No, you don’t need a stylus for your iPad. Let’s just lay that to rest right now. However, you might desire one, especially if you fancy yourself an artist of the digital kind. The conductive stylus has been on a bit of growth spurt since the rise of paperlike drawing apps for tablets like the iPad, and one of the best I’ve seen is the Wacom Bamboo Stylus, a $30 nicely weighted aluminum barrel with a rubberized tip that feels gentle but effective.
Wacom has one-upped itself with the Bamboo Stylus duo, a longer version of that same stylus with a pen added to the other end. Clever, no? At $40 -- a $10 price hike for the pen feature -- you might be thinking, “that better be a damn good pen.” Strangely, I felt the opposite: once the stylus became a pen, a higher price seemed more normal.
Good pens have never been all that cheap. Sure, $40 is a lot more than most people would pay, but the pen at the end of the Bamboo Stylus duo is perfectly functional: a fine ball-point tip, with standard replaceable ink refill cartridges. It’s not the best pen I’ve ever used, but it does the job. The Wacom Bamboo Stylus duo is longer than the original Bamboo Stylus (solo), to accommodate the pen part and to make for more comfortable pen-holding. The included metal cap fits over the pen and stylus ends; I found that keeping the cap on the back extended the pen to a perfect “normal” weight and feel. With the cap off, the stylus/pen felt a bit short and awkward.
The rubberized black cap that acts as the Bamboo Stylus’ conductive surface is gentle, but the large dome feels more like a surrogate finger than a fine-point writing instrument. Note to the uninitiated: using a capacitive stylus on an iPad reveals that most apps have a slight delay between your surface gestures and the actions onscreen. It becomes a tiny bit disorienting when sketching for the first time, if you’re expecting standard pen-on-paper precision. Once I got used to it (and the realization that no capacitive stylus for the iPad is pressure-sensitive, unlike the Samsung Galaxy Note), I relaxed and found using a stylus liberating.
The extra barrel length on the Stylus duo makes it more comfortable; adding the pen means one fewer object in the gadget bag, and it’s an easy way to ensure that your pen can always double as a stylus in a pinch. Covering the pen part with the cap means exposing the soft rubbery end of the stylus, but styli don’t usually have tip covers, anyway.
The Wacom Bamboo Stylus duo’s not just for iPads: it works with any capacitive screen, including Android tablets, smartphones, and other devices. However, due to its size, it’s best married to a tablet. If you’re in the market for an iPad stylus (or a new pen, for that matter), the Wacom Bamboo Stylus duo’s probably worth the extra $10 commitment. At least you’ll never wonder where your pen is. It's earned a place in my essential iPad accessories collection because it's easier than ever to bring it along and not feel like it's another thing to remember.