If Apple only put its standard stylus – the Apple Pencil – in the box with all its iPads, we probably wouldn't need to write this 'best iPad stylus' buying guide. But the tech giant's own pointer costs a packet to buy separately, and it doesn't even work with all iPads.
Luckily there's a thriving market of iPad styluses (or styli, if you prefer) with options available from both established brands and innovative crowd-funded firms. Whether you need an iPad stylus for drawing or furiously scribbling notes, there's an option for you here.
In the following guide, we'll tell you about the best iPad styluses with integrated buttons so you can customise to different functions, and we'll help you decide whether an iPad stylus with a hard nib or soft nib is likely to be better for your requirements. Read on to find out exactly what stylus for your iPad you should buy – and where to buy it for the best price.
01. Apple Pencil
The best stylus 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
The Apple Pencil is, of course, the natural choice of stylus for iPad – but only if you own one of the only two iPad models that are compatible with it: an iPad Pro or sixth-generation iPad (2018). If you do, there isn't a better stylus to write and draw with on the market. Not only is it exceptionally comfortable to use, Apple has eliminated many of the issues that can dog other styluses – such as inadequate palm rejection and clear lag that instantly makes you feel disconnected to what you're producing on the screen. The astonishing pressure levels mean that the Apple Pencil reproduces your movements perfectly, at even the most acute angles, and it enhances all your favourite creative iOS apps. The bottom line is that if you've forked out the cash for an iPad Pro, you'd be daft not to swallow the extra expense and go straight for an Apple Pencil.
Also read: Apple Pencil review
02. Wacom Bamboo Sketch
The best stylus overall for all other iPads
Pressure levels: 2048 | Weight: 17g | Length: 142.2mm | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Battery life: 16 hours
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 artists, the Wacom Bamboo Sketch also takes the plaudits for general use on the iPad Air and iPad Mini series thanks to its compatibility with iOS devices. Rather than trying to exactly mimic a traditional rounded pen, the Bamboo Sketch favours an ergonomic triangular design for better grip. 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 an epic 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.
03. Sensu Artist Brush & Stylus
The best iPad stylus for drawing and digital art
Pressure levels: N/A | Weight: 9g | Length: 114mm | Connectivity: None | Battery life: N/A
If you're an artist or designer who's become completely reliant on your iPad but you do more than just sketching, then the Sensu Artist Brush could be what you're looking for. It looks, acts and feels like a real paint brush, complete with capacitive bristles. There's no battery required here, so the Sensu Artist Brush is super light and svelte. Combine it with your chosen iPad apps, and your digital art workflow should speed up. And if you're worried that this all sounds a bit niche, fear not: the Sensu Artist Brush is a 2-in-1 product. Pop on the rubber cap, and you can use it like a traditional stylus for navigating around your iPad (or any other touchscreen device) with speed and accuracy.
04. Adonit Pro 3
The best iPad stylus for note-taking
Pressure levels: N/A | Weight: 18g | Length: 126mm | Connectivity: None | Battery life: N/A
If you've not heard of Adonit, it's because the 2010 Kickstarter firm doesn't have any where near the clout of the likes of Apple and Wacom. But Adonit specialises in styluses, and the company is pretty good at what it does. The Adonit Pro range has now hit its third incarnation, and with its textured grip and precision disc tip, it's the ideal tool for note-taking on your iPad. It's designed to feel akin to using a regular ballpoint pen, can be used on all iPad touchscreens and is relatively inexpensive. Unlike the two styluses above, this is a non-connected option. That means no frustration when you realise the battery's empty and also that you can use it on pretty much any touchscreen device – not just Apple iPads.
05. Adonit Mark
The best cheap iPad stylus
Pressure levels: N/A | Weight: 22g | Length: 140mm | Connectivity: None | Battery life: N/A
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.