Nearing about 4 weeks with the HP Spectre x360 [13-ae091ms] now, it’s safe to say that I’ve had a good amount of time with it so far along with the one accessory that had me really excited, the HP Pen. You see, my last laptop, the Dell XPS 13 had a touchscreen but lacked the ability to use an active stylus. With the new HP Spectre x360, I’m finally able to make use of the Microsoft Ink Workspace along with all the drawing apps I wanted to try out with a real stylus and not just my finger.
Lucky for me, when I got the HP Spectre x360, it came with the HP Pen as part of the bundle from the Microsoft Store so I didn’t have to go and buy one. The question however is if the HP Pen is actually any good and if it does most of what I need it to do.
For those who hate long reviews, I’ll just say this. Normal users will be pleased with it. It seems to be pretty accurate when used with the Microsoft Ink suite of apps – Sticky Notes and Sketchpad. Even Microsoft’s Fresh Paint app works really well with it. The Pen tracks well and has a pretty natural feel to it. There are two buttons on the HP Pen that you can set for different actions. Default the top is set is a right click while the bottom bottom button and be clicked to turn the Pen into an eraser.
Downside to the hardware is that it uses batteries instead of being rechargable and there’s no eraser tip so you’ll need to get use to using that one button as an eraser shortcut.
For power users, the HP Pen might be a bit lacking and might require a bit of extra steps in order for it to work properly with certain apps. For instance, Photoshop. Photoshop works with the Pen, however pressure sensitivity does not work out of the box. In order for it to work, you need to first download a driver called “Wintab” in 64-bit form. You can download those here. This allows pressure sensitivity to work when applying brushes. After this, it seems to work as intended, though the HP Pen doesn’t seem to have quite the range in sensitivity that other styluses might have. I have no idea if it’s even possible to adjust the sensitivity on the HP Pen. Also, drawing straight lines can be iffy in some apps where lines will fluctuate in thickness for no real reason.
This is just from what I’ve seen so far. I’ve compared this to an old Wacom Intuos tablet and stylus and it just doesn’t have that broad of a range compared to it. Not sure if it’s because of the pen or the screen. I’m hoping it’s the HP Pen and maybe there’s another stylus out there with more levels of pressure sensitivity.
Aside from that, having the HP Pen is still better than not having a stylus at all. Being able to write and draw directly on the screen is a huge plus for me so in that respect, I’m quite happy with it. Still, I need to figure out how to make the experience not just good, but perfect.