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The best iPad stylus in 2021: top iPad pens for drawing and note-taking

girl with a tablet and a stylus - best ipad styluses
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Drawing on an iPad can be a great experience, but it requires the best iPad stylus. if you're at all serious about digital art on an iPad, then getting one of the best styluses is an absolute necessity; and even if you're not, a good stylus can make your life easier in all sorts of ways.

You can make notes on your iPad, tick off tasks, play games, and control apps without smearing the screen with fingerprints. A good stylus makes it all easy, and there is loads of choice out there for anyone looking to pick one up.

Granted, the obvious choice is the manufacturer's own Apple Pencil, and granted, this is a terrific stylus for iPad. In fact, it's the best one, and we've put it at the top spot on our list for a reason. With pressure sensitivity, pixel-perfect line creation, lag free operation and more, the Apple Pencil provides an unimpeachable experience for iPad users. If you've forked out for one of the most recent top-of-the-line iPads, like the iPad Pro 12.9-inch (M1, 2021) and the iPad Pro 11-inch (M1, 2021), then it definitely makes sense to get the Apple Pencil. If you've already thrown down that much cash on a digital art tool, there's no sense skimping on the pencil!

But if, perhaps, you're using a more humble, affordable iPad, a more affordable stylus might suit you better. You may not need top-notch functionality, and favour a simple stylus that just works. We've included plenty on this list, and depending on the level of functionality you need, you should be able to find something suitable. Whether you need a basic stylus, a professional artist's tool, or something in between, there should be something in here for you.

Side note: all the tech talk can get a bit overwhelming. If you're a bit lost already, jump to the end where we go through the basics of iPad styluses.

Third-party iPad stylus manufacturers include Zagg, Adonit, Wacom and Logitech. Each of them make a selection of products that are pitched at different user levels, so have a browse get a feel for what's right for you.

If you want to look beyond just iPads, you can check out our guide to the best tablets with a stylus. Also, if you're dead set against using Apple's own-brand Pencil, look at our guide to the best Apple Pencil alternatives. Read on to find out exactly what stylus for your iPad you should buy – and where to buy it for the best price. 

The best iPad styluses

Best iPad styluses

(Image credit: Apple)

01. Apple Pencil 2 (2018)

The best pen for iPad overall (if your iPad is compatible with it)

Pressure levels: 4096 | Weight: 20.7g | Length: 175.7mm | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Battery life: 12 hours

Really natural to use
Good with all apps
Great for writing and drawing
Selective compatibility
Price

As we mentioned in the introduction to this guide, the Apple Pencil 2 is really is the best stylus you can get for an iPad. The only slight catch is that you do have to make certain you get the model that's compatible with your particular model of iPad. (We've put in some more detail below, as this can get a bit confusing). But as long as you manage this, the Apple Pencil will provide you with the best iPad drawing experience, period. With got palm rejection, pressure sensitivity and lag-free operation, drawing on iPad with an Apple Pencil feels genuinely game-changing, and it's no wonder that other drawing tablet manufacturers are eyeing Apple nervously. It works seamlessly with the best drawing apps, so you should absolutely pick whichever one is right for you. 

Okay, there is one more issue, and that's cost. An iPad already represents a significant chunk of change, as anyone who's bought one probably noticed, and the Apple Pencil is the most expensive stylus you can get, adding another hefty sum onto the amount you've already paid. So while the Pencil is definitely the best stylus, it may not be best for you, especially if cost is an issue and you feel you can live without a few features. Still, that's why  We'd definitely encourage exploring the other options on this list, as there are loads of great third-party choices available for a fraction of the price. Ultimately, though, there was no other choice for the top spot. If you want the best stylus for an iPad, this is it. 

