Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

It’s Back-To-School month, and all through the month you’ve had chances to win great back-to-school items such as the ASUS VivoBook X202E touchscreen laptop, the Timbuk2 Power Q laptop backpack and a custom-made budget gaming PC. Today we’re taking a different direction, and testing an item that’s among the hardest to choose. A stylus.

The market is literally flooded with styluses, which makes this a very hard choice. In the past, we’ve tested three budget styluses only to find out that paying $10 for a stylus tends to get you what you paid for. Don’t worry, we’re not going to look at super expensive styluses today, but at the cream of the crop of affordable ones — the five that are considered the best, the most unique, and the most popular. These styluses should not cost you much more than $30, and all of them are worth it. But which one is worth it the most?

Today we’ll be looking at the Adonit Jot Pro, the Wacom Bamboo, the Studio Neat Cosmonaut, the JustMobile AluPen and the Applydea Maglus. Excited already? So are we, but it doesn’t end here. As usual, one lucky reader will win all these awesome styluses, and get to enjoy a whole new perspective of his or her smartphone and tablet! If you’re not sure you want one, free ones are always the best way to go. Read on to find out how.

Introduction

Comparing five different styluses is not an easy task. Each has a completely different packaging, shape and style, each is made for different devices (although most are “made for iPad”), and each excels at different tasks. But this is why we’re here today, to help you find out which one of these great styluses will be the best choice for you, your needs, and your devices.

styluses 1   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

When it comes to prices, these styluses range from very affordable to just a bit expensive, so there’s an option for every pocket. Regardless of price, these are all good styluses with shining reviews, which we took for a spin to see what all the fuss was about.

The most affordable one of the bunch is the Wacom Bamboo Solo, which comes in six different colors and ranges in price between $11-$18.5 on Amazon, depending on color. Wacom offers a whole line of styluses, from the $15 Mini that plugs in to your earphone jack, to the $80 Feel Carbon. The Solo, which we’ll be reviewing today, is the most affordable option by Wacom, but there’s a whole range of good-quality styluses worth checking out.

Next up is the JustMobile AluPen, which you can get in eight different colors, ranging from $20-$24 on Amazon. JustMobile also offers the $36 AluPen Pro, a thinner version of the AluPen that comes with a real pen as well as the regular rubber stylus tip.

alupen pro   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

The Studio Neat Cosmonaut is the most unique-looking of the bunch, and made a splash with its successful Kickstarter project more than two years ago. That’s right, the Cosmonaut is not exactly new, but it remains unique in the field, and at $25 and just one variety, there are no tough choices to make.

Speaking of unique, the Adonit Jot Pro stands out from the crowd for not having a rubber tip. It comes in four different colors, which range between $27-$30 on Amazon. Also available on Amazon is the Jot Pro’s older sibling, the “first generation” Jot Pro, which you get for only $20.

And finally, we’re left with the Maglus — the only one you can’t get your hands on through Amazon. The Applydea Maglus was a FundIt project (an Irish Kickstarter-like website) which did not reach its goal, but was manufactured anyway. You can buy this magnetic stylus for €25 (~$33) through the Applydea website.

So what can these styluses do for you? Which is the best of them all? Five styluses enter, one will emerge. It’s time to find out which.

styluses 2   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

Adonit Jot Pro

The Jot Pro comes in a nice plastic box which you can separate from the rest of the packaging and use to carry the stylus around. The box is a nice touch, but I have a feeling it won’t last long in a student’s bag full of things continually smashing into it.

jot pro 1   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

The Adonit Jot Pro, as you can gather from the name, is all about jotting, sketching, and drawing. Unlike most styluses out there, it doesn’t feature a rubber tip, but rather a tip that’s a lot like a regular pen’s. This fine tip is covered by a plastic disc, which rotates around as you use it without limiting the drawing angle.

jotpro 2   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

If the tip looks a little flimsy to you, you’re right. While it’s not going to break easily while using it, it’s definitely in danger just lying around in your bag. Fortunately, Adonit figured this out and included a screw-on metal cap which protects the tip when you’re not using it. When you are using it, the cap can screw on to the other end of the stylus, so you won’t lose it.

adonit jotpro 31   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

The Jot Pro is lightweight — only 23 grams — and is made of brushed aluminum with a rubber grip for easy holding. It looks a lot like a regular pen for all intents and purposes, and if you own an iPad 2 and up, it will also attach to it using a pretty powerful magnet. As for me, since I own a 1st generation iPad, the only place I could attach the Jot Pro to is my fridge, but it proves the magnet is indeed pretty powerful (the stylus you see next to it is the magnetic Maglus, keep on reading to find out more about it).

jotpro 4   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

So what does it feel like using the Jot Pro? Pretty darn good. The Jot Pro requires a very light touch to produce fantastic results. There’s almost no friction at all, which makes the experience very smooth and easy. The Jot Pro performed well on both my iPad (no screen protector) and my Nexus 4 (with screen protector), as well as on a Sony Xperia Z with two screen protectors. Naturally, it loses a little accuracy the more screen protectors you have, but the Jot Pro managed to stay accurate no matter what.

jotpro 53   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

I used the Adonit Jot Pro for browsing, clicking small links, playing games, and of course, writing, drawing and sketching. It’s a great all-around stylus, but it really shines for drawings, sketches, and handwriting. The small tip makes it feel almost like using a regular pen, granting precision I’ve never experienced with a stylus before. It also worked well with Swype — a sliding keyboard for Android — which turned out to be a challenge for many other styluses.

