10 Best Active Styluses | April 2017

We spent 33 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Active styluses are ideal for note taking, digital drawing or painting, and electronic document annotation. They're also great for accurate object selection and scrolling on your favorite mobile device, such as a smartphone, tablet, or Ultrabook. Find the perfect one from our comprehensive selection to unleash your artistic potential, or at least outperform your clumsy fingers. Skip to the best active styluse on Amazon.
10 Best Active Styluses | April 2017
Overall Rank: 7
Best Mid-Range
★★★
Overall Rank: 4
Best High-End
★★★★
Overall Rank: 3
Best Inexpensive
★★★★
10
Lift the Awinner Pen's cap to reveal its micro USB port when it needs a recharge. In the meantime, this handy utensil will last for up to 12 hours of use on any touchscreen device. It even features a clip to keep it at the ready on your shirt pocket or tablet case.
  • no pairing or software necessary
  • may require excessive force
  • less than perfect accuracy
Brand AWINNER
Model LYSB01M340AZH-ELECTRNCS
Weight 2.4 ounces
Rating 3.6 / 5.0
9
The smart, power saving Heiyo Active Touch boasts up to 90 days of standby time and automatically shuts off after 3 minutes of inactivity, so its 6-hour battery life should last you considerably longer than that. Its fiber tip measures a fine 2.2 mm.
  • recharges via micro usb in 2 hours
  • durable aluminum-magnesium alloy
  • tracks and targets poorly
Brand Heiyo
Model LYSB01N2TQN01-ELECTRNCS
Weight 1.6 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
8
Thanks to its dual tips, the BoxWave AccuPoint is compatible with all devices. Its precision 2 mm end is great for writing and drawing fine lines, while its fiber mesh tip can be used just like your finger for normal operation.
  • charges via standard micro usb
  • 12 hours of use on a single charge
  • not pressure sensitive
Brand BoxWave
Model bw-1388-0-9875
Weight 3.2 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
7
The widely compatible Dot-Tec DotPen features a unique tip crafted from a durable thermoplastic material that will effortlessly glide over glass displays. It runs on a single AAA battery, and its body is made of a precision CNC-machined anodized aluminum alloy.
  • up to 12 hours of continuous use
  • comfortable soft-touch rubber grip
  • power button is poorly located
Brand Dot-Tec
Model 3303205
Weight 1.6 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0
6
The elegant Wacom Bamboo Feel uses precision technology to detect 1,024 levels of pressure for the ultimate in accuracy and sensitivity, balanced with comfort. It's a good choice for the artist or architect working in digital freehand.
  • carbon fiber with aluminum accents
  • weighted to fit naturally in hand
  • not compatible with many devices
Brand Wacom
Model CS400UK
Weight 4 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0
5
The beautifully designed FiftyThree Pencil Digital will inspire creativity, infusing technology and natural materials in one device. It fits comfortably into the hand and comes in three finishes: walnut, graphite, and gold.
  • rechargeable battery included
  • charges via any usb port
  • wide tip is not ideal for writing
Brand FiftyThree
Model 53PW06
Weight 4.2 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0
4
The Apple Pencil has the upper hand among iOS compatible styli because it's designed to work in every part of its native ecosystem. It's pressure and tilt-sensitive to create a wide range of artistic effects, not to mention it's ideal for taking notes.
  • includes an extra tip
  • intuitive line weight and shading
  • works with ipad pro only
Brand Apple
Model MK0C2AM/A
Weight 4.2 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
3
The Adobe Ink & Slide boasts a beautifully crafted aluminum shell and an incredibly precise tip that allows you to create accurate, pressure-sensitive lines. It's connected to Creative Cloud, so you can easily access your files from programs like Photoshop and Illustrator.
  • uses bluetooth 4 technology
  • connects pc and mobile workspaces
  • designed for use with ipad
Brand Adobe
Model ADBIS
Weight 14.1 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0
2
Digital note-takers and artists alike will appreciate the Lynktec Apex Fusion. It's powered by a built-in rechargeable battery that can be charged over 500 times before it will need replacement, so you'll have a long-lasting "ink" supply.
  • fiber tip glides smoothly
  • no bluetooth pairing required
  • fine point accuracy
Brand Lynktec
Model LTTG-0016ABK
Weight 2.4 ounces
Rating 4.6 / 5.0
1
The Adonit Pixel combines smart design withd innovative features, like 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, palm rejection, and a precision 1.8 mm tip optimized to have a paper-like drag. It charges via a simple USB thumb drive-style unit.
  • 15 hours of battery life
  • programmable shortcut buttons
  • enhanced bluetooth capability on ios
Brand Adonit
Model ADPBL
Weight 4 ounces
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

Buyer's Guide

How Active Styluses Work

The active stylus, also known as the active pen, is a type of input device designed to emulate the familiarity of a pen in the human hand. As the pen has evolved with humans over the last 5000 years of recorded history, it follows that active styluses keep to this trend.

