Best alternatives to the Apple Pencil for music markings


by Marin Fauvel

It is great to have an iPad to read your sheet music, but it is even better with a digital stylus to annotate it!

In the past, the Apple Pencil was unmistakably the best digital stylus for iPad, thanks to its great design, precision and convenient features such as “Palm Rejection”. Palm Rejection is the differentiation made by the iPad between the stylus and your hand: this is what makes it possible to rest your hand on the iPad screen when you use the stylus to draw or write, just like on paper, and this is what makes it so comfortable!

For several years, the Apple Pencil was the only stylus for iPad offering this feature. Given its relatively high price, may iPad users were forced to use their fingers to annotate on their device.

If this was your case, we have some good news: the Apple Pencil is no longer the only stylus to offer palm rejection, and several digital pens have popped up on the market offering the same feature, and more!

We have selected for you 4 alternatives to the Apple Pencil to easily annotate your scores at a more reasonable price. For the sake of comparison, we will first present the 2 generations of Apple Pencil and their characteristics, to then focus on the alternatives.

Let’s start with the Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil remains the most precise digital stylus for iPad. Apple has made sure that there is a perfect symbiosis between the iPad and its Pencil.

For example, it’s the only stylus, among all those shown, that tells us the exact level of its battery when paired with the iPad.

1st generation ($99)

The design of the 1st generation Apple Pencil is slightly different from that of the 2nd generation. Compared to its successor, it is not ideal, in part due to its removable cap which can easily be lost. Since it has no magnetic attachment, it cannot be easily attached to the iPad either. In addition, you will have to charge and pair it by plugging it into the iPad’s lightning port, which is much less convenient than with the newer version.

However, these small flaws have been corrected by Apple with the release of the 2nd generation Apple Pencil.

You can buy the Apple Pencil 1st generation for $99 by clicking here.

You can find the list of the iPads compatible with the Apple Pencil in our comparison table.

2nd generation ($119)

The Apple Pencil 2nd generation is the most powerful digital stylus for iPad on the market today. It has all the features you would expect from a digital stylus and works perfectly: palm rejection, tilt and pressure sensitivity, etc. However, you will need an iPad Pro of 3rd generation (2018) or later to take advantage of these features.

It is the only stylus for iPad that is charged and paired simply by touching the iPad, via induction. Place it on the side of your iPad (Pro only) for a few minutes and your pencil is charged! This is also very convenient to store it and always have it close at hand.
Of course, this makes it impossible to annotate while it is charging, but that is hardly a problem because, according to Apple, 15 seconds of charging allow 30 minutes of use.

To be able to annotate with this Pencil, it must be paired to the iPad via Bluetooth. Each Apple Pencil can therefore only be used on one iPad at a time. You cannot annotate on two different iPads without having to go through the pairing step.

Even if they are not visible, the second-generation Apple Pencil has shortcuts buttons. Indeed, slightly tapping the pencil twice allows, for example, to change modes and switch from one pen to another, or from pencil to eraser and open the Newzik annotation toolbar.

And as bonus: with the purchase of an Apple Pencil 2nd generation you can engrave whatever you like on it for free! This can be quite handy so as not to get it mixed up with your band or orchestra mates!

You can buy the Apple Pencil 2nd generation for $119 by clicking here.

A set of 4 replacement tips for your Apple Pencil (1st or 2nd gen) is available for 19$ by clicking here.

You can find the list of the iPads compatible with the Apple Pencil in our comparison table.

The best alternatives to the Apple Pencil

We will now present what we believe are the four best alternatives to the Apple Pencil. One of them is from the well-known brand Logitech, and the other three are from Adonit.

Adonit is based in Austin, Texas and Taipei, Taiwan and is one of Apple’s biggest competitors when it comes to styluses. On their website you will find other models that we have chosen not to present in this article because they do not offer “palm rejection” and are therefore not real alternatives to the Apple Pencil.

Adonit Note: Newzik’s favorite ($50)

The Adonit Note stylus is the cheapest of all the styluses listed here, with a price of $50.

