1. ModMyi Reviews's Avatar
    You’re showing your iPad to someone and it’s never long before they say,”wow, can you paint right on the screen – amazing! Can you use a stylus?”

    A stylus?! Blasphemy.

    If Steve Jobs meant for us to use a stylus, he would’ve put one in the box! Right? “You have to get em and put em away, and you lose em. Yuck. Nobody wants a stylus… We’re going to touch this with our fingers.”

    At least that’s what Jobs said while unveiling the touch interface back at Macworld 2007. Am I the only one who quotes that?

    In years of production work, I’ve never really taken to the concept of using a stylus. The disconnect of moving a pen on a tablet to control something on a screen always seemed like I was trying to be a ventriloquist. So you can imagine my excitement when asked to compare(!) two new stylus offerings for the iPad. “Please tell me they’re not made out of plastic.”

    That attitude quickly changed once I started using these two finely crafted hunks of aluminum. Because they interact directly with the screen below, a stylus actually makes sense on the iPad… for some things. I never realized I wanted to use a stylus – touching up photos, painting, creating line drawings, embellishing – all using layers of paint on a screen. Very cool. You probably already have apps like Brushes, Layers or Wasabi Paint mostly for showing off the iPad, right? With a stylus, you can finally put that nubby sausage finger away and get drawing with a bit more finesse.

    I used ArtStudio to put these styluses (styli?) through a real workout. If you’re decent with Photoshop you’ll have no problem with an app like ArtStudio. It works with layers and multiple brushes with options for everything you’d want.

    So here’s today’s stylus shootout: Alupen vs. oStylus (Sharpie shown for scale)

    You’ll quickly notice some obvious differences between the chunky but substantial Alupen, and the thin svelte oStylus. The Alupen (not to be confused with ‘a lupin’) looks like an over-sized but stubby pencil, roughly the size of a Sharpie with a smooth rounded black rubber nub at the tip. Feels kinda creepy and squishy (fleshy?) when you push on the rubber tip. You’ll probably only touch it once out of curiosity. The Alupen feels a lot like holding an oil pastel crayon or charcoal stick, but obviously a little heavier due to the solid aluminum construction.

    The oStylus on the other hand, looks like something your dentist would get at a Home Depot. A precision instrument with an unexpected washer-like attachment at its tip. The oStylus was designed by a jeweler so that the ‘O’ sits suspended by a rigid wire-like mount. Hinged on those two contact points, the capacitive stylus tip floats easily across your screen no matter what angle you draw.

    Stuck onto the backside of the ‘O’ like a sticker, is a shiny washer that protects your screen from any possible scratches and is also removable/replaceable. Kinda reminds me of hole protectors for notebook paper.

    Our test oStylus was a hand-assembled, limited edition numbered and signed by the designer. They’ve since dropped that signature and cut the price in half to $37.50. Probably a good move.

    With a handle thickness very close to that of a paintbrush, it feels totally natural applying paint to a digital canvas!

    One problem with touchscreen painting is that it’s often hard to see what you’re doing because your finger (or a typical stylus) blocks your view. The key feature of the oStylus addresses this problem with the washer-like ‘O’ tip. Basically this gives you a hole where you can see precisely where the center of the paint is being applied. It works pretty well, although there was a slight delay when starting to move the oStylus before seeing the result. Sometimes the area being painted would actually lag under the edge of the ‘O’ tip. This could vary in other apps but ArtStudio seemed pretty responsive overall.

    Here’s a youtube video of the oStylus in action.

    Even with the slight delay, it’s very helpful to see what you’re painting as long as it’s not being obscured by the ‘O’ tip itself. And that’s the trade-off – you can see a tiny portion of where you’re painting but it comes at the expense of seeing AROUND where you’re painting. It might be better if the ‘O’ were clear plastic but that might not be as durable.

    The $24.95 Alupen seems a bit more natural for me even though the tip is obscured as you paint. But, that’s also true of real life charcoal and pastels on paper. If you’ve spent time drawing or painting, this is something you get used to and your brain just compensates for over time.

    I really enjoyed the weight and thickness of the Alupen. Just like any stylus, it takes a little time to get used to the responsiveness and contact point on the screen. It didn’t take me long at all before I forgot that I was drawing digitally.

    The tip of the Alupen is quite soft but smooth enough to glide on the screen beautifully and since it’s rounded, works at various angles too. Even though the thickness slightly blocks where you’re drawing, it actually works out fine because of the slight lag time between drawing and seeing the digital ink appear on-screen.

    So to sum up, I’d categorize each tool like this:

    Alupen – great for simulating a pastel crayon or charcoal stick. You might ask “with the fat tip, how is it different than just using a fingertip?” I think it’s very different. Personally, I can’t draw with my fingertips very well at all. When I’ve tried, it just doesn’t ‘feel’ like drawing… it feels like finger-painting. So the Alupen gives you that great ‘feel’ and is excellent for painting and drawing. And it’s size is no big deal if you can get by with seeing only a little bit better than using the fleshy meat-sticks attached to your hands.

    However, if you need something with greater precision, the oStylus is better for detail work and also for simulating the feel of a paintbrush. Bonus points for the ability to see the pixels as you paint!

    In use, both styluses work very well with distinct advantages. Construction is excellent for the price on both products. The decision is probably best left up to the type of drawing you’re going to do. If you’re serious about your craft, these are the kind of tools you want! Precise, comfortable, quality instruments.

    One last tip: both of these styluses work best with the iPad in some sort of case (we used the Incase Convertible Book Jacket). This gives you a nice, raised and framed edge to rest your wrist.

    The Alupen is available through JustMobile’s site. The oStylus is not yet available. However, we are giving an Alupen away to a commenter here, so comment away!

    Review by Larry Wiezycki. Larry works in TV and media production as part of an Investigative Team for a consumer advocacy law firm, James-Hoyer. Hes received 4 Emmy awards and has been an avid iOS and OS X user for years.

    2010-11-11 07:20 PM
  2. pmaldona7's Avatar
    Thanks for this review! I currently have a stylus from Belkin, but like most iPad stylus' out there, they are very skinny so it doesn't feel quite right. I like the Alupen from what your review shows. I am not a serious enough painter to use the oStylus. BTW, will you guys still be giving one away to a commenter?
    2011-06-27 03:30 PM
  3. Bryc's Avatar
    I have a stylus from blick, it was a match, it was crappy. The reason I got it was to draw on my ipad
    2012-02-01 10:09 PM
  4. N0xis's Avatar
    Nice review. You've convinced me to buy this Stylus.
    2013-05-02 04:25 AM