In 2019, What is the Best N-Trig/MPP Pen?

Discussion in 'The Tablet PC Life' started by sonichedgehog360, Oct 10, 2019.

  1. Marty

    Marty Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    Theoretically yes, however N-Trig AES is based on a simple analog broadcast to the digitizer (also discussed here), so it's unlikely pen firmware could 'enable or disable' anything besides Bluetooth function:

    (SID2014 Slide Deck)

    [​IMG]

    Pen pressure data (and button state) is transmitted via analog frequency modulation of a 30-70kHz carrier wave. The digitizer controller, then uses the detected signal level distribution to also calculate pen position (and tilt, if firmware-enabled).


    Contrast this with Apple AES pens (also discussed here) which feature an on-board microprocessor, where firmware clearly could enable/disable pressure and tilt:

    (iFixit Pencil Teardown)
    [​IMG]
    Additionally, according to this Quora post by a claimed Apple engineer, the Pencil features gyroscopes for orientation tracking relative to the iPad:

    "Apple Pencil also has 9-axis gyroscopes, which is used to calculate "the tilt angle of the pen tip" from the difference between "the gyroscope of the iPad". It achieve a more advanced stroke effect such as a brush."

    The Cortex chip is therefore pre-processing the pressure and tilt data on the pen itself (instead of offloading all the work onto the digitizer controller and CPU), so it consistently achieves better performance than MPP/N-Trig.

    I was really hoping MS would switch to similar on-board pen processing to rival Apple AES, but so far, even the new SPX Slim Pen seems based on the old architecture. Guess we might have wait another generation for significant improvements. :(

    (Edited for clarity and updated with more information on Apple AES.)
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2019
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  2. bloodycape

    bloodycape confused Senior Member

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    How does wacom aes do it?
     
  3. Marty

    Marty Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    Same principle as the "Active P-Cap Stylus" except on a different frequency band than N-Trig (and of course different controller/driver).

    I suspect the transmitter in the Bamboo Ink Smart is optimized for Wacom AES signal bands, which explains why the jitter is so bad once you set it to N-Trig mode.
     
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  4. Steve S

    Steve S Pen Pro - Senior Member Super Moderator

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  5. Steve S

    Steve S Pen Pro - Senior Member Super Moderator

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    <<...The current Surface Pen (Pro 5 and up) relays directly with the pixel sense accelerator chip in the Pro 5-7...>>

    ...I have read this thread with interest. I wonder if someone could explain, in more detail, how Microsoft implements the current Surface Pro (5-6, presumably 7) pen, in particular how data is ported to the mysterious accelerator chip and where it goes from there. What role does BlueTooth play? Does the Pro pen use MPP, or does Microsoft use a Pro-proprietary protocol?

    I'd welcome some clarity on this.

    From an old nSP commentary:

    "...Bathiche says Microsoft’s custom touch controller talks to the company’s custom silicon and display accelerator to speed up the process of sending data from the pen to the device. Redmond also built a new API in Windows 10 that talks to the custom silicon directly to decode all the data coming from the Pen..."
     
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  6. sonichedgehog360

    sonichedgehog360 AKA Hifihedgehog Senior Member

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    I just received the Renaisser Raphael 5 in the mail with much satisfaction. In my initial or preliminary hands-on usage, I like what it does a lot. The best word to the describe the Raphael 5 is natural. TabletPro's findings were right on the money about how good this is! It is the first N-Trig pen in my memory that has ever felt remotely close to the feel of a real pencil or pen. Initial activation force is admittedly a tad higher than my Wacom Bamboo Ink, but pressure curve, balance, and grip is right on the money and significantly better than the Bamboo Ink.

    A family member has the latest Surface Pro Pen so I will be trying that but if memory serves me well, it was nowhere as close to this pen. The family member who owns the latest Pen tried it was instantly impressed and prefers it highly over the Bamboo Ink. This pen just gets out of the way and mimics pen and paper so well. I can feel the cognitive burden lifted with this pen and it feels effortless and natural whenever I write or sketch. For $45, independent of the added convenience of micro USB charging capability, the Renaisser Raphel 5 gets two thumbs up.

    Update: We just tried both. The Raphael 5 has a more linear and predictable pressure curve throughout. The Surface Pen seems a bit less smooth, especially in the lower areas of the curve. The Raphael 5 has a lower activation force and feels more pencil like in hand. The Surface Pen feels bulkier and it takes an bit more force as well to begin detecting input. All in all, the Raphael 5 feels way more natural and non-instrusive, both in ergonomics and in use. I'm officially a Raphael 5 fanboy!
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2019
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  7. Marty

    Marty Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    Dam you sonic... :p

    I've already spent hundreds on N-Trig pens! Now the temptation is building again...gahh!
     
  8. sonichedgehog360

    sonichedgehog360 AKA Hifihedgehog Senior Member

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    Betcha you love it! ;) I did some dot tests and pressure line tests and the Raphael is, in my view, better:
    upload_2019-10-15_19-10-25.png

    From left to right, the second and fourth lines are the Raphael 5 and the odd ones are the Surface Pen. I can get a smoother gradient from the lightest to darkest pressure regions more consistently and effortlessly. It blows up a a bit more quickly as you can see on the Surface Pen from the initial activation energy, missing the dovetails. Both are leagues ahead of the Bamboo Ink, which has no usable lower pressure region to speak of.

    Moving on, in a random dot test, I did a series of very featherweight light taps in a vertical line from top to bottom on the screen. I get more dots detected and displayed with the Raphael 5 than the Surface Pen. Dude, this pen is to die for!
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2019
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  9. Marty

    Marty Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    What speed approximately were these lines drawn at? In particular, there seems to a large difference in jitter between the 1st line and the rest.

    For comparison, could you do a verry slow, straight-edge line comparison in Paint? (I find that it is the best tool for testing, since it disables all software smoothing, so is closest to the raw digitizer input.)

    If you can, try to draw long lines to look for "good/bad" patches. Here's a sample test on my Z Canvas (freehand sorry, no ruler on hand :oops:), where you can see areas of lower and higher jitter:
    [​IMG]
    I swear if the Raphael has better jitter than the SP5 pen...I will flip out. (Both in joy and frustration. :D)
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2019
  10. sonichedgehog360

    sonichedgehog360 AKA Hifihedgehog Senior Member

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    I'll definitely do it tomorrow! I'm in bed now but I am quite excited to test it with a proper ruler in hand with classic Paint. For the above, I did it free hand as conscientiously as possible in Paint 3D during some downtime I had between volunteering somewhere with family. I would be wager I was going at around an inch per second so not terribly slow but not very fast, either.

    Using the Surface app pen calibration area, I noticed that Raphael 5 can get down to 5-10% pressure level much easier than I can with the Surface Pen, which seems to have a higher stable floor at 15-20% with minimal pressure. Using the pressure guage there, I also noticed that moving predictably from 0 to 100% pressure level is also much easier with the Raphael 5 than the Surface Pen.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2019
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