While it’s unanimously agreed that Apple made the right choice by shifting the touchscreen paradigm away from styluses and towards finger-based input, it’s equally understood that fingers — particularly big ones — are less than ideal tools for writing and drawing with precision. As iPads continue to grow in popularity and capabilities, the demand for styluses and similar tools has similarly increased, so we’ve seen a wide variety of new options appear in recent months from different developers. Today, we’re looking at seven new styluses, none of which demands a full-length review, but each has one or two interesting features that distinguish it from versions we’ve previously covered. Though we do have one or two picks that are higher-rated than others, it needs to be said up front that there’s no single “winner” in this particular collection, since this latest crop of styluses have substantially different shapes and thus will feel “right” in various hands and situations. If you’re looking for a precise writing tool, several of the options are better than others, but if you want a way to play a virtual guitar in GarageBand, you’ll want a totally different stylus that is commensurately poor for writing.
Last but not least in today’s stylus round-up is Bamboo Stylus ($30), developed by legendary pen peripheral maker Wacom. Made from attractively matte-finished metals that extend from the black metal core in the center to gunmetal top and bottom elements, and even a detachable, silver-colored shirt clip on the bottom, Bamboo Stylus feels solid and substantial, like a quality real pen. Though there are dozens of styluses now that can be attached to shirts, Wacom’s design has Japanese-caliber class and precision, including an atypically small rubber dome at the top. From a distance, and in your hand, you’d think that it was unquestionably worth a $10 or $15 premium over otherwise similar options from numerous competitors.
That said, Bamboo Stylus doesn’t really offer legibility advantages over cheaper rivals. In our experiences, it produced handwriting that looked more or less the same as what we’d previously seen in options such as Just Mobile’s $20 AluPen, which is to say “good” rather than “great” or truly pen-quality legibility—this is most likely due as much to the iPad and iPad 2 touch screens as anything else. On the other hand, the just-under-5-inch length and weight of the metal feel pretty close to “right on” when making a transition from a typical pen, and Wacom’s use of materials gives Bamboo Stylus the tangible feel of quality manufacturing. You can decide whether you want to pay an extra $10 or so for something that looks and feels a little nicer than common styluses but produces similar results; our feeling is that Bamboo Stylus is on the fine edge of general and limited recommendations, tilting to the former category solely because of how handsome it is in person.
Company and Price
Model: Bamboo Stylus
Compatible: iPad, iPad 2