Last updated: September 2023
I got all the Supernote Pens/Styluses and tested them out over the weekend.
In this article, I will provide a comparison of the technical specs of the Standard Pen, Heart of Metal Pen, Heart of Metal Pen 2, LAMY AL-star, and LAMY Safari Pen, as well as provide my subjective opinion of each of them.
Please note: This article is based on short-term testing (a few days) and will be reviewed and revised after a period of long-term testing.
When I first bought my Supernote A5 X (reviewed here), I chose the Standard Set, which contained the Standard Folio and Standard Pen.
Because this is the stylus I am most familiar with, I used this as a baseline for comparison with the other pens.
The Standard Pen is made from hard, durable plastic and has a lid with a clip. It uses Supernote’s NeverReplace ceramic nib, which is very rigid compared to the softer plastic tips of other e-ink tablets, and does not wear down over time.
The ceramic nib combined with Ratta’s screen technology gives Supernote devices a uniquely pleasurable tactile feel when writing, which is one of the reasons that I use my A5X so much. It’s difficult to describe – the pen sort of glides across the screen, but there is enough resistance to stop it from feeling slippery. And because the tip is very fine, mark-making feels very accurate.
The Standard Pen is balanced really nicely (it’s perhaps a bit top-heavy if I was being really picky) and has a weight to it that makes it feel substantial to hold and very durable. The ivory-coloured barrel has an unusual contour to it; the top and the bottom are cylindrical but in the middle, it flattens out slightly, and this flattened face sort of twists around the shaft. The flattened edges are useful for preventing the pen from rolling too far across the desk or other surfaces, but it also contributes to the ergonomic design.
The grip is pretty good on the barrel, however, I tend to hold a pen a little lower down, and this happens to be around the area where the lid clicks into the pen. Although these edges are quite smooth, they sometimes dig into the skin on my fingertips slightly if I am writing a lot.
The Pen connects securely to the lid at the nib end but is looser if connected to the top of the pen (and is likely to fall off with a small knock). The Standard Pen does not have any buttons or an eraser at the top. It is available in four colours and cannot be engraved.
So, apart from a couple of small drawbacks, it’s very difficult to find anything negative about the Standard Pen at all. The other pens have a lot to live up to!
Heart of Metal Pen (HoM)
The HoM Pen uses the same ceramic tip as the Standard Pen, so the writing experience and the strokes that it makes on the Supernote’s screen are virtually identical.
The differences are primarily with the HoM’s aesthetic design and the comfort of the Pen whilst holding it and writing with it.
The first thing to note is that the HoM is much shorter in length than the Standard Pen. This cannot be appreciated when looking at the specs of the pens because the lengths provided on Supernote’s website include the pen lid, which (for many people) will be hooked over the loop of their folio most of the time.
The same is true of the weight. Although the Standard and HoM Pens have an almost identical listed weight, the HoM has a fair chunk of this heaviness in the lid. So when the lid is in the folio’s pen loop, the HoM Pen is actually around 10g lighter than Standard Pen (which has a smaller and lighter lid). I found the HoM to feel a bit too light when using it without the lid and a bit too top-heavy with the lid attached.
For this reason, in the comparison table below, I have provided the length and weight of each of the pens without their lid, as well as their official specifications.
The plastic grip at the bottom of the barrel makes it very comfortable to use – for longer periods of writing, it is much more comfortable than the Standard Pen. However, without the lid attached, the cylindrical design of the HoM means that it will roll across any surface that you put it on – this means that any slight gradient will cause the pen to roll away.
Although the lid snaps securely in place over the nib, it is very loose when placed on the top end of the pen. It is fine when writing but if you clip the lid to something (like the folio) with the pen inserted this way round, it is very likely to fall out.
The HoM looks stylish and has a premium feel to it – Supernote even offers a free engraving (on the clip) to personalise your pen. There are eleven colours to choose from.
Overall, I quite like the HoM Pen. Writing is indistinguishable from the Standard Pen but it has a more comfortable grip, looks more elegant and has a more luxurious feel. However, it is very light, which for me is a negative (but it may be a positive to others).
Heart of Metal 2 Pen (HoM2)
The Heart of Metal 2 Pen is very similar to the Heart of Metal Pen – it is more of an incremental upgrade that makes a few improvements.
As well as the standard version of the HoM2 ($75), which comes in six colours, there are also two versions with gold plating ($89) and a version with alloy plating ($89). The version with alloy plating is called Samurai and this is the pen I tested.
