Scawler Brawler: iPad Capacitive Stylus Showdown [Review, Showdown]

Scawler Brawler: iPad Capacitive Stylus Showdown [Review, Showdown]

From left to right: Griffin Stylus, Targus Stylus, Adonit Jot, Adonit Jot Pro, Wacom Bamboo Stylus, RadTech Styloid Plus+

The iPad’s screen apparently wasn’t designed to be sullied with anything other than human fingers. there’s an oft-refferred to quote  from Steve Jobs saying as much: “If you see a stylus, they blew it,” referring to other touch-screen designs that rely on the stylus.

But we don’t always use Apple’s gadgets the way Apple intends. Most of the time, sure, we stick to the script, because the damn things are so well designed that any deviance ends up as a fool’s adventure. Using an iPad with a stylus, however, isn’t foolish. Whether or not you use one — to scrawl notes, draw, paint, as a way of circumventing long fingernails or just ’cause you like it that way — styli (or styluses, depending on your preference) are here to stay. Here’s a by-no-means-exhaustive showdown between a few picked off from the herd. All these styli are, of course, capacitive, which means they conduct bio-electricity from your hand, down the shaft and onto the screen.

The Griffin Stylus ($20) doesn’t really distinguish itself in any one way and could, I suppose, serve as a sort of benchmark for the other styli (or styluses. Whatever). It’s about what you’d expect from an iPad stylus in terms of price, weight, finish and performance, and falls pretty much centrally within those categories: It’s heavier than the RadTech and about the same as the Targus, looks better than either and has a pocket clip, like all the others except the Adonit sisters. However, its conductive foam tip has a more squishy, rubbery feel compared with the rest, making it somewhat unsatisfying.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

We were surprised to see the Targus Stylus ($15) rise to the top. This guy is our budget-minded favorite — and it has the best feeling tip of the bunch. The pleasantly performing tip is probably due to the fact that it protrudes less than the others, making it less squishy, yet it still offers enough surface area to write at an easy angle without scraping the stylus’ shaft. It’s also nicely weighted. It may just be the least charismatic of the group though.

Rating: ★★★★½

Clearly, the Adonit Jot — and its sibling, the Jot Pro — are the upstarts here. They’re the creation of Washington-based, Kickstarter-funded Adonit, and they’re very different than the rest in both aesthetics and approach. Instead of using capacitive foam as almost all other capacitive styli do, the Jot uses what looks like a ball-point pen tip attached to a plastic disk. The upshot is that it really provides the feeling of writing with a ball point pen, and you can actually see under the pen tip, which greatly enhances accuracy and works superbly when used for drawing, painting, fine lettering or other tasks that require precise control. They’re also beautifully machined from aluminum in a range of bright or understated colors with an anodized finish that looks and feels fantastic. And they’re weighted just right too.

However, there are a few downsides: They don’t come with a pocket clip, and you have to unscrew the cap to use them (which then smartly screws on to the back of the stylus so it doesn’t get lost). And because they don’t have a rubbery foam tip, contact with the iPad’s screen can seem a bit jarring (though completely safe), especially for heavy-handed writers or when jotting down fast notes.

Still, at $20 the Jot is an amazing value and a great choice, especially for artistic types. Just be prepared to wait a few weeks for your order to fill.

Rating: ★★★★½

The Jot Pro ($30) is just like its more pedestrian sibling, but comes in different, more pro-looking colors, comes with a memory-foam-wrapped shaft, and a magnet which allows attachment to an iPad 2 bezel. The foam is helpful but not quite thick enough and the magnet not quite strong enough to keep the Jot Pro from easily dislodging from the iPad when things go vertical. At $20, the ordinary Jot’s a better deal — and prettier.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Wacom’s Bamboo Stylus ($30) is as handsome as the Jots, is also perfectly weighted, has a detachable pocket clip and has the smallest foam tip of the bunch, allowing for more precise control. But because the tip is so narrow, the collar around the tip can scrape along the screen at extreme angles — angles that none of the others have a problem accommodating. It also shares honors for being the most expensive stylus here with that of the Jot Pro. Still, if you find yourself using a less acute angle when writing, the quality and precision of the Bamboo may be worth a shot.

Rating: ★★★½☆

RadTech’s entry, the Stylid Plus+ ($15), is very similar to Griffin’s. They’re the same length, and they both have similar tips (the Stylid’s is slightly rounder); these means  the Stylid suffers from the same squishy feel. It’s also the lightest stylus in our test, which isn’t a good thing, and actually makes the stylus feel awkward to use. Yes, it ties for least expensive with the Targus, but the latter is weightier and is equipped with a better tip.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

  • Subdawg1

    Screw styli, use a sausage

  • Leeroy Browne

    You missed this one….

    http://www.kickstarter.com/pro

  • Diago

    Nice selection. My personal favorite is the Ozaki stylus which also doubles as a black ballpoint pen. Available in brilliant colors as well.

  • imbenking

    Cool article! Will there be a follow-up about the best Apps for a stylus? I would love a good writing one. 

  • Tom McGrath

    Great article!

