The Apple Pencil unlocks many of the iPad’s unique features, and it’s often seen as a necessity to students, creatives, and iPad power-users. But at $90 to $130, it’s hard to pull the trigger. Thankfully, there are some direct alternatives to the Apple Pencil that won’t leave you totally broke.
Before You Buy an Apple Pencil Alternative
Shopping for iPad styli is more complicated than you’d expect. You have to worry about terms like “pressure sensitivity” and “palm rejection,” all while keeping app compatibility in the back of your head. Otherwise, you may end up with a stylus that doesn’t work how you’d expect.
To keep things simple, let’s do a quick rundown of the most important stylus features. We’ll also review some iPad-specific quirks and a few compatibility issues.
- Pressure Sensitivity: Apple hasn’t specified the Apple Pencil’s pressure sensitivity specs. Still, in our experience, it has a greater range of pressure sensitivity than any other iPad stylus. This difference is easy to work around, and it shouldn’t be a big deal for notetakers, vector artists, or low-detail illustrators. But if you’re big on depth, shading, and photo-realism, then these reduced pressure sensitivity levels can feel limiting.
- Tilt Sensitivity: With tilt sensitivity, the Apple Pencil is able to mimic the physics of pencils, markers, and brushes. Of the styli in this article, the Adonit Note+ and the Logitech Crayon are the only options that support tilt sensitivity.
- Palm Rejection: Some people have the habit of rubbing their hand against surfaces while drawing or writing. Palm rejection remedies this by ignoring any accidental touches.
- Magnetism and Charging: The iPad has a built-in magnet that holds and charges the Apple Pencil. Most styli will stick to this magnet, but only the Apple Pencil uses it for charging. All of the styli in this article charge through a cable.
- Battery Life and Charging: The Apple Pencil has a 12-hour battery life. You can expect a similar battery life from most of the styli in this article. Just know that, while these styli can attach to the charging magnet on your iPad, they’re only capable of charging via USB cable.
- Programmable Buttons: Some styli have programmable buttons, which are useful for swapping brushes or tools while you draw. For reference, the Apple Pencil has a “double tap to change tools” feature in place of hard buttons.
- App Compatibility: Some stylus features, such as shortcuts and pressure sensitivity, only work in a handful of apps. Don’t blame stylus manufacturers—it’s up to developers to build support for third-party accessories. Either way, you’ll want to double-check that your favorite notetaking and digital art apps support a stylus’ features before you spend any money.
- Using an Old iPad?: Anyone with an older iPad model should double-check that their device supports the Apple Pencil. If not, then be sure to buy a Bluetooth stylus. Options that mimic Apple Pencil technology, like the Logitech Crayon, won’t work with your old iPad.
As a sidenote, you can expect a small amount of lag from Apple Pencil alternatives. This shouldn’t be an issue for most people, but if you hate seeing lag from a stylus, then it’s worth keeping in mind.
Now that we know way too much about styli, it’s time to start shopping. Here are the best Apple Pencil alternatives, along with a few notes on how they work and who they’re made for.
For Digital Artists: Adonit Note+
Adonit’s new Note+ stylus is a total game changer. It has the look and feel of the Apple Pencil, and it’s loaded with palm rejection technology, 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, and even tilt sensitivity—a rarity in the world of Apple Pencil alternatives. Along with these core features, the Note+ has two programmable shortcut buttons, replaceable tips, a 10-hour battery life, and USB-C charging.
The Adonit Note+ is clearly the best Apple Pencil alternative for artists. And for less than $70, it’s a steal. Just keep in mind that its pressure sensitivity and tilt features aren’t supported by all apps. You can find an incomplete list of compatible apps on Adonit’s website. For whatever reason, this list doesn’t mention Procreate, which is compatible with the Note+.
Adonit Note+, Stylus Pen for iPad, Pressure Sensitivity Digital Active Pencil with Palm Rejection, Tilt, Compatible with iPad Air 3/4, iPad Mini 5/6, iPad 6/7/8/9, iPad Pro 11"/12.9" (2018-2021)
The Adonit Note+ is loaded with palm rejection features, 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, and even tilt sensitivity! It's the premier Apple Pencil alternative for digital artists.
