28
May
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When using a tablet for things like playing games, browsing the web, or other general activities, I really like using a stylus. While I have several different styli, there is one thing that consistently bothers me about all of them: the tip size is just too big. I understand that it's made to emulate a fingertip, but I think a smaller tip would lead to more precision, especially when browsing sites that aren't necessarily touch-optimized, or for things like natural-writing, as well as any sort of digital art. Enter the Hand Stylus, a new Kickstarter project that aims to address those very concerns.

So what makes the Hand Stylus unique? Quite a bit, actually.

  • It has a 4mm tip, which is half the size of a normal stylus. In fact, it's the smallest tip of any stylus.
  • The tip is not only retractable (like a pen), but it rotates with each retraction for even wear. Also another first for any stylus.
  • The tip is replaceable.
  • It feels just like an ink pen, so using it is very natural.
  • It will be available in a variety of matte and glossy colors: orange, blue, red, green, pink, and black.

Shortly after first hearing about the Hand Stylus, I was given an opportunity to check out a couple of prototypes. I've spent the last week and a half using them and wanted to share my thoughts with you all.

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At first glance, you can tell that the designer of the Hand Stylus, Steve King, really takes pride in his work. It comes packaged in a custom metal tin, and the stylus itself is surrounded by a form-fit padding. Overkill? Maybe, but there's something to be said for a product that is as meticulously packaged as it is designed.

Once out of the package, the Hand Stylus feels really well-made. It's got a nice weight to it, but it's not overly-hefty. Since I'm using prototype builds, Mr. King sent a note along with the styli to let me know that the tip might not always retract or rotate perfectly because "the internal components are not yet optimized." As a result, one of the units I have doesn't rotate, but I haven't had a problem with the retracting mechanism at all in either; in fact, it feels very solid.

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As promised, this tip is about half the size of my other styli - but this is also where the first problem comes into play, at least on some tablets. You see, depending on how sensitive the display of the tablet is, it may or may not even detect that the display is being touched with the stylus with a fair bit of pressure. And by "fair bit," I really mean an "uncomfortable level."

To display what I'm talking about, I fired up PaintApp HD on a few different tablets and just took the stylus to it. You'll clearly be able to see here that it simply doesn't work well on some tablets:

Screenshot_2012-05-28-13-54-35 Screenshot_2012-05-28-13-52-16 Screenshot_2012-05-28-13-53-13

Left to right: Acer A510, ASUS Transformer Prime (TF201), ASUS Transformer Pad 300 (TF300)

With that said, I don't blame the stylus entirely - part of the issue is definitely caused by the device's touchscreen. However, my other styli seem to work better on the same displays. Therefore, I think the problem is a stylus+display issue.

The A510 received a software update a few weeks ago that drastically decreased the touch sensitivity of the screen. This isn't immediately noticeable with your finger, but it is hard to deny with a stylus. The Hand Stylus was almost unusable on the A510 without an incredible amount of pressure, and other styli weren't much different. The stylus was much more usable on the Transformer Prime, but the experience still left a lot to be desired.

Then, I tried it on the TF300, and immediately knew that this was the experience that the designer had in mind. The stylus works unbelievably well on this tablet - the display accurately responds to the slightest touch. It's absolutely fantastic.

Given the fact that this was designed with the iPad in mind, it doesn't surprise me that the experience isn't ideal with certain Android tablets. We have to be honest here - not all touch displays are created equal. Clearly, the iPad's display is much more touch sensitive than some Android offerings.

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Not a fan of the clip? No big deal - it's removable.

Still, I feel pretty good about the Hand Stylus overall, especially once it leaves the prototype stage and makes its way into the retail market. Its retractable, replaceable tip and well-thought-out design make it one of the better styli that I've ever used (and I've used a lot), so long as you have a tablet that will accurately respond. That could very well be the problem, though: without being able to try it on every tablet in existence, it's a gamble (unless, of course, you actually have one of the devices I tested the stylus on, or an iPad).

At $25 for the stylus and $5 for a six-pack of replaceable tips, though, I feel like the Hand Stylus offers and excellent value and experience for the money. It's expected to begin shipping in July 2012 to all who pledge a donation on Kickstarter before June 16. It should become available for purchase shortly after that.

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, and musician. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6- or 7-string, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • Palmer Nyako

    No stylus is worth more than $5+
     

    • Nate Davidson

      You haven't used the WACOM Bamboo Stylus after using a rocketfish or other generic stylus.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZLOTEIADMVYKDQXQBWAO6P7XRQ Jim

        Well if it's as good as you say, maybe I'd pay $6+ for it.

        • StriderWhite

          It's very good...sadly it costs 30+ $$!!

