As an infographics artist, I rely on a Wacom drawing tablet to get sketches into my computer. Drawing on the iPad has been challenging due to the limitations of the typical rubber-tipped stylus: difficulty in seeing what's under the wide stylus tip, and the headache of accidental taps caused by other parts of my hand resting on the iPad screen.
We evaluated a current crop of styluses, to see which ones are the most helpful on the iPad Air. Of course, the iPad Pro has the Apple Pencil. Unfortunately, other iPads, such as the Air and the mini, cannot pair with the Pencil, so I ruled that out.
A rubber-tipped capacitive stylus interacts with the screen the same way your fingertip does, so it is ready to use instantly. An active stylus contains a battery and must be powered on for the iPad to recognize it. Active styluses often have smaller, hard-plastic nibs in place of the rubber tip, making this type of stylus more precise.
What we like: Hard-plastic tip proved precise at everything except small-scale drawing. Particularly good in the Bamboo Paper app. Feels much like a regular pen. Pocket clip snaps securely to protect the tip. Extra nibs and battery are included.
What we don't like: Function button is located right where my fingers grip the pen barrel, causing constant mistake clicks. Lacks enough precision for satisfactory handwriting.
Verdict: Best of the active styluses.
What we like: Doubles as a paintbrush, if you switch the cap. Rubberized collar near the tip offers an accurate grip. Works without Bluetooth. Very precise and accurate marks can be made with either tip.
What we don't like: Writing with a brush didn't really work for me, but with the rubber tip on the stylus's cap, the writing experience was average.
Verdict: Great for an artist who wants the paintbrush experience.
What we like: Inexpensive. Three capacitive rubber tips in different sizes included. Good ergonomics for a small stylus. Average writing experience. Good precision for a capacitive stylus. Pocket clip, protective cap covers on one end.
What we don't like: Tips are squishy, causing drag against the glass.
Verdict: Not a bad choice.
What we like: Doubles as a ruler and level. Works as a pen. Feels just like a mechanical pencil. Offers good precision for a capacitive stylus.
What we don't like: Writing experience is nothing special.
Verdict: Only for people who need a ruler, level, pen and stylus on them simultaneously, and who don't mind an average writing experience.
What we like: Inexpensive. Smallish stylus barrel is usable. Average precision.
What we don't like: Squishy rubber tip that flattens out and drags on the glass.
Verdict: Good for a basic, inexpensive rubber-tip stylus.
What we like: Looks exactly like a No. 2 pencil. Average precision and writing experience.
What we don't like: Feels like a piece of plastic. Eraser on the back end is just hard plastic with no functionality.
Verdict: Really just for fans of No. 2 pencils.
What we like: Magnetic body easily sticks to the iPad, or you can use the adhesive-backed mounting plate. Includes spare tip in keychain case.
What we don't like: Average all around. Neodymium magnets have the potential to damage credit card strips or other electronics. Flat spots on the barrel make it uncomfortable to hold. No palm rejection.
Verdict: I wouldn't recommend it.
What we like: Luxurious 23-karat gold plating exterior. Impressively small stylus tip. Feels much like a quality fountain pen. Extra nibs and battery included.
What we don't like: Poor writing experience and poor precision. In most drawing apps, lines became wavy, as though the tip were constantly being thrown off. Too expensive. Tip does not retract, and there's no cap to protect it. Seems effective only when used with one of two compatible apps. Cannot be paired with the iPad, and doesn't connect over Bluetooth.
Verdict: Don't buy it.
The Adonit Pixel is so smart it knows when you've picked it up. That's when it powers up. It works with the iPad as well as other tablets. It features 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, shortcut buttons, palm rejection and offset corrections. And it connects with the tablet via Bluetooth. The 1.9mm tip will allow for super accurate drawings.
What we like: Very fine, 1.9mm tip; Comfortable, soft-touch plastic; What we don't like: Have to press hard for it to register; Difficult to use with screen protectors; Takes 2 hours to charge; Verdict:A solid effort, but you should splurge for something easier to use.