When it comes to design and feel, both the Apple Pencil and the Surface Pen have an exquisite and professional look. The Apple Pencil 2 has a more natural design, and it is relatively smaller than its predecessor. The Surface pen comes in four different colors, so you can choose the one you like the most.

Moreover, both pens are very comfortable, and we felt like holding a traditional pen. The dimensions of the new Apple Pencil are 8.27 x 2.18 x 0.98 inches. The classic version of the Surface pen is 7.0 x 0.5 x 2.0 inches. On the other hand, the Surface Slim is the smallest one (5.23 x 0.44 x 0.25 inches). 

If you are an artist or designer, the best options are the Apple pencil 2 and the classic Surface Pen, as they feel better in drawing and editing apps. Nevertheless, if you want a small, light pen for note-taking, the Surface Slim Pen is an amazing choice.

Battery and Charging

Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil 1 & 2 Battery and Charging

As it concerns the pens’ battery, both Apple and Microsoft have paid attention to make sure you will use their pens for many hours. Apple Pencil 2 has an impressive average battery life of 12 hours. 

If you find out that your Pencil’s battery has run out, but you haven’t finished your project, you can charge it for only fifteen seconds and get up to 30 minutes of additional use time. To charge your Apple Pencil, all you have to do is Place it on the wide side of the iPad Pro with the magnetic strip. 

The classic Surface Pen takes a regular AAAA battery, which you will have to replace at some point. On the other hand, the Surface Slim’s battery is rechargeable and lasts up to 14 hours of continuous usage.

You can recharge the Surface Slim in another innovative way. It automatically charges itself while being stored inside the keyboard of a Surface Pro X. However, if you don’t have this specific model, you can always charge it through a USB-C port of your Surface tablet. 

To sum up, the fact that the classic surface pen needs an AAAA battery to work in 2021 feels kind of awkward and outdated. Thus, Apple Pencil 2 and Surface Slim are the winners in battery life and convenience.

App Compatibility: Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil 1 & 2

App Compatibility_ Surface Pen vs Apple Pencil 1 & 2

While Apple Pencil is compatible with procreate and other iOS apps, the Surface Pen uses Windows on the Surface Pro, making it useful for windows only apps. 

Here is a compatibility chart that shows the difference between app compatibility amongst the Surface Pen and Apple Pencil:

Stylus modelProcreateWindows AppsiOS appsAdobe Apps
Apple Pencil 2YesSeveralYesYes
Surface PenNoYesNoYes
Surface Slim PenNoYesNoYes

If you are using the iPad Air for note taking there is no difference, the Apple Pencil 1 or 2 will do. If those are too pricey or an alternative pen is in mind, then see our post: 7 Best iPad Air Stylus for Drawing and Note Taking.

In the case you’re considering using iOS to write on your tablet, but your note sure if the Apple Pencil is best or a third party stylus (like the Zagg Pro, note+ or pixel from adonit) are ideal, then view our post: Zagg Pro vs Apple Pencil vs Adonit Note+ vs Adonit Pixel (Stylus Comparison)

Does the Microsoft Surface Pen work on an iPad?

Does the Microsoft Surface Pen work on an iPad

The Microsoft Surface Pen does not work with pressure sensitivity or tilt recognition on an iPad because it is designed to work specifically with the Surface Pro laptop and other Surface devices. 

It is not intended to work with the iPad, and during tests, it did not function as a capacitive stylus on the iPad either. This is due to the different technologies used by Microsoft and Apple in their devices. As competitors, the two companies have created stylus pens that are meant to work only on their respective tablets.

For artists, graphic designers, and work professionals who use a stylus, the Surface Pen will not be a suitable option for drawing or creating art on an iPad. The Apple Pencil 1 & 2 are models that are specifically designed to work with the iPad Pro, iPad Air, and iPad Mini, and both offer a more accurate and responsive drawing experience.

The Surface Pen is not just a stylus, it’s a pen dedicated to be used with a full 2-in-1 laptop/tablet hybrid computer. The Surface pro is as small as an iPad, but is a full computer and allows for advanced functions.

It can operate the most high-end and professional applications ever developed. For example, photo editing, audio recording, 3D modelling, game development and so on. Surface interfaces with millions of device types from the cheapest to the most expensive. 

An iPad, on the other hand, is more like a giant smartphone, which can’t make calls, but can run drawing apps and note-taking apps like the Notes app on iPad.

While it may be possible to use the Surface Pen as a capacitive stylus on an iPad (it didn’t work for us), it will certainly not provide the same level of precision or performance as the Apple Pencil. If you are looking to create art or take notes on your iPad, the Apple Pencil is the recommended option.

Surface Slim pen vs Apple Pencil 2

Apple Pencil vs Surface Pen Slim -2-2

The Surface Slim pen is very similar to the Surface Pen, but it has been upgraded regarding its weight. It has also evolved from it’s previous model, the surface Pen, as it felt much more accurate when used for drawing. 

The Surface pen’s tip is much slimmer than its predecessor, the Surface Pen. It also felt more slim compared to the Apple Pencil 1 and Apple Pencil 2 models. It is much less clunky, less noisy, and lacked excessive stylus nib movement. If you’re considering the Apple Pencil 2, it will be important to know everything about it; see our post: Apple Pencil 2: is it worth it? (Full review)

Surface Slim Pen vs Apple Pencil 2 for Drawing

The way it moved across the Surface Pro’s screen felt more intuitive, while the accuracy may have just been a placebo as the pressure sensitivity levels remain at exactly 4096 amongst various devices.

Again, the same principles apple to the app compatibility as the Surface Pen because the two use windows, while Apple Pencil uses iOS. This means the drawing apps you can use and the overall interface, navigation, look and feel of the two pens transcend from the device you are drawing on. The Surface Slim pen is a very strong pen and ideal for many that are drawing. 

The only choice you have to make is whether you prefer windows or iPad’s iOS. If you prefer the minimalist take Apple has on design, then the Apple Pencil may be for you. If you prefer a lightweight, chargeable, drawing note taking hybrid stylus pen for the Surface Pro touchscreen laptop, then the Surface Slim Pen is for you.


The Apple Pencil vs Surface Pen have their differences as mentioned. The Apple Pencil 2’s gesture features allows you to swap between a drawing tool and eraser. The Surface pen and Surface slim pen allow similar functions using certain shortcut buttons. They’re also very similar in pressure sensitivity, length tilt control, and drawing capabilities. 

One main difference between the two is the battery because the Surface Pen uses a AAA battery and this causes the pen to be heavier and effects the weight and feel of the drawing and note taking. The Apple Pencil and Surface pen are very similar, however the Surface Slim Pen model was noticeably lighter

Another big difference between the apple Pencil 2 and the Surface Pen for drawing and note taking is the operating system and the devices they’re connected to. So you’ll have to be considering the iOS apps vs windows softwares when deciding which is better for your digital art style: the Apple Pencil 2 or the Surface Pro.

About the author:

Photo of Paul Michael, Founder of MediaPeanut

Paul Michael

Paul Michael is a media and technology expert whose research reveals how technology and media are being used in the world today. He has expertise on computers, the internet, streaming, Roku, electronics, and education. He also enjoys graphic design & digital art. Paul has his Bachelors of Arts and Science(s) from Rutgers University-New Brunswick, NJ