Despite being the most popular tablet computer ever produced, Apple’s iPad has a key flaw: it lacks a stylus for when your finger is either too tired or inappropriate for the work at hand. It’s easily remedied because there are dozens of third party pens available that work with it and other tablets. The ideal tablet stylus is responsive, mimics the feel of pen on paper and works equally well for drawing a map as navigating the system’s software. Some go a step further with a way to tether the stylus to the tablet and a clip for a shirt pocket to make it harder to lose. While they are vastly different beasts, these pens have one thing in common: they can make using a tablet much easier. For a more in-depth look at a few of the pens mentioned in this article, you may want to read this.
Wacom’s black and brushed aluminum Bamboo Stylus has an elegant appearance, feels good in the hand and is one of the most comfortable styluses I looked at. At 0.6 ounces, the cylindrical Bamboo has a textured metallic surface that provides a secure grip and the pen’s shirt clip is removable. Be careful, though, because if you don’t screw the cap on tightly, the clip rattles. Bamboo is great for working with an iPad or other tablet, but the rubber tip is too broad and soft for detailed work and don’t try holding the stylus at an angle or the point’s metallic rim will rub on the display.$30
Available in a rainbow of 10 colors, including basic black, Griffin Technology’s Stylus is the fashionable choice among tablet pens. It goes beyond accessorizing because the stylus is well balanced, weighs half an ounce and is comfortable to write or draw with. It has a handy shirt clip and works well under a variety of conditions with an iPad or other tablets. It’s surprisingly responsive at light pressure, although like so many pens that use a soft rubber writing tip, it’s not precise enough for fine work. Need a stylus for each outfit? Get this one. $20
By far the smallest and lightest of the pens I looked at, Boxwave’s Mini Capacitive iPad Stylus is also the least useful for writing or drawing. At only 1.6-inches long, it weighs 0.1 ounce, but it’s just too small to be comfortable. It works with a variety of tablets and is meant to be used tucked between the index finger and thumb, like a small piece of chalk. After using it for several hours, it just isn’t comfortable or accurate enough for my taste. To keep from losing it, the Mini has a tether that can be plugging into the tablet’s headphone jack. You can get it in black, silver, red or blue, but it makes writing or drawing a chore. $13
While other products are either paint brushes or tablet pens, iCooly does double duty with both. The stylus comes with snap on a pair of tips: one with a soft brush for art work and the other a sharp rubber point for writing on the screen; too bad there isn’t a ballpoint tip as well. It has a shirt clip and the black and silver stylus comes with a keychain cap for attaching it to a tablet. So if you lose it, it’s your fault. At $13, it’s a bargain of a two-for. $13
Pull off the cap of Boxwave’s Styra and you’ll find a hidden secret: a ballpoint pen, making it equally at home drawing a map on an iPad or jotting notes on a pad of paper. The problem is that there’s no place to put the cap when you’re using the pen. There’s a shirt clip and Styra works well with several different tablets, including both generation s of iPad hardware. At 0.6 ounces, Styra has a nicely weighted feeling. The best part is the Styra stylus has you covered, regardless of whether you’re writing on paper or a digital screen. $23
Looking like a large pencil for children, Boxwave’s Sketching Stylus is by far the most comfortable tablet stylus to grip and use. At 0.9 ounces, the aluminum Sketching pen has a hexagonal shape that’s easy to grasp and just start doodling or writing on the tablet’s screen. Its soft rubber writing tip makes it hard to get a line exactly where you want it and requires more pressure to draw a line than some of the other pens, though. Available in white, red, green, yellow, black, silver and blue, Sketching lacks a shirt clip or way to tether it to a tablet, but at $13 it is a great deal. $13
Looking a lot like the Boxwave Sketching Stylus, Just Mobile’s AluPen seems like a large pencil straight out of a kindergarten classroom. Available in the choice of eight vibrant colors, AluPen comes with a handy carrying case. On the other hand, AluPen lacks any way to attach it to a tablet or a shirt pocket clip. At half an inch thick, the solid aluminum stylus feels good in the hand and can make jotting, drawing or writing more comfortable than using a finger. $18