iPhone Life magazine

Stylus Update: The Lynktec Apex & Nomad Mini 2

When a company creates an input accessory for a device that isn't designed for one, they need to decide what the accessory is going to do that the device's normal input method doesn't. The iPad was designed to use a finger as an input device, and although it supports multi-touch, the iPad's sensors see the finger as a rather blunt instrument. So the stylus market developed with two main branches: The first aimed to be a different or better kind of finger and the second added a feature, usually pressure sensitivity, that the iPad was not designed to accept.

" src="/sites/all/modules/wysiwyg/plugins/break/images/spacer.gif" style="font-size: 10pt;" title="<--break-->">This review looks at two styluses, each in the better kind of finger camp. The Lynktec offers a new twist, however, with its fine-line active technology, while the Nomad Mini 2 provides its users with a basic rubber-tipped stylus along with a brush. 

Lynktec Apex ($49.99) 

iPhone Life 4 out of 5 stars 

Most active stylus products that connect to the iPad with Bluetooth do so in order to pass along output from their pressure sensitive sensors to the app in use, usually a drawing app or note app that would benefit from more than constant and singular pressure. But then again, sometimes a fine line is a good thing, when taking handwritten notes. Words written by hand don't really benefit from pressure sensitivity, but they do benefit from precision.  

With its 2.3mm tip, the Apex provides a fine line that can't be mimicked with non-active styluses. Unlike regular rubber-tipped styli, the Apex doesn't work without power. The capacitance requires power, but not Bluetooth. And because of the fine tip, it only reacts to the iPad where the tip touches, which is the key to its precision. This is not a good pen for artwork outside of basic sketching; but because it doesn’t require Bluetooth or apps specifically designed for it, the Apex works throughout iOS.  

Slow drawing can lead to some squiggly lines, but according to Lynktec, that is because the iPad's screen sensors are less precise than the pen. Innovation often leaps and needs other innovations to keep up. Draw faster and the software smoothes out the input from the sensor grid. 

Pros:  

Permits fine-line note taking on the iPad. Rechargeable battery. Pocket clip. Works everywhere in iOS

Cons: 

Requires charging. Recharging requires removal of a cap that doesn't have anyplace to go (and thus can be lost) during a charging cycle. Could use a softer grip. Not really made for iPhone. 

Final Verdict:  

A very well executed first gen product. The tech is solid, but it could use a little bit of style refinement and sculpting for better hand feel.   

Nomad Mini 2 ($35) 

iPhone Life Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

The Nomad Mini 2 has a soft, retractable brush tip on one end and a rubber tip on the other. At 5 inches long, it is a very portable paintbrush stylus. The Nomad Mini 2 weighs 0.6oz. It curvy shape feels well balanced. The rubber tip can easily be unscrewed and replaced. 

Pros: 

Small, light. Dual tipped. Retraction keeps brush from fraying. 

Cons:

The brush is a cool idea, but it's more about the feel for the artist than it is about the way it reacts with the iPad. For real "paint-like" effects, the artist will need an active, pressure-sensitive stylus and a painting or drawing program that recognizes it. 

Final Verdict:  

Good for what it is. As with all iPad brushes, it is cooler and more useful as an idea the in actual practice. It really depends on the experience you are used to or like. 

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Daniel Rasmus's picture

Daniel W. Rasmus, the author of Listening to the Future and Management by Design, is a strategist, industry analyst, and business correspondent for iPhone Life magazine. Prior to starting his own consulting practice, Rasmus was the Director of Business Insights at Microsoft Corporation, where he helped the company envision how people will work in the future.

Before joining Microsoft, Rasmus was Research Vice President at the Giga Information Group and Forrester Research Inc. Rasmus also is an internationally recognized speaker. He blogs regularly for Fast Company and on his own blog, Your Future in Context. His education-related work can be found at Learning Reimagined.