While it’s unanimously agreed that Apple made the right choice by shifting the touchscreen paradigm away from styluses and towards finger-based input, it’s equally understood that fingers — particularly big ones — are less than ideal tools for writing and drawing with precision. As iPads continue to grow in popularity and capabilities, the demand for styluses and similar tools has similarly increased, so we’ve seen a wide variety of new options appear in recent months from different developers. Today, we’re looking at seven new styluses, none of which demands a full-length review, but each has one or two interesting features that distinguish it from versions we’ve previously covered. Though we do have one or two picks that are higher-rated than others, it needs to be said up front that there’s no single “winner” in this particular collection, since this latest crop of styluses have substantially different shapes and thus will feel “right” in various hands and situations. If you’re looking for a precise writing tool, several of the options are better than others, but if you want a way to play a virtual guitar in GarageBand, you’ll want a totally different stylus that is commensurately poor for writing.
Three of today’s styluses come from the same company: Elago, which originally released an inexpensive but completely generic and overpriced stylus called just Stylus. Thankfully, each of the new styluses is comparatively distinctive. Stylus Slim ($20) is a 4.9”-long anodized aluminum tube in your choice of six colors, each shipped with a set of two identical screw-in metal and rubber tips. StylusPick ($15) is a rounded triangular-shaped black rubber, plastic, and microfiber guitar pick with a four-inch cable and headphone plug attachment sticking out from its top. And Stylus Rustic ($45) is a 4.5”-long metal and wooden tube, packaged with two identical screw-in tips and a leather carrying pouch.
As similar as these styluses may be in broad concept, the differences in their materials and size make for substantially different usage experiences. As noted above, StylusPick is the real standout in this category, providing guitarists with an excellent option for strumming virtual strings, using the soft padded microfiber back surface as a comfortable way to hold the stylus. When it’s not in use, you can just plug the elastic cord’s plastic tip into the headphone port on your iPad, then safely pull the plug out as needed. But the stylus surface, which runs all around StylusPick’s edges, is all but useless for other purposes. Otherwise somewhat readable handwriting became illegible with this tool, which isn’t a surprise. Considered for its intended purpose, it’s worthy of our general recommendation and flat B rating; just enter the purchase with your eyes open as to its virtues and limitations.
Stylus Slim and Stylus Rustic demonstrate just how differently length and thickness can impact the legibility of handwriting. Stylus Slim’s all-metal body is weighted nicely—far better than the thin metal tubes produced by generic OEM stylus makes—and feels cool and matte-finished to the touch. It’s only a little less comfortable than some of our favorite styluses, but offering some neat colors as options that go well beyond the common blacks and silvers we’ve seen elsewhere. Morevoer, writing was easy, and we felt like we were able to control the stylus tip almost as well as with the longer and more deluxe Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Pro. While Stylus Slim isn’t going to blow anyone away with its minimalist design, it works well and offers enough to justify its asking price. It’s worthy of a B rating and general recommendation.
But with Stylus Rustic, which sells for more than twice the price, our results were less positive. Rustic is the same thickness as Just Mobile’s super-chunky AluPen, only with no grip because its body is circular rather than hexagonal. You can choose from Moabi or Walnut wood versions, both very similar to one another in person, albeit with modest differences in color and grain. Unfortunately, we found it harder to hold Stylus Rustic comfortably, and unless we really tried hard to be more precise, our writing suffered a little by comparison with Slim—not a night and day difference, but one that we could feel. This is a nice-looking option, though definitely nichey, and solely for people who appreciate the look of wood enough to pay a steep premium for it. It’s worthy of a limited recommendation.
Company and Price
Company: Elago Design
Compatible: All iPod touches, iPhones, iPads