ThinkGeek Minecraft Pickaxe Touchscreen Stylus review

If you love Minecraft, the ThinkGeek Pickaxe Touchscreen Stylus might be the best stylus for you. If you don't, you should steer clear of this strange novelty pointer.

To say Minecraft is huge is an understatement. I don’t just mean it’s big because a Minecraft map is more than 25,000 kilometers across before you reach the glitched “Far Lands.” The game has achieved such a massive fan following that Creepers, pixelated tools, and cube heads have become as common a sight at video game and comic book conventions as fezzes and Batman cowls. There are a lot of third-party Minecraft products out there, and one such product is the ThinkGeek Minecraft Pickaxe Touchscreen Stylus, a capacitive touch-screen stylus ostensibly used to play Minecraft Pocket Edition on your favorite mobile device. This $19.99 (direct) stylus is silly and awkwardly shaped, but if you really love Minecraft, this could become your favorite pointing device.

The stylus is shaped and painted to look just like a stone pickaxe from Minecraft, down to the pixels of which the stylus is composed. It’s made of painted firm rubber with a solid core that gives it enough rigidity to let you use it without fear of bending it. It’s a little over three inches long and a quarter inch thick, with the “picks” measuring 2.5 inches wide. The stylus is a bit shorter than a pen, but the flare of the picks made it about as wide as a smartphone. The edges of the stylus are black, while the “shaft” pixels are two shades of brown and the “pick” pixels are two shades of grey. The edges are sharp 90-degree angles, like the individual blocks in Minecraft, with a few exceptions. The ends of the pickaxe and the shaft are all slightly rounded, providing a better surface for capacitive touch screens.

Because of its unique shape, the stylus isn’t built for holding like a pen. Instead, the four rounded points offer you some different options for how to tap your touch screen. The ends of the pickaxe’s shaft are the best surface for conventional stylus use, since they offer the most length and the easiest grip to use the stylus like a writing implement. However, the pick itself can block your view of the screen or get in the way of your hand. The pick is fun for playing Minecraft: Pocket Edition to get the authentic sense of picking and digging, or for other tap-heavy titles that encourage a whack-a-mole style of gameplay. It isn’t nearly as accurate as using a conventional pen stylus or even a finger, though; the angles make using it a bit awkward, so it’s more to get you into the spirit of the game than to control it well. I tested the stylus on Minecraft: Pocket Edition on my iPad, and it was a bit awkward even with that large screen; on a smartphone it just feels cumbersome.

It’s funny to consider that ThinkGeek offers a life-size Minecraft pickaxe made of a similarly solid EVA foam. It’s even funnier to consider that that life-size pickaxe costs just as much as the 3-inch-long stylus. Of course, the life-size pickaxe isn’t exactly usable as a stylus, and capacitive touch screen styli can easily retail for as much, even in the low end of the market.

The question is how much you love Minecraft and how willing you are to deal with a novelty stylus rather than a comfortable alternative. If the answers are “very and very,” this could be the perfect stylus for you. If it’s “very, but not much,” you might be better off using your finger or a pen-shaped stylus for your smartphone or tablet. If the answer is “not at all, and why would you even ask me that,” I’d have to ask you why you’re reading a review of a Minecraft stylus to begin with.


Verdict
If you love Minecraft, the ThinkGeek Pickaxe Touchscreen Stylus might be the best stylus for you. If you don't, you should steer clear of this strange novelty pointer.
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