A couple of years ago, I bought the Adonit Jot Touch stylus to go with my (then) new iPad Air 2. It was easy to use, came with over 2,000 levels of pressure sensitivity, had a fine point tip, and had great build quality. I tried it out with some note taking and a few drawing apps—and then put it in my backpack … and never touched it again. I tried to figure that out when I saw—and then wanted—the Adonit Pixel, the Touch’s better and less expensive replacement.
First things first: sInce the Pixel replaces the Touch, it’s only natural to offer a comparison. Both styluses have exceptional build quality. The Touch is shorter and a bit thicker than the more graceful Pixel. The Pixel sells for $30 less than the Touch did when new. The Pixel is made to work seamlessly with many iPads and iPhones (iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, SE, 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, iPad Mini, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, iPad Mini 4, iPad 4, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad Pro 12.9). The Touch was not designed to work with anything newer than the original iPad Air. Adonit’s later versions of the Touch worked with my iPad Air 2, but not as seamlessly as the Pixel.
The Pixel (like the Touch) uses Bluetooth to connect to the iPad. The reason for Bluetooth is so that the iPad will recognize the Pixel’s much smaller (1.9 mm) tip, making it more useful as a drawing and note-taking stylus. The downside to this approach is that the Pixel requires a rechargeable battery. Plus, you’re not getting the full benefit of the Pixel unless the app has built-in support to recognize the stylus. The Pixel works great with simple navigation on my iPad and iPhone.
There is a “wake me” feature that activates the Pixel when picked up—as long as it’s already turned on. Charging is via a magnetic USB dock. I had difficulty connecting the Pixel’s cheap-feeling plastic USB connector—I could only achieve a proper fit by jiggling and forcing it into the port. I was afraid it would snap the plastic, but I got it to fit without any damage. The older Touch’s metal USB dock was better made, but unfortunately it’s not compatible with the Pixel.
The thin drawing tip on the Pixel is rougher than the Touch’s shiny tip. This rougher tip glides across the iPad’s glass surface better—almost like pencil across paper, giving the Pixel a more natural feel. This simple revision can make all the difference on whether a stylus is liked or not.
The Pixel’s barrel has two programmable buttons within easy reach when holding. Shortcuts the buttons perform are determined by the app itself, not Adonit. I don’t use the buttons—not because they aren’t useful, but because I don’t use programmable shortcuts on anything—not even the Apple mouse or my Wacom Intuous tablet with its many buttons and sliders. I turn them all off. But that’s me. Many people’s workflow depends on being able to use whatever shortcuts are made available and kudos to Adonit for having them on the Pixel.
As I said, the Pixel’s full capabilities can only be appreciated using approved apps that fully support it. The good news is that many note taking and drawing apps offer this built-in support. Many have palm rejection—a feature that prevents the iPad from mistaking your hand for a finger thereby placing unwanted marks all over your work. Some apps have better palm rejection than others. Check the Adonit Pixel web page for supporting apps.
One problem in reviewing the Pixel is that its success largely depends on these supporting apps. For instance, drawing and painting apps (like Procreate or Photoshop Sketch) work well. The Pixel’s levels of pressure and comfortable feel make drawing easy and fun. Now if only I could draw …
Even though I am an art director, I don’t draw or paint—I hire people for that. But I do perform a lot of photo touch up and manipulation with my Wacom tablet. There is an app called Astropad that lets my iPad become a second, mirrored monitor to my Mac computer. This allows me to work with Photoshop on my lap using my iPad with the Pixel stylus. Whatever I see on my Mac monitor, I see on my iPad. It’s live and pixel perfect (pun intended) with minimal lag time.
Note taking apps are another story. Even though most of them have palm rejection, most of them also don’t handle my handwriting as well as I wish. When I write, I print (I gave up cursive ages ago) and a lot of my individual letters simply don’t register, so my writing has empty spaces where strokes were made. However, I blame the apps for this more than I blame Adonit. The bottom line is that I end up with partially unreadable notes. I admit that I write fast and sloppy, so if someone is a slower and more deliberate note taker, the Pixel can work great. When I slowed down, I did get better results, but I will not change the way I write to suit technology.
The note taking app Notes Plus is made with the Pixel in mind. It has too many features for my simple uses, but if you’re serious about note taking on the iPad, want to use a stylus and happen to have smooth handwriting, Notes Plus is the one to use. At $10, It’s not cheap but I prefered it over all the others I tried. I recommend trying out a few apps to see what works best for you.
Note that Adonit makes many other styluses for iPads, iPhones and Android devices. Oddly, there is no Windows Surface stylus available.
While the Pixel will work well with the newer iPad Pros, I can’t imagine Pro users choosing it over the Apple Pencil despite Apple’s higher cost. The Pencil is made for the Pro tablet and works seamlessly with it. I plan to purchase an iPad Pro later this year (anyone want to buy an iPad Air 2?) and will get the Apple Pencil to use with it, which will probably relegate the Pixel to the unused space next to the Jot Touch. But for now, the Adonit pixel stylus is hands down the best choice for my iPad Air 2.
The Adonit Pixel Stylus is available now from Adonit.
Source: The sample for this review was provided by Adonit. Please visit their site for more information.