Writing on an iPad with a fingertip is ridiculous, but an Apple Pencil is overkill for many people. The Adonit Neo Duo is an active stylus with a fine tip that works well for taking notes of sketching. As a bonus, press a button and it also writes on iPhone. It even clings to the side of several iPad models.
There’s also the Adonit Neo, a simpler version that just works with iPad.
I tested the capabilities of both styli. And I found a lot to like.
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Adonit Neo Duo and Adonit Neo review
The Apple Pencil is wonderful… but it’s also expensive. The extra cost only adds some features that you can probably live without. I know I can.
The Adonit Neo Duo is just as usable for taking notes. There’s even native palm rejection for easier drawing. Plus, it doesn’t use Bluetooth and doesn’t need to be paired with the tablet. The same goes for the lower cost Adonit Neo.
There’s really no comparing these two with cheap capacitive styli — those squishy ones you find on the end of some pens. I find the fine tip on the Neo Duo and Neo to be vastly easier to use for everything but the most basic tasks.
Hardware and design
Both the Neo Duo and the Neo are 6.4 inches long, 1.1 inches in circumference, and 0.6 ounces in weight. Holding one feels like holding a pen — natural and comfortable. For comparison, they’re almost exactly the same size as an Apple Pencil 2.
The writing tip is easily removable, and two replacements come with each product.
One side of the Adonit styli is flat, and they’ll cling to the edge of recent iPad Pro, iPad Air and iPad mini models designed to work with the Apple Pencil 2. A bonus is that the flat edge makes the styli less likely to roll away on a tabletop.
That flat iPad edge is used to charge Apple Pencil 2, but the Adonit accessories charge via a USB-C port. Just occasionally plug the tablet charging cable into the stylus and you’re good to go. Expect 7 or 8 hours of continuous use between charges, and you can use the stylus while charging in a pinch.
Press the button on the far end on either Adonit product to activate it. With the Neo Duo, a small green LED lights up to indicate you’re in iPhone mode. Another press and the LED turns blue to show the stylus is in iPad mode. Another press and the stylus is off — or it will turn itself off after a few minutes.
It’s a simple system, though I wish the order was flipped. I use iPad mode much more often than iPhone mode. But perhaps that’s what the Adonit Neo was created for. It doesn’t have iPhone mode so you don’t have to bother with it. Just press the button to turn the stylus on or off, with a blue LED showing the status.
Adonit Neo Duo is available in graphite black or matte silver, while the Duo is space grey or matte silver. Both are very professional looking, and match the look of iPad brilliantly. Especially my space grey one.
Adonit Neo Duo and Adonit Neo performance
What you have to understand about iPad styli is that the tablet does all the work. All the accessory has to do is meet a minimal set of hardware requirements. Which is why a third-party one works as well as Apple Pencil for writing and sketching.
I put this to the test, writing notes on the iPad with the Neo Duo and looking for problems. I didn’t experience any skipped lines or lagging no matter how fast or slow I wrote. Palm rejection — which is handled by the iPad too — also works exactly right.
I use a stylus to edit images for Cult of Mac every day, and one the iPad couldn’t reliably recognize would soon be thrown across the room. I never had to dig either the Neo Duo or the Duo out from under my bookshelves.
No pressure sensitivity or tilt detection
But there’s a big caveat here. The Apple Pencil offers pressure sensitivity while Adonit’s styli do not. No matter how hard or soft you press the Neo Duo or the Duo to your iPad screen, the line won‘t change. Or the color you’re painting with won‘t become darker/lighter.
The same goes for tilt detection. You can not make the line you’re drawing thicker by tilting the stylus, as you can with Apple Pencil.
If you’re an artist, I’m guessing this is probably a deal breaker. But I’m not an artist — I need to take notes or make basic edits to images, and pressure sensitivity and tilt detection are not necessary for either.
In my experience, they are actually a distraction. My handwriting is messy but readable when I use my iPad because I get consistently even lines… as long as I don’t use an Apple Pencil. As for image editing, when I’m filling in a section with blue, I want it to be exactly the same shade no matter how hard I press on the screen.
I like to manually set line widths and painting colors. I don’t want these to change on the fly by the way I hold my stylus. Which makes the Adonit Neo Duo or Duo better suited for me.
An iPhone will not react to most active styli designed for iPad. Touch an Apple Pencil to an iPhone and nothing happens. That’s where the Neo Duo’s iPhone Mode comes in. With a quick push of a button, you can use the stylus with your handset.
It is well suited for annotating PDFs. Or tapping out messages on that tiny iPhone keyboard. Or just scrolling through web pages with a stylus instead of your finger.
That said, I tested taking notes in the iPhone Notes application and ran into difficulties. Apple seems to have done something to make the app work better with a fingertip than with a stylus. The Notes app — and only this app — had problems recognizing the Neo Duo. Perhaps if you use another note-taking app. I certainly didn’t have similar problems with GoodReader, the software I use to annotate PDFs.
Note that the Adonit Neo does not have iPhone Mode. The handset will not react to it at all. But it also costs less.
Both the Adonit Neo Duo and Neo are compatible with iPad Air (3rd/4th Gen), iPad mini (5th/6th Gen), iPad (6th/7th/8th/9th Gen), iPad Pro 11″ (1st/2nd/3rd Gen), iPad Pro 12.9″ (3rd/4th/5th Gen) and newer iPadOS tablets.
And you can switch between these tablets on the fly. Neither styli has to pair with the iPad. Just turn them on to start using them.
A Neo Duo in iPhone Mode works with all Apple handsets. As noted, the Neo does not have iPhone Mode.
Adonit Neo Duo and Adonit Neo final thoughts
If you need the extra capabilities of an Apple Pencil, for goodness sake get an Apple Pencil. But do not assume that the Apple’s stylus does everything better — it does not. Both the Adonit Neo Duo and the Adonit Neo work just as well when taking notes or doing light drawing.
And the Neo Duo adds iPhone compatibility, a feature somewhat rare among active styli.
The Adonit Neo Duo is available on Adonit’s website for $54.99.
Buy from: Amazon
Fewer features allows the Adonit Neo to cost less: it’s $39.99 on Adonit.com.
Buy from: Amazon
The recently-released Adonit Dash 4 ($59.99) is similar to the Neo Duo, but offers wireless charging and a few other bells and whistles.
And iPad users have many other styli to choose from. Consider the Zagg Pro Stylus ($52.49) that will magnetically cling to the tablet. The same is true of the SwitchEasy EasyPencil Plus ($36.99).
The original Adonit Note doesn’t have all the features of the latest versions, but costs a mere $29.99.
Adonit provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out more in-depth reviews of Apple-related items.