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Is it the stylus or the screen?
January 9, 2013 9:54 AM   Subscribe

I got myself a Lenovo tablet on super sale for Christmas. I'm interested in using it to read and annotate pdf files (mainly journal articles). The pdf reader app I'm using has the ability for freehand writing, and I'd like to try that out for margin notes (some of the papers are technical with lots of symbols, so writing is easier than typing). I bought a stylus that had pretty good reviews on Amazon, but I have to push down to make it work which is ok for highlighting, but tiring for writing. Is this a limitation of this tablet's screen? Or is there a stylus that is easier to use?

The tablet was pretty cheap, so I would be willing to believe that the screen just isn't responsive enough for writing. But, before I give up on this idea, I thought I would ask if anyone has a killer stylus that they would recommend.
posted by bluefly to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I have the newer version of that pen and it works fine on my touch-devices.

Have you tried just using your finger? If it responds quickly to a light touch with your finger, it's the stylus. If you have to press your finger down then it's probably the screen.
posted by royalsong at 10:10 AM on January 9, 2013


yeah, the screen is not responsive enough for writing and lacks the input resolution necessary (this is true of almost all tablets). your stylus is merely acting as a 'fake finger'. For handwriting or drawing, what you need is a tablet with an active digitizer (much rarer than touch-only tablets) such as the samsung galaxy note (the phone or the 10.1" one) or the htc flyer.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:21 AM on January 9, 2013


Yes, my finger works just fine with very light touch, but the stylus "skips" on the screen if I use it lightly. The tip is kind of a soft bubble of fabric; I sort have to mush it down a bit for it to make a continuous line. Is your version like that, too, royalsong?
posted by bluefly at 10:22 AM on January 9, 2013


oh wait...there ARE a few stilii out there that are electronic and use a variety of methods to connect...i forget the models, and they are sort of a niche market, and generally run around $100 (and most are ipad only) try searching for 'pressure-sensitive' stylus
posted by sexyrobot at 10:25 AM on January 9, 2013


yeah, the screen is not responsive enough for writing and lacks the input resolution necessary (this is true of almost all tablets). your stylus is merely acting as a 'fake finger'. For handwriting or drawing, what you need is a tablet with an active digitizer (much rarer than touch-only tablets) such as the samsung galaxy note (the phone or the 10.1" one) or the htc flyer.

Interesting. Lots of people in the reviews I read (not just this stylus but lots of other sub-$30 ones) claim to be using them to write notes on the Google Nexus tablets which gave me hope they might work with mine. Either they have a different writing style than I do -- don't mind pushing down hard, write at an angle, or whatever -- or my tablet's screen just isn't very good.

I can get by with just highlighting, underlining, and typing notes. Future scholars will have to do without my marginalia...
posted by bluefly at 12:39 PM on January 9, 2013


So I just did a bit of testing on my phone.

If I apply no pressure at all, just pen tip touching the screen, it's not nearly as responsive. It skips and scrolling down my twitter feed is a pain.

If I apply just a bit of pressure, no more then you would to write with, then I have no trouble at all.

I can't say whether your problem is your pen or your screen. I'd lean toward the screen though.
posted by royalsong at 1:15 PM on January 9, 2013


yeah, i mean, you CAN, but it really only works if you write reeeeaally big...it's not the main point of tablet use and thus really useful only for short notes...

you say your stylus is fabric tipped? NOT rubber? I have a Targus one with a rubber tip for DRAWING on my phone...and it works pretty good (you'd think the rubber would stick on the glass, but it has more of a plasticy, satin finish so this doesnt happen) maybe try one of those instead? I'd try that before throwing in the towel...

i'm pretty sure it's this one

in a nutshell these work (like your finger) by creating an electric 'bridge' across the lines of a near-invisible grid of contacts embedded in the glass of the screen and is registered as either on or off (i.e. the signal doesn't get stronger if you press harder)

active digitizers (like in wacom drawing tablets and the galaxy note) use a different method (the note and flyer have both, so you can use touch input as well) involving a pressure sensitive coil inside the pen that communicates with the tablet by radio waves (much like an anti-theft sensor at a department store) and is MUCH more precise in location (a lot of the precision in touch screens is inferred with software, based on movement) and much more suitable for writing and drawing
posted by sexyrobot at 1:32 PM on January 9, 2013


(and FWIW, you're not going to find any difference in this regard between your tablet and the nexus)
posted by sexyrobot at 1:34 PM on January 9, 2013


I retried the stylus I have at different angles, and I don't have to push down too hard, but it just feels mushy. Maybe I just have to learn how to use it. I've also ordered a rubber tipped one, a foam tipped one, and one from this Etsy store which is fabric + wood (and the maker specializes in styli for the handicapped, which is cool). I'll see if any of those pans out before giving up.

This is sort of an experiment to see if using a tablet to read papers helps me be a bit more organized at work. My current method of doing notes on paper means I have to really make sure I don't lose the paper copy and I have to truck around stacks of paper. If I can get part of the way with this cheapo tablet, I might seriously think about getting one of the ones you mentioned, sexyrobot. Thanks for your advice.
posted by bluefly at 9:01 AM on January 10, 2013


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