Review: Nomad Brush Nomad Mini 2 Stylus
Four years after Apple announced the first iPad, styluses have had ample opportunity to become stale. Apple has never directly acknowledged or supported the product category: third-party developers have had to create alternatives entirely on their own, and Apple hasn't improved iPad screens to make them more stylus-friendly, either. Despite that, many companies have iterated upon the earliest rubber dome-based styli to create options better-suited to writing and drawing. Today, we're looking at two of the latest releases, Lynktec's TruGlide Apex ($60) and Nomad Brush's Nomad Mini 2 ($35). Neither is so thoroughly new as to merit a detailed review, but each brings a little something distinctive to the table.
Unlike TruGlide Apex, which brought relatively recent digital writing tip technology to a lower price level, Nomad Mini 2 is a thoughtful repackaging of older Nomad Brush stylus and paintbrush technologies in a more convenient housing. Most obviously new is Mini 2’s metallic body, which comes in black or chrome options. At 0.6 ounces, it feels nicely weighted and durable, with a 5” length and an unusually bulbous shape that we found comfortable to hold. When Mini 2 isn’t in use, you’ll see what looks like a modern pen with a retractable tip, offset by the presence of a rubber dome stylus tip on the back. Write with the rubber tip and you’ll get the same sort of accuracy as common 2010/2011-vintage iPad styli; it can be unscrewed and replaced if it’s worn down.
The signature feature of Mini 2 isn’t the rubber tip, but the paintbrush functionality. Just like the original a Nomad Brush, which looked and felt just like a paintbrush, one side of Mini 2 houses a soft bristle head that can be used for digital painting. Unlike prior versions, which needed to be protected by carrying boxes when they weren’t in use, the bristles here retract inside of Mini 2’s body for safe-keeping. Twisting the brush-facing head of the stylus, you can bring the bristles out to a 0.5” maximum extension, or keep them further recessed inside as you prefer.
What has been and remains an issue with Nomad-series brushes is iPad support for paintbrush-style input. Nothing has changed on the hardware side to help the bristles get recognized in their actual positions; from the iPad’s perspective, they are substantially akin to placing your finger on the screen. Certain apps can estimate or approximate the way a brush might interact with the screen, but in most cases, the results aren’t terribly different. That said, for users who enjoy the sweep of bristles across a display rather than something closer to finger painting, Mini 2 provides an option, albeit one that’s noticeably shorter than the company’s earlier brushes.
At $35, Nomad Mini 2 is another “good-ish” Nomad option — one that’s more practical in our view than the $39 Nomad Compose, but more expensive than the original Nomad Brush and entry-level Nomad brushes without improving much on the key differentiating functionality. To the extent that you prefer a metal housing and rubber tip to accompany the paintbrush, Mini 2 is different from what Nomad Brush has offered before, but not hugely more compelling unless the portability is worth a premium to you. Should Apple improve the touch sensitivity of iPad screens, all of these brushes could in a heartbeat become much more broadly appealing, but for now Nomad Mini 2 is just another tool to accomplish what could already be done with earlier options, including your finger.