Review: Wacom Bamboo Stylus duo

Wacom’s Bamboo stylus has been out for a couple of years now, and I’ve previously reviewed both the first version of it and written about the replacement nibs that were finally introduced a while back. The original stylus has also gotten a couple of siblings, the Bamboo Stylus pocket, which is small and retractable), and the Bamboo Stylus duo, which has a pen on one end.

I’ve used a Maglus for quite a while now, but my quest to find a way to properly attach it to my iPad mini recently ended in me starting to use my original Bamboo again, as its form factor is more beneficial for the stylus holder I added to my case. I’ve been enjoying that setup so much that I decided to make the Bamboo my daily driver, and send the Maglus off to live in a drawer. As I find myself in a situation where my desire to go paperless is severely hampered by everyone else’s love for paper, I decided to pick up  the duo stylus to make sure I always have a pen with me.

Packaging and accessories

I was a bit surprised by the packaging, which actually doesn’t mention the word “duo” in any way aside from a add-on sticker at the bottom. There’s a picture of the stylus with the pen part visible on the box, however, but I think it’s a bit weird that Wacom isn’t differentiating the three styluses more on the box.

Inside of the box, you find only the stylus, cap, and a small information booklet. I say “only”, because if I had been the one to design the contents of the package, there would have been at least one spare nib in there, at least one spare ink cartridge, and also a couple of the o-rings that are used to make sure the cap sits on. The current iteration of the Maglus comes with a cleaning cloth, spare tip, and a keychain to store the tip in, and it’s fairly typical of larger companies like Wacom to not offer the same level of service as smaller ones.

That’s both a pity and something of an issue, as only the nibs are sold separately. Generic o-rings that work shouldn’t be too hard to find, but I wish they also sold replacement caps. As for the ink refills, they’re actually standard enough that you should be able to go into stores that sell refills and find one. Wacom seems to have finally realized it should offer some information on them 8 days ago, as it then posted a comment on the product page for the duo which stated that the refills that fit are:

– Length: 67.2mm
– Diameter: 2.3mm
– Ball point size: 0.7mm
– Ink color: Black

These popular brands fit the Bamboo Stylus duo:
– Mitsubishi SE-7
– CROSS 8518
– Pilot BRF-8F
– TOMBOW BR-VS
– LAMY M21

Design

The duo follows the design style of the original (now called solo) Bamboo Stylus closely. It’s thin, long, and made of aluminum, with the main body having a black anodized finish. In one end, you have the stylus tip, which consists of a brass mounting point for the rubber nib, covered by an aluminum screw-on cover that leaves only the rubber nib sticking out.

The duo’s cover piece is designed to be compatible with the pen cap, allowing you to attach the pen cap to the stylus end while using the pen, and so it has a different design and an o-ring that the solo’s cover doesn’t have. For the record, the aluminum cover from the duo is not compatible with that of the solo (unless the solo model has changed since I bought mine). I mention this because it occurred to me that you if you were to take the pen cap and nib cover from the duo and use them on the solo, you would end up with a stylus that had a cap for the stylus end, and no pen end. That would frankly make for a better stylus than the current solo, but unfortunately it’s not possible to do this, even if you were to buy both.

Anyways, the other end of the duo is where the real difference is from the solo. Whereas the solo ends in a plain aluminum piece whose only feature is the removable pen clip, that part of the duo is actually a removable cap. Underneath hides the ballpoint pen, and the entire pen tip can be unscrewed to change ink cartridges. The cap on the duo has the same removable clip as the end of the solo, meaning that at first glance, the two look almost identical- though the duo is about a centimeter longer.

Overall the design of the duo, like that of the solo, is quite elegant. It looks and feels like a quality product, and it’s a timeless and sleek design that I much prefer over that of the Arctic Emote, which is essentially a cheaper (but still very capable) copy of the duo. Since we’re doing comparisons to the Emote anyways, I can mention that I went with the duo over the Emote because of the latter’s tendency to have its individual parts come unscrewed. That can be a problem with the duo as well when you first get it, but making sure you tighten all the screw joints fixes that issue on the duo.

In use

In use the duo is essentially the same as the solo. It’s a very capable stylus, and really the only stylus that has ever been a true contender to the Maglus for me- which is why I keep switching between the two. It’s both accurate and sensitive, despite the small nib sometimes affecting the latter on other styluses of this thickness. A lot of people think that small nib equals more accuracy, but sometimes that is the exact opposite of what’s true, as a small nib often means you have to jam the nib into the screen to make it register at all. That isn’t the case with the Bamboo (solo or duo alike), and I find it a pleasure to use.

I should mention that there are actually two replacement nib types, smooth and firm. I have no clue which one comes with the stylus, but either way it works well. The nibs tend to wear or get torn over time, so the existence of replacement nibs is a must. I would actually encourage anyone buying this- especially as a gift- to throw in a pack or two of nibs, and maybe some replacement ink cartridges, when buying it.

As for the pen end, it works like any regular ballpoint pen. It will dry out if you don’t keep the cap on it, which means that the cap is designed to stay on the pen end when the stylus is not in use. I wish Wacom would offer spare caps, as I would frankly want one cap for each end of the thing, helping to prevent nib damage.

Conclusion

The Wacom Bamboo Stylus duo is definitely a quality product, which I knew already since it’s not that different from the predecessor. With the availability of both pen and nib replacements, I have no issues recommending this to anyone, and it’s a great stylus. It looks great, feels great, and works great. The MSRP of $40 is quite high however, but you can normally pick it up a lot cheaper. Heck, I paid less than that here in Norway, where prices are normally higher than in the US. It’s currently going for $26 on Amazon in the US, too, which makes this much easier to recommend than if it were only available for $40.

The simple truth is that while I wish Wacom would throw in some o-rings, ink refills, and nibs in the box, and offer replacement caps, this is still a very solid buy. I still think the Maglus V2 is a very good stylus, but to me, it never quite felt like a good companion to the iPad mini, since the iconic magnets in it are really meant for the full size Smart Cover. Carrying around the Bamboo Stylus duo in my DIY stylus holder has been an awesome solution for me personally, and the addition of a pen when I’m dealing with people stuck in the past is quite handy.

The 4 star score is based on the actual price (not the MSRP, in which case it would have been lower), with one star taken away because of the lack of content in the box, as well as the lack of a replacement cap for sale. 

 

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.