After several hours of research, I finally made my selection of the 4 best touch pens from more than 30 models available at the moment. The one that I recommend without hesitation to the average user is undoubtedly the Mixoo Capacitive Stylus Pen with its really unbeatable value for money. You will also find at the end of this article a buying guide that will allow you to choose the stylus that best suits your use and budget.
Best Touch screen stylus
We start our overview of entry-level styling with a Mixoo model, offered for a few euros more than the Kensington Virtuoso chosen below... But for a level of performance that is easily worth it. We're indeed not on the same type of product. Classic pens like the Kensington usually have a rounded rubber or silicone tip with a very random precision: suitable for screen navigation, but not really for handwritten notes or digital drawing. This one has a fibre tip at one end and a clear disc tip at the other. It is immediately appreciated that these tips are fully replaceable: no need to replace the stylus once they are worn out (which can be quite fast if you use it regularly, at the risk of damaging your screen).
The stylus, available in several colours, is supplied with three spare tips and a cleaning cloth. This is a passive stylus (at that price, you might have guessed), but its disc tip still provides a fairly accurate level of control. At the same time, the transparent disc allows you to see exactly what you're drawing. The fiber tip is a bit less pleasant to use, especially since there is no rubber grip area at the end of the tip. The grip is therefore a little less easy to use. Still, it allows better pressure management and tracking precision than the Kensington. The thickness and weight of the stylus is appreciated, making it easier to grip for those suffering from repetitive strain injuries of the wrist. On the downside (since it's a bit of a hassle), this stylus also lacks a second cap to protect the fibre tip. Some users have also reported concerns about the fragility of the disc tips, but since they are easily replaced, this is not a serious problem.
The pen is compatible with all capacitive displays (i.e. all smartphones and tablets currently available on the market). We're certainly not on the same type of product as the pen's "Rolls Royce", the Apple Pencil tested below, but for a model offered at about a tenth of its price (which is compatible with all touch devices you can own instead of just one), we're not going to complain too much. For the average user, it's a precise and high-performance stylus at an excellent price-performance ratio.
The Kensington Virtuoso is a classic, solid-looking pen with a matte finish and is available in a variety of colours. The stylus is not excessively heavy and therefore the grip is quite pleasant. There is nothing wrong with that. "Stylus-pen" because it has a touch eraser at one end for use with your tablet or smartphone and a... pen at the other end, and yes, it can be used to write on paper with ink like in the good old days. We're not going to dwell on that aspect because, even though everyone knows that it's impossible to get your hands on a pen when you really need it, that's probably not why you're interested in this product. This pen is priced at less than €5 at the time of writing, and you'll get value for your money and no more. Unlike the slightly more expensive stylus with a foam or fibre tip that allows you to manage a bit of pressure manually, this model has a large silicone tip that sits roughly on a cushion of air. It is therefore difficult to manage the precision of the stroke.
In any case, we knew we weren't going to use this kind of product for digital drawing. I still wanted to test the Kensington Virtuoso with the Notes app on my iPad, to see if it could really be used to scribble on both paper and touchscreen. The answer is yes, but... the result isn't particularly pleasing. Might as well say it makes my handwriting look like a doctor's handwriting. Also, the eraser doesn't slide very easily across the screen. Another small criticism that could be made of this stylus is the lack of a second cap. The whole thing looks pretty solid, but I think the eraser tip would end up hurting if you drag it around at the bottom of a bag.
If you're looking for a stylus that can protect your screen from unsightly smudges at a small price, you've found the right product for you. In the case of a use requiring more precision (taking handwritten notes for example, not to mention digital drawing), I can only advise you to turn to a slightly more advanced product such as the Mixoo proposed above.
Adonit Dash 3
Adonit, a brand that is no longer to be presented in the connected stylus market. The Dash 3 is compatible with iOS and Android phones and tablets and offers a PixelPoint precision tip and excellent battery life. Let's go discover it all! We agree that it's not the most important aspect, but aesthetically the Dash 3 is really very successful. Available in three colours with an elegant matt finish, the aluminium body offers a pleasant grip. The tip is only 1.9 mm, which is very thin compared to most other styli available on the market. As this is a connected pen, it is necessary to switch on the pen with the button at one end before use. Remember to recharge it because without a battery you won't do much with it. The Dash has an autonomy of approximately 14 hours for 45 minutes of charging. A small USB magnetic charger is included.
Overall, the Dash 3 far exceeds traditional passive styling in terms of performance, but it doesn't measure up to the Bluetooth models offered by other manufacturers or even Adonit itself. It is possible to make accurate strokes due to the very fine tip, but it will not allow you to write as sharply as the Apple Pencil or a conventional pen. The Dash 3 is better suited for drawing, and you'll get the best results on a widescreen display. However, since the pen does not have features such as palm rejection (which prevents you from accidentally leaving marks when you accidentally brush against the screen), or pressure sensitivity, it is limited in terms of performance. However, this is not an intrinsic problem with the Dash 3, but with styli in this price range in general.
At the same time, please pay attention to compatibility. Although it can theoretically be used with all iOS or Android mobile devices, curved screens such as the Galaxy S7 Edge's are quickly becoming a problem. At the same time, it is not worth trying to use it with Windows devices. The Dash 3 is therefore a very suitable pen for quick drawing and sketching, which can also be used to take notes on a widescreen (rather tablet) display, as long as you have a clean handwriting! However, the level of precision will not be the same as with an "active" pen that connects to your device via Bluetooth: for this, look at the Apple Pencil instead. However, the Dash is much more pleasant to use and gives much better results than conventional pens, thanks in particular to its ultra-fine tip.
