It works like this: You plug a small receiver into one of your laptop’s USB ports, then stick it to the side of the display. After a one-time calibration (performed within Windows 8’s settings–there’s no special software required to use the pen), you’re good to go.
The thick, black, comfy stylus could easily be mistaken for a business pen, save for the brush-style bristles on the end. You use it exactly as you’d expect, by tapping and/or swiping on the screen.
And here’s the shocker: it works.
I tested it on an a fairly old Acer 17-inch laptop that I upgraded with Windows 8. My swipes and taps were recognized instantly and accurately, giving me a much “truer” Windows 8 experience than I could get from a mouse and keyboard.
That said, you’ll have to decide just how valuable pen input is on a traditional laptop (as opposed to, say, a convertible or actual tablet). The real benefit would seem to lie in working with paint apps, though obviously that’s not a big (sorry) draw for most users.
Also, I should note that the bristles pick up every speck of dust on your screen. I frequently found myself pulling little dust-bunnies from the tip. Bleh.
At $99.99, the Targus Touch Pen is an affordable way to add touch capabilities to older laptops. It also makes Windows 8 a little easier to live with, and that’s no mean feat.
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For more than 20 years, Rick Broida has written about all manner of technology, from Amigas to business servers to PalmPilots. His credits include dozens of books, blogs, and magazines. He sleeps with an iPad under his pillow.