Jun 26, 2015

Lenovo ThinkPad Active Capacitive Pen - Box Contents & Images

Lenovo is selling a new digitizer, marketed as "Lenovo ThinkPad Active Capacitive Pen".  The pen goes by part number 4X80H34887 , and inside the pen we can find SD60G97200 written in it.  This is a digitizer that requires a AAAA battery, a small tip/nib, two buttons, clip, and no eraser.  The pen resembles N-Trig pens in many areas, but there is information indicating that it would be a Wacom device.  The details are below

The box it comes in.

The packaging.

Box contents includes a AAAA battery a pamphlet with information, and the pen.  Do notice that there are no replacement nibs/tips.

The image makes this battery seem bigger than what it is.  For those that don't know, a AAAA (quadruple A) battery is smaller than a AAA (triple A).

The pen is quite elegant and comfortable to hold.  It is quite a long pen though, you'll see when we compare it with the other digitizers.  As an extra, it has a neat clip.

At first I thought this was a Wacom pen, but as of late the N-Trig pens (DuoSense 2) now resemble the Wacom pen nibs/tips.

The back of the pen has the battery compartment.  Do note that this digitizer does not have an eraser on the back.

The pen cap has a label that states "ThinkPad Active Pen" and "SD60G97200".  Perhaps due to constraints Lenovo did not add the "Capacitive" word--however I believe that the real name of this pen excludes "capacitive."

The reason for my statement is that a digitizer is rarely a "capacitive active pen."  Capacitive pens are finger emulating big tipped--they are not usually considered "active" or "digitizers."  However, as of late there are "capacitive active pens" on iPads and Android tablets--which are capacitive at the tip but have mechanisms to measure pressure (and they transmit via Bluetooth) to the tablet such pressure information.  These are also known as "Bluetooth Stylus."

My judgement is that this is not a "capacitive" pen at all, and that marketing individuals may have placed active pen in order to attract more people (of course this is pure speculation on my side).  Another possibility is that they simply messed up on the name.

Here we have several digitizers.  From the left: Wacom ProPen, Fujitsu Lifebook Digitizer (Wacom penabled), Lenovo ThinkPad Digitizer (Wacom penabled), Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga Digitizer (Wacom penabled), Fujitsu LifeBook T580 digitizer (N-Trig DuoSense 1), Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Pen (N-Trig DuoSense 2), and the Lenovo ThinkPad Active Capacitive Pen (which has technology.... I don't know).  By the way, both the MS Surface Pro 3 and ThinkPad Active Pen have a clip.

I tested the Lenovo ThinkPad Active Pen with a ThinkPad Yoga 12 (Wacom penabled) and did not get any results.  I also tested with a MS Surface Pro 3 (N-Trig DuoSense 2) and did not get any feedback either.

Description by Lenovo
"The ThinkPad Active Capacitive Pen is similar in size and shape to an actual ink writing instrument. With 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity it is an ideal input solution to give the user a precise content creation experience. Users will also enjoy easy access to right and left click buttons built into the shaft of the pen that provide additional tools for data interaction. Powered by an AAAA battery, the Active Capacitive Pen is designed to provide a premium pen experience with all ThinkPad capacitive touch screen enabled devices."

 When we read that description we find that it states that it will work with "... all ThinkPad capacitive touch screen enabled devices."  I can only think of something like the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 15 and 14; the Yoga 15 models do not seem to support either N-Trig or Wacom, so far.  The model that I had I returned for such reason, so I could not test the Lenovo ThinkPad Active Pen with the Yoga 15.  However, someone left a comment stating that they tried to use the ThinkPad Active Pen with their Yoga 15 and it did not work.  It is possible that the Thinkpad Active Pen currently does NOT work with the existing models, but in the future there may be models that do.

The Yoga 15 specification did mention that it would support a "Wacom Active pen" that requires batteries.  So maybe the ThinkPad Active Pen is the pen mentioned in that document.  But, it is rather strange that the pen uses batteries because as far as I'm aware Wacom pens don't use batteries!!!  Yes, that Wacom ProPen does not have a AAAA battery in it.  Many tablet users know that Wacom uses EMR tech.

N-Trig used to have a list of devices compatible with their technology at their website, in which a Lenovo ThinkPad device would show up--however, the company was bought by Microsoft and the ntrig.com site does not seem to work anymore.  So things remain unclear.

When more information becomes available I'll update this post.

[update June 28, 2015  -- thanks to generic's comment.]

The pen is Wacom based according to this document, the same one pictured above.  The document also states that this digitizer may be compatible with certain configurations of the ThinkPad Yoga 14 and Yoga 15, the ThinkPad Helix 2nd gen, the ThinkPad 10 2nd gen, and the ThinkPad 11e.

The commenter also stated that Wacom has an "Active Electro Static" (Active ES) line, which are present in the Toshiba Encore 2 Write tablets.   The information can be seen on a Wacom announcement.

As a last note for this update.  I have placed an order for one of those Toshiba tablets and I will test the Thinkpad Active Pen on the device as soon as it arrives.

[update July 13, 2015]

The Toshiba Encore 2 Write tablet arrived (a Toshiba WT19PE0A).  I can confirm that the ThinkPad Active Pen is an Active Electro Static pen.  Features of the ThinkPad Active Pen like hover and the two side buttons work on the Encore 2 tablet.  However, it seems that the Encore 2 tablet is preventing inking with the pen.  Therefore, DO NOT purchase this pen with thought that it will work smoothly with the Encore 2 tablet.

Further reading, regarding the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12 and digitizer support.


  1. I have heard the synaptics pens are horrible. I've only used Wacom I'm Curious to know how the Ntrig pens work.? I have a Galaxy note 4 and the note pro 12.2 tablet I'm not sure what Samsung uses? I am looking to buy a windows tablet with a pen and has a bigger screen size than 10-inch. Also Something other than the surface tablets as I would like to see other options. If anyone can help me out in my search I would appreciate it.

    1. Samsung uses Wacom penabled. A list that may come in handy on your search:

    2. I forgot to say. N-Trig pens are better than what they used to be. However, I still think that Wacom is the better choice.

  2. According to this pdf the Pen is definitely manufactured by Wacom:

    Also Wacom has been talking about developing a new "Active Electro Static" technology for a while:

    Which was used in the Toshiba Encore 2 Write as well.

    1. Excellent information! I have ordered a Toshiba Encore 2 Write tablet to test the digitizer, and I'll report the results. I have also updated the post above. Thank you!

  3. Thanks for this as I have been trying to understand it myself. It is quite confusing why this exists. I am wondering if the Wacom ES digitizer (or whatever) is thinner (hard to believe) or cheaper than traditional Wacom digitizer Lenovo has been using for years. According to http://www.lenovo.com/psref/pdf/Think_Tablet&Convertible.pdf there are even versions of ThinkPad Yoga S1 12 that come with on or other of these in same form factor. Why confuse the market on same device? Also now Wacom makes two lines of incompatible stylus, ugh.

    1. They have a lot of things to keep track of. But yes, some of these issues can lead to people purchasing devices that do not have what they wanted. Over the past few years I have repeatedly been asked on whether a person's system is or isn't compatible with a certain pen--many times there is no easy way of determining it... buying a pen and testing seems to be the reliable option. But, you could buy many pens and the device will still not be compatible... so you wasted lots of money.

  4. The Thinkpad Active Pen works on the Best Buy exclusive Thinkpad Yoga 14 model 20DM008UUS.
    This forum has information on the pen and the thinkpad yoga 14.