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My review: The Pogo Connect iPad stylus is a great digital pen

The Pogo Connect by Ten One Design
Some months ago I came across the Pogo Connect iPad stylus online. The device boasts that it is a unique pressure sensitive pen for the iPad. Since pressure sensitivity is one of the missing features of drawing on a tablet, I was curious if the pen lived up to its claims. At $79.95, it’s not a casual purchase for an experiment, so I promptly forgot about it until the good folks at Ten One Design contacted me and asked if I’d try out the device and post a review. I’ve been using the Pogo Connect for about a month now and am mostly pleased with it. I’m learning that producing art on the iPad is really a mix of three factors: The tablet device, the stylus (which could include your finger) and the drawing app of choice. To get the art you want to produce, you’ll need to invest a measure of time understanding the capabilities of all three. My initial response to the Pogo Connect was negative until I figured out I needed to adjust some of the settings in my drawing app that was creating different results than I was expecting. Once those kinks were ironed out, my impression greatly improved.

For this review, I’m using my iPad 2 and the drawing app ProCreate. Ten One Design has a list of other apps that support the stylus. I did try it on Paper by FiftyThree and AutoDesk’s SketchBook Pro, but since ProCreate is my app of choice, I spent little time with the others. I’m also comparing my experience with an inexpensive $15 Targus Universal Stylus that I picked up last year. One caveat for those using an older iPad. The Pogo Connect works on the iPad 3rd and 4th generation. It requires some level of bluetooth technology that wasn’t available in older models. They do have a work-around. If you have another iOs device that does support the required bluetooth technology (iPhone 4s, 5 or 5th generation iPod Touch), you can download their free Pogo Bridge. You essentially pair your stylus to the iOS device through Bluetooth and then the Bridge app talks to the app on the iPad 2. I think that’s how it works. It was kind of a pain in the beginning, but once I figured it all out, it’s easy. I only dislike that I have to do it at all, but until I upgrade to the next version of iPad, I’m glad they have this work around.

The biggest interest in the product for me was the pressure sensitivity. Without that, any stylus out there is only slightly better than a finger. The marketing material says it has “hundreds of levels of pressure” and for the most part it delivers on their claim. At times I didn’t feel I was getting the sensitivity or found it hard to control. With some experimentation I found some of it was due to the app. ProCreate gives you several paint and pen styles with various setting options for each style. Not all the styles and their settings were as respondent as I had expected. Below are squiggles. Note the line jumps from thin to thick very quickly. I felt I was only slightly increasing the pressure but the line seemed to get too broad too fast. This is using the brush pen tool.
Squiggles

I adjusted the brush pen settings and was able to get a more consistent line. Below is me slowly applying pressure from the most to the least.

Example of pressure from most to least

Here is another example of sketching a portrait experimenting with the pressure sensitivity.

Example of pressure sensitivity

ProCreate, as well as many other drawing apps, try to compensate for the lack of pressures sensitivity in the tablet by adjusting line width based on the speed or motion of the stylus/finger. Dragging your finger or stylus across the screen slowly generates a thin line, dragging it faster to get a thicker line. It’s a great feature work-around. As an experiment I removed the speed/line setting for the Pogo Connect but restored it when I tested the Targus Universal stylus. Below is a “slalom” course – each stylus making three curves as it moves from the top of the screen to the bottom. The line should be the thinnest as it is passing between the dots and thickest as it is curving around the dots. The Pogo Connect is on the left, Targus Universal on the right.

Line pressure against app

For the most part, both laid down the same line. The app’s speed and line settings worked well enough with the cheap stylus to give a varied line. But to achieve that, I had made several practice runs and had to awkwardly speed up and slow down my hand threatening to lose some control in the process. The Pogo Connect allowed me to make that same line, at a consistent speed. You might note some shakiness in the line with the Pogo Connect. That was due to drawing the line too slowly to prove I could get a varied line nearly any speed at all.

Editor’s note: I was asked on Twitter why the slow speed resulted in a shakier line above. My answer is that the sensitivity of the pen registers friction and the shakiness of my hand when drawing slower.

As far as other claims and features. It says that it works on all angles and that bore true. I tried to hold it straight up and down and at various angles and it worked as advertised. I also liked that it had a configurable button on the side of the pen barrel. By default it’s set to “undo”, but it could be set to switch to the eraser, some other tool or to the color panel. Again, I only tested the button with ProCreate. I’m not sure how other apps handle it the button. I did find myself accidentally undoing things until I got used to it.

One claim I feel came up a bit short was that it’s supposed to ignore your hand or palm so that you can rest it on the screen. With other styluses the artist has to wear a glove or rest their hand on a swatch of cloth to stop the iPad from registering their hand. The Pogo Connect claims that you can rest your hand on the screen and the iPad will only register the stylus. I tried this a few times, but didn’t feel like it was working correctly. Every time my hand rested on the screen the tip didn’t register or the page rotated. I’m not certain this is an issue with the stylus or the app.

All in all, I think it’s a strong product. It costs $79.99 (or $60 on Amazon at the time of this writing). The battery is suppose to power up and down only when in use for a longer life (not tested) and the tip is replaceable and snaps in easily.

And to close it all out, here a cartoon that I created entirely with the Pogo Connect and ProCreate.
Cartoon created using Pogo Connect

Community Comments

#1 Donald A. Rex Jr.
July/8/2013
@ 7:18 am

Thank you for an interesting review. There are so many products its difficult to know where to spend the money.

#2 Philip Taterczynski
July/8/2013
@ 12:06 pm

Deoderant? I didn’t know there was product made for erasing the river border between Poland and Germany.

#3 Gerry Mooney
July/8/2013
@ 12:31 pm

Philip, apparently there’s an app for that!

#4 Frank M Hansen
July/8/2013
@ 3:02 pm

Thanks for the review

#5 Dale Cipperley
July/8/2013
@ 3:11 pm

Thanks for the review! I’ve been following this tech and use a tablet for live event caricatures.

There is a special issue out of ImagineFX magazine on digital painting that reviews some iPad styluses.

http://beta.imaginefx.com/shop/bookazine/digital-painting

Personally I would research the Microsoft Surface Pro (or a similar tablet computer like the Samsung 700t or the Lenovo Helix) before investing in an iPad as a cartooning tool. The blog post by Jonathan Case describes his use of the MS Surface Pro.

http://jonathancase.net/surface-pro-pen-pressure-for-all/

Also remember that Wacom is rumored to come out with a tablet based computer by the end of this Summer.

https://www.facebook.com/Wacom/posts/10151269211541691

#6 Ray Pace
August/16/2013
@ 11:33 am

I love my pogo connect, but am having a problem with it. I took it on a trip to Park City, Utah recently and began to notice it skipping when we were at high elevations in the mountain rain forest. It has continued to do that now that I am back at sea level. I’ve tried changing tips and changing battery too, but nothing seems to work.

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