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- sonarpen 40 - SonarPen stylus review – The Gadgeteer

REVIEW – Creating art on an iPad or an Android tablet is a lot easier if you do it with a stylus, but high-quality styluses tend to be expensive, use Bluetooth, and require frequent charging. The  skips past those issues, but is it a better choice than other styluses? Let’s check it out.

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What is it?

The SonarPen is a pressure sensitive stylus for iOS and Android devices that plugs into the 3.5mm headphone jack instead of using Bluetooth for pairing.

Device compatibility

The SonarPen works with all iPads (except the 1st gen iPad), iPhones, and most Android devices that run on Android OS 4.4 and above. If the device doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack, you’ll need to use an adapter like a lightning to 3.5mm adapter, or a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter.

What’s in the box?

- sonarpen 6 - SonarPen stylus review – The Gadgeteer

  • SonarPen stylus
  • 3 extra stylus tips
  • 1 lightning port stylus holder for iPads and iPhones
  • 1 stick on stylus holder for other devices

Design and features

- sonarpen 5 - SonarPen stylus review – The Gadgeteer

The SonarPen looks like a typical stylus with a disc style tip, but you soon realize it’s not typical at all when you notice the flat cable with a 3.5mm plug that is built into the stylus.

- sonarpen 4 - SonarPen stylus review – The Gadgeteer

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The cable wraps conveniently around the handle the stylus when it’s not being used and unwraps to an approximate length of 19 inches from plug tip to the end of the stylus barrel.

- sonarpen 1 - SonarPen stylus review – The Gadgeteer

As mentioned, the stylus has a clear plastic disc tip/nib that is approximately .25in across and can move freely in all directions. Three extra stylus tips are included in the package and you can purchase additional sets of 3 nibs for $14.9 from Amazon.

- sonarpen 2 - SonarPen stylus review – The Gadgeteer

The stylus has a shortcut button on the barrel whose function is determined by the being used with the stylus.

The SonarPen does not have to be charged or paired with your device. You just have to plug the 3.5mm plug into the headphone jack on your phone or tablet. If your phone doesn’t have a headphone jack, you can use a lightning or USB-C adapter to 3.5mm adapter.

I tested the SonarPen with my Pixel 2 XL, a Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, and a Huawei MediaPad M5. The only one of those three devices with a headphone jack was the Samsung tablet and the SonarPen worked perfectly with it. For the other two devices, I used a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter. I’m sorry to say that I was unable to get the SonarPen stylus to work with my Pixel 2 XL, but it did work fine with the Huawei MediaPad M5.

App support

This stylus will work fine with any tablet or smartphone even if it’s not plugged in. But plugging it into a device and using an art program that supports it, is the only way you can take advantage of the different pressure levels and the shortcut button.

If you plan to use the SonarPen with an iOS device, you have a variety of app to choose from, but when I checked the compatible app page on the SonarPen site, I didn’t recognize any of the art and note-taking app names. Then when I checked the Android apps , I was disappointed to see that only 1 compatible app was available. That app is called ArtFlow. It’s free, which is good, but it does have some features (extra brushes, more undo levels, etc.) that prompt you to buy the full version or watch an advertisement in order to unlock the premium features for a limited time.

Let’s draw!

Since I only had one choice, I tested the SonarPen with the ArtFlow app which is a pretty simple to use drawing and painting app for Android devices. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about this app as it’s not the point of this review.

- sonarpen 40 - SonarPen stylus review – The Gadgeteer

Once the SonarPen was to the tablet and enabled in the compatible app, using it to draw and write felt no different than many other styluses that I’ve used in the past that have the same type of disk tip. The tip glides easily and smoothly across the glass display with no skipping or studdering and the “ink” point is directly under the center of the stylus tip instead of at an offset.

- sonarpen 41 - SonarPen stylus review – The Gadgeteer

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