As I’m sure some of you would be aware, yesterday was Christmas day. Judging from the responses to my poll, a majority of visitors to the website seem not to know what it is, or don’t celebrate it at all, so I didn’t feel the need to make any particular post about it yesterday (not that I don’t mean to wish others a Merry Christmas).
However, that being said, it has become a tradition of gathering together for a BBQ lunch with the “family”, and this year was no exception. In the round of gift giving this year, I was extremely delighted to receive both an Adonit Jot Script (Evernote Edition) and the Adonit Jot Touch 4. These are both digital stylus pens intended for use with capacitive touch screens.
I have been a fan of Adonit’s unique precision-disc type styli ever since one of my friends at university (Irfan) introduced me to the Jot Mini. In essence, it was a moderately pricey, high quality, well crafted chunk of aluminium and steel with a pivoting disc at the end. It was (and still is) superior to the cheap alternative – a cheap, large, rubber ball tip on the end of a hollow tube.
Since then, I’ve been pretty happy with the design, opting to get a Jot Classic (in essence, a larger Jot Mini) for use with my larger tablets. It is accurate, it works, requires no battery or software and can save my fingertips from frustrated poking. However, such a stylus does result in some issues – for example, the plastic discs could become detached and lost, or become scratched and begin scuffing up a screen protector. The stylus also needs to be held, sometimes uncomfortably, in order to ensure no other fleshy bits are in contact with the screen – otherwise it would not correctly interpret the input. For this reason alone, separate digitizing systems like that used in Samsung’s S pen system, had been preferable to pen-heavy users.
Lets take a look at Adonit’s latest developments in this area.
Adonit Jot Script (Evernote Edition)
The Adonit Jot Script is a new product from Adonit. It was so new, that I had never seen one nor been aware of its presence online (until I removed the bubble wrap from this unit). It was apparently pre-ordered, so consider me an “early adopter”.
This pen differs from Adonit’s regular approach to making styli – this one eschews their signature precision-disc for a ball-point like point, which they call pixelpoint. This pen, developed in collaboration with Evernote (and its recommended application, Penultimate, available for free) is said to write just like your favourite pen.
I can see this to be a welcome change, as while the precision disc is perfectly capable of writing, its tilting action can disturb the “flow” of writing especially if it reaches an awkward angle. Secondly, the lack of the disc means that this pen does not require the use of a protective cap which can be easily lost. Win!
The interior packing card folds out to reveal their “create” message, with a fold out manual that guides you through each of the parts of the pen and how to use it.
This pen itself is grey in colour, and is different to previous Adonit styluses in the construction. Instead of being welt from a solid block of aluminium, there is a mixture of materials. The rear barrel is made of hollowed aluminium, whereas the button and ribbed section feels to be made of plastic and the front possibly made from steel. The pen itself feels lighter than the other pens I’ve used, but much gentler on the fingers as it’s less “cold and hard” where you actually grip the pen.
The rear of the pen has the model name and the Evernote logo – a good partnership with mutual benefits I suppose. There is a regulatory label that easily comes off so as not to spoil the look and feel of the device.
Unlike previous Adonit precision-disc based pens, this stylus requires the use of a single AAA battery. The stylus will not even function basically without the battery, as the battery is used to generate the projected capacitance signal (achieved prior with the clear round disc), as well as power a Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy transmitter for “co-operative” use with an iOS tablet. Adonit have been really kind to provide a Lithium battery for the stylus, included in the package – you merely have to remove the protective disc (to prevent discharge in storage/transport) to get it to work.
A close-up of the tip reveals a rounded (possibly) steel protruding element which depresses slightly on pressure (which is used for co-operative sensing of the pen status over the Bluetooth link). From the specifications, it does not seem to be pressure sensitive.
