Windows 8 has decent handwriting recognition built in, but we haven't seen too many tablets and convertibles equipped with styluses. That could change thanks Synaptics, which has introduced a new family of touchscreen controllers with support for "active pen functionality." The ClearPad 7500 controllers allow device makers to offer robust stylus support without resorting to separate digitizer hardware. They work with existing touchscreen sensors, and Synaptics has come up with an accompanying stylus.
The active pen has a precise one-millimeter tip and offers 256 levels of pressure sensitivity. Interestingly, Synaptics says that "sophisticated algorithms enable the inking of straight lines without jagged edges and curved lines that accurately follow the pen motion." The system can detect hovering, too, and it's supposedly smart enough to ignore inadvertent palm contact while the pen is in use.
One more thing: the press release mentions support for button-based eraser and selection functions that appear to be part of Win8.1.
Microsoft's Surface Pen has a couple of buttons and a pressure-sensitive tip of its own, but it's based on digitizer tech. I'm curious to see how Synaptics' solution compares, especially since Microsoft has promised an updated version of its free Fresh Paint app with improved pressure sensitivity and eraser functionality. The Fresh Paint update will be released alongside Windows 8.1.
Although I don't use my Wacom Bamboo Connect tablet very often, it's come in very handy for quick sketches, and I'd love to get similar functionality in a Windows convertible. Decent stylus support tends to be restricted to pricier systems, though. I hope the ClearPad 7500 family can bring a decent experience to more affordable devices.