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What's the Best iPad Stylus for Touch Screen Tablets?


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Choosing an iPad Stylus for Touch Screen Tablets
Searching iPad Digital Tablet
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If you enjoy using the many art apps available for the iPad, you may have considered getting a pen or stylus to make your iPad sketching, drawing, and painting more precise and comfortable. Or perhaps you want to scribble notes and ideas, or you don't like getting finger smudges on your touch screen glass.

Over the past few months, I've been working with several touch screen pen styli to compare them. The three styli I've been using are: the original Pogo stylus, several models from Stylus-R-Us, and the Brvsh stylus. I have been putting them through the paces on an iPod touch and more recently, an iPad 2. These stylus pens are not only for the iPad; they will work with any kind of touch screen device, so if you prefer Android or another platform, the styli discussed here will work for that, too.

Though this article focuses mainly on using a stylus pen for art applications, any stylus that performs well with art apps will certainly perform just as well for general use, note-taking, and even gaming.

Surprisingly, I found myself reaching for a stylus more often when using my iPad than when using my iPod touch. This is counter to what you would think; since the screen is so much smaller on the iPod touch, it seems like you would want more precision there. I think it is because you don't have to move your hand as much with the smaller screen, so using your fingers on a small screen is more comfortable and precise. Drawing on the larger screen of the iPad requires more movement of the whole arm versus holding a stylus which only requires you to move your fingers and wrist. Well, that is my take on it anyway.

Typing on a smaller screen is another story. For that, a stylus can be more precise, but for me, it is just not convenient to reach for one on the rare instances when I'm going to be typing on my iPod touch. If you're an expert thumb-typer like my husband, then it would probably feel like a step backwards.

Another thing I learned about styli is that none of them are going to be as dependable as your finger on a touch screen. I put this to the test on a game where speed matters--Bejeweled. Although precision was improved by using a stylus, whatever gains came from that were lost to unreliability. There are times when stylus taps and drags just don't register as reliably as those made with the digit attached to your hand! In fact, there is one particular spot in my home where all the styli I tested failed miserably. Also, a stylus can't perform multi-touch gestures such as pinch, spread, and multi-finger swipes, so if you're thinking you'll never need to touch your screen again--think again.

Here are a few "pointers" regarding factors you'll want to consider when choosing a stylus for your iPad or other touch screen device:

  • Sensitivity - How hard or light do you need to touch the screen to register the stylus taps and drags? The lighter you need to touch the screen, the better.
  • Drag - This is similar to sensitivity but it relates more to the friction of a dragging motion, which is important for art applications. The tip material of the stylus will be what determines drag. Less drag or friction is better. You want the stylus tip to glide across the screen effortlessly.
  • Length - Judging by the design of most styli on the market, length is not something a lot of people consider--but it is important. You want a stylus with a length that corresponds to the size of the device you'll be using it with. With a short stylus on a larger device like the iPad, you are going to have your arm and hand blocking a good portion of the screen most of the time. With a stylus that corresponds to the size of your device, you will be able to see all of the screen.
Of course, there are other considerations--appearance, durability, convenience (does it have a clip?)--but these are secondary to the factors discussed above. Also, it's important to note that no stylus--whether it is a "pen" style or a "brush" style--has any effect on the style of your strokes. Since pressure- and tilt-sensitive tablets have not come to market yet, all stroke qualities are regulated by the software you are using. All the stylus options discussed here are alternatives to using your finger. They can improve the experience of painting or drawing, but they can't influence the stroke attributes outside of what the software is capable of.

So, how did each stylus I tested stack up? I'll start with the one I have had the longest--the Pogo.

Note: Since the original publication of this article, I have tested additional pen stylus designs which I have reviewed following the original three. I will continue to update this series with other stylus reviews as I encounter them, although I will be limiting my reviews only to styli with unique features for working with art applications.

Stylus Pen Reviews:

  1. Pogo Stylus and Pogo Sketch
  2. Brvsh Stylus
  3. Stylus-R-Us (Several Models)
  4. Stylus Socks Pro
  5. Nomad Brush (Original mil series)
  6. DAGi P501 and P503
  7. oStylus
  8. Wacom Bamboo Stylus solo
  9. XStylus Touch Transforming Stylus
  10. GoSmart Stylus Series 200 and 300
  11. Wacom Bamboo Stylus pocket
  12. TruGlide from LYNKtec
  13. Nomad FLeX Paintbrush Stylus
  14. Su-Pen Stylus from MetaMoJi
  15. Sensu Brush & Stylus in One
  16. TruGlide Pro Precision & Artist Paintbrush Tip
  17. Nomad Mini 2 Dual-Tip Brush/Nib Stylus
Electronic Stylus Pens:
  1. About.com
  2. Technology
  3. Graphics Software
  4. All About Graphics
  5. Hardware & Peripherals
  6. What's the Best iPad Stylus? - Choosing a Capacitive Stylus

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