To use it, no Bluetooth connection is needed, no pairing is required! Unlike the Apple Pencil, you just need to turn it on by clicking on its single button and it is directly functional. You can therefore annotate on several iPads with the same stylus without having to unpair and pair it again. This can be very handy to annotate the score of your colleague or student!

Just like for most styluses, the tip is easily replaceable, and it looks at least as solid as the Apple Pencil’s. There is no replacement tip included with the purchase of the Note, however.

Palm rejection works perfectly on this model: you can write serenely, with your hand resting on the iPad.

Unlike the Apple Pencil, and since it does not connect via Bluetooth, it is not possible to see an accurate indicator of the Note’s battery level on the iPad. However, the pen itself has a battery indicator: the LED light is blue when the pen is charged, and this light turns red and flashes when the pen needs power. Charging the pen is quite fast, in 4 minutes you save 1 hour of use!

The Adonite Note is charged via a USB-C port at one of its extremities. The good thing about this that in case of an emergency, you can use it whilst it charges. It is however preferable to charge it before a rehearsal or a concert, even if its battery life can last up to 12 hours. The red light will remain on during charging and will turn blue when fully charged. The charger and cable are of course included.

The Adonit Note is made of aluminium, for a very pleasant grip, touch and use. Its design is ideal for comfortably annotating your digital scores.

You can find the list of the iPads compatible with this stylus in our comparison table. Please note: all iPad models must be upgraded to iOS version 12.2 or later to be able to use the Note.

Newzik’s opinion

We believe that it is the best alternative to the Apple Pencil in terms of value for money. Indeed, it meets all the criteria required for the needs of musicians. It can be switched on and ready to use very quickly with a simple push of a button. What’s more, the Adonit Note also has a small clip, allowing you to hang it on a music stand when not in use for example. Moreover, that clip is magnetized, so it can be attached to your music stand or the edge of the iPad. Finally, its design is quite classy compared to other styluses and looks more like a real pen. It is available in 2 different colours (pink and black).

You can buy the Adonit Note for 50$ by clicking here.

Adonit Note +: The evolution of the Note ($70)

Additional features that are interesting but not vital for musicians.

This model looks a lot like the Adonit Note, but with a few more advanced features.

The Adonit Note + has 2 buttons that can be used as shortcuts, the “shortcut buttons”. These must be configured with Bluetooth and only work with certain compatible applications. It is not compatible with Newzik yet, but if you are interested in this feature, do not hesitate to let us know!

It is quite large but not much heavier than the Adonit Note. Made of plastic and metal, it remains very pleasant to use. Its design is more similar to the Apple Pencil than the Note.

And like the Adonit Note:

No Bluetooth connection or pairing required for its use (except for the shortcut buttons seen above).

The tip remains fine and precise. Unfortunately, spare tips are not included.

The Note + has a battery indicator: the LED lights up red when the battery is low. Charging is done by connecting the tip of the pencil, via a USB-C cable, supplied at the time of purchase. The red light stays on during charging and turns blue when the battery is fully charged. Here too, writing while charging is possible, but there is no indication of the exact battery level.

You can find the list of the iPads compatible with this stylus in our comparison table. Please note: all iPad models must be upgraded to iOS version 12.2 or later to be able to use the Note.

Newzik’s opinion

The Adonit Note + offers some interesting features, but it is a bit large and therefore not as comfortable as the Note to annotate your music. Its main advantage remains the “shortcut buttons”, but this feature is only usable on some very specific applications. It can be very suited to a specific use which would require to use 100% of its functionalities (for drawing or graphics, for example). If you only plan to use it to annotate your digital sheet music, the Adonit Note is just as powerful and will be sufficient.

You can buy the Adonit Note + for a price of 70$ by clicking here.

Logitech Crayon: The best-known alternative to the Apple Pencil ($69.99)

There is no need for a Bluetooth connection to use the stylus or to pair it. It switches on and off and is ready to use by clicking its single button. Thanks to this specificity, you can annotate multiple iPads with the same stylus without having to unpair and pair it again to each device. Handy for making annotations on the iPad of the person sitting next to you!

