Review: Hand Stylus Shows Promise

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Hand Stylus
Image courtesy Hand Stylus

I’ve been going through a bunch of styluses lately. It turns out they mostly suck. Picture trying to write something with a hot dog encased in metal. Not exactly an artists dream, and usually I just give up and used my finger. You know, one of the ten styluses Steve Jobs said we carried with us all the time?

The Hand Stylus ended up not sucking. Hooray! They sent me a couple of prototypes, and I’m glad I checked them out. The Hand Stylus is being funded as a Kickstarter project. Funding closes June 17, and the styluses should hit stores sometime in mid to late July for a retail price around $35-40. (Hand Stylus designer Steven King emailed me to tell me the retail price would actually be $25-$29) You can save $5 on a stylus and tip bundle if you buy it through the Kickstarter.

The Elephant in the Room

Ok, there’s never going to be an absolutely perfect iPad stylus, because Apple’s capacitive screen is designed around fingers and not tips. You’re never going to get ball-point pen precision for it. Get a Galaxy Note if you want that. I’ve tried them out, and the stylus on the Note is fantastic. They use a different screen technology that allows for precise, pressure sensitive styluses. The screen is a bit smaller, but a 10 inch tablet version of the Note will likely hit stores by the end of this year.

For the hard core, there’s also the Wacom Cintiq. I have an older version in my office, and it’s very nice. It’s not a tablet, and it’s super pricey, but you can draw on those things like nobody’s business.

The Hand Stylus

So, here we are. You don’t want to wait. You’ve already got an iPad or Android tablet, and you’d really like a stylus that doesn’t feel like you’re mushing down a sponge-top bottle. Enter the Hand Stylus. It comes in a nice tin, so that lowers the chances that you’ll toss this thing into your purse or backpack and never see it again. (Not that I’ve ever done that. *cough*) It also comes with a removable clip that magnetically attaches to iPad 2 and 3 cases if you’re into minimal storage space.

This stylus is not as firm as I’d prefer, but it’s also not nearly as mushy as others I’ve tried. Hand Stylus says that this is a 4mm surface area, so about the size of a dull number 2 pencil. There were times that I’d try writing and not make any marks, but it didn’t take too long to figure out the sweet spot. The pen itself is hexagonal and has a nice heft to it. It reminds me of the lead-holders we’d use in drawing classes in college.

It’s retractable. I’ve had other styluses that weren’t, and the tips can get damaged in transport. In addition, the retracting mechanism spins the tip just slightly each time to preserve it. You still have to press down on a sponge-like nib, but this time you won’t be putting all the pressure in the same direction every time. You can also buy replacement tips. I don’t have a sample to test, but the process of disassembling the stylus is fairly straightforward. That means I might let my kids borrow it sometime. They don’t touch my Wacom, ever.

The Verdict

If you’re an artist, you may have been slightly disappointed that iPads didn’t get you the drawing precision you crave. If you’ve got a tablet and ArtRage for iPad or Sketchbook Pro for Android, you owe it to yourself to get a good stylus to go with it. The Hand Stylus, when it hits the market, can be that stylus for you. It’s not perfect. It’s still not as precise as a sharp pencil, but it’s been the best iPad stylus I’ve tried.

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