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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.