Though cool, Apple Pencil Pro could be overkill for many iPad users [Review]

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A photo of the new Apple stylus on an iPad illustrates this Apple Pencil Pro review.★★★★★
Apple Pencil Pro is brilliant for artists, but what about people who simply want to take notes?
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple Pencil Pro is the latest and greatest iPad stylus coming out of Cupertino. It adds a new “squeeze” gesture, an internal gyroscope, haptic feedback and Find My support. I’m not a digital artist, so for this iPad Pencil review, I tested the stylus by writing notes, entering text with Scribble and doing moderate editing of photographs.

Plenty of artists have reviewed the new accessory, so my goal was to answer the question, “Does a typical iPad user need Apple Pencil Pro?” Or would a cheaper alternative suffice?

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Apple Pencil Pro review

Just so there’s no confusion, not every iPad user needs a stylus. You can control the tablet entirely using just a fingertip. But adding a stylus brings new capabilities, like taking handwritten notes, whether in a classroom or a meeting. Or, if you’re young enough, learning to write. An iPad stylus also proves fun for doodling, and useful for signing documents.

An advanced stylus like Apple Pencil Pro also makes it easy to create great art with your iPad, whether professionally or as a budding artist. That’s not me, but I have to mention it.

Table of contents: Apple Pencil Pro review

Five Stars!
Apple Pencil Pro
5.0

Apple Pencil Pro is an advanced stylus for 2024's new Apple tablets: the M4 iPad Pro and the M2 iPad Air.

We gave it the maximum rating in our hands-on review, and found that it's advanced features are worthy of the price.

Pros:
  • Advanced features like the new squeeze gesture, haptic feedback and support for hover.
  • Excellent for note-taking, image editing and artistic endeavors.
  • Finally works with Apple's Find My network.
Cons:
  • Only works with latest iPads.
  • High-end stylus comes with high-end price tag.
Buy now: Best Buy Buy now: Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Designed for the new iPad Pro and iPad Air

The most important fact to know about Apple’s latest stylus is that it is compatible only with the just-launched M2 iPad Air and M4 iPad Pro. These have their front-facing cameras moved to the long edge of the display, where the Apple Pencil wireless charger is also located, requiring a redesign. The result is that the just-released stylus doesn’t work with the chargers built into older iPads.

But if you’re using one of the new 2024 Apple tablets (and presumably their successors), all you need to do to pair Apple Pencil Pro and charge it at the same time is place the accessory on the edge of your iPad.

Apple Pencil Pro feels good in the hand

Apple Pencil Pro vs Apple Pencil 2
You might need to squint to read the names to see the only external differences between Apple Pencil Pro and Apple Pencil 2.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The new Apple Pencil Pro has the same basic design as its predecessors, as well as regular pens and pencils going all the way back to the styli used to write cuneiform in Mesopotamia 5,000 years ago. With that much history, there’s no need for a redesign.

Apple’s latest is the same size as the second-gen Apple Pencil, and uses the same replaceable writing tips. To get specific, it is 6.5 inches (166 mm) long with a diameter of 0.35 inches (98.9 mm). The weight is 0.7 ounces (19 grams). That makes it slightly larger and heavier than a wooden pencil. However, after a lot of use, it’s the wooden version that feels undersized. In short, Apple Pencil Pro is comfortable to hold.

A flat edge lets me easily orient the stylus in my hand. That’s important because the “double tap” button is located at one end of this edge.

You can get the product in any color you want, as long as what you want is white.

New writing and drawing features in Apple Pencil Pro

Apple Pencil Pro brings new technology to the iPad stylus.
Apple Pencil Pro supports tool palettes launched with a new squeeze gesture.
Photo: Apple

Easily my favorite new feature of Apple Pencil Pro is a sensor in the barrel that detects when I squeeze it. Doing so brings up a tool palette that lets me quickly switch settings for colors, brush shapes, line weights and more.

This proves much quicker and easier than the previous system of picking these from a floating window off to one side of the iPad’s screen. When taking notes, I find myself changing line weights more often now that I can do so with only a squeeze and a couple of taps, without moving my whole hand.

Looking ahead, Apple promised software developers will be able to create their own custom tool palettes. Which is good — few apps I tried support the feature now.

In addition, Apple Pencil Pro now includes haptic feedback. When I squeeze the stylus, it feels like the barrel actually moves, but that’s a trick. Instead, the accessory is vibrating slightly. It’s a nice bit of feedback.

