Love My Surface Pro 2, Didn’t Dig the Surface Pro 3

JusticeThis article was written by Justice Frangipane. He is the business and marketing director for TabletPCMouse –  software that allows you to add helpful features to your Surface, such as custom gestures and gaming controls.

Even though the Surface Pro 3 has been out for a while, I still love my Surface Pro 2. I do digital art, gaming, game creation, motion graphics and a variety of other processor heavy activities and have a lot of praise for this little machine. I typically jump on upgrades and updates as quickly as possible but I have been very hesitant on the Surface Pro 3 (and upcoming Surface Pro 4) for a few reasons.

Love My Surface Pro 2, Didn’t Dig the Surface Pro 3: The Pen

Most users will recognize very little functional difference between the digitizer (part of the screen that recognizes pen input) of the Surface Pro 2 and the Surface Pro 3. With the Surface Pro 2 being my seventh touch screen tablet, when I heard about the switch to N-Trig I was prepared for those changes.

The changes include:

  • The pen now needs a battery
  • It lags
  • It has lost degrees of pressure sensitivity
  • It can’t be calibrated
  • It no longer erases from the end
  • And, finally, the side buttons can’t be programmed to obey my every whim

But, when it comes down to it, it’s really the pen lag and the lack of side button programming that keeps me from being “OK” with the change.

For accuracy, which I’m sure will spur wild debates in the comments section, I find that the Wacom digitizer is better. To be fair, there are options for adjusting the alignment and the corner alignment issues don’t bother me.

Love My Surface Pro 2, Didn’t Dig the Surface Pro 3: Pen Lag

Side note: As a gamer, the biggest turn off when playing a game is lag. If your game is lagging, you might as well throw in the towel – it is over.  You’re likely not going to win, and even if you do, it’ll be a chore to get there.

The same goes for artwork. If I’m trying to draw and there is any lag, it ruins the experience for me. Thankfully, that’s not a problem with the Surface Pro 2. However, every Surface Pro 3 I’ve used drags in Photoshop like I’m drawing in the mud.

Yes, you can use other programs, but, you shouldn’t have to. I’ve heard rumors of a “fix” but have not yet experienced it. If you are familiar with this specific issue and can comment, please do so below as things may have changed since my last use.

Love my Surface Pro 2, Didn’t Dig the Surface Pro 3: Pen Battery and Buttons

The reason I prefer Windows over Mac is that I am allowed to do whatever I want to on a PC. I feel Mac/Apple products are built with as many blocks and restrictions as possible to keep people from customizing/breaking them. This of course aids in abating problems, but also restricts unique functions – ones I love – like my side button mapping.

As an artist I set the side button on my pen to “ctrl – z”. This allows me to seamlessly “do and undo” my line work while I’m drawing. It’s an extreme time saver. For the life of me I can’t figure out why Microsoft hasn’t opened up the ability to set functions to the side buttons yet.

Love My Surface Pro 2, Didn’t Dig the Surface Pro 3: Gaming

I was hoping to find that the gaming performance had jumped significantly from the Surface Pro 2 to the Surface Pro 3. I have only seen the opposite confirmed over and again.

There is a noticeable FPS drop from the i5 4300u found in the SP2, to the i7-4650U in the Surface Pro 3. I can run a decent array of games on my Surface Pro 2 on low settings at acceptable frame rates (25 to 40 fps). With the SP3 there is a typical drop in performance of 3-5 FPS.

As a gamer, I would cry my eyes out if I had dished out the money for a new Surface Pro 3 i7 model, only to have it perform worse than my Surface Pro 2. (Relating to gaming FPS, this type of crying is still considered manly according to the “bro code” article ty357-1a).

Love My Surface Pro 2, Didn’t Dig the Surface Pro 3: Surface Pro 4

While I love my Surface Pro 2, I have hopes the Surface Pro 4 will be worth the upgrade. However, if it doesn’t measure up, I’ll still be sticking with my Surface Pro 2 which continues to work just fine for me.

So, I’m waiting to hear the results of the reviews and tests when the Surface Pro 4 becomes available, I’m hoping that a Skylake processor (with IRIS graphics), LTE, and increased functionality of the Ntrig digitizer (or possibly a redesigned pen) will accompany the announcement.

If it does, then I’ll have to seriously consider upgrading from the Surface Pro 2 to the Surface Pro 4.

As for now, I found a power cover type 2 keyboard on Amazon for my Surface Pro 2 that doubles my battery life and cost half as much as the standard Type Cover, so I’m sticking with my Surface Pro 2.



  • The Surface Pro 2 pen is a pain in the ass, is very inaccurate even if it gets calibrated, the corner alignment issues are a huge gap on this device, sorry but I sold my SP2 because of these issues. The Surface Pro 3 is light years accurate and precise, I haven’t any lag issues with the Surface Pro 3 pen. Sad to say but the Surface Pro 2 pen really sucks !!

