Apple Pencil Review: Not Your Average Stylus

Yes, it’s not your average stylus…nor is its capabilities average in any way. The Apple Pencil is arguably one of the best – if not, the best – styli currently in the market.

The device works seamlessly with the iPad Pro and this is no surprise as to why: both of them were engineered to work hand-in-hand. In a nutshell, the Apple solved the latency issue – which is apparent in some tablets – through sensors which scan the Apple Pencil signal by 240 times per second. This is about twice the data it receives when you use your hand.

The iPad Pro’s screen also detects how the Apple Pencil is oriented or if there is pressure – or lack of it – applied. For example, you can tilt the Pencil like you would on a regular pencil if you wish to shade an area, or if you want thinner lines, lightly skim it on the screen’s surface.

Anyway, this has been Apple’s solution to the long-time, perpetual dilemma of not having a definitive and awesome way of drawing and writing on its tablet computers. It’s also safe to say that it’s what makes the iPad Pro stand out – apart from being a powerful device with an awesome display and has access to multitude of apps available on the iOS App Store, it also fits the billing to how it’s advertised: as a laptop substitution

So, how does the Apple Pencil fare? We sketched, wrote, painted, and did whatever we can with it. Here’s what we think:


I’ve used a Wacom Cintiq pen before and if I were to compare it to Apple Pencil, the latter device feels better on the hands. It feels intuitive and is textbook Apple: it’s good on the hands and it feels slick, though a bit thick on the circumference department. The Pencil is longer compared to most pens, pencils, and to Fiftythree’s Pencil, which is an iOS-ready stylus.

Take note though, this is a highly subjective matter. What may feel awesome on my hands might not be on yours. Regardless though, if there’s a “getting used to” curve, you’ll feel right at home if you’ve been using pens and pencils all your life…which I’m sure you’ve been.

The white, metallic accent looks aesthetically pleasing, much like the old polycarbonate MacBooks of the old days. However, the smooth plastic body is rather slippery, but this is a relatively minor issue and something you shouldn’t be concerned about. That being said, it’s not going to get in the way when you’re drawing or writing – it stays on the hands without any issues and devoid of a rubber grip.

The design also screams Apple: it’s minimalistic, has no LED indicator when charging and nor does it have an LED indicator to say if your device is fully charged. There is also a glaring lack of buttons, which means you will need to work on the software aspect, like picking colors or changing hues, while using the touch screen. Apple might have done this because it might have been totally unnecessary, and it might have been a bit more fatter if there were buttons included.

There’s also no clip to make it latch on your clothes or to have it placed on. Fortunately though, it is designed not to roll off despite the absence of which, at least on a flat surface.

As for charging the Apple Pencil, all you have to do is slip off the magnetic cap on the opposite end of the drawing tip and immediately plug it to the iPad Pro. Of course, this means you won’t be able to use the Apple Pencil – this has obviously been the subject of a few laughs by haters – but the charging times are pretty short. According to Apple, a full charge gives you 12 hours worth of sketching, drawing, and writing. If you run out of batteries, you can just plug it in for 15 seconds and you’ll get 30 minutes worth of power. You also have the option of charging it using a separate Lightning port and cable (the Apple Pencil doesn’t come with one). Also note that a charging indicator shows up in the widgets!

In my case, I never had to run out of power. But hey, it’s not like I’m an artist spending 12 hours poring over a single drawing.

The writing, sketching, and painting phase

The Apple Pencil is Bluetooth-powered and setting it up is easy as turning a door knob: simply remove the cap and plug the Lightning connector into the iPad Pro’s Lightning port (it’s at the bottom). Remember though, be sure to turn on your iPad Pro’s Bluetooth connection beforehand. After you plug it in, a dialogue box will appear and ask if you want to pair your Apple Pencil with the iPad Pro. Of course, we don’t need to tell you which option to pick. After that, there will be no widget, app, or section in the settings for the Apple Pencil installed because it’s totally unnecessary.

Now for the fun part: using it.

The best way to start off is through the Notes app. In the iPad Pro, you can sketch or write using the app. With it, you can transform your iPad Pro into some sort of a digital notebook. It performed as expected: there were zero delays and if they existed, it was a matter of milliseconds. The handwriting is pretty realistic too: I’ve used the Bamboo stylus before and the end product of my writing, particularly my signature, looked pretty much like a jumbled heap. In the Apple Pencil’s case, the words appearing on-screen looked a lot like my handwriting on paper. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, considering my handwriting is messed up. Jokes aside, you will feel like you’re in control of whatever you’re doing on both devices.

The Apple Pencil is also pressure-sensitive, thus adding more realism into the mix. For example, you need to press on the screen harder using the Apple Pencil (not too hard though!) to create darker lines, especially when you’re painting. This emulates the thing painters do with their brushes. You can also incline it at an angle to shade surfaces.

Another nifty feature is the palm rejection technology employed by the iPad Pro. Sure, this is found in other rival devices, but this definitely deserves a special mention. Take note that the tablet is like a sketch pad – you may have to touch the device, specifically the screen, to adjust the device to fit the position you want it to be in. You might even absentmindedly place your palms on the screen.

However, the palm rejection technology prevents you from unwanted smudges and accidentally inputting “paint” or “ink”. This is so mainly because the device can detect if it’s your skin touching the screen, or the Apple Pencil itself. You no longer have to worry about ruining your masterpiece or write-up whenever you touch the screen – this might not seem much, but a worry-free sketching and drawing session is a must for soon-to-be hardcore users, like artists.

Also, to ensure you won’t be bothered while reaching into the depths of your artistic conscious and channeling your inner Picasso, the iPad Pro immediately turns the Notifications Center and other apps which may cause alerts to pop on the screen. This effectively allows you to work on your masterpieces undisturbed, though you could miss out on something: it’s best to have another device on your side, especially if you’re anticipating any notifications from social media or other apps.

Compatible apps

One of the best things about the Apple Pencil is it being compatible with other organizing and essential apps. We have to thank the various app developers for this. Currently the catalogue of Apple Pencil compatible apps isn’t numbering by the thousands, but we could see this change any time soon.

Currently, compatible Apple apps include (but are not limited to) Notes and Mail. As for third party apps, the most notable of which is Paper by FiftyThree whose developers also created a stylus they called the “Pencil”. Others include Evernote, Fix and Sketch, Adobe Comp CC, Pixelmator, Procreate, and Adobe Photoshop Mix.

Final thoughts

There is no denying that the Apple Pencil is a great, well-designed, and well-though out product. The designers and guys in charge of its inception at Cupertino must be commended. Despite the lack of buttons and charging indicators on the Apple Pencil, you won’t feel like it’s gone.

Personally, I don’t have any beef with the $99 price tag, but it’s still more expensive compared to other styli and I’m not sure if other users would be keen on purchasing it. However, if you’re already an iPad Pro owner, it doesn’t make sense not to get this. I don’t consider the Apple Pencil as a mere accessory, but rather, a necessity. This is so especially if you want to fully enjoy the awesomeness of the iPad Pro.

It may be similar compared to other styli, but you won’t find anything as sleek as the Apple Pencil! Apparently, Pixar likes it, and so should you!

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