USI 2.0 is here, but it’s not backward compatible
Rather than using proprietary styli that vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, Chromebooks use the Universal Stylus Initiative. So, no matter what awesome Chromebook you buy, so long as it supports USI, you could use any USI styli with it, whether the pen was made by HP or Logitech or anyone else.
At least, that’s how it’s been up to this point.
The new Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 is the first Chromebook to ship with USI 2.0, which brought along NFC wireless charging, more colors, better tilt, and in-cell display panel support. The Duet 3 uses an in-cell display panel, which unfortunately is not compatible with USI 1.0 pens, so the USI stylus support is nonexistent until Lenovo’s USI 2.0 stylus arrives. Lenovo still lists it as “Coming Soon,” but until then, you’ll have to use your fingers like a heathen.
This lack of backward compatibility is a problem that will likely persist as manufacturers transition from USI 1.0 to 2.0, especially for Chromebooks with in-cell display panels. Granted, the USI stylus selection right now isn’t overwhelming — the best USI stylus to date is the hard-to-find Logitech Pen — but if you buy a stylus today, it might not be compatible with the Chromebook you buy a year from now. That’s not great, considering the whole point of USI is to make sure that the stylus you buy will last you a while and work with whichever Chromebook comes across your desk.
Wireless charging USI styli are cool — I need to use the one on the HP Chromebook X2 11 (pictured above) more often — and support for more display types is welcome. Still, as long as it took for USI 2.0 to arrive, it’s baffling to see a lack of support for older styli. And if USI 1.0 styli won’t work on USI 2.0 Chromebooks, why didn’t the Universal Stylus Initiative work with its partners to ensure USI 2.0 styli would launch when the spec was announced?
Whatever the case may be, if you’re tempted to buy the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3, just be mindful that you’ll need to wait for USI 2.0 styli to become available should you frequently use one. We also have no clue if the first of those to arrive will be Lenovo’s or a third-party model. At least an old-fashioned capacitive stylus will work if you’re not one to touch your Chrome tablet with those oily sausage fingers.