  • The other issues I can’t say much on but I haven’t experienced any pen lag and it seems as accurate as my samsung galaxy note pro with Wacom tech. And gaming on the sims 4 was pretty lag free too. I have the middle of the line SP3 128 i5. Curious if this varies by machine?

  • Had a Surface Pro 2 and switched to Surface Pro 3

    Here is why I am happy I switched.
    1. Better battery life (at least 1.5 and usually 2 hours more battery time on Pro3)
    2. The screen is bigger and easier to write on (using the pen)
    3. External monitors seem to connect on SP3 easier than SP2 (using each’s proprietary dock).
    4. The magnetic type keyboard cover on SP3 is better.
    5. The sound devices module is better on SP3/. Bluetooth devices connect better on the SP3 than on
    the SP2 (But that is not saying much )
    6. The battery in my pen has lasted maybe eight months or more without issue
    –I don’t think replacing a stylus battery is a device buying criterion.

    Here is why I think Frangipane makes sense
    1. The pen on the SP2 was very good for me. I never had any problems with it –ever.
    2. I had some problems getting the SP3 pen to sync at 1st; now I still notice that the push button
    function to open notes suddenly stops working (like right now –I just noticed!…again!).
    will have to manually re-associate with notes correctly ….Why MS?

    Here is MY pet peeve with SP3: Bluetooth audio.
    1. When I associate BT speakers or earphones to the SP3 they work for the session. However, many times when I seek to use the same device (that shows as present and working . . it isn’t! I have to remove the BT device and then reinstall it to use it the second or third time.

    2. My Sony BT earphones seem to be the exception. They have stayed paired –but even with them, if I don’t use them for a day or so, I still must open Control Panel/ find Sound /Devices and “connect” my earphones. Then I must wait the unusually long ~1-2 MINUTES before the Sony Headphones are actually connected appear as the default device…won’t auto connect ;-(
    3. My Android devices a) never forget their pairings and b) connect almost instantly.
    4. My MAC connects quickly and acts more like the Android–no lagging and no multi-step to connect like the SP3.

    Since I don’t game and am not an artist, I can’t comment on the rest

  • Oh, Sorry, I cut out a sentence by mistake — I also do get SP3 pen lag every now and then.

    When writing on SP3 using Notes in meetings (especially long meetings with a lot of writing).

    When that happens, a) it’s distracting, b) I need to shut notes and re-open it to make the pen responsive. c) Sometimes I need to reboot -really annoying!

    However, that’s rare. Still, pen lag does seem to occur on occasion -not often but at least once a month or so. . .

  • You can download the surface app and adjust your pen as needed… buttons, pressure sensitivity and what not.
    There are actually three batteries in the pen… two watch sized batteries to power the top button and a AAAA to power the two side buttons.
    The AAAA battery was difficult to find… ironically I found a two pack at Albertsons… but I haven’t needed to change so far.

    • Read somewhere recently that you can get them from certain types of 9v batteries (those big rectangular ones). Forget which ones they recommend, don’t think its all of them. Apparently it’s easy to cut them open, & then you have a whole bunch of them.

      Even without doing that, they’re quite easy to come buy here in Oz, once you know where to look.

  • Did you mean the cursor lag or the actual line in ps? The cursor sadly lags in any program but the line work in any program is accurate, no lag! You just have to focus on Edgar your drawing and not the cursor. Also, I believe you can use 3rd party programs like radial menu to change what your side buttons do.

  • “You just have to focus on Edgar your drawing and not the cursor.”

    I think you may have mistyped this sentence, what were you trying to say?

  • I totally agree with the original post. I absolutely hate the new pen. Why did they change it? And why didn’t they give us the option of using the old pen if we don’t like the new one?! I use OneNote for taking notes all day at work. It constantly loses it’s connection with the pen and I’m forced to restart the whole system, losing notes while this is being done. I’ve contacted MS and there is no way to configure it to use the old pen – grrr! If anyone knows a work around, I’d LOVE LOVE to hear it! I want my old pen back!

    On the positive side, I love the new thinness and the increased size of the tablet – I thought it would be too big, but it still fits nicely in my purse and the added screen size make it much more functional. I like the way the keyboard angles – much easier to type. The battery life rocks – I can use it all day without having to plug it in.

    Bottom line – the pen is a big enough deal to me that it makes me dissatisfied and considering switching back to the old SP device. But if you don’t hand write notes all day like I do, the SP3 has a lot of great new features…

  • No one’s really emphasized that the new pen on the sp3 is actually a bluetooth connected device…unlike the sp2… This to me is a functional vulnerability….

    • meh, no biggy, unless you’re the type to wear tinfoil, or you’re a big multi-nat. org/co. that has legit concerns like that.

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