The fight has begun. Or maybe, it ended before it even began. The Apple Pencil isn’t available until November and already it’s giving all the other styluses a run for their money. Apple Pencil or Wacom’s Cintiq stylus? FiftyThree’s Pencil or a stick wrapped in aluminum foil? In a recent article, designer Linda Dong tries to put the question to rest, but has been criticized by many for holding a very biased view in favor of the new Apple product. (When has that ever happened?)
Her argument is spread briefly over comparisons of latency and design between the Apple Pencil and the Wacom Cintiq stylus, but ignores that the performance of the Cintiq (and Pencil) depends upon the device and apps it’s used with.
Digging deeper, another of Wacom’s stylus products, the Bamboo stylus, was designed to work for the iPad. Case in point. One illustrator with Foster + Partners claims that Wacom’s Bamboo stylus doesn’t work efficiently with the iPad. Sketching with it is problematic as the software hampers the continuous drawing flow of work. “The iPad versions of Adobe’s Creative Suite aren’t as good. …I’d rather buy the [Wacom] Cintiq, and have full Photoshop with a sensitive pad,” they say.
Mike Messina, senior UX/UI designer at Engadget’s parent company AOL states that since it’s not possible to use the full Creative Suite and other industry-standard applications on a tablet device, Apple Pencil in that sense falls short in front of the Wacom professional tablet and stylus, which can work together with Adobe apps like Illustrator and Photoshop. In short, The Pencil pales in comparison to the standard in traditional graphics tablets.
There’s that one other niggle as well. Apple Pencil will have to rely heavily on the apps the community develops for it. FiftyThree teamed up with Apple for the iPad Pro release, with each company demonstrating support for the other, but will that always be the case? Or will we see Apple develop their own creative suite? By the way, FiftyThree’s Pencil works with all iDevices, not just the iPad Pro, and they dropped the price on their stylus to half that of the Apple Pencil.
On the flipside, if the Apple Pencil is indeed as sensitive and all-powerful as it claims to be, then many artists and illustrators may be tempted to buy it–the video was enticing.But could it really replace all the other options and elevate the iPad Pro to a professional graphics device? Outside of using it for apps like Paper, Procreate or SKetchbook Pro
Another option we’ve got to consider is Microsoft’s Surface tablet. It allows you to work seamlessly between the desktop apps on a touch-screen tablet. And yeah, Microsoft even has their own pen, the Pen Pro, which has a pressure-sensitive tip as well, plus an opposite-end eraser.
Circling back to Linda Dong, she praises the Apple Pencil for its clean design. The narrow body and tip feel more authentic and ‘don’t obscure the drawing itself.’ Moreover the natural drawing motion is not hampered with it. In comparison, she says that the Cintiq stylus is ‘big, the pen tip is wobbly,’ and gripping it is an issue. In fact, the larger ‘Cintiqs are heavy,’ and need to be hooked to a computer with all those wonder cords.
The biggest complaint with any stylus is latency, palm rejection and inaccuracy found when used with compatible applications. Cintiq scores well in this department for obvious reasons. Apple Pencil testers are already reporting perfection–Michael Johnson and the Pixar team just reported that it ‘has perfect palm rejection’ as far as they were able to see.
So, there are plenty of pros and cons for both the Apple Pencil and Wacom Cintiq stylus. Will that matter to designers and creative professionals? As evidence, there are fans of both. One thing for certain, the Apple Pencil will work better on the iPad Pro, only the iPad Pro. Wacom’s Cintiq will work better on the Wacom devices, only the Wacom Cintiqs.
The iPad Pro + Apple Pencil ($899 + $99): $1,179
Cheapest, Cintiq Pen Display (13″ non-touch, pen included): $799
Other Cintiq Pen Displays (touch options, pen included): $1,000 – $2,800
Surface Pro 3 (pen included) – $1,399