The tactile feel of writing is virtually identical, however, the HoM2 has more weight to it, which makes it heavier than the HoM (without the lid), and closer to the weight of the Standard Pen. I really like the extra weight as it feels more tangible whilst holding/writing. The HoM2 is also slightly longer than the HoM, and the diameter of the barrel is more uniform (the HoM tapers so that it is slightly thinner towards the top).
There is a much stronger attachment between the top of the barrel and the lid on the HoM 2, which makes it less likely to fall off. However, the cylindrical design does mean that (like the HoM) it can roll away when the lid isn’t attached.
Out of all the Pens on this list, the HoM2 Samurai looks the sleekest and most stylish. It also feels the most robust and durable (although longer-term testing will be needed to clarify this).
LAMY AL-star EMR Pen
The LAMY AL-star is the only pen on this list that does not use Supernote’s ceramic NeverReplace nib. Instead, it uses a consumable plastic nib that will wear down over time. Fortunately, two replacement nibs and a tweezer tool (for removing the nib) are included with the pen.
Plastic nibs that need to be replaced are the norm in the e-ink tablet industry – it is only Supernote that utilises ceramic nibs – however, this LAMY Pen has been specially designed to try to mimic the ceramic feel as much as possible. The composition of plastic used on the nib is harder than that of similar styluses, which maintains the unique Supernote feel to some extent, however, the tip is wider in diameter so it does not feel quite as precise. It is worth noting that the ‘tapping‘ sound created when the plastic nib touches the screen is slightly more muted than the ceramic nib.
Despite the visibly wider tip, the LAMY AL-star actually produces noticeably thinner pen strokes. The images below show my notes for each of the pens, with each page being written using the pen I was testing, and the same 0.5 ballpoint pen tool. You can see that the writing with the pens that use a ceramic nib is almost imperceptible, but the LAMY AL-star is noticeably finer (you may need to zoom in on the images to see the difference).
The LAMY AL-star is made of plastic and is very light, comparable in weight to the HoM (with lids removed). It is also slightly longer and the diameter of the barrel is slightly wider – this does make it feel a bit chunky in hand.
A unique feature of the LAMY AL-star is that it has a button on the barrel that can be used to quickly switch between the eraser or selection tools. This means that you can hold the button down to erase without having to select the eraser button on the toolbar. In the Supernote settings, you can select whether you want the button to activate the eraser or lasso selection tool.
Whilst this should be a positive feature, I found this to be a bit annoying because I would inadvertently depress the button and accidentally erase my writing. However, this is an issue I have with all styluses that have a button on the shaft, not just the LAMY AL-star and could just be down to the way I hold a pen or because I haven’t spent enough time getting familiar with this feature. Besides, I find the two-finger eraser gesture to be a better solution for erasing on the Supernote, anyway.
My personal preference is to not have a button at all, but I do know of plenty of people that find a button on the shaft invaluable – I intend to use this pen more often over the coming weeks to see if practice changes my mind in this regard. I’d also like to add that I got a second opinion from my seven-year-old daughter, who tested all the pens and liked the LAMY AL-star best because it is lightweight – she didn’t accidentally activate the button, so this may suggest that it is my tighter grip that causes this issue.
This pen is available in five different colours, with an optional free personalised engraving – unlike the HoM and HoM2 which are engraved on the clip, the AL-star engraving is on the barrel of the pen.
A final point of note is that the LAMY AL-star is the only Supernote Pen that does not fit into the pen loop of Supernote’s Standard Folio. Instead, the Supernote LAMY Folio is required because it has a bigger pen loop to accommodate the LAMY’s wider diameter.
LAMY Safari Twin EMR Pen
The LAMY Safari Twin EMR Pen has dual nibs; the ceramic nib (as on the Standard, HoM, and HoM2 Pens) and a regular ink biro. This means that the Pen can be used for writing on both the Supernote tablet and regular paper.
Switching between the two pens is as simple as twisting the barrel 180 degrees (however, remembering which way to twist takes a little practice or you end up unscrewing the barrel). This is compounded by the fact that it is difficult to know which nib is currently extended without close inspection, which I think could easily lead to inadvertently writing on the Supernote’s screen in black ink – Supernote provides instructions on how to remove ink from the screen, so I would guess that this is an issue they have already come across.
The LAMY Safari has no lid, with the clip being integrated into the barrel. This means that the whole pen has to be removed from the pen loop before using it – in contrast, with the other pens, I can just pull them out of the lid and leave the lid in the loop. Also, because there is no lid, this makes it comparable in weight and length to the Standard Pen. It is made of plastic and has an ergonomic design that gives it a comfortable grip.