    I’m going to get the MORE/REAL Stylus Cap, which was a Kickstarter project by a guy called Don Lehman – it actually got into the Top 100 most funded projects. There are three versions, Sharpie, Bic and Pilot Fineliner, and the it replaces the cap on each of those pens. Here’s a link: http://www.kickstarter.com/pro…, that or the Adonit Jot above. But the Stylus Cap will be more convenient for me.

  • Christian

    “All these styli are, of course, capacitive, which means they conduct bio-electricity from your hand, down the shaft and onto the screen.”

    That’s not correct. They don’t conduct bio-electricity from you and down on the screen, they work just as your finger does by being conductive and slightly changing the charge of the screen in the places that you touch.

  • thecity2

    I’m surprised you didn’t test the Alu Pen by Just Mobile. It’s a solid chunk of metal that feels good in the hand and writes very well.

  • apurva

    I have used quite a few including the pogo, and preferred the feel of the Alupen http://www.xtand.net/alupen.ht… the most. Unlike others, it has an air filled squishy tip, that makes it much smoother than others. With the Pogo kind of Styli, the drag is too high for my comfort, while the Alupen slides much smoother and requires much less pressure as compared to others. This could probably be doe to the fact that its chunkier and heavier than the rest (which could be a downer for some)

  • Ken

    I am just glad people are using the word “styli.”
    Check out the forthcoming cosmonaut on kickstarter.

  • Paul H.

    Guys,I have put in for one of these Maglus Stylus. The 2 guys behind it have been working at it for a while and now have it up for pre order on themaglus.com

  • elimilchman

    Thanks Christian, you may indeed be correct — what I wrote might be wrong due to my misunderstanding of the concept; I’ll do a little more research, come back to confirm or correct.

  • elimilchman

    Thanks Ben. Yes, we’re working on an iPad handwriting app roundup or series. In the meantime, check out the free Bamboo Paper app, Penultimate or Note Taker HD.

  • MissLinda1313

    I just paíd $20.87 for an íPad 2.64GB and my boyfriend loves his Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy.
    Here is the website we use to get it all from : Bidsbit.com

  • Don Birdsall

    Notes Plus and Note Taker HD are the two “front runners”. Note Taker HD is a little more polished but Notes Plus has a few extras such as sound clips. The Notes Plus developer is also promising handwriting recognition in the near future. Neither are free.

  • CharliK

    If you are going to use a sausage you might as well just use your finger

  • doctor_of_music

    I’m partial to Noteshelf, which has offered a lot of different papers for some time, plus the ability to drag in a picture from your camera roll.  In addition to the other apps already mentioned (Penultimate & Note Taker HD), Notes Plus also some unique features, and SoundNote isn’t as nifty as the others but can record audio while you take notes.

    Adonit is making their own app as a reward for hitting more than $80,000 of sponsorship on Kickstarter.

  • prof_peabody

    None of these capacitive ones are any good for drawing though.  Still waiting for Apple to come up with a real stylus.  

  • HotGG

    I use a Newton MessagePad stylus! How about that!

  • Holckapptutorials

    CheCk out holckapptutorials reviews of four styluses including a magnetic one!

  • Salman

    For drawing (not so much for art) use the AluPen by Just Mobile – Heavy, thick, large and made of aluminium it has the heft and weight necessary to really make it feel REAL and brings a wonderful fluidity to my art.

  • Ted Brooks

    Another nice one that I’ve reviewed and used is the Hard Candy Stylus. It’s a bit larger than most others, and feels more like a real pen in your hand. Here’s the link:
    http://trial-technology.blogsp

  • BlanketBack

    I have just discovered ZoomNotes (http://www.zoom-notes.com) which is the only handwriting app with an unlimited zoom feature. It works with Dropbox and you can import and annotate PDFs.

  • Hannerhin

    I’m top-starring the Jot. As an artist and calligrapher who uses a lot of precision tools, this stylus mimics the feel of my favorites. The fact that you can see the exact position of the tip is an aid to accuracy, and let’s you feel more confident about what your marks are doing. Pair it with ArtRage or Sketchpro and you are rolling.

  • Aman Shah

    Have a look at Estylo stylus from plai.
    I have reviewed Estylo on About.com
    Just search for Estylo in the search box on About.com webpage and u will find a review on Plai Estylo.

  • bContextual

    Inspired by David Pogue’s review about styluses I decided to give my 50 cents on how to get the perfect iPad stylus. But I think this is the right place to share my explanation on how you can build the best stylus yourself. Please follow this link http://bit.ly/PKgZh8

About the author

Eli MilchmanWhen he was eight, Eli Milchman came home from frolicking in the Veld one day and was given an Atari 400. Since then, his fascination with technology has made him an intrepid early adopter of whatever charming new contraption crosses his path — which explains why he's Cult of Mac's test editor-at-large. He calls San Francisco home, where he works as a journalist and photographer. Eli has contributed to the pages of Wired.com and BIKE Magazine, among others. Hang with him on Twitter.

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)| Read more posts by .

Posted in Hardware, iPad, Reviews, Top stories | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , |