Four years after Apple announced the first iPad, styluses have had ample opportunity to become stale. Apple has never directly acknowledged or supported the product category: third-party developers have had to create alternatives entirely on their own, and Apple hasn’t improved iPad screens to make them more stylus-friendly, either. Despite that, many companies have iterated upon the earliest rubber dome-based styli to create options better-suited to writing and drawing. Today, we’re looking at two of the latest releases, Lynktec’s TruGlide Apex ($60) and Nomad Brush’s Nomad Mini 2 ($35). Neither is so thoroughly new as to merit a detailed review, but each brings a little something distinctive to the table.
Highly similar to several other digital styluses that debuted at the 2014 CES, TruGlide Apex is best understood as a more affordable and less sophisticated version of Adonit’s late 2013 Jot Script. Unlike Jot Script, which combined a 1.9mm metal tip with a Bluetooth 4 chip and a AAA battery, TruGlide Apex has a 2.4mm rubber tip, no Bluetooth chip, and a thinner but less common AAAA battery inside. Electricity helps the tip get recognized by the iPad’s touch sensors, and the battery will run for approximately one month of daily 30-minute use before requiring replacement. Lynktec provides you with two total tips and two AAAA batteries so that you won’t need to buy spares right away, and uses a primarily metal housing that looks and feels quite nice.
While the black plastic and black chrome body of the TruGlide Apex we tested was slightly slippery to the touch, five indentations in the metal near the tip give fingers a place to rest and grip when writing. A large plastic rear end on the stylus’s barrel screws in one direction to turn power on, triggering a small blue light near the tip, and turning the light and tip off when screwed in the other direction. We strongly prefer this turn-based power mechanism to the buttons found on most digital styluses, though it does require you to remember to turn the power off — a step that some styluses are eliminating in favor of automatic deactivation after a period of inactivity.
Used with the power off, TruGlide Apex cannot be sensed by any iPad’s screen — the tip is just too small. But once the power’s on, it can be used with literally any app that would otherwise rely on finger or larger-tipped stylus input, without the need for special app-specific code or a Bluetooth connection. This is a double-edged sword: on one hand, you are guaranteed that TruGlide Apex will let you write with a relatively small tip in any app you love, and you’ll see the benefits immediately. There’s no lag between pressing and input, and writing as about as good as one could hope for without proper Apple improvements to the touch sensors in iPad screens. Handwriting still isn’t perfect, but it’s tighter and more legible than with blunt tips — some of the best we’ve seen, if not the best.
On the other hand, TruGlide Apex’s missing Bluetooth eliminates certain advantages that Jot Script and other battery-powered styli tend to include. Hardware-assisted palm rejection, commonly enabled in Bluetooth 4-based styli, is left entirely to software here, so if an app doesn’t differentiate between TruGlide Apex’s input and the hand that’s resting on the screen, you’ll have problems writing in that position. Results of our testing were mixed between apps: one with software-based palm rejection did an OK rather than perfect job of picking TruGlide Apex input over a resting hand, while others without palm rejection were completely messed up when challenged in this way. There’s also no pressure sensitivity in TruGlide Apex, so varied levels of inflow are again left to the app to estimate on its own. Despite Jot Stylus’s higher price, you do get a lot more hardware potential from that design, although software support for its Bluetooth-enabled features remains limited.
Although there’s certainly a market for more affordable fine-tipped iPad writing tools, TruGlide Apex’s $60 price point makes it a good rather than great option — from our perspective, there’s not enough of a price gap between this and Jot Script to justify Apex’s functional omissions, and some users will be further put off by the inconvenience factors of monthly battery swaps and hunts for obscure AAAA cells. With several functionally near-identical rivals headed to market in the next couple of months at lower prices, TruGlide Apex will either thrive due to its nice design or need a price drop to stand on par with competitors. We’d call it a nice stylus that does pretty much what you’d expect; it’s worthy of our general-level recommendation.
Editor’s Note: Following publication of this review, Lynktec delivered an extra piece that it intends to include in TruGlide Apex packages—a synthetic leather carrying case with a soft green lining. This component may increase the value proposition for some users; it doesn’t smell particularly good, but it looks enough like leather to class up the stylus a little.
Company and Price
Model: TruGlide Apex
Compatible: All iPads, iPhones + iPod touches