Review: Cosmonaut wide-grip stylus for touchscreens

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The Cosmonaut was the first Kickstarter project I contributed to, and it’s also the first I have something to show for. The project reached its funding goal on April 20 thanks to the contributions of more than six thousand backers. Eight months later, I’m holding the end product in my hand.

So how’d it turn out?

The pitch

I’ve been a frequent user of Wacom tablets for years (at one time using a “Penabled” tablet PC as my primary laptop), so my quality bar for styluses is set pretty high… every capacitive stylus I’ve tried has failed to meet my expectations. Because of this, I ignored most of the initial Cosmonaut murmurings on Twitter.

Luckily, Calvin Ross Carl mentioned the campaign to me again, suggesting I at least watch the introductory video.

Despite my initial skepticism, I was impressed by the concept. Instead of attempting to circumnavigate the touchscreen’s limitations to deliver a compromised fine-tip writing tool, Studio Neat embraced the lack of precision, drawing inspiration from dry-erase markers and emphasizing the weight and feel of the object itself. I appreciated that thoughtfulness and forked over a paltry sum for the opportunity to try it firsthand.

The stylus

Cosmonaut nestled in its packaging.

The Cosmonaut arrived in a stylish-yet-understated cardboard box, the soviet space theme lovingly maintained throughout the presentation. It made me smile.

The stylus itself feels very substantial in the hand. It’s a little heavier than a whiteboard marker, moreso as it comes to a point. I had to look up antonyms for “slippery” to describe its rubberized, outer coating, but “unslippery” is still the best description or I could come up with.

The pen tip feels firm and plastic to the touch, but it’s actually squishy and flexible. It’s tough to describe, but a brief tap with the tip of your finger will feel very resistant, whereas a firmer tap and hold will make it flex inward. It’s a surprising combination that makes the stylus feel sturdy and reliable without risking damage to the screen.

In use

Hypothetical sitemap sketch in the Adobe Ideas app.

I tried the Cosmonaut in my two favorite iPad sketching apps, Adobe Ideas for whiteboard-style doodling and Procreate for painting.

When sketching in Ideas, I found I had to press just a little more firmly than I would have with my finger, but once I learned to do this without trepidation, writing and doodling began to feel natural. While it didn’t feel quite like a dry-erase marker on a whiteboard in terms of effortlessness, I definitely felt my dexterity improve with the stylus.

This improvement was even more noticeable when painting. Procreate’s interface is so well-designed to begin with that, combined with the comfort of the Cosmonaut, I quickly forgot about either tool and just enjoyed the act of making a fun little Mickey Mouse sketch. For me, that’s the mark of a great design… the object disappears, allowing you to focus on the task itself.

Mickey Mouse sketch in Procreate

The verdict

I feel a strange sense of pride in writing this review. While Studio Neat clearly deserves 99.9% of the credit for the Cosmonaut’s existence, it feels great to have been an early supporter.

This is easily my favorite capacitive stylus. By abandoning the goals of traditional, resistive touchscreen input devices and instead focusing on comfort and contextual appropriateness, they’ve successfully created a useful and charming tool that’s earned a spot on my desk (in the Gorillaz mug, next to my Wacom pen and my favorite mechanical pencil).

Now I just have to count the days until I get to watch Indie Game: The Movie