You know you are pretty geeky when you get excited about receiving a stylus in the post. However, this is a fairly regular occurrence for me and I’m not quite, but almost a stylus junkie. One of the main reasons I love the iPad is that, used with apps which suit your style of working, you can do some amazing things to streamline your workflow. For me though, the thing that is missing from the iPad is a good stylus for handwritten input. I’ve always been slightly jealous of the Samsung S-pen and thought that this is one of the areas where the iPad is lacking. The iPad has some amazing note taking apps (Notability is my favourite), but without decent hardware input, the writing experience is truly awful. However, Lynktec look to be about to change this with their new rechargeable Apex active stylus.
In terms of a stylus, what I am looking for is a digital replication of using pen and paper. I’ve tried many styluses in the past and nothing has been up to the job. To complicate matters further I’m a leftie and as those of us in the left-hander’s club will know, we push a stylus across the screen, rather than drag it like you right handers do. This really rules out the standard rubber tipped stylus because they create too much friction, meaning the mesh tip is the only real way forward. The mesh tip suffers from the same inaccuracy as the rubber tip though and when you are using such a slick device as an iPad, using a standard stylus to write feels like I’m driving a super car through thick mud.
The Apex solves all of these problems out of the box. For a start the stylus is not Bluetooth enabled, so there is no need to worry about pairing. Turn it on and it works straight away. The tip is 2.3 mm and for me there is no discernible difference between that and a standard pen tip. To hold it, you would think you are using a normal pen. It looks like one, and has a similar weight, width and length. Clearly though, the most important aspect of the Apex is, how does it write?
Good news fellow stylus geeks, the performance is very good indeed. I was impressed by the accuracy and quality of the stroke when writing. I concentrated most of my testing in Notability as this is my go-to notes app. Firstly, as suggested, I turned off multitasking gestures and engaged the palm rejection element of Notability. The experience was flawless. I could rest my upside down left-handed writing palm on the iPad screen and it picked up my scribe perfectly. I had read and seen reviews of other active styluses and I had noticed that some had a tendency to suddenly draw random lines elsewhere on the screen, or cut out entirely whilst writing. I have not experienced this once yet. The Apex rechargeable does your bidding with no funny business whatsoever.
The tip seems to be fibre based and as a result, it glides across the screen with little resistance. If I was being hyper critical, I would actually like a bit more resistance, just to give it that pen to paper feel, but I am being very picky here. The other minor issue is if you are pressing to select something, a quick tap won’t do it and you have to apply a little pressure. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t use it too much for selecting things as it would flatten out the nib for writing.
Another plus here is the rechargeable battery. Other active styluses on the market at the moment seem to use AAAA batteries, which are not always in ready supply in the local shop. The Apex comes with a standard micro USB charge cable which plugs discretely into the top of the device. According to Lynktec, a charge will last 2-4 weeks and they claim you will get 500 decent charges out of the battery, so there should be no real power issues here, and doing the math the battery will last a long time. I can’t comment on charge length as the Apex hasn’t run out of charge since I took it out of the box.
In my opinion, the Apex Rechargeable is as good as you are going to get on the iPad. I’d struggle to see how you could improve it as it has longevity with the battery life and it works exactly as advertised in terms of writing. The device is relatively expensive, but I have probably spent a lot of money and time on sub-standard stylus products before, and with this at least I know it will work, and will last. I can’t comment on the length of life of the fibre tip, but replacements are available (as well as getting a spare in the box).
I do like it when app developers and in this case, hardware developers, have thought carefully about a concept and implemented it well. In this case Lynktec have done this. Overall though, I’m pleased that I’ve finally found a device which allows me to write, frustration free, on my iPad. Au revior paper!
The Apex Rechargeable is currently priced at $69.99, via Lynktec and elsewhere.
Disclosure: Lynktec sent me a unit for review.