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Best Stylus for Touch Tablets – Adonit JotPro

January 1, 2013

Years ago Steve Jobs suggested that if a tablet device needed a stylus, it was a failed device. It was this thinking that really led to a change in how people perceived and used tablets. It’s why the IOS devices propelled the market for tablets even though Bill Gates correctly recognized the pending change to the PC market 10 years earlier.

I agree with Job’s suggestion 99% of the time. If a tablet requires a stylus then the tablet is really a failure. However, when the form factor of a tablet so closely resembles the same pad of paper you would have normally used to take notes in a meeting, jot down your shopping list, or potentially to sit in a classroom lecture and take notes, it is undeniable that there are times when a tablet really does fail when it can’t be used with a stylus.

Microsoft has been the leader in this space for years. There is no doubt that Microsoft technology combined with the Wacom digitizer is the best inking on the planet. Active digitizers are in a different class for ease of use. This is an area where we will continue to see improvements in the coming year, I am sure. We already see that Samsung has the sPen technology and it works pretty well. This technology is available for both Windows and Android tablets. This past week, Apple just filed a patent so they could bring some sort of smart pen technology to the capacitive touch screen on the iPad. There is no doubt that Nokia and the “super sensitive” touch in their Lumia line of phones will also allow inking when they endeavor into the tablet market.

But, what about the capacitive touch tablets on the market today? For the Apple iPad or the Microsoft Surface for example, there are a number of devices that are available. In the AT&T store, for example, they have no problem using the cheap nub tip (crayon) type stylus. They work for signatures (not well, but they work). There are times when a fat tip stylus will work with no questions.

1. If you have an app that allows you to write with a “crayon” and then it converts it into text or into smaller handwriting. Apps like Upad on the iPad, or the native keyboard on a Microsoft Surface (handwriting conversion) work fine for this sort of thing. If you are making bullet lists, then this sort of handwriting is completely reasonable. Additionally, there are software programs that will let you block the screen so that “palm blocking” can be accommodated by software. None of these are they type of writing experience that makes note taking reasonable.

2. A new type of stylus by Adonit is simply a brilliant invention. The stylus looks like a regular pen, but on the end of the pen there is a flat piece of plastic that sits flush to the screen when you write. With the clear plastic on the screen, as you write, you can see the screen and it appears that the ink is flowing smoothly from the tip of the pointy tip on the stylus. Compared to the fat tip stylus by Bamboo (the best of the fat tip options) the experience with the Adonit is awesome.

Using the Adonit JotPro is a very reasonable writing experience. It is not the same as a digitizer pen as used on the old Windows devices, but it is absolutely passable. Also, given the premise at the start of this article that 99% of the time a tablet should be operated by finger, it certainly will bridge the gap where you won’t see others with their fancy stylus writing while you struggle with a crayon to take notes. The Adonit is the answer. It works for writing in smaller places and it provides a precision for writing, drawing that I highly recommend.

That is the conclusion. If you don’t have one, go buy an Adonit stylus. There are several models available from about $15-30. Buy one. Now, I want to give you a few tips for using the stylus that will help you enjoy the experience even more.

When you first get the Adonit stylus it will work flawlessly. In fact, I was so shocked by the ability to take notes clearly that I couldn’t believe it. However, my joy turned into disgust after a little bit of time when my beautiful stylus started “skipping”. I joked because at first, if I just scribbled on the side, the inking would start flowing and it would write smoothly after. At the beginning, I was unsure if the skipping was being caused by the stylus, an unclean screen, or maybe my new tablet was not processing fast enough.

However, after a bit more time, it started skipping more frequently (over the first month). I really cleaned the screen regularly and I also experimented with the writing position to the point where I was confused because one time a particular angle would work and the next time, not so much. However, the answer was so shockingly easy to fixand it returned my amazement in the stylus. I will describe the situation and then I will go ahead and add some pictures later.

The flat plastic piece has a little cup and the stylus tip fits into the cup. It clicks in. However, between the stylus tip and the cup on the flat plastic piece there must be a contact to conduct the signal. Sometimes there appears to be a problem where the contact disappears. I am sure you could use any material, or gel, to address this problem; however, by a mile there is an easier way. Not to get too technical, but it appears that adding some sort of conductive material between the tip of the pen and the flat plastic plate, the beauty of handwriting is returned. You can think of this as the process to refill the ink cartridge in the old ball point pen.

1. Grab a little square of aluminum foil. Fold it over 3-4 times into a little square.

2. Disconnect the plastic tip from the Adonit Stylus.

3. Place the foil between the flat plastic piece (the cup receiver) and the tip, and press the tip back into the plate. (The tip will tear through the foil and it will add enough material to the tip that the contact is restored.

