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

Best iPad stylus
(Image credit: cottonbro on Pexels)

Any iPad user serious about digital art is going to want to pick up the best iPad stylus. But what to choose? Even if you're not that bothered about pixel-perfect drawing and just want something to take notes with, there's a wealth of choice out there. The obvious choice might seem to be the own-brand Apple Pencil, and while this is a fantastic option, there is plenty of competition, and the Pencil is not inexpensive. Might there be a more affordable stylus out there that suits you better?

Ultimately, it depends on the level of functionality you need. We've put together this guide to help you suss out where your needs sit, and whether you need the top-line option or can plump for something more mid-range. If you want to know what makes for a good iPad stylus, then jump to the end where we talk you through this.

As well as Apple, iPad stylus manufacturers include Adonit, Wacom and Logitech. We've included a broad range in our guide, with different products that are pitched at different user levels, so you can get a feel for what's right for you.

If you need a new tablet, 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

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
Gets the best out of iOS apps
Great for both writing and drawing
Can only be used on some models

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.

The Apple Pencil is unquestionably the best stylus for an iPad. Provided you make sure you get the model that's compatible with your particular iPad (and we've detailed what works with what above, as it can get confusing), the Apple Pencil will provide you with the best drawing experience you can get on an iPad. It's got palm rejection, pressure sensitivity, lag-free operation, the lot. It works seamlessly with the best creative iOS apps.

The only real issue is cost. If you've already bought an iPad, you're no stranger to wincing slightly as you type in your card details, and the extra expense of the Pencil may be simply too much for you. 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 review

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(Image credit: Adonit)

02. Adonit Note+

The best third-party stylus for newer iPads

Pressure levels: 2,048 | Weight: 15g | Length: 153mm | Connectivity: None | Battery life: No batteries

Useful palm rejection
Pressure and tilt sensitivity
Only works with newer iPads
Short charging cable

The Adonit Note series of styluses have often been popular with iPad users, but their lack of pressure sensitivity has historically mean that any serious digital artist couldn't really justify their price tag. Well, step forward the Adonit Note+, which provides the responsiveness of the Note series and adds 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity! Not bad at all.

The sleek, black design of this stylus is the first thing that hits you as you take it out of the box; it's a nice-looking piece of kit. The palm rejection functionality works well, and having both pressure and tilt sensitivity really lets you lose yourself in your creation. The programmable shortcut buttons are also a blessing, allowing you to set up the stylus to work just the way you want it to.

The only real drawback with this stylus is that it's only compatible with newer iPads. If you use an older iPad, it's definitely worth checking the manufacturer info before hitting "buy". Otherwise, this is a really tempting stylus for pretty much any iPad user!

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(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 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 2048 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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