We were bound to end up talking about Apple... The new Apple Pencil replaces the first-generation version, which frankly left a lot to be desired in terms of ergonomics. This new iteration is one centimeter lighter than the previous one for the same weight. As a result, it's a little more pleasant to use: it feels less like trying to write with a giant carnival marshmallow. I forgot to mention it, but this is of course an active stylus that connects to your mobile device (iOS only please! And not all of them...) via Bluetooth. Given its price (around 130€ at the time of writing) it's the least I could do. The main evolution of the Apple Pencil 2G is in terms of charging. Where the V1 plugged into the Lightning socket (frankly not very convenient), the 2G has a flattened magnetic side that allows you to stick it on the edge of your iPad and thus recharge it. It's very handy and gives a really cool effect, as well as allowing you to get rid of the plug cover that was extremely easy to lose.
The magnet is quite powerful and the stylus stays in place, but personally I'll avoid putting it in my bag or walking around with it. The pairing is done in the same way. This flat surface also prevents the stylus from rolling and ending up on the floor. Enough said about ergonomics, let's look at the performance side! That would be "as natural as on real paper", says Apple, and indeed the stylus glides perfectly over the surface of the iPad Pro with very little latency. As on the old model, just touch the idle screen of its tablet with the pen to activate the Notes application. You can now tap the flat surface of the barrel to switch between modes or activate a specific function, depending on the application you're using. This new feature is fully configurable.
Generally speaking, this is a high-quality stylus, the first version of which was already appreciated by graphic designers and designers. With this V2, Apple was able to respond to the criticisms that were aimed in particular at its ergonomics, now offering a product that combines design (in any case, it's a bit of their trademark) and performance. Its price, however, will surely cool more than one.
How do you choose your touch pen?
Wouldn't using a stylus with your smartphone be like eating a Twix with a fork? Older people will remember the PalmPilot and other "personal assistants", the distant ancestors of our smartphones, which used to work with a small stylus, which in theory allowed you to write "by hand" on the screen. Although some manufacturers, such as Samsung, tried for a while to revive it, the stylus soon proved to be superfluous with the democratization of touch. "Who would want a stylus? You have to find it every time, then put it away, and you'll end up losing it anyway. Nobody wants a stylus," said Steve Jobs himself in 2007. In fact, smartphones today have a screen large enough for even the most pudgy fingers. So why use a stylus?
The stylus: why adopt it
Quite simply, even without mentioning the connected models that interact with your phone, simply for hygiene reasons. Your fingers are dirty, and so is your screen. Adopting the touch stylus means you don't have to carry around a pocket septic tank, while avoiding unsightly fingerprints. This type of tool can also be convenient for older people with limited finger mobility. But where the stylus really gets its second wind is in the professional context. Many manufacturers now offer high-end smartphones and tablets with integrated pens. More and more products are aimed at draftsmen, graphic designers, architects and designers, as well as professionals who simply need to ask for customer signatures, for example.
Choosing the right stylus for you
Before you get started, you should ask yourself what you're going to use your stylus for. If you simply want to protect your screen from fingerprints, choose a passive stylus with a wide, soft, and relatively imprecise tip. This type of pen is compatible with just about every smartphone on the market. You can easily find one for less than 10 euros. Active pens offer a wide range of functions: note-taking, digital drawing with reproduction of various pencil and brush strokes and document annotation. They are much more accurate and versatile than passive pens and, as a result, much more expensive (from €30 to €100).
With this type of product, ergonomics is of course a very important aspect, especially if you intend to use your stylus for several hours at a time. Please feel free to try out your product before purchasing if possible. If you don't have the opportunity, look at the classic pens you are used to using every day and try to find a pen that looks as similar as possible in terms of size, material and thickness. If you suffer from repetitive strain injury to the wrist (unfortunately, many people who spend their day in front of the computer do) choose a thicker pen.
Connected styles allow you to manage pressure: a very useful feature especially for artists. This generates a more or less thick or dark line depending on the force used.
The "palm rejection" function
This feature helps prevent accidental trails when you press the screen with your hand. Again, this is a feature found on connected pens.
The mine or the gum
On the more economical passive models, we tend to find a rubber eraser, which allows you to simply navigate on your smartphone or tablet. These erasers are not suitable for more detailed work such as digital drawing.
As you will have seen in our comparison above, prices can vary enormously, from 5 to a hundred euros depending on the type of pen you choose. The cheapest is obviously the passive pen, which will be very limited in terms of functionality and ergonomics. If you intend to use your pen intensively or for very detailed work such as digital drawing, don't hesitate to invest a little more for a top-of-the-range model.
In conclusion, which tactile stylus to choose?
If you hate fingerprints on your screen, there's only one solution to avoid taking out your little microfibre cloth ten times a day: the Kensington Virtuoso.
Like any good member of Generation Y, you couldn't live without your smartphone, but still enjoy the convenience of a pen for your sketches or notes: opt for the Mixoo or the Adonit Dash 3.
Whether you're a professional or a demanding hobbyist, you'll appreciate products that combine design, innovation and performance: without a doubt, the Apple Pencil 2G is the one for you.