Where to buy?
We acquired two Surface Pen alternatives from Taobao, namely the IQS Surface Pen 4096 and the WiWU P503 'Picasso' Active Stylus for testing. Both claim to support 4096 levels of pressure and tilt sensing. Tilt sensing seriously?! Normally a 2017 Surface Pen, which supports tilt, costs US$99, but these alternatives are only a fraction of this at around US$40. We bought them when there's discount so the final prices were around US$30 each.
If you can't use Taobao, there're online stores like Amazon that sell e.g. this VORCSBINE (looks exactly like the WiWU reviewed), this from Lengh (looks exactly like the IQS reviewed) , this Penoval, or this NewPower, which all at around US$40 and claim to support tilt. Those pens look very similar to those two we tested so we won't be surprised if they were actually the same pens just with different labels. We didn't found any review of these pens with tilt support so we will review a few for you.
Pen Tip Feel
No Bluetooth, no Magnet
Pressure & Tilt Sensitivity
The 2017 'new' Surface Pen doesn't sense tilt when we use its Eraser end to stroke. These alternative pens don't have an eraser end - instead they have two barrel buttons, one being used as the Eraser button. From our test, the WiWU doesn't sense tilt when the eraser button is pressed, while the IQS does sense tilt but with jitters when the eraser button is pressed.
Like the 2017 Surface Pen, these pen sense tilt only when it touches the screen. BTW, the pleasant surprise of Surface Go giving tilt reading even when hovering is gone after some Windows Update. :(
1024 vs 4096 Levels
For those wanting to buy Surface Pen now, note that the next version of Surface Pen probably will have wireless charging. You might want to wait till Microsoft’s fall event on October 2nd.
We, of course, would still like to see digital writing hardware technology further advances - currently they are only mimicking pens with hard nibs. It'd be great if hardware makers can provide tools that simulate brushes well. Leave your comment on what else you would like to see in future digital writing instruments.