After following this procedure, handwriting with the Adonit stylus was returned to the quality of being brand new. I was so impressed by the ease of making this work that I just tore off another little 4 inch square and tossed it into the hidden pouch on my tablet carrying case. I figured I would never be without my refill again. It really takes 30 seconds to go through the procedure. I am telling you this because the skipping started happening pretty shortly after I bought the stylus. I am confident that this procedure will save many of you frustration and it will really make your device a note taking machine.

Note: I spoke with the folks at Adonit and they ensured me that the steps I outlined above should not be necessary. They said it is possible for the ball at the end of the stylus to need cleaning so that it continues to conduct the signal correctly. I will let you know what I find. For now, the quick fix for the aluminum foil works.

Here’s a quick link to three videos using Office Onenote on the Surface RT, converting handwriting to text and using the handwriting keyboard to write in text:



From → Technology

  1. Subsequently, after spending many hours over the internet at final We’ve uncovered somebody that most certainly does understand what they are actually discussing thank you very much wonderful write-up

  2. Thanks for your simple solution to fixing the skipping issue I’ve had with my JotPros! After replacing several discs only to find that wasn’t a lasting fix, they had joined the pile of “great ideas but flawed products” stashed in the back of the drawer. I’m looking forward to your post on handwriting and the SurfaceRT. I’ve been holding out for the SurfacePro, but it you’ve found a way to work with handwriting to text conversion in Word and OneNote, an RT may fit my needs just fine and budget even better.

    • Just so you know, I spoke with the support folks at Adonit and they say you should NEVER have to use the aluminum foil as I outlined. They suggest the problem is either a bad disk, or the ball needs to be cleaned. Interesting, they did suggest that I could use the aluminum foil to “polish” the ball and that should work too.

      Regardless, since my fix, it has been working for months with no problems.

  3. I will try to post a video this weekend to demonstrate writing with the Surface. I would say that for most people it’s “good enough”. There is no doubt that using a tablet with a digitizer is a better experience. Handwriting to text is extremely easy. Click on the keyboard and choose the option that looks like handwriting. Write in the space and it will convert it from handwriting to text.

    • Thanks, looking forward to it. I tried a rubber tipped capacitive stylus on an Asus VivoTabRT at BB and was seriously underwhelmed. (Used the text entry bar in the onscreen keyboard.) May head back to BB and see how the Adonit works on the SurfaceRT. How do you handle note taking in OneNote? If I understand correctly, there is no palm rejection.

  4. 1. Rubber tip stylus is a horrible experience. The Adonit is heads and shoulders above that experience.

    2. For Onenote, you have to use the “desktop” version, not the version in the store. The store version only allows for handwriting with an active digitizer like the one found in the Surface Pro (not the RT Surface). I can give you a bunch of tips for taking notes with Onenote to make it a really decent experience. I will write a brief article tomorrow to go along with the video.

    3. You can also use an app called Note Anytime. Without an active digitizer, you cannot rest your hand on the screen while writing. I typically handle that by angling the tablet as I write. However, there is an option to use palm rejection through software. With Note Anytime, you click on the palm rejection button and then it provides an adjustable protection area (move where you need it) on the screen so that any touches in that area aren’t recognized. I find that it slows things down a bit, but it definitely works. For me, all notes are organized in Onenote, so even if I take notes with another product, I still print those notes to Onenote for organization purposes. There are also a bunch of really nice features in the Note Anytime App.

    FYI – It is incredibly hard to write and hold a camera. 🙂 I need to enlist the support of a helper because I attempted a couple videos today and they were bad. So, I apologize in advanced for poor film quality. Most likely my 6 year old will be the camera pro.

    • Thanks for your replies. OneNote was the killer app on my TabletPCs and losing handwriting recognition on the SurfaceRT could be a deal breaker. The more I think about it, it may not even be the handwriting to text conversion that’s got me hesitant. I think it’s the fact that on the TabletPCs, OneNote did its own handwriting recognition in the background which made handwritten notes searchable. I am doubting that the RT version (OneNoteMX) has that capability which means I’d need to devise another kind of work around for that function. (I know, I could go Evernote Pro which does handwriting OCR, but I’m not there yet in need or desire.)

      Appreciate the recommendation for NoteAnytime. Just discovered it via a Surface forum yesterday and am playing with it on my iPad. The way it allows the user to rotate the palm guard is unique; it might actually meet the needs of left-handed note takers, especially those who tend to write with a hand “hook.” Don’t know if it does handwriting to text yet on the iPad – haven’t played with it much yet.

      As to writing with rubber capacitive nibs, I have my own fix for them which works quite well. (I cover the nib with a small piece of nylon stocking hose. And in a pinch, a piece of Scotch tape over the nib works as well, it just looks funky.) I agree, the JotPro excels at on-point-accuracy (because you can see through the disc) but I sometimes find the sound of the stylus tapping on the screen too distracting in quiet environments. There are a number of stylii with capacitive fabrics that work consistently well (no dragging, skipping, dead-spots) for note taking.

      Bless your little 6 year old! You may end up fostering the next Spielberg if s/he gets hooked on the process.

