The best stylus for iPad or Android tablets

by Seamus Bellamy

May 18 2012

We pitted seven popular styluses against one another to see which one is the best. We judged them all on comfort, build quality, and writing experience. Find out which stylus comes out with top marks.

Steve Jobs’ disdain for the stylus was legendary, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no place for one in your workflow. While an Apple-designed stylus may never seen the light of day, there’s a wide range of products out there that’ll help you to write, draw, tap and swipe your way to greater productivity without ever having to place a finger on your screen. We rounded up seven popular styluses, judging each based on how comfortable they are to use, build quality, and the writing experience each affords. 

Wacom Bamboo Stylus for iPad

Comfort: Thanks to it’s weight, and length, the Bamboo Stylus for iPad feels good in the hand, mimicking the heft and feel of a high quality ball point pen—perhaps too well. While the shaft of the stylus is comfortable to work with, we found that it’s pocket clip began to rub us raw after extended use. That said, the pocket clip can be removed. Rating: 3 out of 5

Build Quality: Simply put, the Bamboo Stylus for iPad feels solid. Composed of brushed aluminum, there are no evident cracks or exposed seams in the stylus’ shaft, save one near the top and one near the Bamboo’s rubber tip. Both seams exist to allow the user to modify the Stylus:  the stylus’ pocket clip (also made of thick, high quality aluminum) and the tip can be removed or replaced. That said, we were unable to find any reference to replacement parts on Wacom’s website. Rating: 5 out of 5

Writing Experience: The Bamboo Stylus for iPad is one of the first styluses we worked with and it’s still one of our favorites. Its tip registered on the screens of our Asus Eee Pad Transformer, Playbook and iPads. Drag was minimal. Our only complaint is that the line it produces is a little thick for our liking.
Rating: 4 out of 5

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

 

Kensington Virtuoso Touch Stylus and Pen

Comfort: You’d swear that you were holding a regular pen, and— well you are. Kensington has baked a ballpoint pen and a stylus tip into this single accessory. Since the stylus is the same length as a traditional ballpoint pen, it sits comfortably in the hand. The enameled finish was a little too slick, however. A bit of texture on the shaft’s exterior would be a welcome addition. Rating: 4 out of 5

Build Quality: Unremarkable. We had two issues with the Virtuoso: It’s enameled finish is easily scuffed and scratched from of daily use. More importantly we found that the pocket clip, built into the pen’s cap, is far too flimsy for our liking. It bent after a few week’s use, and cannot be replaced. Rating: 2 out of 5

Writing Experience: The Virtuoso Touch Stylus and Pen’s Parker ink cartridge provides for smooth writing, although we found that the ballpoint tip of the pen did gum up with ink after a few hours of use. The Virtuoso is surprisingly light, but is weighty enough to make long writing sessions with the pen or stylus end feel comfortable. Writing with the stylus end of the Virtuoso Touch proved to be an acceptable experience, but the rubber tip is a little too rigid, making it difficult to achieve the quality of lines and writing that we would have liked to have seen. Rating: 3 out of 5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

 

Adonit Jot Pro Stylus

Comfort: Long, slender and constructed out of steel and aluminum, the Jot Pro Stylus feels good in the hand, especially since it’s sheathed with a rubber grip. It offers the most comfortable writing experience we’ve had with a stylus yet. Rating: 5 out of 5

Build Quality: Our only concern for the Jot Pro comes from the very thing that sets this stylus apart from just about all of it’s competitors: It’s tip. Instead of the rubber nubs that we usually associate with styluses for capacitive touchscreens, the Jot Flip Stylus uses a conductive plastic disc, which moves freely around a ball and cup style joint. Don’t get us wrong: there’s nothing flimsy about the disc’s construction. But it’s conceivable that the tip could get snagged on a pocket and break. At least there is a protective cap included with the Jot. Still, this quibble focuses on what could be, rather than on what is. We can’t deduct any points for that. As an interesting footnote to the stylus’ build, the Jot Pro can be attached to an iPad 2 or a third-generation iPad though the use of the tablet’s magnets—nice touch. Rating: 5 out of 5

Writing Experience: The Jot Pro allows for some of the thinnest, smoothest lines we’ve ever seen using a stylus. Moving across the screen feels smooth and natural on iOS and Android devices. However, by the company’s own admission, the Jot Pro isn’t compatible with some film-style screen protectors. Rating: 5 out of 5

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Ten One Design Pogo Sketch+

Comfort: While individuals with smaller hands might find the Pogo Sketch+ to be a comfortable fit, we found it too thin to be used for an extended period comfortably. Its light weight was a bit strange as well: I felt the need to hold it tighter than I might have wanted to hold a stylus or a pen with more heft to it. The stylus’ pen clip, while considered to be a feature, actually detracts from stylus’ usability, as it dug into my hand while writing or drawing with the Pogo. Rating: 2 out of 5

