oStylus capacitive pen review

Like it or not, the capacitive touchscreen just isn't cut out for use with a stylus. We've seen foam-tipped pens and meat-injected tubes have a go at it, but we've yet to really find an option that we were truly satisfied with. It's not hard to imagine why having a legitimate capacitive stylus would be beneficial for creative types; doodling on a tablet, a Magic Trackpad or a mobile device (just to name a few) would be killer if we had a reliable tool to doodle with. Enter the oStylus, a limited run (for now) product that aims to shift the paradigm and make drawing on capacitive touchpanels just as easy as drawing on resistive ones. Creator Andrew Goss was kind enough to send us what appears to be the sixth finalized unit from the production line, and we were able to test it on the iPad, Apple's Magic Trackpad and an iPhone. Read on if you're interested in our two pennies. %Gallery-103981%

The pre-production oStylus model (which we used here) is partly machine-made, partly hand-made, and assembled by hand in the company's studio. There's obviously a lot of blood, sweat and tears going into this thing. It's extremely lightweight, but lovely to hold. You grasp it as you would a pen or pencil, and that makes drawing on capacitive surfaces a lesson in simplicity. The pivoting 'o' is smooth, and we were able to draw without forcing ourselves to compensate for the tool -- that's always a good sign. In general, it's just a beautiful device. Something you'd be proud to carry around with your capacitive tablet, and the well-thought-out design goes beyond aesthetics. It's essentially the perfect size and weight for drawing. So, is it all well and good? Not exactly.

If you watched the company's demo (you can check it here), you were probably shocked at just how well it performed. There are no smoke nor mirrors involved; in practice, it honestly does work that well. If you're positioned just so. What you can't see from the video is just how hard you have to focus to ensure that you're touching the capacitive surface with the entire bottom of the 'o.' There's a white vinyl surface on the underside of said 'o,' and that's the magic that allows it to interact with a capacitive screen; unfortunately, the whole darn 'o' isn't wrapped in this stuff. Frankly, we found the 'o' to be too large when used on smartphones, but it could've solved its own problem by wrapping the edges in the same white substance. That would've allowed us to use an edge to tap, rather than the entire bottom. Here's hoping that'll be added in the next iteration. Have a look below at our own interactions with the device.

All told, we're almost in love with the oStylus. When you've got the space and focus to ensure that 100 percent (not 90 percent, mind you) of the bottom is touching your capacitive screen, it works like a dream. It's deadly accurate and silky smooth, even on the Magic Trackpad, effectively turning Apple's newest mousing contraption into a makeshift Wacom tablet. But it's a tad too large for continued use on a smartphone panel, and the inability to use the edges to interact is a real bummer. We've no deep history in engineering, but the good news is that making more of the surface capacitive-compatible seems like an easy tweak. Also, at $75 (plus shipping), it's hard to recommend this pre-production model to all but the most affluent of designers. Of course, you'll get a numbered model with the creator's own name engraved in the handle (peek details shots of that in our gallery above), but the average Joe or Jane would probably be happier waiting for a mass market model at a fraction of the price.

Update: Sir Goss himself pinged us to clarify that the white vinyl simply acts as a protective barrier between the metal and your display; what reacts is the conductivity of the steel 'o' itself when flat against the screen. So much for our dreams...