Compared to the Apple Pencil and to the Adonit stylus, the Logitech Crayon’s design is flatter. After a short adjustment time, this shape is actually quite comfortable to use. It also makes it easy to store in the case of your instrument. In addition, its flat shape prevents it from rolling around on the stage or under the chairs of desk mates, as has already happened!

The Logitech Crayon’s battery life is slightly shorter than other styluses on this list (about 7.5 hours of use), but is still sufficient for rehearsals. In addition, a charge of only 2 minutes provides 30 minutes of usage time. An indicator light informs us of the battery level when the main button is pressed. This light is green when it is charged and turns red when the level drops below 10%. This light flashes when the 5% level is exceeded.

The Logitech Crayon stands out mostly because of its design and solid construction. According to the manufacturer, it can fall from a height of more than one meter without any risk.

It is charged using a USB-C cable that is included with the purchase.

You can find the list of the iPads compatible with the Logitech Crayon in our comparison table. Please note: all iPad models must be upgraded to iOS version 12.2 or later to be able to use the Note.

Newzik’s opinion

Very practical and pleasant to use. This model is roughly equivalent to the Adonit Note in features. It is the one that we, at Newzik, use the most frequently with the Apple Pencil.

You can buy the logitech Crayon for $69.99 en clicking here.

Adonit Pixel: A version specifically designed for the iPad Pro and the iPhone ($75)

The point that really sets the Adonit Pixel apart from all the other styluses is its iPhone compatibility! Among all the styluses presented, it is the only one to have this compatibility. This can be very useful to make some annotations between rehearsals for example, when you don’t have your iPad with you.

According to Adonit, this model was specially designed for the iPad Pro. It is not compatible with the iPad Mini or Air. You will find all the compatible models in our comparison table.

Just like the Adonit Note +, the Adonit Pixel has 2 buttons that can be used as shortcuts, the “shortcut buttons”. They must be configured with Bluetooth and only work with specific compatible applications. This is not yet the case with Newzik, but if you are interested in this feature, please let us know!

The Adonit Pixel is charged via a USB charger designed exclusively for this stylus, so be careful not to lose it! It is unfortunately not possible to charge the stylus and use it at the same time (but neither is it possible with the Apple Pencil).

Like other Adonit models, the Pixel indicates its battery level by means of an indicator light, which is green (or off) when it is charged and changes colour when it needs to be charged.

Newzik’s opinion

This stylus is not the best one for value-for-money in this list, in our opinion: the Pixel is much more expensive but not necessarily better than the Adonit Note +. Moreover, its design is quite bulky, which makes it not too comfortable to write with.
If annotations aren’t your only use of the stylus, you have an iPad pro, and you’re a fan of drawing or graphics, then it can be interesting.
The fact that it’s compatible with the iPhone is of course a plus, allowing you to annotate your scores wherever you are.

You can buy the Adonit Pixel for 75$ by clicking here.

Conclusion

Due mostly to the fact that is was designed and built specifically for it, the Apple Pencil remains the “Rolls-Royce” of styluses for the iPad. However, it no longer has the monopoly it used to have, and there are now many digital styluses available for different budgets. Thanks namely to their palm rejection feature, some of them have little to envy to the Apple Pencil!

Choosing the right stylus for you will of course depend on your usage and needs, and in some settings using an alternative to the Apple Pencil will even be more fitting: in orchestras and ensembles where all musicians are equipped with iPads, for example, using styluses like the Adonit Note could be the best option. Indeed, since the Adonit Note does not require Bluetooth to connect, you will not have to worry about the musicians mixing their styluses up with each other and having to pair them to their devices on and on again.

However, if you often use your iPhone to view your scores on the go, then the Pixel is the right choice for you since it is the only iPhone-compatible stylus in this list.

The good thing about these alternatives is that every musician can find the right stylus they need!