Since the dawn of time, humans did learn to leave traces of their existence as pictographs and stick figures on cave walls and rock forms, forming the basis of writing and drawing.
And since then, we have come a long way from rocks to paper, and as of the present, glass screens and digital computers as a medium for writing and drawing.
The tool that helps us in doing so is a stylus. Very similar to a traditional pen or a pencil, a stylus transfers the input we give onto the screen.
So what about the cost, you may ask? Actually, it can cost you anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds to get a new stylus. And that's what I'm here for, to help you choose the ideal stylus without putting a hole in your wallet.
The Best cheap styluses available in the market are the Adonit Mark, Friendly Suede 4-in-1 stylus, Lynktec TruGlide, and the Meko Universal stylus. Almost all of these styluses are passive styluses, meaning you don't need an active connection or power to operate them.
All of the products mentioned in this article are below $30.
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Adonit has been one of the better-known brands in the stylus circuit, and there is good reason for such universal acclaim.
They have been making world-class premium styluses that can even stand tall when compared against the premium, top-of-the-line products like Apple Pencil or the Surface Pen.
But that doesn't mean that their styluses are also similarly priced. One great example of this exemplary commitment to quality is the Mark.
Adonit Mark is an entry-level stylus that performs and feels like a 50$ stylus. Its ergonomic design and brushed aluminum finish make it a benchmark in this segment.
The triangular form factor ensures optimum grip and helps you work for a long time without making your hands weary. This design also provides an anti-roll feature, which prevents the device from accidentally rolling off the platform.
Adonit Mark is a passive pen, hence negating the need for any power or pairing to work. All you have to do is take hold of the pen and start your business, as simple as that.
It has a mesh tip which is of the broad type. Broad tips increase the area of contact with the screen, which is essential for the proper working of a passive pen.
The tip is very durable, and it behaves much like a rubber tip on the screen. And since it is a mesh tip, it will slide smoothly across the screen, unlike a rubber tip.
You can expect the tip to last anywhere from 8-10 months, depending on your usage. If you are a heavy sketcher, expect the longevity to fall on the lower end of the gamut.
Sadly, Adonit doesn't supply any additional tips with this device since it is irreplaceable.
Adonit provides a full-year warranty on the device, so if you happen to damage the tip within this period, you can apply for a replacement.
Another gripe with the device is its frequent shortcoming in registering the input. Sometimes, the pen decides to turn itself OFF even though there isn't a power switch on it.
Parallax errors and latency issues also trouble this device. But all these issues are some things that you'll have to live with when using a passive pen.
The pen is available most of the time below $10, a deal you cannot miss. If you want a more precise and accurate stylus from Adonit, the Adonit Pro 4 is the one for you.
Meko is a familiar name to those who have used styluses in the past. In fact, it is one of the most sold styluses on Amazon, and there is good reason for such outstanding sales.
You don't have to look any further than the Amazon page of the newer Meko 2-in-1 stylus for these reasons. You get three units in a single packaging, for almost the price of a single one.
You can even further reduce the price if you go with two or even one instead of three styluses.
It's a 2-in-1 device, meaning that you get two tips at either end of the pen. The pen comes equipped with two types of tips- a disk-type and a broad fiber tip.
The 2 mm disk-wielded tip will help increase the accuracy and the precision of the strokes you make. Since it is transparent, parallax errors can also be easily detected and rectified.
On the tail end of the pen, the broader 6.8 mm tip will help register the input more efficiently at reduced latencies. This tip comes in handy while casually surfing the web or for a quick jot down of notes.
In addition to the ones that come pre-fitted on the pens themselves, Meko also supplies six extra tips with this product. You will get three disk-type ones and three broad tips included with every Meko Universal pen.
The Meko Universal pen, as the name suggests, can work with almost all capacitive displays. It is a passive pen, aka no need for power or pairing.
Coming to the aesthetics side of things, Meko pens come in three different colors, or you can go for a single color-only choice.