In my experience, it seems less finicky than the precision-disc as it can accommodate a wide range of angles without needing to adjust your wrist, and it doesn’t get scratched or get impacted as severely by a dirty screen. In testing, it didn’t leave any noticeable marks on the screen, however, it is recommended you clean your screen before using any of these products just to be sure to get the best performance.
A nice touch is the inscription of the +ve symbol in the brass contact plate in the battery compartment. It makes it easy to determine which way to insert the one standard AAA battery. The choice of a replaceable regular-size battery does mean convenience if you are ever caught with a dead battery, and the design seems to have taken its weight into consideration – with the AAA battery, the pen feels nicely balanced.
The stylus is activated with a long press of the single button. The LED above the button flashes green to indicate it is “searching” for an application to use the pen with. In this state, the pen is “on” and you can use it with any application, tablet/phone with a capacitive screen as a “basic” stylus (without palm-check features, so awkward handling is expected).
For example, here, you can see that I’ve managed to use it with my Nexus 7 tablet, an Android device, in non-connected mode.
The main reason the product claims to be for iOS is because its additional features require the use of Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy and applications utilizing the Adonit SDK. With Android and other devices, they may be lacking the Bluetooth 4.0 capable chipsets and almost certainly do not have application support for the pen. This means that palm-check features are definitely not available.
The recommended application for this pen is Evernote’s own Penultimate. When I tried it on my iPad 3, I was suitably impressed with its performance. In many ways, it’s much closer to a pen writing experience than any other styli I have used prior, and makes note-taking on a digital device much more feasible. It’s capable of detecting and responding to small nuances in handwriting much better, although the slight delay from moving the pen to seeing the drawing is a bit annoying, and occasionally the palm check does not perform as expected.
My experiences seem to show that if you start drawing with the pen first and then rest your palm on the screen, it’s better behaved than if you rest your palm first (where the pen might be ignored entirely).
For the palm check to even be remotely useful, Multitasking Multitouch gestures should be disabled as well as Control Center within Apps to ensure that your palms don’t trigger these “features” of iOS7 accidentally. Unfortunately, this is a bit of a sacrifice in day-to-day usability, and having to toggle the features manually is a bit annoying. I’m not sure if the application can help with this (as it may not be permitted to change settings, say on start and exit, on the user’s behalf).
Of course, my handwriting with a pen does look neater, although it is perfectly readable and an impressive effort given that Penultimate is a free application with in-app purchases that aren’t at all essential or necessary to make use of the features of the pen.
I am a bit disappointed that Android has not yet caught up in this regard, but I would expect support may be built in the future once the hardware and software evolves.
Of course, the price is probably considered a bit high for such a product, but it is a very useful tool to have in your bag, and it’s very unique. The product seems only to be available from their website, and a limited number of resellers, with two to three weeks wait time. It seems early users may have encountered some QC problems but it seems Adonit may have worked it out and seem to care for their users having a good experience.
Adonit Jot Touch 4
This stylus is much more traditional Adonit design, featuring the more solid aluminium barrel with precision disc and protective cap design. As this is a more advanced stylus, two short-cut buttons are provided on the rubberized grip area along with a status LED.
The package features some flashy quick-reference cards to get users started. The Adonit Jot Touch 4 uses an internal rechargeable battery that takes around 90 minutes to charge using the included USB magnetic dock adapter. The package also includes one replacement nib and disc, a cap and the pen itself features 2048 level pressure sensitivity. It is fairly well weighted and feels nice and solid, like all Adonit products. There is a regulatory label on the underside which can be easily removed.
The end cap forms the charging contact with the outside and inside being separated by a black plastic insulator. Make sure you don’t lose the charging adapter, otherwise you will be “stranded” once the internal battery runs dry. The magnetic charging adapter also comes with a warning to check the contacts first as it involves strong magnets which can pick up metal objects. For a person like me with a messy desk, screws immediately started getting attracted to it, so keep it away from those!