Active pens generally find use in the realm of digital note taking, document annotation, and digital drawing or painting. The function of the active stylus is quite unique. Electrical components within an active stylus generate short-range wireless signals. These wireless signals are then picked up by a built in digitizer; which transmits messages about the pen's orientation, pressure, and minute movements to the pen's dedicated controller.

As the digitizer within the pen is constantly sending information to the computer, its exact location above the pad is always known. When an active stylus hovers over the control pad, the cursor on the computer will move to match its location. This removes the guesswork caused by passive styluses; eliminating erroneous marks and unnecessary edits from your work.

Active styluses also easily eliminate all palm marks from the work surface. As the human body is an electrical circuit, touching any part of the hand to the surface of a touchscreen or digital receiver can cause electrical impulses to be picked up and translated into marks on the page. Both writers and artists usually touch their hands to the surface of their work space as they write or draw, making this potentially problematic. With an active stylus, this problem is eliminated. The dedicated receivers only respond to signals sent from the pen.

The Psychology Of Writing

There may be many links between writing styles and a person's psychological state. Much about a person's personality is said to be displayed in their writing style, and as more studies are conducted into this theory, more links between the two are found. From physiological symptoms such as high blood pressure and ADHD to basic personality types, graphologists say they can determine amazing things about a person by simply analyzing their writing.

One way in which a graphologist analyzes writing is by looking at letter size. The size of written letters helps determine the difference between an introverted personality and an extroverted one. If the letters are small, taking up less than half of the provided line; the person is more likely to be timid and introverted. Large letters which take up all of the space on the line tend to indicate an outgoing, attention-seeking personality.

The way the writer dots their i's may actually tell a graphologist more about their personality than most things. Writers who place their dots perfectly above the letter are said to be the most organized and emphatic. A person who draws a small circle above the letter is said to possess a childlike quality. A high dot indicates a very imaginative writer, where a dash is the trademark of a critical one. A dot which is off to either side of the letter indicates the utmost laziness. These are just two ways in which a writer's mentality actually physically affects their handwriting.

Reasons An Active Stylus Is Better Than A Finger

Touchscreen technology has come a long way since E.A. Johnson created the first finger-driven capacitive model in 1965. There have been numerous revolutions in touchscreen technology over the years, including the invention of the resistive touchscreen. These touchscreens did not require an external electrical impulse to be controlled; making it possible to use a stylus as the input device.

An active stylus takes it a step further; adding an advanced electrical impulse to the body of a stylus. This allows it to operate on capacitive touchscreens. This is not the only benefit of an active stylus though. One thing to consider is the cleanliness of the touchscreen's surface. The hands are the way we interact with the outside world. From the money used to pay for coffee in the morning to the handrail on the subway, the hands collect dirt, bacteria, and oil every step of the day. All of this leads to a dirty, potentially harmful touchscreen. Even when the hands are clean, the human body produces oils that can smudge the screen any time it is used. There is no such worry with an active stylus.

While the finger may be good enough to do basic functions on a touchscreen such as selecting icons or navigating a webpage, it falls short in many ways. Taking notes with an active stylus is far better than fumbling around with the finger. Some would argue that notes can simply be taken with a pen and paper. This is true, though an active stylus allows the user to quickly save those notes as a small file, which makes it very easy to catalog them or send them to others.

Digital artists and designers simply need an active stylus to emulate the fine strokes of a brush or pen. The multiple sensors and gyro-stabilizers in the pen help it determine which way it is being moved, which can create a different stroke or artistic effect as needed.



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Last updated on April 24 2017 by Ezra Glenn

Ezra is a writer, photographer, creative producer, designer, and record label-operator from New York City. He's traveled around the world and ended up back where he started, though he's constantly threatening to leave again.