A few weeks ago, I reviewed the Wacom Bamboo Stylus for iPad and concluded that it was my favorite stylus for writing notes on an iPad, well worth the almost $30 that I paid for it on Amazon even though you can buy good styluses for much cheaper. After I posted that review, Wacom sent me free sample of the Wacom Bamboo Stylus duo for iPad. The advertised difference with the "duo" version of the Bamboo Stylus is that it also includes a ballpoint pen. I predicted in my review of the Bamboo Stylus that the duo would probably not appeal to me because I am not a big fan of the ballpoint pens that are typically included with a stylus. I was correct; I'm not a big fan of this pen either, although as noted below your personal preferences may differ from mine. But I do see some other advantages of the duo, especially the length, that might tempt you to spend the extra $10 and purchase the Bamboo Stylus duo instead of the regular Bamboo Stylus.
The Bamboo Stylus duo, like the original Bamboo Stylus (which Wacom is now calling the "Bamboo Stylus solo") has a fantastic weight and feels great in your hand. Unlike many other styluses which feel cheap, the Bamboo Stylus line has the appearance and build of a premium product.
The duo only comes in black, unlike the original version that is available in six colors.
The key advantage of this stylus is the tip. As I noted in my review of the original version, the Bamboo Stylus duo has a fantastic tip for taking notes on an iPad using an app such as GoodNotes because it feels great on the iPad screen but it is smaller than the tips on most other styluses which provides the sensation of being more precise. To be fair, I should note that apparently not everyone agrees with me. Georgia of the iMore website recently reviewed four styluses and wrote that the Wacom Bamboo Stylus tip was a "disappointment" because she found it "completely mushy" and said that it provided "almost no push-back without excessive pressure." I strongly disagree. I like the feel of the tip against the iPad screen and I've never felt that I had to apply excessive pressure. For another viewpoint, Ellis Hamburger of The Verge recently posted an extensive review of all of the top styluses, and wrote that the Bamboo Stylus is the "best stylus you can buy for your iPad" adding that the "tip of the Bamboo, which is smaller in diameter than its peers, is the killer feature here." As for the tip being mushy, he wrote: "Like the rest of the rubber tips I tested, this one's mushy and doesn't provide the hardness I'm looking for from a writing utensil. But ultimately, it's the most precise and more importantly the most predictable stylus of the group."
If you don't think that a rubber tip is for you, I strongly encourage you to check out the fantastic BoxWave EverTouch Capactive Stylus that I reviewed earlier this month. But if you are okay with a rubber tip and want something precise, you'll love the tip that is on the original Bamboo Stylus and the Bamboo Stylus duo.
The distinguishing feature of the Bamboo Stylus duo is the included pen. Simply remove the cap and the pen is exposed.
You can place the cap on the stylus end of the pen and I doubt that anyone else would be able to tell that you are even using a stylus.
If you are going to include a pen in a stylus, this is a great way to do it. My gripe with the pen is that I don't like the way that the ink looks. I find the point to be too fine and I find the ink to be too light. I almost feel like I am writing with a pencil.
To be fair, this may simply reflect my personal bias. I'm not a big fan of ballpoint pens in general. I prefer the very dark blacks that you get with a rollerball pen. I often use a Mont Blanc rollerball pen that I received as a gift when I graduated law school in 1994, or else I will use something far less expensive but still excellent such as a Sanford uni-ball MICRO or a Pilot Precise v7 Rolling Ball. But even if you like ballpoint pens, your writing with the duo will be thinner and lighter than you might be used to. Here is a sample of the Bamboo Stylus duo versus a more standard ballpoint pen (the Kensington Virtuoso Touch Screen Stylus with Pen) and two rollerball pens:
But now that I have complained that this is not my favorite pen, I have to admit that it often doesn't matter what kind of pen you have, you just need something to jot a quick note. With a normal iPad stylus, you are out of luck. With a product like the Bamboo Stylus duo, you have the pen in case you need it. Nevertheless, if the pen was the only distinguishing feature, I'd probably just get the regular Bamboo Stylus and use the $10 I saved to buy a bunch of inexpensive pens and keep them at my desk, in my briefcase, at home, etc.
However, the pen is only one difference. A key difference between the regular Bamboo Stylus and the Bamboo Stylus duo is that the duo is almost a half an inch longer. The regular Bamboo Stylus is 120 mm (about 4.75"), and as I noted in my original review, in my opinion that is just barely long enough to be comfortable to use. The duo is 131 mm when used as a stylus (about 5.16") which is much closer to the length of a normal pen (around 5.25"). The following picture shows the regular Bamboo Stylus (top), the Bamboo Stylus duo (middle) and the Kensington Virtuoso Stylus for Tablet (bottom), another excellent stylus.
As I have been testing out the duo, I've found that I prefer the longer length, so much so that it is a reason that it does make the duo worth the extra $10. It just feels more like I am using a real pen. Strangely, I don't see that Wacom even advertises the length of the duo as an advantage.
Better wear and tear?
I see one other possible advantage of the duo over the regular version, but I'll admit that I am speculating here. I noted in my original review that some people complain that the tip on the Bamboo Stylus is too delicate and can tear with use. Because of where the (removable) clip is located on the original Bamboo Stylus, you are likely to apply pressure at the same point of the tip every time you use the stylus. The clip sits in a groove so it always stays in the same spot. But with the duo, because the entire top is removable and the clip is part of the top, the clip can rotate and over time wil be in many different positions on the stylus. Even if you always hold the duo the same way in your hand with the clip against your hand, you'll be applying pressure to different parts of the tip over time. My theory is that this will better distribute the wear and tear around all points of the nib on the tip so that the tip itself will last longer. I don't plan to conduct an experiment to test this hypothesis to see if it holds up, but it seems logical to me.
People will have different opinions on styluses, but in my opinion, the Wacom Bamboo Stylus line is the best stylus you can use with an iPad if you are planning to take notes in a meeting, in court, etc. using an app such as GoodNotes. The weight and finish of the stylus feels great in your hand and the narrow tip is fantastic. [UPDATE: I see that Serenity Caldwell of TechHive and Macworld published an article today in which she also names the duo the best stylus for writing.] The original version of the stylus, now called the Bamboo Stylus Solo, costs about $30. That is a lot of money to pay for a stylus, but I think it is worth it. If you spend an extra $10 for the $40 duo version of the stylus, you get the pen (which I don't particularly like, but perhaps you will, and it could be handy in a pinch) and you get a longer stylus (which I love) that might even hold up longer before you need to replace the tip (although who knows). Either way, you'll have an excellent stylus that works great with the iPad.
[UPDATE 8/11/13: There are a lot of great styluses for the iPad, but after over a year of using this stylus and many others, the Bamboo Stylus duo remains my favorite.]