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Sunday, April 22, 2012

2012 Tablet and Stylus Review: Which is the best Stylus there is for you?

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With iPad drawing apps like Paper, it makes sense to use something more precise than a finger to sketch on the tablet. The one you want is the product of a humble Kickstarter project with a better tip than any other stylus on the market: the Adonit Jot Mini.

Before we talk about the Adonit, lets talk about the elephant in the room: the Wacom's Bamboo Stylus. Macworld’s Serenity Caldwell liked how the Bamboo was weighted evenly for precision drawing, and thought it worth the $30 pricetag. CNET agreed. The artist David Hockney who illustrated several New Yorker covers even uses one. But the Bamboo is only an ok stylus.

The Bamboo is by Wacom, the legendary pen interface company, but Wired called it “still just a dumb pen.” PopSci found it frustrating to dot "i"s. And while iLounge's Jeremy Horwitz, gave the Bamboo a B rating for its unimpressive writing performance that matched that of cheaper models. On the other hand, iLounge gave the Adonit Mini a "A-", and iLounge knows Apple accessories better than anyone.

Here's the key: Instead of the usual fat nub of most stylus, the Adonit Jot has a fine tip that sits on a plastic floating puck so it can produce clean lines that you can actually see while you scribe.

Charlie Sorrel, for Wired, said more: “Even the skinniest stylus has a problem: it has a fat tip that hides the part of the screen you’re actually interested in.” Adonit’s line fixes the problem with a ballpoint attached to a clear capacitive disk that lets you see what you're drawing and writing.

 

Nick Guy at iLounge says, “We’re confident that Adonit knows what it’s doing when it comes to styluses. The company has…created two great products, either of which will appeal to users seeking a more precise tool for art or simple note taking.” Since the Jot has no tether (like the one that plugs into the headphone jack on Boxwave’s model), you’ll want the pocket clip on the Mini, that doesn't come on the Jot Pro or Jot Classic. But don’t worry too much about losing it — if you have a New iPad or an iPad 2, the Mini, unlike other plastic styluses, will cling to the magnetic face. Yes, the tip is more fragile than rubber, but the Mini's cap, when removed, fits on the butt end so you won’t lose it.

 

Ellis Hamburger from The Verge says, "As is evident by the image at right, the Jot Pro is quite precise but skews whichever direction the stylus is leaning in. The Bamboo is less precise, but is on average more even no matter which way you hold it. Still, the Adonit is unparalleled when it comes to making a mark exactly where you want to while drawing or writing." (Although they liked the Bamboo better in the end, which I do not necessarily agree with given the quote above.)

Is it perfect? Of course not. The Jot isn't ideal for navigating, something you should be doing with your fingers anyway. So, screw using that as a criteria. More importantly, there's a price to pay for this amount of precision: The clear plastic puck that sits on the tip of Adonit has been the target of complaints about stiffness and needing a bit of oil at times.If left uncapped, could be broken, too. And you must clean it before using it–some people have complained about scratched screens when used without a protector.

Competition is thin. There's the Alupen, which looks like a pencil, is weighted nicely, comes with extra tips, and has Scandinavian design.  Wired said that, for a rubber tip, the AluPen glides across the screen, but it still has a slippery metal body and a fat tip. The rest are from the usual cast of accessory makers like Belkin, (including the Belkin that doubles as an overpriced $30 pen), Griffin, and Targus. Brands like iFaraday have experimented with fabric tips and other materials, but rubber is better. AmazonBasics usually gets everything right but their stylus also has a fat tip. This pressure sensitive iPad stylus need app support (few/none do) so I dismissed these as well. People on twitter love the hell out of the cosmonaut, too, because its rubber tip is harder and less mushy, but it's a bit of a hulk, and according to Ellis Hamburger at the Verge, too clumsy to get fine details right. PC Mag also didn't like it.

Adonit has a Pro version of the Mini, which is missing the pocket clip but has a magnetic body that can be used to latch it to the magnets inside of the iPad. It's 2 bucks extra so it's also a fine pick. (Ryan from GDGT, who is picky about pens, prefers the pro.) The Bamboo is an ok choice, if you don't want to deal with the plastic tip of the Jot mini, but I'd implore you to consider the notion that if you're going to write with a fat tipped stylus, you might as well use a finger.

The Jot Mini is a precision scalpel that fixes a problem previously inherent to other styluses that kept most reviewers from recommending them at all. It's a Model T amongst rubber-tip buggys, and a bargain at $22.

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