Apple Pencil (USB-C) hands-on: Is this pen mightier?

Apple Pencil USB-C
(Image credit: Future)

Apple's Scary Fast event next Monday (October 30) will be the company's second product announcement this month. Much earlier in October, it announced a new Apple Pencil with a lower $79 price tag. Aimed at more casual iPad users, the cheaper Apple Pencil lacks the pressure sensitivity of its more premium $129 Apple Pencil, while also offering a new USB-C port to make it easier to recharge.

The new Apple Pencil will go on sale in early November, but I had a chance to test it out. Here are my first impressions.  

Apple Pencil (USB-C): Design and feel

Apple Pencil USB-C

(Image credit: Future)

The new Apple Pencil has a nice weight to it. Like previous models, it's all white, and has a small " Pencil" on one end. The Pencil is round, but has one flat side so that it can attach magnetically to your iPad, and keep it from rolling off your desk.

The Apple Pencil (USB-C) can't charge wirelessly, but its blunt end slides up to reveal a chrome USB-C charging port. If you like to fidget with stuff as much as I do, your fingers are going to love spending mindless hours sliding this cap up and down. In a clever power-saving feature, the Apple Pencil will automatically turn itself off when it's attached to an iPad.

Apple Pencil USB-C

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Apple Pencil (USB-C)Apple Pencil 2nd genApple Pencil 1st gen
Works withiPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th gen), iPad Pro 11-inch (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th gen), iPad Air (4th and 5th gen), iPad mini (6th gen), iPad (10th gen)iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th gen), iPad Pro 11-inch (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th gen), iPad Air (4th and 5th gen), iPad mini (6th gen)iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st and 2nd gen), iPad Pro (10.5-inch), iPad Pro (9.7-inch), iPad Air (3rd gen), iPad mini (5th gen), iPad (6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th gen)
Pressure sensitivityNoYesYes
Magnetic attachmentYesYesNo
Wireless chargingNoYesNo
Hover modeYesYesNo
Tilt sensitivityYesYesYes

Apple Pencil (USB-C): Performance

Apple Pencil USB-C

(Image credit: Future)

To try out the Apple Pencil, Apple lent me an iPad and walked me through a few apps that took advantage of the Pencil.

One neat feature enabled by the Apple Pencil could be a real time-saver: If you swipe in from the bottom right corner using the Pencil, the Notes app pops up in a windowed screen, so you can immediately start jotting down your ideas. A swipe in from the lower left corner using the Pencil takes a screenshot — so you no longer have to press and hold the iPad's power and volume buttons.

Using the Notes app, I scribbled a few lines of text in my horrible chicken-scratch handwriting. I didn't notice any lag whatsoever between my inputs and my writing appearing in the app. 

While this is more of a function of the iPadOS 17 Notes app than the Pencil, the app was able to correctly interpret almost all of my handwriting; the only mistake it made was thinking that "my" was "ny." 

I then used the Goodnotes app to take yet more notes, Freeform to create a vision board, and Animatic to make a small and short animation. With all the apps, using the Pencil felt very natural. The only time I missed the pressure sensitivity feature found in other versions of the Apple Pencil was in making my little animation — I think artists and graphic designers will like that extra level of control to draw thicker or thinner lines based on how hard they press against the iPad.

Apple Pencil (USB-C): Should you buy it?

Apple Pencil USB-C

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

When it goes on sale in November, the $79 Apple Pencil USB-C will be the company's least expensive model, though it's still pricier than most of the best Apple Pencil alternatives. If you don't want to wait, the Apple Pencil (2nd gen) is on sale for $98 at Amazon as of this writing, so there's currently not as big a gap in price if you really want a stylus that responds to pressure inputs.

I'm not someone who uses a stylus — let alone an iPad — on the regular, but the lower cost of the new Apple Pencil makes it a bit more competitive with the other options on the market, and might make me more inclined to pick it up, if only to replace my fidget spinner.

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Mike Prospero
U.S. Editor-in-Chief, Tom's Guide

Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.