Because it uses the same ceramic nib as the Standard, HoM, and HoM2 Pens, the writing output is virtually identical. However, I found the tactile experience of writing with it to be poorer. This is because the ceramic nib module is not held securely inside the barrel of the pen (due to the mechanism that switches between nibs). This results in the nib wobbling slightly as you write, and making a rattling sound, which has a massive negative impact on the quality of the writing experience. The more I used the LAMY Safari, the more irritated I became with it!
Writing with the biro is just writing with a biro. There really isn’t a difference between writing with the LAMY Safari, and writing with a regular biro – however, it does feel like it is held in place more securely than the ceramic nib.
Unlike the LAMY AL-Star, the LAMY Safari fits into the pen loop of both the LAMY and Standard folios. It is only available in black and cannot be engraved.
So, what is the final verdict?
My favourite of all the Supernote Pens I tried is the Heart of Metal 2 Samurai Edition (HoM2).
Although the writing feel and output are very similar to the Standard and HoM pens, it also feels well-balanced, comfortable to hold and has a nice weight to it. In addition, it looks amazing and feels very robust, as well as having a more secure connection with the lid. I really love writing with the HoM2 and it has become my favourite pen to use with the Supernote.
Second and third places are occupied by the HoM and Standard Pens, and I must admit I struggled to decide which order to put them in. Whilst the HoM is more aesthetically pleasing and has a more comfortable grip, it felt a bit too light in my hand and had a tendency to roll away when I placed it on my desk. In all honesty, sitting here now, I still can’t decide which of the two I like best!
After some deliberation, I have decided to put the Standard Pen in second place and the Heart of Metal (HoM) in a close third. My reasoning is that the HoM has been superseded by the HoM2, which improves upon the design and is the same price (unless you go for the gold- or alloy-plated versions). And the HoM is currently out of stock on the Supernote website and perhaps won’t be available again. In addition, at just $44, I think the Standard Pen is fantastic value for money (and I have been using it for a long time, so perhaps have a certain sentimental attachment to it).
In fourth place is the LAMY AL-star. From my perspective, the omission of the ceramic nib takes away one of the uniquely pleasurable experiences of the Supernote tablet. I really enjoy writing with the ceramic nib, and it is one of the main reasons I am constantly drawn to using the Supernote despite having several e-ink tablets to choose from. Despite their best efforts, the plastic nib is unable to reproduce that distinctive feeling.
True, the AL-star has the unique feature of having an eraser/select button but for me, this is actually more of a hindrance than a benefit (although I reserve the right to change my mind after long-term use). Disregarding the issue I had with the button, it has a nice grip and the writing experience is not terrible – just not as pleasurable as the other pens. Overall, the LAMY AL-star is a decent stylus that will have great appeal to some users – unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me.
In fifth place is the LAMY Safari. The movement of the nib whilst writing and the incessant rattling sound are too much for me to bear. I really don’t like writing with it at all. But even if the nib were made to sit more securely in the barrel of the pen, I still don’t think that it would work.
Combining a stylus and biro into a single pen module feels like one of those ideas that looks fantastic when written down on paper but doesn’t actually work in the real world. Switching between nibs requires manual effort and if you don’t remember which nib you were using, it also requires manual inspection. If you’re not careful, there is also a risk of twisting the barrel the wrong way or writing in ink on the Supernote’s screen. I’d argue that this actually makes it more complex to use than having two separate pens.
However, I’d love to hear from anyone that regularly uses the LAMY Safari and does not have any issues with it.
Here are the final rankings based on my subjective opinion:
Update: September 2023
It’s now around five months since I originally wrote this article, and I’ve had the chance to get a bit more experience of using these pens.
However, my opinions have remained pretty much the same.
My favourite pen to use is the Heart of Metal 2, and I use it almost every day. I have found that when I do a LOT of writing, the ridge toward the bottom of the barrel does dig into my finger a little, which makes it less comfortable to hold. In addition, its cylindrical nature does result in it rolling away on uneven surfaces, which can be frustrating at times. But apart from this, the HoM2 is still the best option for me.
The LAMY AL-Star is okay, and I have become more accustomed to using it without accidentally pressing the button on the shaft, however, because it does not fit into the loop on my Standard Folio, I do not use it all that often. I also think that the writing experience is not quite as bad as I may have previously implied, however, I still much prefer to use a pen with a ceramic nib.
And, I remain unimpressed with the LAMY Safari.
|Length (w/o cap)||139mm||120mm||124mm||128mm||n/a|
|Weight (w/o cap)||24g||14g||22g||15g||n/a|
About the author
Dan Dutton is passionate about E-ink writing tablets, which bring together the pleasure of writing on paper with the power of digital technology. When he bought his first tablet, he realised that there wasn't a lot of unbiased information available for people that were considering buying an E-ink tablet, and so he built eWritable.