For some people, a good stylus can make or break their tablet experience, yet frequently, pens are only compatible with one particular kind of device. The Universal Stylus Initiative was created to address this issue, but with USI 2.0, things aren’t quite as universal because it breaks compatibility for previous pens.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet was one of the first devices to employ USI, which first appeared in 2019 and 2020. Since then, additional Chromebooks and Chrome OS tablets, including those made by HP and others, have started to feature it. We actually used the original version of USI, and we were generally happy with it. The open standard is undoubtedly a compelling concept, even though it isn’t quite as good as something like the Apple Pencil.

The standard recently underwent some very significant modifications with the advent of USI 2.0. Styluses may now be wirelessly charged, and there are also improved tilt and shading features in addition to a wider range of colors. We analyzed the new releases back in February.

However, there is a little compatibility issue with that. Although the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 supports USI 2.0 out of the box, some older USI styluses are incompatible with it, as ChromeUnboxed pointed out.

The problem with this particular item has to do with the way the display is constructed. The Chromebook Duet 3 features an in-cell design for stylus input that integrates display and digitizer components to reduce costs, but that approach is only supported by USI 2.0, therefore styluses made for USI 1.0 may not function properly with it.

Although not necessarily affecting all USI 2.0-compatible devices or styluses, it is unfortunate to see for a standard that upholds its claim of being ubiquitous.
USI Chairman Peter Mueller addressed the situation in a statement and claimed that it couldn’t be avoided. He claims:

For in-cell applications, the touch and display drivers are more tightly integrated, so touch sensing must take place inside specific timing windows while the display is being driven. This duration restriction is what compelled us to change our USI specification for some in-cell panels. To assure backwards compatibility, we looked at alternatives for months, but it was not feasible.

To reduce confusion and user annoyance, we have asked explicit documentation, labelling, and delivering with a 2.0 stylus (preferably).
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