Using your finger for some tasks on iPhone and iPad doesn’t give the best results. Taking notes longhand, drawing, and painting tends not to work as well with the width of a finger compared to a narrower stylus. Both in my professional work and in my artwork, I have a need for note taking apps and for drawing apps, and very often a finger is just not accurate enough. I’ve tried five styli to get a feel of a real pencil, pen or art tool: the Bamboo from Wacom, the Vivitar iPad Stylus, the Targus stylus, the Pogo Sketch and the Pogo Professional.
These were tested using two apps, a note taking app to decide if the stylus did writing tasks well, and a drawing app to decide how well it worked with a pen tool and brush tool.
Wacom Bamboo: From a company that makes graphics tablets, one would expect that they would know a few things about graphics input. In the Bamboo, they do deliver for the artist. While at first glance to have to be a wide input area, that is deceptive. The barrel of the device is wider (8mm) and tapers to 5mm, which is slightly larger than the pogo plus in diameter. It also is the heaviest with a solid barrel compared to hollow barrel for most styli. The Bamboo feels like the weight of your favorite pastel or graphite stick. At a length of 120mm, it also handles the most like a traditional artist’s tool. In all the uses I tried, it provided an excellent experience and responded to the touch screen both on my iPad with a protective screen and with the thick protective cover of my Otter Box on my iPhone. When writing long hand on the note-taking app, it did get a little heavy in the hand so it’s not best for long note taking sessions.
Vivitar Stylus for IPad: This one I picked up in an office supply store when I forgot my stylus one day. It’s very big compared to the others with a barrel and tip diameter of 10mm and a total length of 150mm, but I thought that with its tapered point all you would need is the thin edge. Unfortunately in actual use on my iPad and iPhone 4, the only way to get any contact was to have the entire surface on the device, which makes for a very cramped holding of the stylus. It’s near impossible to write with or to draw with and is so big it’s hard to store with your tablet.
Targus stylus: Targus is the middle of the road stylus and there are more than a few very cheap knock offs of this exact stylus. At 125mm long and 7mm diameter, it worked okay, and on every surface, but it’s not as accurate as the smaller styli. It also feels wrong for painting, though I haven’t been able to find what precisely I don’t like. While smaller than the Vivitar, it’s still too big to fit well into an artist’s hand. It is light enough to do a good job for note taking for long periods of time.
Pogo Stylus: This has been my favorite stylus for many months. It’s the smallest of the units tested at 11mm long and 4mm barrel radius. It’s one drawback it that it is very easy to lose them – I’ve gone through three so far, but in that time I’ve never had one wear out. It is super light as well and so there is little change of hand fatigue. Until I tried the Bamboo, I would have thought lighter is better, but there is a better balance in the hand with the bamboo. Think this is more a style thing: how you hold a piece of pastel or conte crayon in traditional media would dictate which one of these you like more.
The last one I’ll review is the Pogo Professional. There is no picture of this one like the others. I threw it out the same weekend I bought it. This was a disappointment since I had thought the more solid body but thin profile like the pogo stylus would work wonderfully. It looked really cool but failed completely. First, I found it has a difficult time being sensed by the iPhone and iPad. I needed to remove my Otter Box case to work on my iPhone, so apparently it requires a naked device to use. Secondly, and more annoying, after only one painting, I had shredded both tips which come with the stylus. Reading some of the reviews on amazon.com, I’m not the only person who had these problems. I’d save your money and avoid this one.
In the final tally, I think the Bamboo and Pogo Stylus are the two best of the ones I use for drawing and painting. The differences are more about how one holds the stylus than any difference between the two in performance. If writing longhand notes, I’d go Pogo or Targus, as the Bamboo’s strength as an art tool is a weakness in note taking.