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Stylus review - choosing from the pick of the bunch

Choosing a stylus

Here at Mobile Office we are big fans of the stylus. There are some real ergonomic benefits to using them, like improving wrist posture, eliminating strain from repetitive finger movement and 'text claw', and for those of us with oversized digits – avoiding 'fat-finger' errors!

But how to choose between them?


There are literally hundreds to choose from though; smart ones, simple ones, long ones, short ones, chunky ones, skinny ones etc. etc. How do you decide what would suit you best?

Here we review three stalwarts of the simple stylus world. By simple we mean they don't include any smart stuff like Bluetooth, palm rejection, batteries etc. Basically simple styluses are a stick, with a bit on the end that your device's screen can sense when it touches it.

Why just simple styluses?

Why are we just looking at simple styluses – well, firstly they are cheap – to the point of being almost disposable. You certainly wouldn't panic much if you left one on a train or in a café. Also, for most people they are all you need. Smart styluses are more expensive, need charging and are really just worth it if you are doing real high end design or drawing. We're thinking business – scrolling, tapping out text, selecting apps etc., rather than creating art.

The shortlist


Our search for the ultimate stylus originally narrowed down to two big hitters – the Bamboo Solo Gen4 ( 4 th generation Solo stylus from Wacom - blue in picture) and the Adonis Mark (silver - left hand side of picture). Wew have compared them using ratings from 1 (top – all good) to 3 (bottom – 'could do better'). Why 3? Well, we've also been a bit cheeky and included a third option – from a previous generation of Bamboo styluses – the CS-100 (green and silver in picture)– because they are still quite widely available, they are cheap as chips and they are really very good.

Ease of use

Because these types of stylus are so simple, there are just three main things to think about for ease of use:

  • How much pressure you need to use for them to be detected by a device screen (low pressure = good)
  • Maximum angle they can realistically be used at (the greater the angle they can write at, the better we like it)
  • Stickiness of the nib (we don't really like sticky nibs)
Here's how they stack up:

Pressure

1. Bamboo CS-100
2. Bamboo Solo Gen.4
3. Adonit Mark

We tested (very approximately) the pressure you have to press using the styluses, to open an app, type a key or draw a line. The CS-100 performed best, with an average 45g pressure (really nice and light), Gen.4 averaged 82g which although nearly double, wasn't that noticeable a difference to the CS-100, but the Adonit Mark averaged around 165g pressure. The difference between the Adonit Mark and the Bamboos was definitely noticeable. The Bamboos both felt like a natural writing pressure, whereas the Mark needed really noticeable 'affirmative pressure' to interact with the screen. Maybe not an issue if you are naturally heavy-handed, but it could be an issue otherwise.

Useful angle of use

1. Bamboo Solo Gen.4
=2. Adonit Mark
=2 Bamboo CS-100

The maximum 'useful' angles we measured were around 50degrees for all three styluses. BUT – the Solo Gen.4 has a plastic nib-surround – so there is no risk of scratches on your screen if you tilt too far. Not really a problem for most people because we tend to keep pens / styluses fairly upright but if you let your 3 year old use them or you kind of forget yourself when you are using them, and you don't have a screen protector on – could mean scratches :-/ !!

Stickiness of the nib

1. Adonit Mark
2. Bamboo Gen.4
3. Bamboo CS-100

Wow – the Adonit Mark steals this particular one. Unlike the rubber nibs on the Bamboo offerings, the Mark has a fibre-mesh tip which is ultra smooth gliding. The Bamboos, to be fair, are not really sticky at all but they do offer slightly more resistance to sliding (but not so much as to judder etc. – they are still nice and smooth).

Weight and balance

Weight is a tricky one. It is nice for a writing type implement to have a nice solid feel to it but you don't want it too heavy. On the other hand every gram counts if you have a million other things you need to carry in your bag.

All three styluses have a good solid well-made feel but the Adonit is the heavy-weight – in a nice sculptural way though - like it has been hewn from a solid block of metal (maybe it has?). The Adonit is approximately 22g, whereas the CS-100 and Gen.4 are 10g and 9g respectively. A noticeable difference between the Adonit and the Bamboos then.

The Adonit has a consistent weight all along its length, the Bamboos (particularly the Gen.4) are more nib-heavy, but not in a bad way, they feel nicely balanced. So it's up to you on weight; are you looking for something that saves you grams? Or are you looking for something a bit heftier?

Nib replacement


The Bamboos have replaceable nibs, the Adonit Mark doesn't. The Adonit website suggests that the fibre-tip nib is specially selected because of its longevity and that it will go for a long long long time before it falls to bits. Having seen and felt it we believe that to some extent. On the other hand it is good to be able to replace nibs because they can get damaged, especially if you are throwing the stylus in and out of bags etc.

Hmm - still not sure? Read on...

We love the look of the Adonit Mark, we wanted it to do better in the pressure test. It is a coffee table conversation piece, like a little mini sculpture sat there looking all silver and beautiful. But ultimately, real world, that additional pressure you need to use it could get a bit annoying. So for us it's between the Bamboos – they are both really smooth, nicely weighted and look good. We prefer the CS-100 for looks because of the part-metal finish and the combination of silver and colour – nice. On the other hand the Solo Gen.4 has a smidgen smoother nib, it's a bit longer and the plastic nib-surround is a real-world bonus.

Ah but what about the price?


Let's be honest, none of these will break the bank. The Bamboo CS-100 can be found on Amazon for just £6.25p. The Bamboo Solo Gen.4 is for sale at £16.99p and the Adonit Mark is on at £10.99. So there is quite a price range. Is the £10 higher price of the Gen.4 compared to the CS-100 worth the difference? Frankly, we don't really think so, the CS-100 is a great stylus. The problem is that the CS-100 is no longer being made so stocks will eventually run out – so buy buy buy them while you can! In time the price of the Gen.4 will probably come down.

Does the price difference between the Adonit Mark and the Gen.4 make sense – is it worth paying the extra for the Gen.4? It pains us to say it but honestly? Yes – if you have to decide on just one. For us the pressure needed to use the Adonit and its lack of scope for nib replacement the tips the decision in favour of the Solo Gen.4 despite the latter's higher price.

Conclusions

If you are looking for a stylus that is bafflingly good value, well made and great looking and basically really very good – get the Bamboo CS-100. Buy one while you can, you won't regret it. Definitely don't think that just because it is inexpensive it is 'cheap' - it is a quality piece of kit.

If you want a stylus that is a bit more expensive, the 'latest' and is truly excellent – get the Bamboo Solo Gen.4.

If you have one of the other two styluses for work, or if you are a tad heavy handed, and if it won't get into the hands of children, OR if you just like owning beautiful things, treat yourself to the Adonit Mark mini-sculpture and see how you get on with it – for just £10 who could blame you!?!!

Hopefully in future generations of the Adonit Mark, the pressure sensitivity and nib-replacement issues will be sorted and improved. If and when they are, we will definitely be upgrading!

If you are a large international designer, manufacturer and purveyor of fine styluses why not get in touch and see how your products match up to these!