Most of the styluses we’ve received for testing over the past five years have been me-too designs from the same several factories, and some have been so similar to others that we’ve passed on even covering them. Thankfully, LunaTik has never taken the simple “clone it” approach of most rivals; rather, the company spun off from Scott Wilson’s design house Minimal set the highest bar for the iPod nano watch band genre, and now its Touch Pens are repeating that feat for iOS styluses. Sold in separate Touch Pen Polymer ($20, aka just “Touch Pen”) and Touch Pen Alloy ($40) versions, these new hybrid stylus-pens enable some of the highest precision input we’ve yet seen on iPad screens, as well as excellent ink-based writing on paper.
Both versions of the Touch Pen have the same core features: a six-inch long pipe with a dome-shaped rubber tip and a retractable 0.7mm Japanese rollerball pen. While Touch Pen Polymer contains an unbranded plastic ink cartridge and Alloy has a LunaTik-branded metal ink cartridge, both sport metal tips that arrive capped with just a little clear plastic to prevent leakage during shipment. Once the cap is removed, each rollerball writes with the sort of smooth, quick-drying liquid ink that designers and writers love for the slightly organic edges. Apart from the risk of ink leakage during airplane flights, these pens are the exact sort that we’d want to carry everywhere; both Touch Pens can have their cartridges replaced when they’ve been expended.
The Touch Pens diverge in materials and pricing. Touch Pen Polymer is made from glossy, lightweight plastic in your choice of five colors—white, black, green, pink, or blue—apart from the uniformly black rubber tip and a hexagonal metal screw on the back end. It feels solid and well made when considered in isolation, only becoming less impressive when compared directly to its more expensive brother.
Touch Pen Alloy is made from anodized aluminum in either silver, black, or red, each with a black rubber tip and a contrast-colored metal shirt clip. Between the strong metal body and internal metal ink cartridge, Touch Pen Alloy has a fantastically substantial weight and feels ready for virtually any writing or sketching task. Each model feels great by the standards of its price, but Touch Pen Alloy is the one we’d want, ourselves.
From a functional standpoint, it’s difficult to fault LunaTik’s choice of materials or implementation of the stylus tip. We had suspected that the Touch Pens would fall below the precision standards of Adonit’s excellent, hard-tipped Jot styluses, but in testing we managed to achieve the same overall crispness of writing with each developer’s design. That said, there were differences: Touch Pen’s comfort enabled us to get very close to the feel of using a regular pen, which aided considerably in fluid writing on an iPad’s screen, while Jot’s fine tip made it easier to correct little mistakes, dot i’s, and see precisely where we were writing at all times. Moreover, Touch Pen’s soft tip somehow wrote more finely and with less pressure than one would guess from its size, while Jot’s hard tip reassuringly clicked on the iPad’s screen like a pen. Each had advantages; Touch Pen’s is that it offers equally impressive digital and analog writing in a straightforward, familiar form factor.
If there’s any small criticism worth leveling at both Touch Pens, it’s a recent change that is not obvious from LunaTik’s web site or initial design images: the top rubber grip has been changed a little from the pre-production version shown in red here. Originally designed with a micro-square pattern on everything save for the stylus dome, the entire tip is now smooth from top to bottom. While the original design was a little fancier, and helped the Touch Pens look like more than just smooth tubes with shirt clips, the tips have been changed on Touch Pen packages and other LunaTik printed materials, so we’re guessing that the old design is gone for good.
Overall, each of LunaTik’s Touch Pens is independently worthy of our high recommendation. Touch Pen Polymer is a great $20 stylus and pen, offering high-quality ink and digital pen capabilities in an attractive, lightweight body. Similarly, Touch Pen Alloy is a great $40 alternative, adding the sort of metallic weight and finish users should expect from a premium Apple accessory. Either version will deliver better results as a pure stylus than most of the rivals we’ve tested, and when you consider how well-implemented the classic pen feature is, you’ll wonder why no one tried this before. Kudos to LunaTik on yet another smart, sharply-executed set of designs.
Company and Price
Company: Minimal Inc.
Model: Touch Pen
Compatible: All iPads, iPhones, iPod touches