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Wacom Bamboo Stylus - Performance, Value and Verdict

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

Although Wacom says that the Bamboo Stylus is "for iPad", it'll function with any capacitive screen device. There are no fancy inner workings here to make it function particularly well with the iPad in particular - just the little capacitive bubble on the end.

However, the touchscreen sensitivity of iOS devices, including the iPod Touch and iPhone series, makes an excellent pairing with this tip. Using other, less sensitive, devices like the HTC Legend we found that the screen would occasionally miss lighter prods. Some degree of force is still required with an iPad, but it's consistent. Just grazing the Bamboo stylus along the surface won't register - apply the tiniest bit of effort and it will though.

The tip of the pen is firmer than the skin of the average fingertip, so with a light touch the contact surface area is very small. As the tip is a hollow, balloon-like semi-circle, you might expect accuracy to be compromised by the squidgy tip, but it's remarkably reliable.

The iPad's capacitive screen registers the centre of the surface area of the tip as the point of contact, so while there's some give in the way the stylus interfaces with the screen, it always feels reliably pen-like. There's no magic going on behind the scenes though - this stylus won't turn your iPad into an Intuos4. The stylus houses no circuitry, magnets or electronic bits. It's basically a stylish home for the nib to perch on top of. Indeed, despite the nib flexing to form a larger or smaller surface area the harder you press, this doesn't result in a change in the thickness of line produced - it just feels nice.

This is reflected in the very reasonable price tag though. The Bamboo stylus is an accessory that alters your experience of touchscreen operation, rather than adding features or fundamentally changing the way it actually works.

It's particularly useful for writing words rather than painting - which works surprisingly well with a finger alone. Wacom seems to think so too, judging by its dedicated Bamboo Paper iPad app. This notepad app lets you scribble away on virtual lined paper, and uses some clever software trickery to alter the behaviour of the pen's output depending on how fast you scrawl away. Like the pen itself, it's designed to make writing feel natural and "real".

As pleasant as it is to use, you should still ask yourself whether the Bamboo will fit into your everyday iPad usage - bearing in mind that there's no elegant way to keep the two together. If you just want to dip your toe into the world of the capacitive stylus, the Griffin alternative sells for as little as £8.99, but the build quality brilliance of the Wacom makes this worth the extra cash if you're sure it won't end up gathering dust within a week.

Verdict

The Bamboo Stylus supplies an impression of increased accuracy and fidelity rather than the real thing, but when the experience of using it is so positive - and the price so reasonable - we don't really care. As the iPad's capacitive screen is already so finger-friendly, the audience for this stylus is likely too limited, but it makes freehand writing feel far more natural than with a finger.

Overall Score

7

Scores In Detail

  • Build Quality 10
  • Design 8
  • Features 6
  • Usability 8
  • Value 7

ChaosDefinesOrder

July 4, 2011, 6:21 pm

How does this compare to systems such as the HTC Flyer?

Ed

July 4, 2011, 7:08 pm

The two are fundamentally different as the Flyer uses an active sensing technology that responds to pressure as well, with the result it's much more accurate. However, the Flyer is still neither pressure sensitive nor accurate enough to be a truly compelling drawing tool, and the hard plastic nib feels overly slippery on the screen. It's better but still not like using a proper professional graphics tablet.

lensmann

July 5, 2011, 12:53 am

Do the TR team have any insight into why there seems to be so little interest in handwriting recognition? That seems to me to be the most obvious uses for a stylus, but HTC left it out of the Flyer (even though Vision Objects have ported their excellent Myscribe engine to Android), and now Wacom - a long-standing Vision Objects partner - have done the same.

Sperry

July 5, 2011, 6:10 pm

The spare tips can be found by putting the following part number into the search field of the Wacom website: PSI-A087

Chris

July 5, 2011, 7:40 pm

I'll hazard a guess - because typing with an on-screen keyboard is faster and more accurate than handwriting recognition.

lensmann

July 5, 2011, 8:09 pm

Chris: Everyone's playing up how great the stylus is for taking notes. Surely handwriting recognition is the logical extension of that? Surely searchable notes are useful in a way scrawls-as-jpegs aren't?

In any event, handwriting recognition has come a long way since the days of egg freckles. It'll never be as fast as typing, but the point is that it's useful in a different way - something these manufacturers themselves realise, since they're playing up the notetaking functions of styli.

Chris

July 6, 2011, 7:35 pm

Fair enough, I was going to mention that indexing handwritten notes might be a useful application for handwriting recognition, particularly since this doesn't require 100% accuracy.

However, that's very much a secondary application - a 'nice to have', rather than an essential. I suppose many manufacturers reckon they can do without it and not upset the majority of their users.

jennyley

April 24, 2012, 11:37 pm

I just got the chance to use one today and was impressed. My friend who owns it mentioned that you can have even more control if you remove the metal piece from the tip. The pen tip doesn't fall off and it allows you the ability to hold the stylus at more of an angle.

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