For Students and Professionals: The Logitech Crayon
Logitech is in the habit of building cheap alternatives for official iPad products. These alternatives, like the Logitech Slim Folio Keyboard, are often loaded with Apple’s proprietary tech, and they’re marketed primarily toward students, educators, and some professionals.
I know, you’re shopping for a stylus, not a keyboard. I’m just trying to give you a frame of reference for the Logitech Crayon, as it’s a bit of an odd duck. Some people talk about the Logitech Crayon as if it’s a direct alternative to the Apple Pencil. In a way, that’s true. The Crayon is loaded with some of the same tech as the Apple Pencil. It pairs to the iPad automatically (you don’t have to open your Bluetooth menu), it lags less than other Pencil alternatives, it’s compatible with all iPad apps, and it offers tilt sensitivity.
But as I mentioned earlier, the Crayon is built for education and professional use. It’s perfect for writing notes, filling out forms, or working with professional software, but it doesn’t feature any pressure sensitivity. If you’re an artist, skip the Crayon. If you just need a stylus to navigate your iPad and write notes, then this is probably your best option.
The Logitech Crayon charges via Lightning cable and sports a 7.5-hour battery life. But unlike the Apple Pencil, the Crayon has a Power button, so you can turn it off and save battery while not in use.
Logitech Slim Folio with Integrated Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad (5th and 6th Generation) - Black
The Logitech Crayon features the same proprietary technology as the Apple Pencil. All that it's missing is pressure sensitivity. For this reason, it's perfect for most students and professionals, but it won't fulfill the needs of artists.
For Everyday Tasks: Wacom Bamboo Sketch
If you want a stylus that straddles the line between the Adonit Note+ and the Logitech Crayon, then Wacom Bamboo Sketch may be your best bet. It offers 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, two programmable buttons, replaceable tips, and a premium build quality that rivals the Apple Pencil.
And, while the Bamboo Sketch lacks tilt features, it has a 15-hour battery life (along with a Power button) and comes with a case. It charges via a magnetic USB device, and it supports more apps than the competition. All in all, it’s a solid option for anyone who wants the option to use their stylus for schoolwork, professional tasks, or art.
Wacom CS610PK Bamboo Sketch, CS-610PK (Fine Tip Stylus By, Natural Sketching on iPad and iPhone), Black
The Wacom Bamboo Sketch features 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, two programmable buttons, replaceable tips, and a 15-hour battery life. It's a solid option for anyone who needs a stylus for schoolwork, professional tasks, and art.
The Best Under $50: Adonit Dash 3
It’s hard to find a decent iPad stylus for under $50. But there is one standout option: the Adonit Dash 3. It’s pretty bare-bones and doesn’t feature any pressure sensitivity, tilt, or palm rejection features. But it does have fantastic build quality, a 14-hour battery life, and a tip that simulates a paper-like drag. And, like the Apple Pencil, it works over a proprietary electrostatic technology, so you don’t have to worry about the lag of Bluetooth or any sort of app compatibility issues.
If you’re an artist, then I’d suggest spending a little more money on an iPad stylus. But if you just need an inexpensive (yet high quality) stylus for jotting notes or working with software, then the Adonit Dash 3 is a serious contender.
Adonit Dash 3 (Black) Universal Stylus Rechargeable Active Fine Point Digital Pens Compatible with Most Capacitive iPhone and Android Touch Screens Cell Phones, iPad, Tablets, Laptops.
With its premium build and low lag time, the Adonit Dash 3 is perfect for jotting notes or working with software. For the price, it has a surprisingly premium feel, and sports a 14-hour battery life.
Don’t like what you see? The Apple Pencil is expensive, but if you aren’t interested in any of the alternatives, you could always save some money buying a 1st gen Apple Pencil or even a refurbished Apple Pencil 2 (if Apple ever restocks its supply of the product). Just keep in mind that the 1st gen Apple Pencil lacks some premium features like wireless charging and gestures.