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Tablet Artistry: Tools and Styluses Tested


The finer tip of an active pen lets you see where you're drawing; the larger tip of a capacitive stylus covers the area where you’re about to make a mark. Some people adjust to that – after the same thing happens with a pastel crayon or an oil brush over the canvas – but if you’re wanting to draw accurately and you find your finger or pen is always in slightly the wrong place the odd-looking oStylus could be just what you need. At $37.50 (from it’s a little on the pricey side but the 5” rounded aluminum handle matches the iPad case nicely.

The business end of the oStylus looks like a dental implement or an obscure jeweler’s tool (and it was designed by a jeweler); two titanium wires hold a swiveling stainless steel loop on the end with a thin vinyl film cover. The vinyl acts as a screen protector and helps the oStylus glide more smoothly over the screen without being thick enough to affect conductivity (you get two spares in case it starts to peel off).

It doesn’t have the rubbery drag of some styluses and there’s not much resistance but it doesn’t feel entirely smooth moving across the screen either. We noticed more lag with the oStylus than drawing with a finger, probably because the vinyl film and metal will attenuate the electrostatic field slightly.

The fact that most software knows that your finger will be over the actual drawing point and doesn’t draw in that point until after you’ve drawn over it (like a real pencil but not like a mouse) means that even though you see the spot on the screen where you're going to draw, you don’t see the paint or ink you're applying inside the loop when it’s against the screen – it only shows up when you drag or lift the oStylus away, and again that makes it feel like there’s a lag because a real brush would deposit color straight away.

Also, the fact that the actual touch area is the ring and you’re relying on the screen calibration positioning the drawing point in the center means that while you may draw exactly in the center of the oStylus in the center of your iPad screen, over at the edges it’s shifted to one side or the other. What’s great about the oStylus is that it’s so comfortable to hold; it’s sturdy but lightweight and slim, and the overall length (6.75”) is like a brand-new pencil rather than a stubby ballpoint. The swiveling hinges – which are also nice and sturdy – puts the tip at a great angle for sketching and drawing however you hold your hand; with most capacitive styluses you need to hold them rather more upright than you really want.