Initial Activation Force, Universal Stylus Initiative, And the Future of Active Pen Technology

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What are the key differences between N-trig DuoSense 2 vs Wacom Active ES?

Wacom Active ESOne is the Initial Activation Force (IAF) of the pen. Wacom’s pressure sensor has long been the best in the industry. Their current offerings can sense pressure as low as 1 gram, allowing you to really feather in light strokes.

N-Trig’s pressure sensor has much higher IAF. There are no hard numbers published by N-Trig, but any graphics professional will tell you it takes more force to start engaging the pressure sensor on N-Trig’s pens.

Pressure support for legacy art apps is another differentiator. Wacom having been around for so long, offers software support for their WinTab driver to just about every Windows art program out there.

That’s not the case with N-trig. Most new art apps support Microsoft’s built-in tablet API, but many old apps don’t. It’s ultimately a crapshoot, so if you use old legacy app, Wacom is the safer option (check the ODM’s driver page for Wacom Feel driver availability).

Universal Stylus Initiative

Universal Stylus InitiativeIt’s not all bad news for N-trig users. Microsoft recognizes the complaints, specifically the high IAF, and struck a deal with Wacom to produce a dual protocol pen that works with both Wacom’s AES and N-Trig’s DuoSense 2 devices. This partnership was announced back in February 2016, with an expected launch before the end of the year. As of this writing, there is no official word on it’s arrival, but also no indication the deal has been scrapped. By next year, we should be able to enjoy Wacom’s 1 gram IAF on all existing N-Trig devices (fingers crossed).

Also in the works is the Universal Stylus Initiative (USI), spearheaded by Intel. This initiative hopes to create a universal standard for active pens. Wacom and many other pen OEMs are part of this membership. A key missing partner is Microsoft and N-Trig. However, they may be playing and wait and see approach to the newly formed standard. No USI conforming pen has come to market as of this writing, and nothing is expected until 2018.


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