Price: $27-$30

Made for (device): iPad

Accessories: Plastic box, protective cap.

Bottom line: Excellent all-around stylus, especially if you like drawing, sketching and hand-writing.

Studio Neat Cosmonaut

The Cosmonaut is a huge stylus that comes in a cardboard tube. It fits snugly into this tube, and since it doesn’t add much to its already vast size, you can use the tube to carry the stylus around in. Since it’s only cardboard, it’s not going to offer a lot of protection, but as you’ll soon see, the Cosmonaut doesn’t really need it anyway.

cosmonaut 2   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

The Cosmonaut is a very thick stylus — about half an inch in diameter — and is covered in black rubber from tip to tail, except for the very bottom. The rubber and size make it very easy to grip and hold, but the weight — a full 47 grams — is definitely something to take into account.

The size is not random. The idea behind the Cosmonaut is that most styluses are made to feel like pens, when drawing and writing on an iPad feels nothing like using a pen. This is a great idea on paper, but does it really work for the Cosmonaut?

comsomanut 3   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

Using the Cosmonaut takes some getting used to. To begin with, it’s much bigger and heavier than any stylus or pen I’ve ever used. Its tip is also different from most styluses. While it is made of rubber like many others, you need to apply quite a bit of pressure to get an inner component which lies under the rubber to touch the screen. Only when this happens, will the stylus work.

I used the Cosmonaut for all the usual tasks — drawing, writing, browsing, and playing games — and it performed averagely for most, but not so much for drawing and writing. I just couldn’t get comfortable holding it, and the amount of pressure required cut away from my accuracy. When tapping, you sometimes need to almost bang the Cosmonaut on the screen to make it work.

cosmo   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

The Cosmonaut also failed pretty miserably on both my Nexus 4 and Xperia Z, probably due to their screen protectors, and was thus completely unusable with my phone’s sliding keyboard.

The Cosmonaut is an acquired taste, and if you can’t get comfortable with pen-like styluses, you can give this one a try, but don’t expect too much for drawing and writing, and if you use a screen protector — beware. It is the sturdiest stylus of them all, so if you’re looking for something rugged, this is a good option.

Price: $25

Made for: All capacitive screens

Accessories: None.

Bottom line: For the adventurers who are tired of thin and flimsy styluses, don’t plan on drawing and don’t have screen protectors.

JustMobile AluPen

The AluPen comes in a nice cardboard box, which was just a little hard to open. The box opens like a book (cover attaches with a magnet) to reveal the stylus in its nest, and little phrases such as “The classic pencil reinvented!” and “The stylish stylus for iPad” are hidden on the different flaps.

alupen 1   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

The AluPen is a beautiful stylus. It looks almost like the designer pen of your dreams, and comes with a leather pouch, an extra tip, a sticker, and a little booklet. JustMobile clearly has a thing for style.

alupen 2   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

The leather pouch is a great (and stylish) way to carry the AluPen around without fear of damaging it, and the extra tip is a really nice touch, especially since these are conventional rubber tips which do tend to wear out after a while.

The AluPen’s size is something between the Adonit Jot Pro and the Cosmonaut. It’s thicker than your regular pen, but not nearly as thick as the Cosmonaut. It’s hexagonal shape is unique, but feels surprisingly nice in your hand, and since it’s made from aluminum it weighs only 29 grams despite its relative thickness.

alupen 33   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

The AluPen performed extremely well in every task I put it too, although hand writing was just a little bit hard to do. It’s thick rubber tip is nonetheless accurate enough to hit small links, and it requires almost no pressure at all to work beautifully. The AluPen was excellent on my iPad, as well as on the Nexus 4 and Xperia Z, so screen protectors are not a problem for this stylus. It passed the sliding keyboard test with flying colors, and combined with its super comfortable design, the AluPen quickly won my heart.

Price: $20-$25

Made for: iPad

Accessories: Leather pouch, extra tip.

Bottom line: Excellent and stylish all-around stylus, good for every task you throw at it.

