Why I got an Apple Pencil vs Stylus. 3 Best iPad Stylus pens

If you just purchased an iPad tablet for either drawing on procreate or note-taking in Goodnotes 5 Noteshelf or Notability, you know that you need a stylus compatible to that iPad model.

So are you going to buy a $30 third-party stylus to save some money, or will you go with the $100 Apple Pencil instead?

apple pencil vs stylus-for note taking on the ipad

Apple pencil or a stylus?

When I bought my 11-inch iPad Pro (2021) I researched on whether the second generation apple pencil is worth the money or NOT. I’m going to share all my researched points and I’ll outline the 3 features that made me buy the original Apple Pencil and not use a stylus or any other apple pencil alternative.

Use this as a start for your own research. Whether you’re planning to buy an iPad Pro or an iPad Air you will need a compatible stylus to take notes. So let’s dive in and see how the apple pencil compare with the active stylus options.

Are other brands’ pencil just as good as the apple product?

Does the pencil feels just like using an apple pencil?

Does the apple pencil really worth the extra money?

Let’s find out: Apple Pencil vs stylus.

10 Essential Apple Pencil features

When you’re drawing or taking notes on the iPad tablet, you’ll find that the built-in essential features of the Apple Pencil are amazing. So let’s see if the best stylus available alternatives can match it.

1. Best iPad compatibility

Apple Pencil: YES.

The Apple Pencil is designed to work seamlessly with Apple devices, so it’s obvious that you won’t encounter skips or lags. There are no pairing hassles either, so your Apple Pencil will work with the iPad right out of the box.

Although the apple pencil works impressively on iPads, it’s not compatible to an android device, so it will not work on that too.

Lastly, when you choose between the apple pencil 1 and 2, make sure it is compatible to your iPad. For example:

  • the second generation apple pencil is only compatible with the newer iPad models (including the iPad Mini)
  • while the first generation apple pencil works with older iPad models.

Do your research on the apple pencil models before buying!

Alternative stylus: somehow YES 

There are a few stylus alternatives that work pretty well, just like the Apple Pencil. There could be some pairing hassles with the iPad Pro or iPad Air, although just very few people reported that. Also the pencil may occasionally “lag”, “skip” or will close the app you’re writing in.

Plus, a stylus may be compatible to iPads and Android devices too, and that may come in very handy.

2. Pencil charges wireless

Apple Pencil 2: YES 

The Apple Pencil charges as long as it is attached to one side of the iPad. Very convenient, as you do not have to think about charging it! Keep in mind that the Apple Pencil 1 does not come with the wireless charging, and you’ll have to charge it yourself, via a USB-C charging cable.

Alternative stylus: only a few of them

Some active apple pencil alternatives can’t charge when attached to the iPad tablet, however for most of them the battery holds for a few days. If you’re out of battery, just charge it for a few minutes to be able to write with it for a few hours. If you have an stylus without the Magnetic Wireless Charging, you have to charge it yourself, via a USB-C charging cable. These pencils usually comes with a charging cable. 

3. Magnetic attachment

Both alternatives magnetically attach to the side of the iPad Pro or iPad Air (if your version was launched after 2018). Just attach the apple pencil or the stylus so you don’t lose it. Keep in mind that if you use both an iPad Case and an Apple Pencil Grip the stylus may not be able to charge, unless you take the cover off.

4. Stylus Pen Battery Level

Apple Pencil 2: YES 

What I love about the Apple Pencil is that, I always know the battery level once I attach it to the iPad (it’s displayed on the iPad screen). May not be a big of a deal, since the pen is charging when I am not using it, but it’s a great insight to have when I take extensive notes and forget to put the pen back to its place.

Alternative stylus: NO

I did not find alterative stylus compatible with the iPad that indicates the battery level. So you have to play guesswork with how much battery the pencil has.

5. Pencil is always on

Apple Pencil 2: YES 

Gladly, the apple pencil NEVER turns off and you can always write with it when you pick it up.

Alternative stylus: only a few of them

Some alternative stylus pens automatically goes into standby mode when you haven’t used it for a few minutes, which then requires you to turn it on again to use it. I’d found myself getting annoyed at having to turn on that thing all the time.