      Looking forward to your cinematic efforts.

      • Sorry. I started making the video today and then I left the stylus sitting on the table. I will have to pick it up tomorrow and give it another shot. I will just say that I already have some great blooper videos, but nothing worth posting.

        To answer a couple of your points:
        1. Surface RT still has the handwriting conversion. After you write your notes, you can click on a button to convert from ink to text. It works fine. You won’t want to use Onenote MX because it doesn’t allow handwriting without an active digitizer. UNLESS you want to use the keyboard/writing option. In that case, you write in the keyboard area and it converts it to text.

        2. The other styli don’t come close to the Adonit Stylus from a note taking perspective. They simply aren’t accurate enough unless you really enlarge the writing area.

      • Check out the video I added. I specifically demonstrated the handwriting to text conversion process. It’s simple. You do have to play with it a little bit. For example, when I write my cursive I, it always shows up as a “D”. Luckily, I typically print the I, so it’s not a problem. Still, unlike the active digitizer, you do have to make a few alterations to your workflow to make the stylus work.

        On the other hand, now with the Adonit stylus, it does not have me wishing I was using the Asus again.

  5. video link not working?

  6. Reblogged this on RGH Post-PC News and commented:

    I have added a couple short videos so that you can see how smoothly the handwriting works using the Adonit Stylus and Microsoft Onenote

  7. thedesertvoice permalink

    Just a question, which active digitalizer you recommend for Win RT?

    Also, I try to view your videos in my Surface but appears a message that indicates that the file cannot be decoded.

    • You don’t select an “active digitizer” for the Surface RT. You must use a capacitive stylus with the Surface RT. See my example of using an Adonit Stylus. It’s the best handwriting stylus, by a mile, for the Surface.

      As for the video, click on the link and you will see three video files. Press the play button. I have watched it work on other Surface tablets now with no problem. I think I had a bad link when I first posted the link, but it should be good now.

  8. thedesertvoice permalink

    I agree, but I am more interested to something like this
    If something like this exist for Win Rt I will buy in a blink, or if exist for windows8 an can be used in Surface.

    • I don’t entirely disagree. However, if you really need handwriting on a tablet and you want to spend another $100, then you should go ahead and purchase a tablet with the Wacom digitizer. The difference between using the regular digitizer and anything else is just miles apart. I will have to get a video of the Asus EP121 so you can see the difference. To me, requiring batteries for anything related to a stylus is a deal breaker. The other issues is that these sorts of devices are limited only to application written to use their specific capabilities. Meaning that you have a more limited app choice.

      • thedesertvoice permalink

        The surface pro stylus looks cool too, hope MS release a version for RT

  9. Thanks for the videos. The handwriting to text conversion is excellent. I was surprised by the speed. Went to Best Buy to try it out with my Adonit Jot but the RT was updating. Took it forever and never got a chance to try it out. (I was only there about 45 minutes.) Was going to pull the trigger on the Dell Latitude 10 because it has a Wacom digitizer, replaceable battery and will run legacy apps, but I’ve been reading that folks are having problems with streaming HD video. (I’m thinking the Atom processor might not be up to the task, or it could be software/driver related.) SurfacePro is just around the corner. I wish Microsoft had kept the floating TIP.

    • What do you mean by the “floating tip”? Are you talking about the dot that shows up on the screen when the stylus gets close? If so, that is still there for the tablets with an active digitizer (like the Surface Pro). I can post some writing samples with my EP121 as it also has the active digitizer. The Adonit will work with any capacitive touch tablet, including the iPad…

      • On the SurfaceRT it appears the text input panel (TIP)/keyboard is locked at the bottom of the screen. On my tabletpcs (and your EP121) this can be moved and resized. I assume locked at the bottom of the screen is probably the decision that had to be made since the the screen has no palm rejection. Think it would be nice to move the TIP when taking notes in portrait which I often did on my tabletpcs.

        Curious, did you stop using your EP121 as a mobile companion due to size or battery life, both or some other reason?

  10. Ashwin permalink

    Do you use the Incipio Screen protector along with the Jot Pro? I have the Incipio screen protector that is glossy and comes in one of the Surface RT bundles. The Jot pro works very poorly with this screen protector. Adonit said it tends to work better with matte screen protectors. Removing the screen protector isn’t as easy as I hoped and it was hard to get on without any bubbles/dust so I am not too excited to take it off.

    Just wondering if you could test out the Jot Pro on an RT with the Incipio Screen protector to see how it works compared to your testing.

    • I don’t use the Incipio Screen protector; however, I know what you are talking about, they are very difficult to get positioned just right with no air bubbles. I happen to have a couple of them around, so I will give it a shot and let you know how it turns out. It will probably take a day or two.

    • I just stuck the screen protector on the device and writing still works pretty well. I have a video of my test. Overall, it seemed to stick a little (but I just stuck it on). I will post a video tomorrow.

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