The specs for the new stylus list a barrel roll feature. “A new gyroscope allows you to rotate Apple Pencil Pro for precise control of shaped pen and brush tools,” said Apple. Honestly, I have found no use for this feature yet. And it’s possible that as someone who does not use a stylus for creating art, I never will.

Some previous features carried through to the new Pencil version. Thankfully, that includes the double-tap gesture. You simply give a couple of quick taps near the writing tip to switch between tools. For me, that’s always the eraser and whatever writing tool I’m using at the time. It’s a real timesaver — though the new squeeze gesture might replace it in my workflow (and my heart).

Let’s start taking notes and sketching

2024 M2 iPad Air with Apple Pencil Pro
Compatibility with the new Apple Pencil Pro is one reason to buy this year’s iPad Air.
Photo: Apple

The section on actually using the product is traditionally the heart of any review, and is often the longest. But Apple Pencil Pro is a standout because it works so well there’s almost nothing to say. Just a series of compliments.

For this review, I tested Apple Pencil Pro by taking notes during a meeting. It performed flawlessly. I never had problems with it recognizing the lines I was drawing. There were no skips in the lines or unwanted lines.

The squeeze gesture really shines during note-taking. It is so quick that I can change the line’s weight or color in about a second so I don’t fall behind. Apple Pencil Pro also worked well for the very simple drawing I do. And that includes making basic edits in images used on Cult of Mac.

The stylus includes tilt sensitivity and pressure sensitivity, just as Apple Pencil 2 did. It also supports Apple’s cool hover feature that recently drew ooos and ahhs.

Just keep in mind, though, most of the functionality is built into the iPad, not the stylus. This means even fairly cheap styli perform quite well. I’ve tested many over the years and they are also up to the basic tasks of taking notes and light sketching.

Find My stylus, at last!

Apple Pencil Pro includes a feature I first asked for years ago: Find My support. If I accidentally misplace the Apple Pencil Pro, I can use my iPad Pro to track it down. No more searching around at random for a lost stylus.

When I open the Find My application, it shows me the location of the accessory on a map. For precisely locating the stylus, the app uses a graphic to show when I’m getting closer or farther from the device. But don’t expect the same experience as locating an AirTag. There’s no arrow pointing to the lost Apple Pencil Pro, and the stylus cannot beep. Plus, the only one of my computers that can track down the Apple Pencil Pro is its iPad — the stylus doesn’t show up on my iPhone.

Apple Pencil Pro review: Final thoughts

Features of the Apple Pencil Pro
Features of the Apple Pencil Pro.
Photo: Apple

There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the best iPad stylus for the M4 iPad Pro and M2 iPad Air. (Some older versions of the Apple Pencil don’t work with the new tablets, although the budget Apple Pencil USB-C does.)

It works perfectly, and the new squeeze gesture with the pop-up toolbar is brilliant. Find My support is a welcome addition. And digital artists will surely want one.

As for my “Does a typical iPad user need Apple Pencil Pro?” question, the answer isn’t as clear-cut. While the stylus is ideal for a student or businessperson taking notes, it’s also very expensive — at least twice as much as many third-party iPad styli.

However, it also offers features the cheaper options don’t. These are bonus features, though. When it comes to simply drawing lines on an iPad, every stylus I’ve ever tried — and that’s a lot — works nearly the same. Still, keep in mind that many rivals don’t yet support the newly rearranged magnets and wireless charger in the latest iPad models.

★★★★★

Pricing

Apple Pencil Pro costs $129. That’s the retail price whether you buy it from the Apple Store, Best Buy or somewhere else. And it’s the same price as the Apple Pencil 2 sold for at its launch back in 2018.

Buy it from: Apple, Amazon or Best Buy

Five Stars!
Apple Pencil Pro
5.0

Apple Pencil Pro is an advanced stylus for 2024's new Apple tablets: the M4 iPad Pro and the M2 iPad Air.

We gave it the maximum rating in our hands-on review, and found that it's advanced features are worthy of the price.

Pros:
  • Advanced features like the new squeeze gesture, haptic feedback and support for hover.
  • Excellent for note-taking, image editing and artistic endeavors.
  • Finally works with Apple's Find My network.
Cons:
  • Only works with latest iPads.
  • High-end stylus comes with high-end price tag.
Buy now: Best Buy Buy now: Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Apple did not provide Cult of Mac with an Apple Pencil Pro review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out more in-depth reviews of Apple-related items.

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