When Wacom announced its Bamboo Smart stylus "for select tablets and 2-in-1 convertible devices" at CES back in January, it was big news. Until that point, only a handful of OEMs' Active ES pens had hit the market and they seemed to be incompatible with one another.
When the Bamboo Smart for tablets and 2-in-1s (not to be confused with the Bamboo Smart for the Samsung Galaxy Note) failed to materialize outside Japan and was eclipsed by the announcement in March of a forthcoming dual protocol pen with Microsoft, this observer began to wonder whether that stylus had been cancelled.
After all, although the Wacom website has only ever listed three "tested" or compatible devices, I've personally reviewed many more Active ES tablets and 2-in-1s from Dell, HP, Lenovo and Toshiba that have been released in the intervening months, each accompanied by a new pen offering inter-operability with most other AES styluses. Although manufacturers haven't necessarily made it easy to find and purchase these pens, their existence has cast further doubt on the need for this Wacom alternative.
Those fears over the Bamboo Smart's future turned out to be unfounded, however, as the stylus finally went on sale in the Wacom US store last week. I received mine today and quickly set out to determine just how "select" the pen's compatibility truly is. It turns out, except for one glaring exception, "select" is nearly universal.
Retailing for $39.95 in the US, the Bamboo Smart is priced on the lower end of the Active ES pen spectrum, but it doesn't feel particularly premium either. It's among the lighter of the AES pens I have on hand. Without the included AAAA battery, the stylus barely weighs as much as a number 2 pencil.
The pen is also surprisingly small. Without its cap, it is the shortest AES stylus I've encountered. Thankfully the pen cap adds heft and length in addition to providing protection for the nib.
The Bamboo Smart includes two replacement nibs -- one hard, one soft -- and an extraction ring. These nibs are interchangeable with other Wacom Gen 12 pens so deteriorating nibs like the Toshiba dynaPad's should no longer be a cause for concern.
The dual buttons on the Bamboo Smart's barrel are a major improvement over other pens. Because the buttons are recessed, they're easy to find by touch and much harder to press accidentally.
If you were hoping for improved hover distance or stability from the Bamboo Smart, you'll be disappointed. The pen performs identically to other AES styluses, except in a couple of instances where hover distance was shallower than the corresponding OEM's pens.
Below are the results of my tests. I've included the three devices listed on the Wacom site although I haven't verified those personally.
- Dell Inspiron 15 7568 (i5) - Works, Sligthly shorter hover distance vs. Dell Active Pen
- Dell Inspiron 15 7568 (i7) - Works, Sligthly shorter hover distance vs. Dell Active Pen
- Dell Venue 10 5000 Series (5050) - Tested by Wacom
- Dell Venue 10 Pro 5000 Series (5055) - Tested by Wacom
- HP Spectre X2 - Works, No Feeldriver (incompatible), Very shallow hover distance (½ distance vs. HP pen)
- Lenovo Ideapad Miix 700 - Works, No Feeldriver (incompatible)
- Lenovo ThinkPad P40 Yoga - Tested by Wacom
- Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 14 (Haswell) - Works
- Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 14 (Skylake) - Works
- Toshiba dynaPad - Works
- Toshiba Encore 2 Write - Incompatible, Only buttons are recognized but flipped
With the notable exception of the Encore 2 Write, a Gen 11 device that I believe was the first AES tablet to market, every other tablet or 2-in-1 I tested works, even when the Feeldriver is incompatible.
If you already own a Gen 12 AES pen from Dell, Lenovo or Toshiba, I don't recommend you invest in the Bamboo Smart. But if you're in the market for a spare or are having difficulty sourcing a pen from your device's manufacturer, it's good to know that an almost universal alternative exists.
To find out more about the Wacom Bamboo Smart stylus for select tablets and 2-in-1 convertible devices, visit http://www.wacom.com/en-us/products/stylus/bamboo-smart-for-select-tablets-and-2in1 To avoid confusion with the incompatible Bamboo Smart for Samsung, make sure to reference Part Number CS320AK.