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The first tablets were built for stylus input, not fingers. It turns out that a touch-based tablet makes a lot more sense for navigating, but a stylus is still superior for writing on a screen.
Over the last few months, I have tested a couple dozen styli, and I have come to some conclusions. Below you will find the best all-around stylus, plus the best stylus for writing, drawing, carrying in your pocket, and the best combo pen and stylus.
Best all-around value: Pogo Sketch+
In fact, the Sketch+ has the best tip of all the styli I have tested (a couple dozen, at this point). It just doesn’t feel as good in the hand for writing or drawing as the other options below. That is because the Sketch+ is extremely lightweight, and very slender. Still, if you only want one stylus, and you don’t want to spend a lot (more than $20), the Pogo Sketch+ is the one to get.
Best writing stylus: Bamboo Stylus solo
The Bamboo Stylus is pricey, but if you plan to do a lot of writing on your tablet, it is well worth it. Unlike the numerous $20-and-below styli, the Bamboo is properly weighted for writing, which means your handwriting will look a lot more like your handwriting. If you want a nice stylus that feels great to write with, the Bamboo Stylus is it. It’s fine for drawing, too. I just happen to prefer the Cosmonaut.
The only thing I don’t like about the Bamboo Stylus is the fake pen cap. I would prefer to have a real one, so that I could protect the tip of the stylus when it is floating around in my bag.
Best drawing stylus: Cosmonaut
A big, chunky stylus that resembles a Mr. Sketch marker or a piece of sidewalk chalk is just perfect for drawing on a tablet. It’s inherent lack of precision is freeing. It says just draw — don’t worry if it’s perfect! Which is just what a talentless sketch artist like me needs.
I recognize that anyone who is serious about drawing on a tablet is going to have their own ideas about what makes the ideal stylus. But if you aren’t serious, get the Cosmonaut. It’ll be more fun.
(A similarly-chunky stylus, the Alupen, is also a pleasure to hold, but the fatter tip makes it more of a pointing device and less useful for drawing and writing.)
Best pocket stylus: Kuel H10
I carry a pen with me wherever I go. It gets a lot of abuse in there, grinding against my keys, getting dropped when I accidentally pull it out with my keys, and so on. My Fisher Space Pen has lasted several years. But most styli don’t have a cap. It’s just that little, vulnerable-looking, rubbery tip hanging out there. A good pocket stylus needs to be small, with a cap, and still make for a good writing instrument.
The Kuel H10 isn’t perfect, but it is close. Size-wise, it is small enough to fit on a keyring (and it comes with a small loop for that purpose — or to attach to the headphone jack on your tablet). It also has a cap to protect the stylus tip from abuse. The coolest feature, though, is the expanding body of the pen. The stylus extends far enough to make a comfortable writing utensil.
There are two negatives with the Kuel, but I still think it is a great pocket stylus. First, the cap doesn’t have anywhere to go when you are using the stylus. You just have to keep track of it, which is annoying. Second, the stylus tip is quite flimsy. It held up to my two-year old mashing it into the screen just fine, but it doesn’t feel great. Finally, when I threw the stylus around to test its durability, the cap did get a lot less snug-fitting, but I was being intentionally abusive. So, for a pocket stylus, the Kuel H10 is my top choice.
Best combo stylus: Bamboo Stylus duo
I’m opposed to combo styli, in general. It’s a transitional tool, meant for people who lug around paper and tablet everywhere they go, until they can finally settle on one or the other. Most manufacturers treat the stylus tip like a pencil eraser, which makes for a weird user experience, as you have to hold onto the end of the stylus that has the pen clip in order to write with that end.
The Bamboo Stylus duo is better. The cap switches from end to end, so that both ends function properly (in general, you’ll want to leave the stylus tip exposed, unless you want to risk getting ink everywhere). If you insist on getting a combo stylus, the Bamboo Stylus duo is the best I have seen.