6. Pressure sensitivity

Apple Pencil: YES 

This is a gamechanger if you plan on using your pencil and iPad for any kind of drawing or art. Best iPad apps for note-taking like Goodnotes, Noteshelf or Notability use the pressure sensitivity option, so would be a pitty not to take advantage of it.

Alternative stylus: NO

If you plan to draw, don’t consider the alternative stylus pencil and go with the Apple Pencil. For notetakers (like me), this feature will not affect you much. However, after using the Apple pencil for 5 years, I’ve found it easier to write more neatly because of this feature. Is this something that one can easily live without to save the $70? Yes… it could be!

7. Palm rejection

Apple Pencil: YES 

This is another feature that makes the Apple Pencil 100x better than anything on the market.

Alternative stylus: most of them YES

Similar to the Apple Pencil, most of the alternatives come with palm rejection feature. However it’s not as perfect as the apple pencil’s feature.

8. Longevity of the tips

If you apply too much pressure on the pen when writing, the tips of both the apple pencil and the generic stylus seem to wore out fairly quickly. After about a 2-3 weeks of very heavy notetaking, you may notice the tip wearing down. The tip of the stylus is, however, fairly cheap to replace, if you don’t mind replacing them that often. Or else, adjust the handwriting to lower the pressure on the tip.

9. Double-tap functionality

Apple Pencil: YES

This makes it so you can swap between the current tool and eraser, or current tool and previous tool, helping you write faster. This feature is really nice to have (but not essential), as it makes erasing even faster than it would be with an alternative pencil.

Alternative stylus: NO

Usually, even the best stylus available options don’t have these advanced features or may offer limited functionality in comparison. 

10. Apple’s Scribble feature

Both of them make use of Apple’s Scribble feature, which enables you to handwrite in text boxes (like in a Google search box) and it is automatically converted to text.

I got the Apple Pencil vs Stylus

After my research I decided to go with this Apple Pencil 2 for these reasons:

  • has pressure sensitivity (it sets the apple pencil apart from the competition)
  • the double tap action 
  • it’s always on and ready to use (without any manual on/off button)

I also never lost my Apple Pencil in over 5 years since I started taking digital notes, so purchasing the apple products makes sense to me. But if you lose or break your pencil every year, then the $30 alternative pencil models may worth the money 🙂

Apple Pencil 2 – best for artists

However, if you are an artist, work on the iPad, you won’t regret going with the Apple Pencil stylus for drawings and digital art… So, it is worth the extra money!

iPad Stylus best for students

Using an alternative pencil as your first stylus instead of the Apple Pencil can be pretty cool, but it has its ups and downs.

Yes, alternative pencils are way cheaper than the fancy Apple Pencil 2. So, if you’re on a tight budget, going for an alternative can help you save some cash. For a student just taking notes, or an 8 year old playing with the color pens, this is a perfectly viable alternative if you are willing to ignore the relatively minor inconveniences.

Best alternative to the Apple Pencil

If you decided that the Apple Pencil is just not worth the money, and you’re looking for a stylus to use with the iPad, then check the 3 best stylus models highly rated on Amazon.

Stylus with magnetic wireless charging (Amazon)
Fast charge Stylus (Amazon)
Stylus Pen for iPad with Palm Rejection (Amazon)

Stylus or Apple Pencil?

Apple Pencil vs stylus? Which one is it? Let me know in the comments, what stylus for the iPad have you finally chosen to use. And enjoy finding the best digital planners for you!

Also read 5 Best iPad Accessories In 2023: From Keyboard To Earbuds to boost your digital planning experience.

3 responses to “Why I got an Apple Pencil vs Stylus. 3 Best iPad Stylus pens”

  1. Vin-cent Avatar

    Thanks for the detailed comparison! For those still deciding, I’d say prioritize your needs. If you’re into serious art, the Apple Pencil might be worth the investment. But if it’s mainly for notes, a stylus could be a practical choice.

  2. Ava.serene Avatar

    Great breakdown! I went with a third-party stylus due to budget constraints, and it’s been serving me well for note-taking. True, it doesn’t have all the fancy features, but for the price, it’s a solid choice. Anyone else here using a budget stylus with good results?

  3. Synthia_artsy Avatar

    Hey there! I was in the same dilemma when I got my iPad Pro, and I eventually went for the Apple Pencil 2. The pressure sensitivity and always-on feature make a huge difference, especially for drawing. Have you noticed any particular feature that became a game-changer for you?

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