Decent iPad Stylus – Pencil from Fifty Three Review

iPad Pencil Stylus Review from 53

Here’s a little device that I have been wanting to get my hands on for sometime now, the ‘Pencil’ iPad stylus from a company called FiftyThree.

I’ve always liked the idea of being able to whiteboard ideas or concepts using the iPad, though have always found that the drawing capability on the iPad (and my own) has been somewhat lacking.  Until now…

I am by no-means an artist, in fact I have never really progressed past drawing stick figures, though I am quite a visual type person who finds conveying ideas, or getting my head around concepts, much easier if I can draw or whiteboard them.

I have spent time messing around with numerous iPad drawing apps before, though found that using my finger or one of the typical mainstream stylus’ lacking in getting the level of detail that I required when drawing/scribbling/doodling.

There are little annoyances like the horrible spongy tips found on most iPad stylus I’ve tried and also the unintentional drawing of lines and random smudges as my hand trails across the iPad’s screen.

This is where I was hoping the Pencil iPad stylus could help.  Firstly it is quite a chunky stylus when compared to many of the others stylus on the market.  This is a positive though as it feels closer to holding a real pencil, and as a result more intuitive when handling and drawing on the screen.

iPad Pencil Stylus Fifty Three

How the Pencil differs from many other iPad stylus is that it uses bluetooth technology to sync the Pencil with the iPad, which FiftyThree have called Kiss to Pair.  All you do is put the tip of the Pencil in contact with a particular area of the drawing application, called ‘Paper’ (obvious choice of name), to pair the devices.

This offers the significant advantage that only the tip of the stylus, or the eraser/rubber at the opposite end of the Pencil, is detected by the drawing application.  So, no more random lines or smudges from your hand trailing across the screen when drawing (palm rejection).

iPad Pencil Stylus Review

The Pencil also provides the ability to adjust the thickness of the lines you are drawing by the angle at which the tip of the Pencil comes in touch with the iPad’s surface.  If you want a thin line you use the very tip of the Pencil, if you want to have a thicker line then simply tilt the stylus and use more of the edge on the tip.

iPad Pencil Stylus Tip

Another feature I particularly like is the eraser/rubber on the top of the Pencil.  By simply switching ends of the Pencil you can start erasing parts of your drawing, without having to switch to an erase mode within the app.  Once again, this adds to the more intuitive feel of using the Pencil.

iPad Pencil Stylus Eraser Tip

My only concern with the Pencil is how long the rubber stylus tip will last, as it is made from what feels like quite a thin’ish rubber.  Though there is a spare tip and rubber end that comes with it.  The trick will be not to be overly aggressive with pushing down on the Pencil’s tip.

iPad Pencil Stylus FiftyThree

As it is a blue tooth device, the Pencil needs power to operate though this is simply done by removing the inner part of the stylus and plugging it into a USB port – nice and easy.  A full charge takes less than 90 minutes.

iPad Pencil Stylus Review - USB Charging

You can still use the Pencil stylus as a typical stylus with the iPad and any application, though if you want to use its real power, you’ll want to pair it up with one of a handful of iPad apps which are currently compatible with it.

The main app is from FiftyThree and aptly called ‘Paper’  I have found this to suit all my doodling requirements and it has some really nice features, such as rewinding, which lets you reverse back through the steps of your drawing to let you correct anything that you may want changing.  Also, within the Paper app there a variety of simulated drawing implements such as a pencil, pen, paint brush, etc.

Once you complete your masterpiece within the Paper app you can export it out to one of many popular file formats, or once you have a whole notebook full of drawings you could have them published into your very own physical Moleskin notebook.  Nice touch!

Other Pencil compatible iPad apps are:

  • Adobe Illustrator Line
  • Adobe Photoshop Sketch
  • Procreate
  • Noteshelf
  • Sketchbook
  • Mobile Mouse

Click here for more details off of FiftyThree’s website.

For all you budding developers out there, there is also available a software development kit (SDK) from FiftyThree.

In summary, I’m very pleased with my new Pencil purchase and I can see that I am going to have plenty of fun with it, especially for drawing out technical mind-maps or high level concept drawings.  In fact, you may start to see a few of them (assuming my drawing improves) in future blog posts.

I bought my Pencil from an Apple Store, though you can also buy them from Amazon and other usual tech outlets.

Do you see the value of using a stylus for your tech scribblings?  Maybe you already use one?  If so, drop me a note in the comments below, I’d like to hear how you get on and how effective you’ve found them.

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