Build Quality: It doesn’t get more spartan than the Pogo Sketch+. It's made from lightweight aluminum—strong enough to write on a tablet with, but we wouldn’t want to put it in an attaché case with anything heavy that might torque it. After using the Sketch+ for less than a week for general note taking and a few sketches, the Pogo's rubber tip was sitting well off center of where it had been when the stylus was brand-new. Rating:  1 out of 5

Writing Experience: A sub-par build quality and uncomfortable handling unsurprisingly make for a lousy writing experience. The lines produced by the Pogo Sketch+ are admittedly thinner than those created by other styluses. Unfortunately, the weak, overly-malleable tip is too inaccurate for tasks that require precision. Rating: 3 out of 5

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5

 

Just Mobile Alupen

Comfort: The Alupen has changed very little since it was first released in late 2010, and It’s a great stylus. The thick hexagonal shaft feels significantly more comfortable than it looks. It’s not too light, nor not too heavy, and while it may not be the longest stylus on the market, it is long enough to work for most users. Rating: 5 out of 5

Built Quality: You’d have to work pretty hard to do any damage to the Alupen. With it’s thick aluminum shell and what appears to be a rubber core (or at least a rubber stopper on the stylus’ back end,) there’s not much that can go wrong here. Despite it’s simple, rugged build, the stylus ships with a storage sheath to keep it safe while it’s thrashed around with your pocket change or in your briefcase. Rating: 5 out of 5

Writing Experience: In our tests, we were surprised to find that the Alupen was almost as accurate to write with as the Adonit Jot Pro. However, the lines it produced were not quite as fine as those produced by the Adonit stylus. Rating: 4 out of 5

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Essential TPE Glatt Magnetic Snap Stylus

Comfort: Writing with the Glatt reminded us of using a carpenter’s pencil in shop class: It looks like it’ll be awkward to use, but ends up feeling quite comfortable. The thinner sides of the stylus’s rounded, rectangular shaft are perfect for perching your index finger on while writing or drawing. The longer flat sides of the shaft didn’t dig into our hand after extended use. Rating: 5 out of 5

Build Quality: As with Just Mobile’s Alupen, there’s not a lot that can go wrong here. The Glatt is a solid piece of kit with a single seam at the tapered end where the rubber tip is connected. TPE has built a magnet that’s strong enough to attach the Glatt to the side of an iPad 2 or third generation iPad. That makes it pretty hard to lose. The magnet is also capable of turning the iPad on or off when you pick it up or put it down, in the same manner that a Smart Cover turns your iPad on or off. Rating: 5 out of 5

Writing Experience: Unfortunately, we didn’t enjoy the experience of writing with the Glatt as much as some of the other styluses. The stylus tip didn't move as smoothly as others over our iPad’s screen, especially when drawing lines in an upward motion. Additionally, if your writing style has you holding your stylus close to the surface you’re writing on, you might find the Glatt’s wide body clicks against the screen on occasion. Rating: 3 out of 5

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

 

Studio Neat Cosmonaut

Comfort: With its wide diameter and rubberized exterior, the Cosmonaut rivals the Jot Pro for comfort. The stylus’ thick circumference adds to its already pleasant handling. For anyone with arthritis, or any conditions that make it difficult to grasp a pen or stylus, this could be the tablet accessory you’ve been looking for. Rating: 4 out of 5

Build Quality: Studio Neat’s chunky, rubber-bound stylus has an aluminum core, providing it with just enough weight to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. The rubber tip of the Cosmonaut is the same color as the rubber covering the rest of the stylus, giving it a unique look. Unfortunately, as comfortable as the stylus’ rubber exterior feels to the touch, it’s something of a dust and lint magnet. The grippy rubber exterior—plus the  Cosmonaut’s thick diameter—also makes it difficult to pull out of a pocket, which can be a bit impractical. Rating: 4 out of 5

Writing Experience: Sized like a dry erase marker, the Cosmonaut feels good to write with for a brief notes and diagramming, but we found it a bit short, making it somewhat less comfortable to work with for longer writing sessions. That said, the stylus’ tip performed admirably on every tablet we tested it with. Rating: 4 out of 5

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

 

Winner: Adonit Jot Pro Stylus

For it’s combination of excellent build quality, comfort, style, accuracy and ease of use, the Jot Pro has our vote for the best stylus , although the Alupen by Just Mobile came in a close second, and is recommended if you're looking for a thicker stylus.

Stylus roundup

Wacom Bamboo Stylus for iPad 
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
Price: $29.95

Kensington Virtuoso Touch Stylus and Pen 
Overall Rating: 3/5
Price: $24.99

Adonit Jot Pro Stylus 
Overall Rating: 5/5
Price: $29.99

Ten One Design Pogo Sketch+ 
Overall Rating: 2 out of 5
Price: $14.95

Just Mobile Alupen 
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Price: $24.95

Essential TPE Glatt Magnetic Snap Stylus 
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
Price: $21.99

Studio Neat Cosmonaut 
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
Price: $25

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