Pencil 53 – Product Review

Post Updated with writing image February 16, 2014 (Scroll Down)

One of the consistently read posts on my blog is Notability + Bamboo + iPad = Paperless Note Taking. I’m constantly looking for better ways to transfer necessary note taking from paper/pen/pencil to digital. Once we had the rise of the tablet it made sense to use the tablet to collect my thoughts created by our hands. The Bamboo stylus paired with the Notability app on my iPad has served me well and I still use that combination on nearly a daily basis.

Despite that use my search never ends and I recently got a hold of the Paper 53 Pencil. It’s from the makers of the simply amazing Paper App that is the standard for sketching, note taking, diagraming, etc. It was the App of the year in 2012 and deservedly so. I’m not an artist so I didn’t turn to this App very often. Once I discovered the Paper 53 Pencil, that all changed.

The first thing that’s different from other stylus’s is the shape. It’s modeled on the classic carpenter’s pencil that has been in use for decades by tradesmen on the job. The wider, flat surface is easier to hold and can be rotated to make progressively thinner or thicker lines. It’s rugged which is a requirement on an exterior job site and it won’t roll away if you set down on a uneven surface.

Pencil Toolbar

I’ve been using my Pencil 53 for about three weeks. It has encouraged me to open up my Paper App more often and begin the process of integrating it into my everyday life. The Pencil 53 and latest Paper App is really smart.

  • The lower part of the Pencil slides out and plugs into any USB port, charging in about 90 minutes.
  • Paper claims a full charge will last up to a month. I’ve not had to recharge it during my three weeks of use.
  • Pairing it with the Paper App is a cinch. Simply tap and hold.
  • Paper’s toolbar elegantly emerges and you have access to all the various writing, sketching and painting tools through Pencil, which means it’s many tools in one.
  • The screen knows when it’s the Pencil or your wrist or finger on the screen. It only records friction from the Pencil.
  • When you make a mistake, and I do all the time, you simply turn the Pencil around and erase it with the tip. No more tapping on an interface to switch to erase mode then back to write/sketch mode.

I opted for the graphite color. The wood Pencil 53 is $10 more. The weight and feel are very satisfying and I’m using it on other Apps like Penultimate and Notability. Very happy. There is one thing you really can’t do with this pencil. Rest it behind your ear. Too large.

Fifty-Three, Inc. packs an extra tip and eraser in the cool tube packaging.

Sample of Pencil 53 and Jot Script on iPad Notability app


19 thoughts on “Pencil 53 – Product Review”

  1. How do you find it compares to the bamboo for actual note taking?

    I have nearly the same setup as you for note taking and also like the idea of something like this helping me explore my artistic side. However, I still see the primary use for a stylus (for me) being note taking.

    1. They all have their advantages and disadvantages. I find the Pencil 53 point is better for note taking than the Bamboo. I am now trying an Evernote Jotscript. Not the one with the silly plastic circle, but the one with the fine point. It is more like a pen, but because the tip is hard, you don’t get as nice a feel.

      1. Thanks for the response.

        Yeah, I am very tempted by the new Jot too, but try drawing a slow diagonal line with it.

        The video reviews I saw show some crazy distortion – likely due to the electromagnetic magic they have to use to simulate a larger point. It seems to flip out when making slow 45-degree lines. Kind of kills it for drawing (although it looks nice for notes).

  2. I’m a new iPad user and Notability was highly recommended to me. I am using the Wacom Bamboo stylus but note taking with the Bamboo doesn’t feel natural to me. I feel like I need to press harder with the Bamboo for the iPad to register my penstrokes than when I write with pen & paper. 53’s Pencil was suggested as an alternative stylus. I’m glad to hear that Pencil works with Notability! Do you think Pencil’s stylus sensitivity is better than Bamboo or is there no difference on how hard one must press down?

    Also, did you notice any disadvantages of using Pencil with Notability, compared to the Bamboo?

    Thanks for your review!

    1. Sorry for the late reply. I’ve been traveling all week. I find the Pencil 53 superior over the Bamboo for writing. The stylus tip seems more responsive, but I believe most of the advantage of the Pencil 53 is in it’s shape, length and weight distribution. I see no downside and I’m using Pencil 53 for everything now. Hope this helps. Good luck on finding a solution that works for you.

      1. I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question. Your feedback helped me decide to order a Pencil to replace my Bamboo. Thank you very much!

      2. What was your ultimate decision between the Jot Script and the 53 Pencil for note taking and why. I take lots of notes, and I’m new to the electronic note taking world. I’m using Notes Plus and an iPad Air, and agonizing over my stylus decision. I’m down to the two I referenced earlier. Thanks for any advice.

      3. I would say the Pencil 53. It just feels better on the glass and in my hand. In the analog world, pencil on paper is the best. Soft on soft. Pen on paper is the next best because although the pen point is firm, the paper is small. The Jot Script is hard point on hard glass.

  3. I am also deciding between the jot script and the 53’s pencil. I want it to be on the writing and note taking side. How is the accuracy of big thick pencil tip on writing? Is there any problem with the big tip blocking the eye sight on the characters when writing? Thanks.

    1. I have no problem with the Pencil 53 and prefer it over the jot script. It doesn’t block my sight, but it likely depends on how fine you want to write/draw. I do find printing works better than cursive for me. Very much a personal preference.

  4. Are you using your ipad with screen protector on? Does it work well? I heard its better without screen protector…
    Also do you have to purchase rubber tip often? I ve also heard that it wores out very fast

    Thank you for the review!

    1. I do NOT use a screen protector. The Pencil 53 comes with two tips. It most likely depends on how often you use it. So far I’ve seen no wear. Good luck on your choice and thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. I am using the notability app on the ipad and in dire need of a stylus. I like what I’m hearing so far about the Pencil 53, but my question is about the lines it makes. Because of its thick tip, does the Pencil 53 produces lines on the thicker side? Also, does the eraser tip work on the notability?

    1. The Pencil 53 works best with the paper app. That is the only way to use the built in eraser. In Notability you still need to enable the eraser mode. Controlling the thickness is not an issue for me. Hope this helps.

  6. As an illustrator I just about gave up when it came to drawing on the tablet. I have a Wacom tablet on my desktop, but could not find a style for the iPad. Wahooo! Wahoo! the 53 pencil is Awesome. It is 97% close to drawing with a traditional pencil and/or pen. I love the fact that Paper did not put in any copy and paste features keeping to traditional drawing methods. The 53 pencil worth the $50!

    53 pencil fan

  7. From what I’ve read, Notability now supports the Bluetooth integration of the Pencil. How have you found this to be? Still using the Pencil with Notability?

    1. Jay, I checked the Notability support page and notes there say they do not support Bluetooth at this time and have no plans to do it. Is there something I’m missing? Thanks.

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