Also read: Apple Pencil 2 review

The new Apple Pencil (2018) works with the fourth generation iPad Air, the iPad Pro 12.9-inch (third generation) and later, and the iPad Pro 11-inch (first generation) and later. The original Apple Pencil works with iPad Pro 12.9-inch (first and second generation), iPad Pro 10.5-inch, iPad Pro 9.7-inch, iPad (sixth generation and seventh generation) and iPad mini fifth and eighth generation. To compare the two directly, check out our guide to Apple Pencil vs Apple Pencil 2 where we run through the key features of both styluses.

Best iPad styluses: Zagg Pro Styluscb badge

(Image credit: Zagg)

02. Zagg Pro Stylus

An impressively affordable third-party stylus for iPad

Pressure levels: None | Weight: 15g | Length: 153mm | Connectivity: None | Battery life: No batteries

Useful palm rejection
Tilt sensitivity
No pressure sensitivity
No wireless charging

One of the newer third-party styluses for iPad, the Zagg Pro Stylus ticks a lot of boxes, especially for the price. With palm rejection and tilt sensitivity, it allows the artist to exert a good deal of control over what they're drawing, and works really well across the iPad OS. Whatever app you boot it up with, the Zagg will probably cope, as long as you're using a relatively recent iPad.

The Zagg Pro Stylus has embedded magnets that allow it to attach to the side of an iPad, and it charges via the hidden USB-C port. It's comfortable to use, pleasingly light, and its sleek, no-nonsense design means it won't clash with your iPad. The only real disadvantage is the lack of pressure sensitivity, which will eliminate it from consideration for some artists. This may be a deal-breaker for, and it may not. If not, you'll find the Zagg Pro Stylus to be a highly capable stylus for any modern iPad. 

Best iPad stylusescb badge

(Image credit: Meko)

03. Meko Universal Stylus

The best cheap iPad stylus for budget users

Pressure levels: n/a | Weight: 20g | Length: 230.8mm | Connectivity: Wireless | Battery life: Eight hours

Hugely affordable
Strong aluminium build
No pressure sensitivity
Extremely basic

If you don't need anything fancy, if fundamentally you just want a basic stylus that works, the Meko Universal Stylus should be your point of call. With its single-digit price tag, it's much, much more affordable than a high-end stylus. While it doesn't have sophisticated artistry features like pressure-sensitivity, it does have a pleasingly precise nib. The handy clear disc that lets you see precisely where you're drawing is a welcome touch.

For writing, note-taking and basic sketching, this will do the job. The aluminium build of the Meko Universal Stylus is pleasingly solid, and the fact that it's compatible with pretty much any touchscreen going means it's an especially good choice if your household has multiple tablets of different makes and models. 

Best iPad stylus: Wacom Bamboo

(Image credit: Wacom )

04. Wacom Bamboo Fineline 3

The best stylus for sketching

Pressure levels: 2048 | Weight: 18g | Length: 14.73mm | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Battery life: 18 hours

Ideal for sketching and note-taking
Svelte dimensions
Perfect partner for Wacom pads too
Specialised nib for sketching
Not available in the US

Wacom boasts an industry-leading reputation thanks to its fabulous range of dedicated drawing tablets. So it's only natural that the company produces an attractive line of styluses as well. As well as being our favourite iPad stylus for sketching, the Wacom Bamboo Fineline 3 also takes the plaudits for general use on the iPad Air and iPad Mini series thanks to its compatibility with iOS devices. it only misses out on our top three because it's not currently available in the US.

Instead of trying to mimic a traditional rounded pen, the Bamboo Fineline 3 has an ergonomic triangular design for better grip. It also has a comfortable palm rejection function, which makes it super-authentic. It's an excellent all-rounder, but its fine tip and pressure-sensitive nibs make it just about as close an experience to sketching on paper as you can get. With a brilliant battery life (recharged via USB) it uses Bluetooth to connect to your iPad, which brings the integrated shortcut buttons into play, too, enabling you to set up handy shortcuts within your chosen iOS apps.