The grip does provide sufficient clamping for long periods of activity.
But, all the great things aside, the pen is a passive pen, and hence, the usual issues like dropping input registration and sub-par accuracies do trouble these devices.
If you want a decent stylus or rather three of them for the price of one, look no further.
It's quite rare even for a company to come out with a 2-in-1 stylus, let alone a 4-in-1 device in this current market and economy.
But Friendly Swede is no ordinary company since they did one better than others and came out with a 4-in-1 stylus for the masses.
That's right, folks, you can get a stylus that comes with four unique interchangeable tips at a price that is sure to make you happy.
And all these tips come stored up within the pen. All you have to do is unscrew the stem of the pen at about the silver stripe just above the logo, and voila.
Now you can change the tip one by one to your liking.
Talking of the tips, you will get a broad mesh tip, a paintbrush tip, and a disk-type tip for your stylus needs. The fourth attachment is the ballpoint attachment, which helps carry out your analog writing needs.
Apart from the usual broad mesh and disk-type tips, this stylus comes with a fine brush tip attachment. You can make use of this attachment while in your painting endeavors.
You also get about five extra tips with the pen- two disk types, two fiber mesh ones, and one extra brush tip.
The pen is a capacitive type pen, so don't expect remarkable precision and low latency input registration with this device.
You may wonder what I mean by a Passive or a Capacitive pen, right? Well, a passive stylus, unlike an active stylus, doesn't require any power or pairing with the host device to start working.
Passive styluses adopt a similar working principle to how we interact with our fingers on a touch screen. That's why they are called extensions of our fingers.
An active stylus requires power and pairing with the host device to work and hence, is more accurate and provides more features than a passive stylus.
A premium passive stylus that looks and feels luxurious; that sums up what the LynkTec TruGlide Pro Universal stylus pen is all about.
LynkTec says that the TruGlide Pro acts as an extension of your finger, but better.
The Pen comes equipped with a 5 mm broad fiber tip that is easily replaceable. All you have to do is unscrew the contrasting part of the pen and screw back on the replacement tip that comes in the box.
And since it is a mesh tip, it is extremely durable and slides smoothly across the screen.
Another compelling aspect of this product is its availability of different unique tips.
You can get a range of tips, even a paintbrush tip that can bring out the artist in you. But, you will have to buy them separately, a bummer considering the price of this product.
The pen is entirely made out of aluminum, so better longevity and is lightweight. The product also comes with a storage case to keep the device safe while not in use.
Because of its superior tip technology, the pen can register inputs more precisely and accurately than most other passive styluses.
The only gripe with this device is its tip longevity. Don't expect the tip to last for ages because it simply will not.
Other Great Finds
The products mentioned below are great alternatives to the ones mentioned in this article. But they don't offer any unique features in design or functionality to the ones above.
Some of these products are active styluses that may be superior to the passive ones, but for this price range, don't expect a noticeable disparity in the performance.
With that said, let's take a look at these products, shall we?
- JAMJAKE Active Stylus- a cheap but worthy active stylus. Even if this pen doesn't require an active Bluetooth connection with the host device, one can call it an active pen because it does require power and houses superior features like tilt detection and an auto turn-OFF feature. The device may be limited to only Apple iPads, so make sure to check the compatibility list before choosing it.
- Staedtler Noris Digital Classic- an active pen without a battery! The stationary giant Staedtler has come up with one of the most innovative products in the stylus market. This pen doesn't require charging or pairing to work with the host device. All you need is a display that supports the Wacom proprietary EMR(electromagnetic resonance) to work. It also supports 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity.
- Digiroot Universal Stylus- Another great 2-in-1 stylus. If you are on a very very tight budget but want a 2-in-1 stylus, look no further, Digiroot is the one for you. The stylus comes with a replaceable disk type and broad tip. You also get a host of additional tips within the package.
Did you know that styluses can be classified according to their use case scenarios too?
