Dell offers a number of active pen devices in a range of price points. And as you might expect for a pen that costs $99.99, the Dell Premium Active Pen (PN579X) represents its top-of-the-line offering.
Considering that it’s more than twice the price of the similarly named Dell Active Pen (PN350M) — which is perfectly capable of jotting down the odd note or two — you might wonder what you’re getting for the extra money.
For casual note-takers, yes, you might be better off saving the cash and going for the cheaper option. But if you’re a professional who requires the best specs available in an active pen today, or you have a newer laptop with which most older pens are not compatible, the Premium Active Pen was designed for you.
Dell Premium Active Pen (PN579X) Technical Specifications
- Type: Stylus
- Weight: 0.69oz
- Wacom AES 1.0/2.0, WPP, Windows Ink Space compatible
- Windows 10 required
- Bluetooth 4.2
- AAAA-type battery
- Up to 12-month battery life
- Three programmable buttons
- Magnetic attachment with select Dell devices
Compatibility is one of the most important things to consider when buying an active pen. Will this pen even play nice with your laptop or tablet? Active pen technology has undergone a number of transitions in recent years. And unfortunately for the end user, this has created some fragmentation in the standards used to make these devices work.
Unlike many cheaper pens, the Dell Premium Active Pen is a multi-protocol compatible device. It has full support for the three main standards: MPP (Microsoft Pen Protocol), AES 1.0, and the more recent AES 2.0. That makes it one of the more widely compatible active pens on the market. It’s also one of the only pens that can be used with the newer Dell XPS 15 laptops and many Inspiron models. (Check Dell’s website for an official compatibility list.)
It’s worth noting that Windows 10 is a requirement for this pen. If you’re still clinging to older operating systems, you’re likely better off exploring other options.
Like Putting Pencil to Paper
Support for the newest protocols doesn’t just mean compatibility with more laptops. It also means you’re getting the latest specifications in active pen tech.
Artists will be especially pleased with the 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity (more than double that of other Dell Active Pens). This allows you to define stroke thickness with great nuance and precision.
Latency is also super low, with a 240hz report rate keeping your lines smooth and lag-free. Even when scribbling erratically on our test device — a Dell XPS 13 7390 2-in-1 — it’s almost impossible to detect even the slightest delay in the conversion from physical stroke to virtual ink.
Tilt shading support is present and correct, and worked flawlessly on the XPS 13. Tilt sensitivity is adjustable, so you can dictate how much tilt is required to have the desired shading on screen — perfect for digital artists. And palm rejection is on point. I had no issues with erroneous marking caused by resting my hand on the screen.
Just a Tap Away
The Dell Premium Active Pen boasts a streamlined design, with a matte finish that feels nice in the hand and is easy to use. It takes a single AAAA-size battery, which Dell claims can last up to 12 months. Although active daily use will likely reduce that time drastically. It awakens and activates sleep mode automatically, without any fuss or delay. First-time pairing is also quick and easy.
You’ll find three programmable buttons on the relatively slim and light chassis. The standard button on the top of the stalk acts as the shortcut button. It can be used to summon Windows Ink shortcuts via a combination of single and double taps, or by pressing and holding. This makes it easy to instantly access Snip & Sketch (a screen capture app) and Sticky Notes.
Lower down the body, two more buttons are placed where you would naturally grip the pen during normal use. These can be programmed via the Dell Active Pen application to perform all manner of tasks, including the all-important right-click, which illustrators will be pleased to know.
Three buttons provides more than enough functionality for professionals, and complement an otherwise simplistic design, free of power-wasting LED lights or unnecessary pairing or power buttons.
Should You Buy the Dell Premium Active Pen?
The Dell Premium Active Pen has a specs list that leaves little to be desired. Form factor and weight differences are matters of personal preference, but with support for the latest standards, and features expected in a high-end active pen, it’s an excellent choice for professional artists and illustrators.
Its simplistic design and matte finish result in a grippy, comfortable pen with just the right amount of heft. And if you own a compatible Dell laptop or tablet device, especially a new-generation one, the Dell Premium Active Pen is almost certainly your best bet. It guarantees the best possible compatibility with all of its features. Additionally, it even supports native magnetic attachment to many Dell devices for easy stowing.
That said, if you’re simply looking for a way to take some basic notes or mark up documents in handwritten ink, you could get by with a simpler, cheaper alternative, both in and outside of the Dell ecosystem. (The Bamboo Ink is a crowd favorite). Just remember that whatever you choose, pay special attention to compatibility specs before you buy.
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Photos by Austin Nooe and Daniel Rothbard | Slickdeals