We've come a long way since Steve Jobs told us we already have ten styluses on our hands thanks to the creative efforts of many companies. Over time, iPad and iPhone styluses have become more complex, gained pressure sensitivity, and trimmed down the size of their tips. Adonit's latest addition to the stylus world is the Jot Dash and instead of moving us forward by adding in new features, it takes us a step in the right direction by taking some away.
Adonit's new Jot Dash stylus
The holy grail for tablet styluses is to make you feel like you're using traditional drawing and painting tools, like a pencil or ball point pen. The Jot Dash gets us a lot closer to that dream.
Using a pen is a simple process of picking one up and pressing its tip onto paper, and that's what Adonit went for with the Dash. It's aluminum body (available in silver or dark grey) has the right weight and feel, it's diameter is in line with many pens, and its 1.9mm tip doesn't get in the way when you write or draw. It's compatible with all apps, too, so it'll work with everything that's already installed on your iPad.
The Dash has a built-in rechargeable battery that Adonit says will last through 14 hours of use and recharges in 45 minutes. In my tests, the Dash simply wouldn't stop working. It lasted at least at long as Adonit advertises, and recharging was just as quick, too.
Like a traditional ball point pen, the Dash has a button on the end of its barrel. Press it to turn the Dash on or off, and it'll power down on its own after several minutes of inactivity if you forget when you're done writing or drawing. It also has a pocket clip which really works, and as an added bonus it also keeps the stylus from rolling off tables.
Good battery life and a nice feel are great, but a stylus is still worthless if it doesn't hold up under actual use. The Dash does, and it doesn't matter that features you'll find on competing products aren't there. In fact, that's actually a bonus for the Dash.
When I use pen and paper, I simply pick up the pen and start writing; it's something I do without even needing to be aware. That's how I felt using the Dash—it just felt natural. I never thought about what app I was using, or whether or not I'd have to change any settings. I just picked up the Dash and went to work.
Part of that natural feel comes from the comfortable way the Dash fits in your hand. It isn't too light or too heavy, it balances well, and it feels solid. Since it works with all apps, it was easy to get into the habit of using the Dash just as I would a pen with paper.
The Jot Dash works great in drawing apps like Paper by 53...
I tested the Dash with several apps, and didn't have any issues. My go-to drawing app, Paper by 53, and my favorite note taking app, Notability, both treated the Dash like a first class citizen. I could draw and write without any problems, and I didn't feel like I was having to make serious compromises to use the Dash with my iPad.
...and note taking apps like Notability
That said, there are a couple issues I have with the Dash. To be fair, these are issues I have with pretty much every fine-tip stylus. First, the plastic tip is just that: plastic. You can't get away from the feeling that you're sliding a plastic pen tip across glass because that's exactly what's happening. It's clickity-clackity on the glass, and there isn't any real resistance to give tactile feedback.
Drawing diagonal lines is an issue, too, but that's a limitation of the iPad's design. The sensor grid was designed for fingertips, so anything smaller than about 4mm shouldn't work. Thanks to engineering jiggery-pokery, however, Adonit and other companies have been able to get their stylus tips down to 1.9mm.
Adonit uses electronics packed into its fine point styluses to mimic the 4mm touch area the iPad and iPhone expect from our fingertips, but that comes at a price. Since there's some extrapolation happening to make your iPad think the Dash's tip is 4mm across, we end occasionally end up with weird problems—most notably, the annoying wavy diagonal line issue.
This isn't Adonit's fault, and the fact that we can use fine point styluses on our iPads is an engineering marvel. Apple made some changes in iOS 9 that should make styluses more accurate and responsive, but until it's released we'll have to make due with what we have.
The Dash doesn't offer pressure sensitivity, which may be a turn off for some people. That said, I'm OK with it. Ditching pressure sensitivity means the Dash works across the board with all iPad and iPhone apps, and even as a navigation tool when you're jumping through screens to find the right app. In essence, the Dash becomes a no-brainer stylus, just like a pen is a no-brainer writing tool.
Limiting the Dash's features is one of its strengths. It's a work horse-do everything tool, just like your favorite pen. You don't think about whether or not your favorite pen will write in a Moleskin notebook or on a Post-it Note; it just does. It's the same for the Dash. It works with the apps you use every day, and it feels natural when you pick it up and start tapping.
The Bottom Line
The Jot Dash is the best all around workhorse stylus I've found so far. If you want pressure sensitivity and extra features, look at Adobe's Ink or 53's Pencil. But if you want an I-don't-have-to-think-about-it stylus that feels good and just works, the Dash has you covered.