Review: Jot Dash Is a Practical Alternative to the Apple Pencil

I'm a stylus guy. I love to draw, sketch, doodle and tinker with design ideas on my iPad mini, and a stylus is often how I do that (even play a few games with one). I predict that the Jot Dash ($49.99) will be a favored stylus for many moons to come, Apple Pencil notwithstanding.

Here are some basic facts to consider about the Apple Pencil before I review the Jot Dash: It is mind-alteringly cool. As a drawing instrument, it is awesome, period. Anyone who has seen the graceful fluidity with which it renders subtle and lifelike strokes on the iPad Pro can't help but be astounded. Here are the downsides: It is made of plastic. It costs $99 and can be lost or broken. It has no clip or magnets, and it charges in your iPad port (which to me, was a weird design idea). Finally, it will only work (at least for now) with the iPad Pro. I could see Apple changing this depending on how well the Apple Pencil sells, but this alone probably protects the rest of the stylus market from Pencil domination for some time to come. The Jot Dash, however, is everything the Apple Pencil is not.

Master your iPhone in one minute a day:

Sign up to iPhone Life's Tip of the Day Newsletter and we'll send you a tip each day to save time and get the most out of your iPhone or iPad.

Master your iPhone in one minute a day:

Sign up to iPhone Life's Tip of the Day Newsletter and we'll send you a tip each day to save time and get the most out of your iPhone or iPad.

The Jot Dash is the pen to the iPad Pro's Apple Pencil. It feels like a very solid metal pen. The tip even has a bit of give that reminds one a bit of putting pen to paper when using it on the iPad screen (by the way, it supports practically any device—I tested it on my Galaxy S, and iPhone). It has an activation button on the end that works much like a pen (press on and off to connect and use it). It charges in its own USB cradle that is so ingenious, I want to cry like a baby. I can't understand why Apple didn't do something special like this for the Pencil, to be honest. Having the Pencil hanging out at the bottom of your iPad is awkward in almost any context. Anyway, the Jot is for smashing out a handwritten list, or doodling on the crowded subway to work. It's sturdy and a bit rough. It's for getting sh-t done. The Apple Pencil is for spending hours doing perfect calligraphy on an iPad Pro. Who has time for that, seriously?

The Jot Dash, as a stylus goes, is about as convenient as you will find. There is literally no fussing around with connection crap. You click it on, start your app of choice, and away you go. Is it perfect? Uh, no. Here is where the Apple Pencil markedly outshines with all the elegance of a swan pulling away from an overfed duck. There is a bit of lag when using the Dash, and I couldn't seem to get it to calibrate perfectly with my iPad mini screen (though it was pretty darn close with Paper). The apps (Penultimate, GoodNotes, etc.) that support it also have varying degrees of integration, so your mileage and experience will vary. It's still quite functional as a stylus (and I have tested and used many over the years), but it will not match the experience of the Apple Pencil. 

Sometimes, it's the little things that I really appreciate, and charging the Jot Dash is one of them. Basically, find any USB port and attach the tiny charger. The magnet in it is so strong, that the pen practically flies onto it. The same magnet lets you nearly glue it to your magnetized case or cover, if you have one (I use a ZAGG keyboard case that works nicely in this manner). It looks great, as great as any stylus I've used and can charge up in about 45 minutes (14 hours of use). In my opinion, the charger design is really a winning idea (though you could misplace the little charging dongle).

Pros

  • Instant on/off features
  • Clever charging design 

Cons

  • App mileage and accuracy varies

Final Verdict

Because Apple rolled out the new Pencil, I had to be somewhat cheeky about it in this review. The point of the comparison, however is not. An instrument of artistic caliber with a premium price tag and designed to be used for only one premium device is not really practical for the rest of us shlubs. It is cool. It is exclusive. It is Apple. The Jot Dash is, on the other hand, an accessible tool that you can use for a variety of tasks you would use any stylus to do. A stylus that works a lot like a pen. So in that sense, I would pick a Jot Dash over the Apple Pencil every day of the week and twice on Sunday. It most decidedly gets our stamp of approval! However, I don't do much calligraphy, so if you do, you'll likely need an Apple Pencil for that!

Master your iPhone in one minute a day: Sign up here to get our FREE Tip of the Day delivered right to your inbox.
Nate Adcock's picture

Nate Adcock is a system and integration engineer with experience managing and administering a variety of computing environments. He has worked extensively with mobile gadgets of all shapes and sizes for many years. He is also a former military weather forecaster. Nate is a regular contributor for the iphonelife.com and smartphonemag.com blogs and helps manage both websites. Read more from Nate at natestera.tumblr.com or e-mail him at nate@iphonelife.com.