Apple might have said "yuk!" to stylus pens but users are saying "yes!" in ever greater number. Apple might have had a point, back in the days before iPhones and iPads, when pointy old resistive stylus pens had to be used just to get outdated touch screens and inscrutable interfaces to work. But now there's a new generation of stylus pens for the new generation of capacitive touch screens. These stylus pens don't have to be used -- we want to use them. We want to use them for speed and accuracy, for comfort and creativity. We want to use them for take hand-written notes, to draw and paint, and to game. We want to use them to such an extent that, for many users, it's no longer a question of whether we should use a stylus pen -- but which one?
To answer that questions, iMore took a look at four of the most popular, high end stylus pens on the market -- The Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Pro, the SGP Kuel H12, the Adonit Jot Pro, and the Wacom Bamboo. We took a look at the build quality, durability, and capacitive performance of each one, and we tested them using Noteshelf and Penultimate, Procreate and Paper by 53, and Zuma's Revenge and Words with Friends.
And here's what we found...
How a stylus feels and how it holds up is as important as how it works. If its not comfortable in the hand for long periods of time, you won't keep using it. If it doesn't hold up to heavy use, you won't be able to keep using it. Now the Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Pro, the SGP Kuel H12, the Adonit Jot Pro, and the Wacom Bamboo are all pretty much pro-level stylus pens, which implies better quality, and longer lasting materials. But how do they compare?
The Wacom Bamboo stylus looks like a standard, straight-barrel pen with feed. It has a milled aluminum body with a satin-textured finish, and comes in black, white, blue, green, pink, and orange. The tip is completely soft to the point of being mushy, and it's the shortest of the stylus pens we tested.
We found the Wacom Bamboo to be the least comfortable of the group. The short length and the sharp feed made for a bad combination. The completely mushy tip was also a disappointment, as it provides almost no push-back without excessive pressure.
Because it's soft and oh, so mushy, there could be some concern about durability. We didn't have any problems at all, however.
The Adonit Jot Pro feels like a mechanical pencil or drafting pen, complete with a thin, hard metal tip... topped with a round plastic disk. There's a screw cap to protect the tip, and the The body is aluminum and steel, and will stick to the magnets around an iPad 2 or new iPad display. There's a rubber black grip area, and the metal section comes in black, silver, red, or blue.
Immediately familiar to anyone who's done technical drawing or drafting, the Adonit Jot Pro may take some getting used to for everyone else. The hard tip provides immediate pressure feedback but isn't quite as smooth as the other stylus pens. The disk provides excellent visibility for detailed line work, but doesn't feel natural for softer applications, like brushwork. It's also noisy when tapping or swiping, which can be distracting in a quiet setting.
Also, if the disc becomes damaged, the hard tip can cause scratches. As long as you pay attention, however, you can get replacement tips and avoid any problems.
The SGP Kuel H12 is built like a premium, high-end pen, complete with an elegant feed and a gently curved body and a tip that extends from the body with a twist. The silicon coated, high polymer tip is soft but it has a rigid insert roughly 2/3 of the way down. It comes in black, white, and silver.
Anyone who enjoys a good pen will enjoy using the SGP Kuel H12. From the weight to the material, it just feels right. The tip is soft but not as bad as the Bamboo, and quite smooth. While the width of the body can obscure the screen at times, overall it's very comfortable.
Some people have reported problems with the thinness of the tip, but ours has held up well. Just make sure you twist the pen to withdraw the cap if you intend to put it in a bag, pocket or purse. If you do have a problem with it, there's no way to replace just the tip.
The Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Pro eschews the standard pen shape for a long, tapered, forward weighted design. It has a solid aluminum unibody with a black, ergonomic grip. The tip is soft but becomes rigid about 1/3 of the way in. It has small holes punctured in it which Ten One claims increases capacitive performance. It comes in any color you want as long as that color is silver.
While the Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Pro doesn't look or feel like a traditional pen, it's still very comfortable to use. The front weighting means you can let gravity do some of the work for you, and even though the tip is soft, only the topmost part has any give. That makes for excellent performance.
Because of the perforations, the Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Pro might be subject to wear and tear, but our review units have been fine even under heavy use. You can also buy replacements tips, should you experience any problems.
The Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Pro, the SGP Kuel H12, the Adonit Jot Pro, and the Wacom Bamboo are all well constructed and they all use high quality materials. The Wacom Bamboo is the least comfortable based simply on the short length and sharpness of the feed. The Adonit Jot Pro will appeal most to technical writers and artists. The SGP Kuel H12 is fantastic, especially if you like the feel of a real pen. My personal favorite is the Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Pro. Then length and curve make it decidedly un-pen like, but also extremely comfortable. Replacement tips is icing on the cake.
Four way tie, with a slight edge to Adonit Jot Pro and Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Pro for the replaceable tips.
One of the primary uses for stylus pens on the iPad is note-taking. Whether it's simply to scribble down a few words or diagrams, or to write out long form text, a good note-taking stylus has to be comfortable and smooth, and well suited to both print and script.
The Wacom Bamboo is okay for note-taking. The completely soft tip doesn't provide the best feeling, and the capacitive performance isn't the best of the stylus pens we tested, but once you start writing script, you can keep it flowing. Print is a little more hit or miss.
