Steve Jobs may have hated them, but I’ve always liked styluses. I have a collection of them because I’m always trying to find the perfect one that doesn’t feel like a stylus at all, but more like a pen on paper. The latest stylus that I’ve had the opportunity to test is the Stilo stylus. The Stilo is an active stylus, which means that it is battery powered. Does that mean it’s better than a generic two dollar stylus? Yes and no. Let’s take a closer look.
Note: Images can be clicked to view a larger size.
The Stilo stylus is a pen shaped and pen sized stylus which is available in black or white. It has a straight barrel with a soft rubberized covering. The stylus tip is protected with a snap on cap.
That cap posts on the opposite end of the stylus when it’s in use.
The Stilo is compatible with iOS, Android and other touch screen devices like Windows Phone. I even tried it on my Dell XPS 13″ which has a touch screen. More about that later.
As mentioned in the beginning, the Stilo is an active stylus which is battery powered. It runs on one AAA battery which is included in the package. It installs quickly and easily into the barrel of the stylus and is held in place with a screw on cap. The battery should last up to 10 hours of continuous use or up to 1 month of typical use.
In the image above you can barely make out the power button on the barrel of the stylus. This button has a tiny LED that glows green when the stylus is powered on and red when the battery needs to be replaced. A simple click of the button toggles power.
The stylus has a fine tip which gives a more traditional pen on paper feel to using it on a tablet than generic large tipped styluses. The stylus tip on the Stilo is solid and hard.
Twisting the stylus tip allows you to adjust the signal strength of the stylus. If you look at the images above, you can see that the tip on the left is fully extended and the one on the right is not. The one on the left should have the strongest signal strength. According to the info on the Stilo site, this is important because:
You can adjust the signal strength by rotating the tip end clockwise and counter clockwise. As it is rotated the tip will move in and out. When the tip end is extended all the way out signal should be at its strongest. All capacitive touch screens are slightly different. Some capacitive screens might prefer a weaker signal while others a stronger one. Adjust the signal strength on your stylus to get the best performance for the application and screen you are using. If you are using a protective film, a stronger signal strength will likely work better.
The protective film they mention above is a screen protector. Stilo sells their own film that they call the Precision Film.
The Precision Film is a $19.99 optional purchase that is supposed to provide pen on paper feel for your tablet. It’s only available for a selection of iPads, Nexus and Samsung Galaxy tablets. Lucky for me, they have one for the Samsung Galaxy S Tab 10.5, which I own. Installing the film is no different than installing most screen protectors. I tested the Stilo with and without the Precision Film. I found that it did provide a little extra “drag” that provides a more pen on paper feel, but I didn’t like the finger on screen feel, which was also draggy.
The Stilo stylus does not use Bluetooth and does not require any special software in order to use it. Any drawing or note taking app will work. I tested the Stilo with a selection of drawing programs on my Samsung Galaxy S Tab and my first generation iPad mini. I also tested it with my Dell XPS 13″. Unfortunately it didn’t work well at all with the XPS. The “ink” skipped while writing and drawing. There would be gaps in the lines. Adjusting the signal strength by rotating the tip had to real effect on this issue.
The stylus experience on my Android and iOS tablet devices was much better. But although the Stilo’s fine tip is great for being able to easily see what you’re drawing and writing, this stylus suffers from the same problems that most active styluses suffer from: ink lag, diagonal line jaggies and point offset. It seems like the ink is always trying to catch the tip of the stylus as it travels around the screen. For drawing simple shapes it’s not a big deal, but for detailed drawing and small writing, it makes things a lot harder. The point offset problem is more of an annoyance than a true problem. Some people might even like that the point on the screen is not quite under the stylus tip when it’s pressed on the screen. Note that some apps even allow you to adjust the offset.
I like that the Stilo stylus is comfortable to hold and easy to operate, but unfortunately, the issues with lag keep me from loving it.