In the classroom I use my iPad a lot for tasks like drawing diagrams and annotating pieces of work. However, trying to write or draw using my finger is just too messy and difficult. In an attempt to overcome this, I decided to try out a stylus and purchased a Pencil by FiftyThree. I’ve been using it for around a week now and this is my review of it so far.
Look and feel
Pencil by FiftyThree comes in three colour options, Gold, Walnut or Graphite, which I opted for. The only way to describe its appearance is stunning! It has a metal, unibody design which makes it comfortable to hold, with a discrete FiftyThree logo near the top. The body is a rectangular shape, akin to an old school carpenters pencil. It’s quite weighty (99g), about 17cm long, so it is well balanced and easy to hold, whilst the finish on the Graphite version is brushed which makes it easy to grip. Since it is flat, you can put it down, knowing it won’t roll away, however one downside is the fact that Pencil is unlikely to fit into any stylus holder which many third party iPad cases feature.
As well as just being a regular stylus, there are a some really cool features which set Pencil apart from the competition when used in conjunction with the app, Paper by FiftyThree. Firstly, Pencil detects the pressure you are using and alters the strokes depending on this. Furthermore, the point of the tip can be used for drawing fine lines whilst the edge can be used for much larger strokes or for shading, just like a real pencil:
In addition Pencil has a number of other perks which make it very user friendly. If you make a mistake or would just like to sharpen up some lines, you can flip the Pencil and use the eraser! Also, since the Pencil takes care of the drawing, it allows you to use your finger to blend colours, shading or edges. Finally, it features something which they refer to as Palm Rejection. Since the app knows when the Pencil is nearby, you can rest your palm on your iPad screen as you draw without worrying about ruining your work. You can also use a ruler on your screen and hold it in place without fear to draw perfectly straight lines. To sum it up, Pencil and Paper is about as close to actual pencil and paper as you can get!
If you use Pencil a lot, it’s inevitable that it’ll be subject to some wear and tear. However, Tips and Erasers can be replaced with ease and are available from FiftyThree for a reasonable price:
As well as Paper, there are a growing number of apps that are Pencil Ready, which can be found here.
Pencil does work straight out of the box like a traditional stylus. However if you buy one, it’s likely to be because you’re more interested in the additional feature on offer. These will require a bit of setting up, but the process is incredibly straight forward. Firstly, since Pencil connects to your iPad via Bluetooth, you’ll have to charge it before using the simple, Kiss to Pair feature:
The battery charges in around 90 minutes and the LED turns from amber to green once it is full. FiftyThree say that under normal use, a charge should last around a month. Once it’s charged and paired, you’re ready to go!
I opted for Pencil because of the reviews, with many labelling it the best iPad stylus around. In the time I’ve been using it, it has certainly lived up to that. When used with Paper, the features are incredible! Even with apps that do not support its advanced features, it still makes a superb stylus that is very precise and easy to handle. I’ll admit, the price is steep (especially if you opt for either the Gold or Walnut version) however once you open the box, feel the build quality and start using it, you it starts to justify its price. Purely because of the price, if you are only going to use it casually and not take advantage of the additional, I wouldn’t recommend spending as much on a stylus initially as there are good alternatives available for a much lower price. However, if you’re the type of person who’ll use it a lot, especially the extra features, then I would say that Pencil is perfect!