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New iPad? Before you spend $89 or more on an Apple Pencil, read this

There are much cheaper options available, like this one for only $22.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read

This Penoval digital pen is compatible with newer iPads. It's comfy and effective, though it lacks the Apple Pencil's more advanced features.

Rick Broida/CNET

Newer iPads (those released in 2018 and later) are designed to work with digital styluses, most famously the Apple Pencil . They're great for creating art, taking notes and so on. But, oh, the price: The first-gen Apple Pencil sells for $89, the second-gen for $119. And, to be honest, they feel like cheap pieces of plastic. You can't help but feel ripped-off.

Thankfully, there are other options -- much more affordable ones. The Logitech Crayon, for example, is currently $53.99 at Amazon, though I've seen it as low as $50 numerous times. Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page.

Meanwhile, there are a host of off-brand styluses available for even less. For example, for a limited time, and while supplies last, CSBINE via Amazon has the Penoval digital stylus for $21.99 when you clip the on-page 10%-off coupon and then apply promo code 35V4HL9O at checkout. It regularly sells for $39.99, as do many similar styli.

First things first: This has a seemingly amazing 4.8-star average user rating, but both Fakespot and ReviewMeta indicate a ton of potential fakes. Barf. However, I tested the pen myself. It feels a bit more substantial than the Pencil and works exactly as advertised.

Which is to say: Press the power button and it's instantly paired to your iPad, without so much as a visit to Bluetooth settings. (How? I'm not actually sure.) Then just start writing or coloring with an app like Notability or countless others.

Here's the catch: The stylus doesn't support pressure-sensitivity the way the Apple Pencil does, nor does it offer tip angle-detection like the Logitech Crayon . Plus, the power button is in the worst possible place: Just above where your fingers would naturally grip the barrel. I haven't hit it by accident (yet), but it's still super-dumb placement.

Also a bit annoying: The barrel is perfectly round, so the stylus can easily roll away on you.

Thankfully, it does offer "palm rejection," meaning you can lay your hand on the screen while writing. And in my informal tests with the new iPad 10.2, there was zero lag. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how pleasant it is to interact with the iPad this way. The experience is vastly superior to any stylus-based note-taking I've tried in the past.

Bottom line: Whether it's this digital pen or another, you don't have to pay $89-$119 for Apple's versions -- not unless you really, really need pressure sensitivity. For simple artwork and note-taking, this gets the job done nicely.

Watch this: See how the Apple Pencil works with the new iPad

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