Applydea Maglus

The Maglus is yet another unique-looking stylus, which prides itself in being magnetic. As you probably recall, the Adonit Jot Pro is also magnetic, but the Maglus is made to look almost like a fridge magnet. It can attach to newer iPads and Smart Covers, which made it useless for me, but it did pass the fridge test, so the magnet is there. It sort of attached to my 1st generation iPad, although not very strongly.

maglus 1   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

But we’re jumping ahead. The Maglus comes in a nice cardboard tube. Its size pretty much eliminates it as a viable carrying case, but since the Maglus is supposed to attach to your iPad, you might not need one. If you don’t actually own an iPad, you may just have to throw it in your bag and hope for the best. The Maglus comes with a microfiber cloth, and an extra tip in a nice key ring box. You can easily remove the existing tip and store it in the key ring if you’re worried about it getting damaged.

maglus 2   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

The Maglus’s flat design makes is different from other styluses and pens, and for me, it wasn’t too comfortable to hold. At 36 grams it’s a little on the heavy side, but nothing like the Cosmonaut. The tip is nice and firm, and not much pressure is required for the stylus to work.

maglus 3   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

The Maglus is a very good-looking stylus, but it just didn’t shine in any other way. It’s alright for most tasks, including browsing, playing and drawing, but wasn’t especially good for writing. It performed fine on both my iPad and screen-protected phones, but again, there was nothing really special about it. It wasn’t very good with a sliding keyboard. All in all, the Maglus is a fine stylus, but unless you’re captivated by its accessories or design, I’m not sure it justifies its price, considering there are better, more affordable options.

Price: $33

Made for: iPad

Accessories: Key ring, extra tip, screen-wiping cloth.

Bottom line: A good all-around stylus, but not the best. The accessories are a nice touch, though.

Wacom Bamboo

The Wacom Bamboo is the most affordable option on this list, and accordingly, comes in the most plain packaging. The regular cardboard box is nonetheless pretty stylish, and the stylus itself lies in a bed of plastic packaging, which looks OK, but is not the most eco-friendly of the lot. It doesn’t come with any accessories, but the tip is replaceable. You buy a pack of replacement tips for $5-$8, depending on firmness.

bamboo 1   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

The Bamboo is a pen-like and very lightweight stylus. It weighs only 19 grams and has a pen clip for attaching to your shirt pocket, your bag’s pen pocket, etc. It looks like a regular pen for all intents and purposes, except for the rubber tip where the ink head should be.

bamboo 2   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

It’s a beautiful stylus. Made of a combination of metal and non-slippery plastic, it feels very nice in your hand, although it felt just a tad on the small side for me. I do have bigger than average hands, so this might not be the case for everyone.

I was a bit disappointed by the Bamboo’s soft tip. The tip was so soft, it mashed against the screen no matter what I used it for, creating too much friction for my taste. This made it a bit hard to draw and sketch comfortably, but worked well for browsing, playing, etc. This is very much a matter of personal taste — I can’t say the tip is no good for a fact — and you can always get 3 firm replacement tips for $8, and still not pay as much as you would for other styluses.

bamboo 3   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

The Bamboo worked well on both my iPad and Android devices, but was not very good with a sliding keyboard. It’s a very affordable option, and one that looks good too, but is just not as good as some of the other styluses on this list.

Price: $11-$25

Made for: iPad

Accessories: None, but comes with a clip.

Bottom line: A good, affordable option, but not the best.

Which One Should You Buy?

After spending some time with these five styluses, there’s no doubt in my mind which one is the best. When taking design, comfort, accessories and performance into account, the stylus that comes on top is the JustMobile AluPen.

alupen 4   Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway

No matter which device you own or what you need a stylus for, the AluPen is an excellent choice. With its included replaceable tip, it’s not a very expensive one either.

I’d like to give an honorable mention to the Adonit Jot Pro, which is also an excellent stylus, and if you mainly want a stylus for drawing and sketching, you’re probably better off getting the Jot Pro. Its innovative tip makes it a joy to use, and while its not as nice to use as the AluPen, it’s still a very good choice.

If you’ve had a bad experience with styluses, it may be because you never owned the right one. Reviewing these styluses showed me that a good stylus is always a useful thing.

MakeUseOf recommends: Buy the JustMobile AluPen.

How do I win the JustMobile AluPen and the other styluses?

You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.

After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, September 6. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email.

The Winner

Congratulations, Alexander Dietzel! You would have received an email from jackson@makeuseof.com. Please respond before September 12 to claim your prize. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact Jackson Chung for further details.

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335 Comments -

0 votes

Carl Zedig

Hi, a note from another pad pen producer.
We, Playsam, have a triangular grip pad pen. MacWorld Magazine Sweden gave Justmoblie and Bamboo 3/5 score. Playsam Pad Pen got 4/5 score.
Later this Fall we will start with another style of pad pen for executives.
If you would test us, give me your address and I will send you a pen.
Regards
Carl Zedig

0 votes

Christina M

Bamboo

0 votes

Rosa Leon L

Of the 5, I’d have to go with the Adonit JotPro.

0 votes

Agustinus AP

I like Adonit JotPro.

0 votes

Joy Lott

Like the look of the tip on the Jot Pro

0 votes

Richard C

I have the Applydea Maglus, which is pretty good, but would like to try something finer like the Adonit jotpro.

0 votes

Dirk M

hamster likes cosmonauts, they fly 2 space :)

0 votes

Claude

Maglus is nice

0 votes

vince

AluPen

0 votes

Suresh V

Studio Neat Cosmonaut

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