Apple Pencil hands-on review
The Apple Pencil isn’t limited to being a device for just pointing and tapping with like you would with your finger. Instead, it’s pressure-sensitive to help you draw and paint in a manner that can help you achieve natural-looking notes and illustrations in anything from Apple’s simple Notes app to the more professional art and design apps like Procreate and AutoCAD. Here, we bring you our first-look review of the Apple Pencil, set to become available when the iPad Pro launches next week.
The Apple Pencil did come as a bit of a surprise, though, because Apple has previously given the impression that styluses represent a design compromise.
We’ve not forgotten the late Apple founder Steve Jobs’ remarks about using a stylus, for example, which included: “Who wants a stylus? You have to get them, put them away, you lose them – yech! Nobody wants a stylus. So let’s not use a stylus.” That’s what he said during the launch of the first iPhone at Macworld 2007. And then in 2010 he said: “If you see a stylus, they blew it.”
(It should be pointed out, mind you, that these comments referred to smartphone design rather than tablets, and obviously we never got a chance to hear what Jobs would have said when launching a 12.9-inch iPad.)
Lo and behold, the Apple Pencil is just about to make its way into Apple Stores, and actually, we’re quite excited after all. It’s available to order from Apple now, but annoyingly it won’t ship for 3-4 weeks while the iPad Pro is available to ship within a few days at time of writing. Find out more in our iPad Pro release date article.
Apple Pencil hands-on review: Design & build quality
The Pencil is almost entirely white, with just a metallic band at the non-writing end by the charging cap. It has a glossy, hard ceramic feel (pleasingly, the white material looks and feels a lot like an actual pencil) with the exception of the tip, which is matt, softer and slightly off-white. You get a spare tip in the box, but unlike Microsoft’s new Surface Pro stylus, with its variety of tip sizes, this is a straight replacement for the starting tip.
The Pencil feels pretty good in the hand, with a nice weight to it – a weight that’s tilted more towards the back than we expected, however (presumably because of the battery). If you like to hold a stylus very close to the tip, you may find the Pencil a touch unbalanced; the weighting lends itself to a grip that’s closer to the midpoint.
Other than the weighting issue, which we quickly got used to, the Apple Pencil feels fantastic to hold and use. Its sleek white design is shaped just like the pencils we’re familiar with so there’s no extra thickness or weight to contend with.
When you pick it up, it becomes completely natural to start drawing with the Apple Pencil right away, because it so closely resembles the familiar traditional pencil that we’ve grown up using on paper, and it’s super-fast to ensure that there’s no lag to ruin the illusion.
Both the Apple Pencil and iPad Pro have sensors that can detect the pressure you’re using and the angle you’re holding the stylus at, making it effortless to create lines of different thicknesses without really needing to think about it. In the Pencil’s tip there are two tilt sensors which the iPad Pro’s display will keep track of to work out the exact orientation and angle of your hand as you draw.
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