Q. What is the difference between a $100 tablet stylus compared with a $10 model?
A. Those pricier styluses are often designed to work with a specific tablet line — as is the case of the Apple Pencil, the Google Pixelbook Pen and the Microsoft Surface Pen — and can include customized features for those devices. For example, Google’s Pixelbook Pen integrates with the Google Assistant software and will search the web for words or images you circle on the Pixelbook screen.
If you are just looking for a stylus to take handwritten notes or do some basic drawing, the less expensive models are probably fine. The $10 Adonit Mark, the $20 Hand Stylus and the thick-barreled $25 Studio Neat Cosmonaut are all general purpose models that work on most capacitive touch screen devices. Unlike the more expensive stylus models, which sometimes require their own battery power or Bluetooth pairing with a designated tablet, most economy models do not need to be powered and work right out of the package.
For those with artistic inclinations or who want a stylus that was designed to work smoothly with certain tablet hardware and software, the more expensive models have perks. Most include a wider degree of tilt and pressure sensitivity, which lets you vary the weight and shading of the lines drawn on the tablet screen, much like a pen on paper. The higher-end tablet pens are often more responsive, with less lag time between when you put the tip to the glass and when you see your handwriting or sketches appear.
Forking over a hundred dollars for a digital writing stick may be too much of an extravagance for many people. In the middle ground, you can also find accessories that offer more features than the basic models — but cost less than a high-end stylus. The $40 Sensu Artist Brush & Stylus includes two artist’s tools (including a “digital” paintbrush) in one device that works with most touch screens, while the $75 Adonit Pixel promises smooth response, pressure sensitivity and shortcut buttons, all while working on a wider variety of iOS devices than the Apple Pencil.
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