I reviewed the Apex Rechargeable active stylus a few weeks back and I was really impressed with it after years of using those rubber or mesh tipped disasters to try to add a handwritten element to my iPad. As commented in the review, being in the Ned Flanders left handed brigade made the use of a non-active stylus sometimes infuriating for handwriting. Handwriting is one of the few things that the iPad doesn’t do particularly well, unlike Samsung and their Note range. Thankfully we are starting to get some really decent active styluses on the market and they are starting to appear at price points which are attractive. This is where the KickStarter funded Dart Stylus from Precision Touch comes in.
First impressions when you take it out the package is it is bottom heavy. This is actually quite a good thing as it helps to balance the stylus comfortably in the hand while holding it in the writing position. There is certainly no feeling of weight from the top of the stylus and this makes it pretty comfortable to write with and much like a good quality fountain pen where the ink reservoir is in the middle of the body. The main exterior of the stylus is made out of black metal and there are three grooved lines which you would use for grip. The nib itself is solidly built plastic and tapers into a 2mm replaceable silicone tip at the bottom of the stylus (two replacements are provided). The top of the Dart has a plastic end which you can unscrew to put a AAAA battery in it to power it (two are supplied). Precision Touch say the battery is good for 18-20 hours, but I haven’t had the Dart long enough to be able to test this. It’s worth noting that the Dart is not a bluetooth stylus and therefore doesn’t require paring. Once on, it works straight away with no drama. I have no indication on how long that battery would last as I haven’t had the stylus long enough to test this.
What I really quite like about the Dart is the fact that you rotate the plastic top to turn it on rather than press a button. This is a really natural way to activate an electronic stylus, and is reminiscent of a normal pen which you can twist to lower the nib so you can use it. This is a big positive and it’s good the designers have incorporated natural actions from a normal pen into the Dart. As we know from Apple products, it’s the small things which often make the difference in user experience, and Dart have replicated this ethos in this stylus. The Dart has a small blue LED to notify the user that it is on. I left the Dart on for over 30 minutes and it doesn’t appear to have an automatic shutdown feature. This could be good as other styluses shut down mid note taking, but also if you forget to turn it off you will be chewing through your AAAA.
The writing experience is very good indeed. I am a big Notability user and this is my testbed for any new stylus that I have. The results were impressive. The Dart flows across the screen smoothly with very minimal friction. It has noticeability less resistance on the screen than the Apex Rechargeable. This might not be to everyone’s taste as some may like the replication of paper and pen friction, but I think on balance I prefer having less friction now I have used the Dart. My handwriting isn’t the greatest (I am a teacher, illegible handwriting is a requirement of the job) but my notes came out very well and best of all I made no compromise in terms of writing speed. I am certainly no artist, but I would imagine that the Dart would have few problem being used for sketching and drawing. The Dart also has a low level of noise while using it. There is not much in the way of a tapping noise on the screen as it is being used. As you would expect, the Dart also does not leave a mark of any kind on your iPad screen.
To sum up, if you are buying the Dart Stylus you will be getting an extremely good and very capable writing tool, and in my opinion the best stylus I have used to date. I prefer the writing experience slightly over the Apex Rechargeable, but there is not much between the two. I think the balance and the lower friction of the Dart just shade it for me. The only thing I would like to see in the Dart is a rechargeable battery as if you run out of AAAA batteries (not always easy to find in the local shop) then your are a bit stuck for note taking. All styluses have their pros and cons, but ultimately the most important thing is the writing and drawing experience. Dart have really done well here to create as good a writing experience on the iPad as I have had.
The Dart Stylus is available for $59.99. You can find more details at www.precisiontouch.com
Disclosure: Precision Touch provided me with a review unit for this article.