I think the key to a good tablet stylus is the balance and weight of the item. I’ve used a handful of stylus with my iPad that looked nice but didn’t quite have the proper feel when drawing or writing on the tablet’s screen. While I think it’s impossible to forget you’re holding a stylus and not an actual pen, I have found a few styluses that come close to truly mimicing a pen’s feel.
I’ve reviewed the Wacom Stylus for iPad previously, and as I stated in that review, I’m still quite taken with it and still find certain games and apps much easier to use with the smaller tip of the stylus (versus my fingertip). It also has a small rubber tip that has just the right amount of resistance and keeps my brain from thinking I’m scratching up the screen.
Recently I got a chance to review a new stylus that was a successfully funded project over at Indiegogo.com. The XStylus Touch for iPad has some similarities to the Wacom (mainly the rubber tip) but also some major differences.
First, the design of the XStylus is somewhat unique. A solid piece of polished stainless steel is pinned between a white or black plastic pen body so that it can be rotated 180 degrees — when the alloy piece is inserted between the black plastic, the plastic expands giving the stylus an thin oval shape that mimics a traditional medium-thickness pen. This rotation also lengthens the stylus and gives it that balance that I spoke of earlier. It’s got some definite weight to it, and feels like a metal pen. The nub is actually just a bit smaller than the one on the Wacom, and after a period of trial and error, my brain/hand coordination now gives me that accuracy that I enjoy while using certain apps.
At first, I was worried about the point of rotation where steel meets plastic. But the use of a metal star-headed screw and matching nut (difficult to see how they mate, so I may have my terminology wrong) appear to be holding strong through hundreds of openings and closings (and many more hundreds while sitting on the couch watching TV and just bending it back and forth to test its quality). Long story short — the point of rotation seems to be rock solid.
I don’t have any information yet on replacement rubber tips, but my experience with the Wacom stylus tells me that the rubber tips won’t last forever. I ordered a replacement 3-pack and have already broken into the first replacement after just two months usage. I’ve been told that similar replacement tips will become available for the XStylus soon.
The one extra feature that was advertised during the XStylus fundraiser was the small magnetic clip that is included. The clip is inserted into the charger port at the bottom of the iPad and a strong magnet holds the alloy core firmly in place. Unfortunately, I am unable to use the magnetic clip because I use a Dodo case and when the iPad is seated properly the bamboo frame’s edge prevents the clip from inserting all the way in — forcing it will simply break the plastic clip and/or damage the bamboo frame. The other problem I had with the clip was more a personal preference — I just don’t like the stylus being held at the bottom of the iPad. I removed the iPad from the case to test the clip and I just didn’t like the look or feel of having it at the bottom — I’d much prefer to attach a stylus on the side of the iPad if possible, but again… that’s just my preference.
Note: I’d like to thank Heather H. for providing an XStylus Touch test unit.