Wacom has a series of new stylus devices for tablets and smartphones that it’s launching today, including three new Bamboo devices and a new Intuos version, with two aimed specifically at the iPad with special Bluetooth-powered pressure sensitivity abilities. Two entry-level Bamboo styluses offer a better nib, with one adding an ink pen on the opposite end, and the Bamboo Stylus fineline has a special thin tip with 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, and the Intuos Creative Stylus 2 doubling that with 2048 levels of pressure, on par with some of Wacom’s top-end artistic tablets.
The new Bamboo Solo and Bamboo Duo won’t break the budget, at $19.95 and $29.95 respectively, and even the Bamboo Stylus fineline is only $59.95 despite its Bluetooth connectivity and pressure sensitivity. All three are going on sale September 4, via Wacom’s online store and select retail partners. The more expensive Intuos Creative Stylus 2 is just $79.95 (you couldn’t get a pressure sensitive stylus for less than that when they first started becoming available) and should offer the most sensitivity on the market. It’s aimed at digital artists, and could provide a better mobile workflow for users of Wacom’s Intuos and Cintiq line that’s suitable for when they’re on the road. It ships in October, however, so for the time being I was only able to try out the new Bamboo line.
Let’s start with the best: The Bamboo Stylus fineline is indeed a significant improvement on the Bamboo line, with a thin tip that works better in terms of mimicking a natural drawing and writing experience. Its pressure sensitivity also works well in Bamboo Paper at least, and it supports other apps as well via Bamboo’s developer partnerships. The palm rejection is intelligent and faultless in my experience, and it has a standard microUSB charging port in the base that juices a battery good for up to 26 hours of continuous use. Wacom is also planning to roll out cloud services that will let the pen automatically share files and settings across different devices through the pen’s Bluetooth connection.
The fineline unlocks special tools in the free Paper app with purchase, too, and these provided more than my required share of options for light sketching, jotting down ideas and taking handwritten notes in the app. While there’s still a little lag, especially with some tools like the variable width inking marker, it’s come a long way from early days.
Both the Bamboo Solo and the Bamboo Duo also offer nice improvements over the originals, including more ergonomic design and new tips that seem more durable, as well as providing a better feel when used with touchscreen devices. These are designed for use with any tablet, iPad or otherwise, as well as smartphones. The small but significant changes have solidified these as the best affordable styluses currently on the market if you’re looking for a basic tablet pen, and the Duo’s actual ballpoint nib on the end make it a great option for those who also still carry a real notebook and value the indelibility of real ink.
Wacom’s stylus options are worthy inheritors of its reputation as a maker of drawing and sketching accessories for the discerning computer user, and a sign that this category, while seemingly straightforward, still has room for some innovation.