How we decided
A handful of styluses we tested.
You want a stylus with enough weight and glide to move freely but with enough friction to be predictable. The idea is to replicate the feeling of pen on paper. We tested each stylus by navigating a maze, tracing the alphabet, sketching a variety of items, and tapping around a tablet. After our initial assessment, we started all over again, testing the pens in a different order to reduce any chance that our becoming accustomed to a stylus might have skewed the results.
The best iPad stylus, Adonit's Jot Pro, has a clear plastic tip so you can see what you're drawing or writing
The best stylus for most people and most uses is Adonit's newest version of the Jot Pro. It's the best for quick note-taking thanks to its precision tip, which allows for fast and small writing. Instead of the slightly unnatural feeling of a rubber tip on glass, the sensation of using the Jot Pro is akin to stroking a pen on paper. It also feels good in the hand, even after extended use. It's a beautifully designed stylus that works very, very well.
The tip is spring-loaded for cushioning, which makes it feel a bit more like using a pen on a thick notebook as opposed to a stylus on a rigid screen. It's also the most accurate of all the styluses we tested, as the line on the screen flows from the tip, and you can actually see the tip during use.
The Jot Mini and Jot Pro, compared.
If our main pick is sold out, if you prefer a slightly shorter stylus, or if you're willing to give up some frills to save a few dollars, we also really like Adonit's Jot Mini ($20). The Jot Mini shares a lot of the Jot Pro's traits, including the disc tip and the clip, though it omits the spring-loaded cushioning and textured grip.
A rubber-tipped option
The Sensu Artist Brush & Stylus with the cover removed.
Some people prefer styluses with rubber tips over the plastic-disc design Adonit uses. For them, we recommend Sensu's Artist Brush & Stylus. At $40, it's more expensive than most of the styluses we tested, but it offers an attractive design and writes much better than we expected. One end works well for drawing and writing, while the other has a capacitive paintbrush that artists will love.
A note on the Apple Pencil
Apple announced the Apple Pencil ($100), a stylus that works exclusively with its new iPad Pro. The Apple Pencil supports pressure sensitivity and recognizes the angle at which it's being held, among a number of other interactions between the hardware and iOS. It charges through a Lightning plug, meaning it can be plugged into the iPad Pro's port when it's out of juice. Because the Apple Pencil only works with one version of the iPad, it likely won't end up being a top pick, but we'll still be testing it when it's available in November.
For most people who sketch or write notes on their iPad, Adonit's Jot Pro is the best stylus. This elegantly designed writing tool offers the most precise, pen-and-paper-like experience of any stylus we tested. Professional artists love it, and so do casual note-takers.
This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.