Well, now you do! Styluses are either used for drawing or note-taking purposes. For drawing purposes, you may want styluses that support superior features like pressure sensitivity and tilt detection, aka active ones.
In the case of note-taking, not so much; a passive one will do.
Check out this article on the best styluses for drawing for more info.
Buyers' Guide: Things to look out for
The absolute first thing to keep in mind when shopping for a stylus is your need for it. Do you plan on making sketches and painting with it, or only for jotting down the days' grocery list?
The answer to this question lies within the difference between Active and Passive pens.
Other important things to look out for while choosing a stylus are as follows:
Tips and its Construction
One of the most important requirements of a stylus is its tip and its constitution. Once you find a pen with the right tip, you won't get any harm in forgoing any other specifications.
Most pen tips are classified based on their diameter and their make. A passive pen may flaunt a wider diameter tip to increase the contact with the screen.
To negate the parallax error that may arise out of a broader tip, sometimes, cheaper pens make use of a disk-type tip. The disk is generally made out of plastic and is transparent.
On higher-end pens, you will find narrower tips that fall under 2 mm in diameter. Active pens, in general, do have pointed tips.
Apart from the broad and fine tips, you can also find fine conductive brush-type tips on the market. The Friendly Swede Pen does come with such a tip.
The materials used in making tips vary from metal to plastic to even rubber. Plastic is the choice of tip construction in higher-end pens, while rubber dominates the lower-priced pen market.
Metal tips usually come sleeved under a layer of rubber or plastic coating.
Rubber tends to stick to the screen while plastic and mental tips glide smoothly across the screen.
Size and Build Quality
Another thing to consider while shopping for a new stylus is the size of the pen. If accuracy and precision are your priorities, look for short and small pens.
Bigger form factor pens are great for long and tiring sessions, but accuracy and precision may be compromised.
Make sure to try out some of these pens before you choose a pen from the bunch.
Build quality is another important factor to consider when choosing a stylus. The material with which these styluses are made can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
The most common materials for making pens as of now are plastic, metal, wood, or even graphite.
Metal pens are sturdier and solid than any other pens but can get a bit hefty.
Plastic pens may not be as durable as metal pens but are very light in comparison.
Value for Money
For the price you pay, it is essential to make sure that you get the most for your money. The better the features, the more value you get.
Even if you're shopping for a stylus well and under the median price for a good stylus, you can expect some of these features on them.
In the case of a passive stylus, look for the number of tips you get in the deal. If the pen is a 2-in-1 pen, you have hit a gold mine.
You can also expect some advanced features like pressure sensitivity and tilt detection in this price range, but don't get your hopes too high because chances are, these pens will underperform.
Other value propositions to look out for are carry-cases, ball-point attachments, lanyards, etc.
So, there you have it, four great products for your writing and drawing needs that don't require you to empty your account.
A few honorary mentions also supplement the selection quite well. And to top it off, a buyers' guide to help you choose your ideal stylus.
Make sure to check and compare each and every product, not only the ones mentioned in this list but also the ones pertaining to your price point, before siding with one.
You can always trust products from Adonit and Wacom to do a good job.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is the best active stylus you can get right now?
Active styluses do have the limitation of being compatible with only a particular platform, so choosing a stylus, in general, maybe a bit difficult. Apple Pencil is a great active stylus but it's compatible with only the iPad series. Similarly, the Wacom Pro Pen 2 supports 8K levels of pressure sensitivity but it will only work on a Wacom Tablet.
How often should you replace your stylus?
Typically, you should replace the tip and not the stylus itself unless the stylus gets damaged for its entirety. If the battery doesn't charge anymore in an active pen, it's a good indication for replacing the pen.
What can I use instead of my stylus?
The best alternative to a stylus is your finger itself. Other Do It Yourself(DIY) methods include jerry-rigging a Q-tip with a foil to essentially mimic a passive stylus, but most of the time, it's a hit or a miss kind of deal.