We jot down our thoughts on a new iPad stylus (November 9th, 2013)
Product Manufacturer: Adonit and Evernote
- Solid, attractive build quality
- Nice pen tip
- Serviceable integration with Penultimate
- Awkwardly thick for a pen
- Inconsistent performance
- Imprecise pen output
Some of us at MacNN, while fully enamored of our iPads and iPhones, feel that the late Steve Jobs was wrong on at least one thing: a manufacturer didn't necessarily "blow it" if its touchscreen device ships with a stylus. This is borne out in part by successful stylus-enabled mobile devices on the market, as well as by the proliferation of enhanced styluses available for the iPad. We're always interested when a new iPad stylus comes out, as we want to see someone get it right. Thus, the news of Evernote and Adonit teaming up for the Jot Script Evernote Edition pen caught our attention, as we wanted to see whether pen-driven note taking could be fully realized through collaboration between two quality companies.
Evernote and Adonit bill the new Jot Script as built "specifically for the art of note taking." Marketing materials for the device focus on its comparatively fine pen point, which they say will enable more precise pen input, replicating the experience of writing on pen and paper. That fine point, joined with Adonit's Pixelpoint technology and Evernote's Penultimate app, will purportedly "guarantee accuracy with each stroke."
How well does the whole package work together? This is where the fine point becomes a bit fuzzier.
As we said in our first look at the Jot Script, the stylus' hardware runs somewhat counter to its stated purpose. The device is a bit thicker than most of the pens it aims to emulate. This thickness makes it unlikely to fit into any pen holders one might have on one's iPad case, though Adonit does make a Jot-compatible carrying case that can be had at an additional cost.
The Jot Script relies on a single AAA battery for power. We found this to be a puzzling choice, given that Adonit's Jot Touch stylus packs a Lithium ion battery and recharges in a snazzy USB dock. We can't help but feel that the slimness of the device might have been aided if Adonit didn't have to design it to fit that single battery, though we could be wrong on that.
It's chunkiness aside, the Jot script feels good in the hand, and it actually looks rather good. It actually looks like a pen, and a classy pen, in fact. As we said before, we were disappointed that Adonit neglected to put a pocket clip of any sort on the device. Considering its girth, the option to stick this thing into a shirt pocket would greatly aid in its portability. As it stands, one must stick the Script into a pants pocket or a bag and then remember to keep track of it when it's out.
And how does it actually work? That matter is a mixed bag. When the Jot Script is functioning properly, it provides a serviceably smooth line, albeit with some lag between pen strokes and their on-screen representations. If one is not careful, this can result in missed strokes. There is also at times a jarring distance between where one believes one is writing and where the strokes actually appear on screen. Suffice it to say, this is not conducive to the sort of speedy note taking we imagined upon removing the Jot Script from its packaging.
One major complaint we had was that the Penultimate app did not appear to be registering the actual distance we were moving the stylus while writing. This often resulted in script that was much flatter than we had intended. We had a bit more luck writing in print, as opposed to cursive, but the lag and flatness were still present. Put plainly, it is difficult to imagine managing the sort of note taking that is implied in the marketing materials... at least not without a good deal of practice.
This all seems quite negative, and indeed much of it is. We should note, though, that the Jot Script does actually feel quite nice to write with. At no point does the pen tip feel like it may be damaging one's iPad screen. Instead, it glides along quite smoothly. It is just a shame, though, that the software is unable at times to keep up with the hardware. We hope that this is the sort of thing that can be fixed through updates to Evernote's Penultimate app. Speaking of which...
Penultimate (available for free in the App Store) is the second half of the Jot Script equation, the Evernote-built app that should perfectly complement Adonit's Bluetooth stylus. Evernote has added functionality that allows the app to recognize and ignore input from a user's palm when the pen is in use. Additionally, one can zoom into a page, which should grant more precision in scripting, and the app automatically scrolls zoomed-in pages, making for a smoother writing experience.
In practice, the app experience is competent, if somewhat underwhelming. We were excited going into this app, thinking that the pairing of a specialized pen with a specialized note-taking app would realize an iPad experience we've been waiting for since Apple unveiled its bestselling tablet some years ago. What we got was a serviceable app that simply doesn't perform well enough that we'd rely on it for regular scribbling.
The issues we detailed earlier - lag, a lack of precision - are the main problems in the interoperation between Penultimate and the Jot Script. Puzzlingly, the app will also occasionally register a stroke, only to have it disappear a split-second later. This is, to say the least, frustrating, as the imprecise representation of one's handwriting is bad enough in itself without missing strokes further confounding the mess. We hope that this is the sort of thing that can be fixed with updates to the Penultimate app, as it would be a shame were it to just be a failing of the hardware.
Penultimate's palm rejection feature largely works as advertised, though we were under the impression that the app could fully reject non-pen input. That is not the case, though, and one will often find finger contacts registering should one carelessly touch the screen in between writing. This is a slight but significant oversight, but something one can get used to with practice. The fact that one must practice at it, though, is just further evidence that, despite their claims to the contrary, Evernote and Adonit's combination is not fully mature. Also, when palm rejection doesn't work, it results in page skipping, a small but jarring bug that can really take one out of any writing groove one may achieve.
One very solid benefit of Penultimate, though, is that it automatically syncs scribbled notes to one's main Evernote account. While these notes don't see any increase in quality in the transition, the fact that they are then accessible on the web and on other devices is handy if one has actually come to like the Jot Script-Penultimate combination's functionality.
We were really looking forward to giving the Jot Script a run through its paces. What we found was passable performance that could perhaps be fixed with tweaks to its main supporting app. If those issues can in fact be fixed, it is possible that the Jot Script will live up to what consumers were promised in promotional material. If they cannot be fixed, it is hard to recommend the device for those that are not simply Evernote or Adnoit enthusiasts.
To an extent, the problems with the Penultimate-Jot Script combination may stem from the limitations of the iPad itself. Without greater stylus support from Apple, it is hard to imagine any device achieving even the simplest aspects of, say, Samsung's Galaxy Note series of smartphones and tablets. If you already have an iPad and are just looking for a passable stylus for notes, the Jot Script may be able to fulfill your needs. If you're looking into a tablet-stylus combination, though, and are set on taking notes on your touchscreen device, we would have to advise you to look elsewhere.