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Adonit Star Review: Fountain Pen iPad Stylus With Basic Essentials

RATING : 8 / 10
Pros
  • Sophisticated, classy look
  • Long battery life
  • Ultra-fine tip
  • Palm rejection
Cons
  • Charging port cap is flimsy
  • Lacks higher-end stylus features

Tablets like iPads are excellent sources of utility. They have a ton of unlocked potential — NASA went to the Moon with less and all that — but you've got to get the thing out more than once or twice every couple of months to reap the value. 

Consider for a moment the possibility that your iPad is not well-accessorized enough to lure you into using it. The social media iPad cult would be quick to remind you that you're not really a member until you've got the expensive case and the fancy Apple Pencil, but that's not necessarily true. There are tons of more affordable iPad accessories out there to help you feel like one of the cool tablet kids. 

Most of the third-party iPad styluses out there look the same — the same colors, the same silhouette, and not much variety in personality or visual appeal. The Adonit Star iPad stylus, designed to look like a classic professional fountain pen, is different. Adonit provided SlashGear with a Star stylus for the purpose of this review.

Design and first impressions

The Adonit Star stylus emulates the look and feel of a professional quality fountain pen. There is an astonishing heft — it feels luxuriously sturdy during use. The Star stylus has an ultra-fine POM (polyoxymethylene) thermoplastic nib. Its sleek, metallic profile in jet-black and spurious fountainhead pen tip made me feel as if I ought to be flourishing my signature on papers shoved in my face like an old noir movie detective or newspaper editor.

Besides the one simple on and off button and charging port, there's not much else to the design of the stylus, meaning there's no potential for multifunction or advanced use features. The marquee benefit of the Adonit Star is certainly its aesthetic allure with the classy fountain pen imitation. It is a stylus meant to look sleek in a suit pocket or on a desk next to an iPad.

Function and compatibility

The Adonit Star iPad stylus is compatible with the following iPad models: iPad Air 3rd through 5th generations, iPad Mini 5th and 6th generations, iPad 6th through 10th generations, iPad Pro 11-inch 1st through 4th generations, the iPad Pro 12.9-inch 3rd through 6th generations, and anything newer. 

Compatibility is a popular grievance of this pen, but no issues were encountered in this testing. Apple Pencils and any other Bluetooth tablet stylus also must be disconnected from your iPad in order to use the Adonit Star.

Using the Adonit requires that you press the power button at the back of the pen and look for a blue LED indicator light. A single click to turn on, and a blue LED light indicates that the stylus is on and ready. Another click turns the device off, and the blue light fades away. This stylus is ready for use right out of the box. It worked without a hitch with an 8th-generation iPad — no Bluetooth connection or any other pairing process setup needed.

Performance and features

Communicating to the tablet in a similar way that Apple Pencils do, the iPad disregards touch input from your hand resting on the screen while using the stylus. The Adonit Star's part in the iPad's palm rejection feature worked flawlessly with no issues to report. This stylus's precision, low latency, and consistent communication with the iPad were plain to see and experience. The Adonit is comfortable enough to hold for long periods of time.

Testing for this review focused on office productivity (writing), and some photography editing. The ultra-fine tip is absolutely wonderful for hand-written notes, digital productivity like writing in a calendar, and photo editing on Lightroom. Meanwhile, it doesn't take a modern-day da Vinci to see that the Star, as neat of an iPad accessory as it is, is no artist's tool. This stylus keeps it simple — it's primitive, as far as smart stylus devices go — it's an option for you when you want to choose style over higher-end features.

The fact that palm rejection is this stylus' only intelligent feature completely disqualifies it from competing for the attention of digital creators. There's no pressure sensitivity to control brushstroke size and opacity, no tilt-to-shade for complex digital art — and even if there were, the metal piece giving the fountain pen allusion would cause major concern for scratching the iPad screen if you were tilting the stylus to shade and draw. Plus, there's the absence of multifunction or shortcut buttons — and the lack of specialized support for creative apps like Procreate or Adobe Fresco. 