The Adonit Jot Pro is good for very precise, very technical writing. The slightly rougher feel of the disk isn't the best for script, but if you're doing something very detailed or specific the accuracy could make up for it. However, and the hard metal tip creates a tapping sound when writing short strokes or block letters.
The Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Plus is excellent for note taking and is my personal favorite for quick note taking. The front weighting combined with the high level of capacitive performance makes it easy to start writing, and the smooth tip combined with the more solid base means it's easy to keep going. The extra length also allows for a little calligraphic flair, if you so choose.
The SGP Kuel H12 is Mobile Nations' favorite stylus pen for long form note taking. The solid, real pen feel makes it incredibly comfortable to use and the quality of the tip make note taking a breeze. If you want to write a short book with your stylus, the Kuel H12 is the one to consider.
With the caveat that the Adonit Jot Pro might better please precision note-takers, and the Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Pro those who want a little more calligraphic flare, the SGP Kuel H12 wins the note-taking crown.
The Wacom Bamboo is once again just okay for art and drawing. The short length and the mushy tip give less range and require more pressure to get solid feedback, which hurts the overall experience. Once you get a line going, it's fine, but putting paint on a page takes more effort than it ought to.
The SGP Kuel H12 is better for art and drawing. Its slightly longer and more curved, so it feels better, and the tip requires slightly less pressure than the Bamboo to get a good capacitive connection going. It works well for both line work and for brush work.
The Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Plus, by virtue of its long length, allows for really good lines and brush strokes. Again, the weighted top and the rigidity beneath the tip means it does a lot of the work for you, and it works well at almost any angle. For painting type applications, it's the best stylus we tested.
The Adonit Jot Pro simply excels at line work. Anyone who's ever done technical drawing, drafting, penciling, or inking work will feel instantly at home. The clear plastic disk at the tip lets you easily see exactly where you're working, and the Jot SDK means apps like Procreate can be especially tuned to work brilliantly with the Jot Pro. For anything detailed, the Jot Pro is best in class.
Both the SGP Kuel H12 and Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Plus are great general purpose stylus pens to use for art, and of the ones we tested, were the best for brush work as well. When it comes to any kind of line work, however, the specificity of the Adonit Jot Pro can't be beat.
The Adonit Jot Pro remains accurate thanks to its plastic disk, but that same hard disk can be very annoying when tap, tap, tapping away on your iPad during games like Zuma. For Draw Something it wasn't bad, but not as good as the soft tipped stylus pens for so casual a use.
The Wacom Bamboo finishes its streak as the most consistently okay but not great stylus we tested. For gaming, the mushy tip resulted in lower registry of capacitive contact than any of its competitors. The short body was also the least dynamic and least comfortable when used for extended gaming, though the soft tip was nicely quiet.
The SGP Kuel H12 was good for gaming, though the thickness of the body obscured more of the screen than I'd have liked. It had the second best capacitive registration average, however, and was easily comfortable enough to use for even long -- long -- gaming sessions.
The Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Plus was excellent for gaming. Out of all the stylus pens we gamed with, it had the highest accuracy and reliability, almost always hitting what I wanted and causing the iPad's capacitive touch sensors to register that hit successfully. The long length made reaching all areas of the screen quick, and the ergonomic design remained comfortable from beginning to end. This is my go-to gaming stylus.
While the SGP Kuel H12 put up a valiant fight, the Ten One Design's combination of forward weighting, excellent range, and awesome accuracy gave it the winning score.
The Wacom Bamboo performed the least well in our tests, yet costs the most at $29.95. Conversely, the SGP Kuel H12 was one of the best, yet only costs $19.95. The Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Plus and Adonit Jot Pro are in between.
Prices can vary a lot in the accessory market, and you can find sales that radically change the equation, but in general terms and unless you need something very specific, the SGP Kuel H12 is the best bang for your stylus pen buck.
Based on our results, and though several iMore staffers like it quite a bit, the Wacom Bamboo just doesn't match up to the other pro-level stylus pens on the market, and costs the most as well. Not a good combination.
If you're detail oriented and primarily do a lot of technical writing and drawing, the Adonit Jot Pro the best stylus for you. While it's not great at gaming, it'll do in a pinch, and note-taking works well enough when you get use to it. When our Editor-in-Chief wants to draw, he draws with the Jot Pro.
The SGP Kuel H12 is great, all around stylus pen. If a traditional pen look and feel is what you want, and long form note-taking is what you need, the Kuel H12 is the one to get. It's also a Mobile Nations favorite.
My favorite stylus of the four is the Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Pro. It doesn't feel like a traditional pen, but it consistently produced the best results for me in general, and was the best stylus pen we tested when it came to gaming.
So this is how it plays out -- the Adonit Jot Pro is very good but is more of a specialist tool. You'll know if it's best for you. It then comes down to the SGP Kuel H12 and the Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Pro. The Kuel H12 is cheaper, but the Pogo Sketch Pro has replaceable tips. The Kuel H12 feels more like a premium pen but the non-traditional design of the Pogo Sketch Pro has several advantages. Since they both perform so well yet look so different, you can probably tell at a glance which one you prefer. Many here at Mobile Nations love the Kuel H12. But at the end of the day, due to its excellent design and superior overall performance, the winner of our shootout is...
The Ten One Design Pogo Sketch Pro.