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Apple Pencil

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star

What's Hot: Good accuracy in terms of parallax, tracking and latency. Great tilt feature for shading in art. Charges quickly, pairs easily.

What's Not: Pencil is slippery and too long. Charging cap will easily get lost. Expensive.

Reviewed November 24, 2015 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Apple Pencil

Though we had reservations about the iPad Pro, Apple's giant new tablet that the company pits against laptops (including its own), we found the Apple Pencil thoroughly enjoyable. The $99 digital writing instrument isn't included with the $799- $1,079 tablet, and it's extremely hard to find, so we too had to wait to receive ours. After 5 days of testing it with One Note, Evernote, Procreate, Sketchbook and Apple's own Notes app, we proclaim the Pencil well done. For a first generation digitizer technology, it's solid with latency, parallax, palm rejection and pressure sensitivity similar to the more mature N-Trig (used in Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book) and Wacom (used in various Lenovo ThinkPad models among others) digitizer and pen technologies.

The industrial design isn't without faults-- Apple clearly focused on making it pretty and their attempts to literally clone a fresh pencil out of the box result in a Pencil that's too long and too slippery. We'd also like it to be a bit fatter. Perhaps in their next iteration, Apple will use the more grippy aluminum finish found on iPad and iPhone backs. The pen charges when you plug it into the Lightning port. Remove the easily lost magnetic end cap to charge the Pencil. Apple says you'll get 30 minutes of use with a 15 second charge. That long Pencil plugged into the butt of a giant iPad is an accident waiting to happen, and thus we're happy Apple includes a female-to-female Lightning adapter so you can use the iPad's charger instead.

Though the Pencil generally inks smoothly and accurately and we absolutely love the tilt support that's great for natural media replication of a shading pencil, pastel, charcoal or fan brush, the breadth of sophisticated art programs is weak in iOS compared to Windows. The Pencil and iPad Pro are great for sketch artists roughing out a draft, brainstormers who like to diagram their ideas and note takers. Handwriting recognition, equation recognition and very advanced art tools hold it back right now. That said, the Apple Pencil is expensive, but it is likely worth it for iPad owners who take notes by hand and like to sketch. We do hope future iPad Air models support the Pencil.

Here's our Apple Pencil video review. We also compare it with Surface Pro 4's pen and the Wacom EMR pen on the Cube i7 Stylus Windows 10 tablet.

And don't forget to read and watch our iPad Pro Review!

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Apple Pencil Video Review

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