Battery and charging

To charge the Adonit Star, simply unscrew the cap on the opposite end of the pen and plug in a USB-C cable. The stylus does come with such a cable, but it's so short — only a couple of inches long — that was quickly found to be impractical and traded for an on-hand longer cable. A longer cable should, by all means, come standard with the stylus, especially since you can use the pen while it's charging.

The Star boasts an 11-hour battery life — which is competitive with that of an Apple pencil, especially an older one. Our tests showed the battery to last just shy of 10 hours without any charging necessary. It would be nice if the blue indicator light changed color or flashed to indicate low battery. Presumably, the stylus will just stop working when the battery dies — making it quite similar to all the non-LED-toting, battery-powered stylus devices in the world today.

One serious weak point

While everything initially appeared to be fine with the battery and charging the stylus, when screwing the cap back on over the charging port for the first time, turning the cap just a fraction too far caused the entire charge port portion to snap off. Once this break occurred, the inner mechanisms fell out and the power button popped off — as pictured. There wasn't any more than a to-be-expected amount of force applied to screw it shut.

The stylus' filaments and innards were carefully packed back into the pen, lined up for the power button to still be accessible through its keyhole. And despite being incredibly careful to avoid over-tightening the second time the charging port cover was screwed back on, it happened again. The cap is only forgiving of over-tightening by a few minute degrees. 

This was the only point during our testing where the Adonit Star felt like cheaply-made plastic, especially since the power button is only held in place with some glue adhesive. So after multiple instances of this, the power button may lose its adhesive hold.

The Adonit Star vs. other iPad stylus devices

Listed for $49.99 on Amazon, the Adonit Star seems to be the first stylus mimicking an old-fashioned fountain pen, so lining it up against comparable products is difficult. It's tough to compare the Adonit Star to other styluses that bring way more function but in some cases double the cost. Adonit's own multifunctional stylus is the Note+, and for $69.99 on Amazon, you get tilt shading, pressure sensitivity, and palm rejection.

The second-generation Apple Pencil is $129.00 on Amazon. For that significantly larger amount of cash, you get all the above-mentioned features and the smoothest stylus-tablet integration — like magnetically attaching to the iPad, intuitive shortcuts like double tapping, and wireless charging.

There are a lot more third-party examples of well-equipped iPad styluses: the Logitech Crayon Digital Pencil, the Zagg Pro Stylus, plus infinite nameless junky styluses for under $50. All come with the tools that digital artists need a tablet stylus to have. 

The Adonit Star does have the battery life advantage over many of its multifunctional competitors — probably due to not powering tilt-to-shade or pressure sensitivity technology — but that's where the practical advantage stops. Otherwise, when you choose the Star, you're choosing something that'll look good in your breast pocket or poised on your desk, rather than the typical, sort-of-boring traditional look of a stylus.  That's not to say it's not a worthwhile purchase, but it is a niche one.

Is the Adonit Star iPad stylus worth the money?

If Adonit hadn't already established stylus options that deliver on function and features before unveiling the Adonit Star, this would seem a frivolous product that's looking at an uphill battle to get into the consumer public's favor. Without considering the rest of the Adonit portfolio, it would seem that the company released an out-of-place, over-simplified active stylus in a market full of far more capable alternatives.

But Adonit has a collection of stylus devices available — the Adonit Note+, in particular, caters to digital artists, creative tablet users, and people hunting for affordable Apple Pencil alternatives. The Adonit Star removes all the features that a basics-only stylus-seeker wouldn't use anyway. The Adonit Star is a stylus that your average iPad user would get tons of use of, and would enjoy feeling sleek and classy while doing it. 

Anyone who's helpless in the artistic talent department will likely find that there's enough utility in the Star. It would be unfair to judge the Star's competence for creators when it's so apparent that they aren't this product's demographic. If you don't have the needs of an artist and gravitate towards unique conversation-starter products, the Adonit Star is definitely a win for you.