As mentioned earlier, this stylus utilizes the clear plastic precision disc design. This works best if you have a screen protector on, with a clean screen. Any grit or dirt will lead to an un-smooth stylus experience, and can cause scratching of the screen protector. Severe dirt can lead to scratching of the disc leading to it turning somewhat opaque (and making it difficult to see through) or making it “sharp” and causing it to scuff up your protector even worse than normal! Clean your screens!
Further to this, avoid dropping or applying any undue lateral pressure to the disc as it may cause the metal ball joint to snap or for the disc to become damaged. Replacements are available, although you probably wouldn’t want to pay the cost if you can avoid it.
The pressure sensitivity feature is only available with applications that use the Adonit SDK. Adonit maintains a list of applications (regularly growing) which include this support. You will find that the majority of applications that can make use of these features are paid for (possibly with the exception of Inspire Pro, although I did have some difficulty getting that to work), so budget in some cash to buy a decent sketching app.
At the moment, I’d have to go with Procreate and Sketchbook Pro as my favourites. And yes, I had to pony up the dough to see this thing go!
Getting the stylus to work will depend on the application – some may automatically detect the pen, while (more likely), others need to be explicitly told to connect to a pen through the menus – for example, in Procreate:
It’s nice that Procreate does tell you the battery level (if you’re interested) and the hardware/software versions of the product itself.
The pressure sensitivity is easily evident, provided the right brush is chosen with a good range of settings. It adds character to an otherwise “clean” digital drawing.
The feel of it, pressure-wise, takes a little bit of getting used to (as all pressure sensitive tablets and pens are a little different), but it gives a very good pen-based feel to the work. I’m still working on being more proficient with the applications themselves – I’m yet to be able to get palm-check working (probably because the apps have not updated their SDK yet). Just like with the above example, Multitasking Multitouch gestures should be disabled as well as Control Center within Apps to ensure that your palms don’t trigger these “features” of iOS7 accidentally.
The two short-cut buttons on the pen can be re-defined in Procreate – the default of undo and redo is actually very sensible and allows you to undo accidental brushes without putting the pen down. Neat!
While both Adonit styli are fairly expensive accessories, they both are a very niche product which fills a real need for drawn input. Adonit has continued to show their leadership in this area in terms of their SDK functionality, and the addition of Bluetooth technology to their pens to enable palm-check detection and pressure sensitivity. Unfortunately, Android users (for now) are unable to access these features, and can only use the basic stylus mode as a “replacement for a finger”.
The two pens fulfill a different segment of the market – the Script is ideally suited to people making simple line sketches or performing handwriting input where pressure sensitivity is not essential, but the durability, capless design and comfortable grip are an asset. The Jot Touch 4, however, performs well all-round and is ideally suited to the digital artist looking to replicate the graphics tablet experience on a tablet. While it is not a complete replacement for a graphics tablet, as the software is still under development, it does allow one to be very mobile with their art. It does require care on the user’s behalf to make the most of the plastic discs (i.e. clean the screen regularly), and is slightly on the fragile side.
Both of these pens perform their magic through Bluetooth, and are best used with iOS devices. Lesser styli such as the older Jot Classic are perfectly suitable for Android and other devices where the additional benefit of the Bluetooth link cannot be realized. The Bluetooth connection does, however, impart additional burden to the user to recharge/replace the battery (although run times are very respectable), and also mean that you can’t use it on a plane as it is a radio transmitter. Keep that in mind next time you’re travelling.
If you’re thinking of buying the chunky rubber tipped styli – there is no comparison. This may be twenty times more expensive, but it’s twenty times better (if not more) when it comes to precision and user experience.
Adonit products can be purchased directly from their online store, or in Australia from The Stylus Company. These products were purchased from their online store, and my previous batch from The Stylus Company, so both should be a reliable source.
I’ll end the review by saying that this review is not endorsed by Adonit in any way – I’m just a fan of Adonit products because of their quality and performance and needless to say, they still continue to impress today :).