The best iPad stylus: Adonit Pixel

05. Adonit Pixel

A top-quality third-party stylus for drawing and note-taking

Pressure levels: 2048 | Weight: 20g | Length: 150mm | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Battery life: 15 hours

Pressure sensitivity
Compatible with lots of apps
Buttons can be over-sensitive
Palm rejection is spotty

Adonit has been refining its stylii for more than eight years now, and the Adonit Pixel is still one of its best for drawing on iPad. Bluetooth enabled and compatible with many of the sorts of apps creatives will likely be using on their tablets, the Pixel boasts 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity and a range of function buttons on its body that can be assigned to the user's preferred tools (though be warned these can be easy to knock accidentally if you're not paying attention). The battery should last for about 15 hours of use, allowing you to get really stuck into your projects, and the sleek design makes the Pixel stylus genuinely enjoyable to use.

The best iPad stylus in 2020: Adonit Dash 3

(Image credit: Adonit)

06. Adonit Dash 3

The best affordable pen with a long-lasting battery

Pressure levels: n/a | Weight: 12g | Length: 141mm | Connectivity: Wireless | Battery life: 14 hours

Stylish look and finish
Long battery life
No pressure sensitivity
No Bluetooth

An affordable and simple choice of stylus, the broadly compatible Adonit Dash 3 works well on most iPads and provides a straightforward, stylish drawing experience. The different choices of finish are a nice touch (we like the bronze colouring in particular, though they all look good), and the long-lasting battery combines with fast charging times to ensure that you'll be able to keep on drawing for longer. The lack of Bluetooth connectivity means a lack of features like palm rejection, which is a shame, but for an affordable and reliable basic stylus, the Dash 3 ticks all the boxes and more.

The best iPad stylus: Logitech Crayon

(Image credit: Logitech)

07. Logitech Crayon

A cheap and cheerful Apple Pencil alternative

Pressure levels: n/a | Weight: 18.1g | Length: 163mm | Connectivity: Wireless | Battery life: 7 hours

Very affordable
Instant connectivity
No pressure sensitivity
Useful palm rejection

While Apple originally announced the Logitech Crayon would only be available for schools and educators, it later changed its tune and made this cheaper Pencil alternative available to everyone (albeit at a slightly inflated price point). The lack of pressure sensitivity does hurt this one a little when weighing it up against other options, however it does pack in plenty of useful features such as palm rejection, instant wireless connectivity to compatible iPads and tilt support, which lets you adjust the thickness of a line by altering the angle at which you're using the Crayon. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it's affordable and reliable, with a decent 7-hour battery life.

The best iPad stylus: Adonit Mark

08. Adonit Mark

The best cheap iPad stylus

Pressure levels: N/A | Weight: 22g | Length: 140mm | Connectivity: None | Battery life: N/A

The price!
Comfortable to use
Very basic
No actual connectivity

If you're not sold on the idea of spending upwards of $20/£20 on a simple pointing device, and don't need the specialised functioning of the iPad styluses above, then Adonit's budget option – the Adonit Mark – is worth considering. Despite its cheap price tag, this stylus has been designed to feel as comfortable as possible in your hand, with its triangular anti-roll design. It retains the precision you'd expect from the sole-purpose stylus manufacturer, largely thanks to its smudge-free mesh tip. The Adonit Mark won't win any innovation awards, but if you just want a stylus for navigating around your iPad, you won't find a better cheaper iPad stylus than this. 

What makes a good stylus?

A comfortable drawing or writing experience is critical. A stylus is no good if using it is less comfortable than jabbing at the touchscreen. A tip that won't scratch your screen is also a no-brainer, though this is the main reason why you should avoid super-cheap styluses from dodgy-looking websites.

Move up the price rankings, and you'll start to see sophisticated features like wireless connectivity, pressure sensitivity, palm rejection, tilt sensitivity and more. The more such features you get in a stylus, the better and more pleasant your drawing experience is going to be. But, it all comes at a cost! So it's about figuring which is the best iPad stylus for you.

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