Hands-on: FiftyThree Pencil review

Paper by FiftyThree is a beautiful app that allows you to draw to your heart's content on the iPad with little interference. Now the company behind the app has created a dedicated stylus for its users to get the most out of the experience.

We've been playing with the stylus, dubbed Pencil, to find out whether it's any good.

Design

If the app is simple, then Pencil is simpler still. Although available in two styles - Walnut (wood) or Graphite (aluminium) - the one you'll want is the wooden offering.

Made from walnut wood, rather than a veneer, the Pencil measures around 7cm long and is about the width of a USB socket. There's a reason for the wider width than you see on most styluses, and that's because hidden within the wooden shell is an intelligent nib that slides out to reveal the USB charging dongle.

At the tip of the Pencil is the rubber nib you use for drawing, while the other end has another rubber within the app that acts as an eraser allowing you to quickly rub things out.

Drawing

The Pencil connects to your iPad via Bluetooth, and then within the app by pressing a dedicated button to pair the two and get all the benefits, and with a month's worth of charge from 90 minutes in a USB socket, you don't really have to worry about running out of juice. 

Those benefits include access to all the optional tools within the app, and the ability to use the Pencil without your hand touching the iPad screen and confusing everything.

In practice that means you can rest your hands on the screen and those inputs will now be ignored - something not the case with cheaper non-Bluetooth-enabled styluses. While Pencil is connected, you can still use your fingers, with the app encouraging you to use your digits for blending rather than drawing. 

Niggles

The nib is fairly wide and therefore does have a tendency to wobble around a bit when it comes to drawing. It's not that it is not precise, but it does take some getting use to. It's also not very robust. One of our children got hold of Pencil to start drawing (on screen) and within 30 minutes had already torn the rubber nib - there is a spare in the box and it is easy to swap, but that's not the point.

Quick Verdict

The Pencil is a lovely stylus to use with the app, the wider form factor is very comfortable to use (think carpenter pencil), and the wood finish really gives it a luxury feel.

We also like that FiftyThree has bundled the cost of the optional extras within the Paper app to really let you benefit from all the brushes you can get.

If we had a request we would have liked a harder, finer liner nib option to give a better sense of precision, but it's not a deal breaker.

At first glance, the Pencil does come across as being expensive, but with a simple charging mechanism, and the ability to draw on the iPad while resting your hand on the screen, if you are a Paper by FiftyThree user this is a no brainer, if you are looking to maximise your potential.



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