    • shonangreg

      And no watch more than a dollar. You can even have Mickey Mouse pointing out the time to you for a dollar ;-)

  • Jesslyn Hendrix

    Thanks!  I totally got in on the project.  I also sent a suggestion to add a hole to connect to the tablet like this (http://amzn.to/LyRVZ1) one from Amazon.  I find it helpful to use the headphone jack to tether my stylus to it when it's not being used.

  • Freak4Dell

    I was interested until I saw the price. At that price, I'll just keep waiting for a deal on the N-Trig stylus for my View, or get the Toshiba alternative and pocket the extra $10.

    Also, it's neither fare, nor far. It's fair. You did that on purpose, didn't you? :p

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      Of course I did! I was waiting for you to point it out. ;)

      P.S. - Fixed. 

  • Jonathan Isenberg

    Try the Adonit Jot Pro. The finest tip you can get in a stylus.

  • Nightsider

    What stylus do you recommend for Transformer prime?  I really liked this stylus until I saw the transformer performance picture above.  I need stylus for notes and sketches so it should be precise.  

    Just comes to mind if the difference between TF201 and 300 isnt due to the lastest update that fixed the "internal memory lag issue" and probably changed something around touchscreen too?

  • Eric So

    Is this another "review" where this dude Cameron just keeps the stuff and gives a positive review?

    • J Rush

      You obviously didn't read the review then.

  • Iggy

    If anyone wants a good review of the current Stylus pens out right now check this article:  
    http://www.theverge.com/2012/4/10/2925937/best-stylus-ipad-review

  • stevengking

    Cameron, thank you for your thorough and fair-minded review of my HAND Stylus. You did testing on Android devices that I would like to have done. However, as a small, one-man design studio, I have limited resources, thus the launch of the HAND Stylus on Kickstarter. Now that the HAND Stylus is being so well supported, I've started making arrangements to do tests on screen protectors and will be doing research on how to improve the tip's performance for Ver. 2.0 of the HAND Stylus, which will probably debut early next year. If you're interested, I might like to commission you to do more testing of the HAND Stylus on other Android devices. I'd like to eventually be able to post on handstylus.com a more comprehensive evaluation of how well the HAND Stylus works with various screen protectors, as well as Android and Windows devices. If you'd like to discuss doing more testing, please contact me at: info@handstylus.com. Lastly, one minor correction, the HAND Stylus is available on Kickstarter beginning at $25, not $30. Again, thank you for taking the time and making the effort to review the HAND Stylus. Regards, Steve King

    • http://twitter.com/ChimeraX AlanJC

      Steven, I've been looking at project with interest, as I usually damage styli in my bag. One thing I've noticed since I bought a Surface RT though is that few styli work well with it unless you press down quite hard. I have 3 styli at the moment, a Cosmonaut, a Bamboo, and a cheap generic one. The Bamboo works best, followed by the Cosmonaut, but they all suffer when drawing curved or diagonal lines on the Surface, where a finger works perfectly every time.

      Have you tried one of yours on a Surface RT at all?

  • Ofi

    Nice looking stylus not far off the wacom price.

    Not surprised by the testing results. Android touchscreens are so inconsistent.

    My Galaxy S2 had great touchscreen sensitivity when I first bought it.. Then I upgraded to ICS and it went to crap.

  • gkb101

    Honestly the performance is not in rubber tips. Rubber or foam creates friction that skips no matter what. The technology is in conductive fabrics that glide check out iFaraday. Works flawlessly on TF101.

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

      First, I agree that conductive cloth is the far better way to go (and actually what was already disappointing to me about the Hand stylus)...but it's still a compelling effort.

      I am a little annoyed that the iFaraday guy has filed a patent on it.  It's not clear if the patent is for just the Cobra model or if he's filing a patent for using a conductive cloth tip.  If it's for just the Cobra, he probably deserves it.  If it's for building a stylus with conductive cloth, I'm sorry, but I and hundreds of other people did it 4 years ago after reading a comment on Lifehacker that suggested that very same thing.  I'm sure nobody here is entirely in love with patents, especially if they aren't deserved...but again, unsure what he's technically filing for (and I'm a bit too tired and busy right now to read through a patent application).

  • http://twitter.com/zk0sn1 Nee Austin

    I personally think the inconsistent response from stylus' comes from algorithms that are used to prevent accidental, smaller-than-fingertip touches from registering.  

    I don't think it's a screen issue at all.  

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I think you're onto something, especially since we know a software update made this worse, it's likely not a physical screen issue, but a technique similar to palm rejection. Either way, since it's not tweakable by the user, YMMV as far as whether something like that will work on any given tablet.

  • Scooby Doo

    How does it work on the Xoom?