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Review: Wacom Bamboo Ink stylus (2nd gen) with Wacom AES & Microsoft Ink Protocol

The 2nd generation Wacom Bamboo Ink has better accuracy compared to the 1st gen Wacom Bamboo Ink that I reviewed a few years ago.

Design for both 1st and 2nd gen Wacom Bamboo Ink (above) look quite similar so don't get the wrong one. The 2nd gen's pen clip looks like a paper clip whereas the 1st gen's clip is a piece of flat metal.

1st gen Wacom Bamboo Ink

It seems like the upgraded version of 2nd gen Bamboo Ink is called Wacom Bamboo Ink Plus instead of Bamboo Ink 3rd gen. I only found out after I bought the 2nd. And Bamboo Ink Plus's pen clip is a flat piece of metal. Confusing!

Anyway, here are the main differences between these three styluses:

  • Bamboo Ink 1st gen: Supports Microsoft Ink Protocol, Wacom AES v1. Drawing performance is not good. Acceptable for writing. Has pressure but no tilt sensitivity
  • Bamboo Ink 2nd gen: Supports Microsoft Ink Protocol, Wacom AES v1. Drawing performance improved significantly. Has pressure but not tilt sensitivity
  • Bamboo Ink Plus: Supports Microsoft Ink Protocol, Wacom AES v2. Can't say much since I've not tested it. Has pressure and tilt sensitivity

Since all the Wacom Bamboo Ink stylus supports Microsoft Pen Protocol, they can be used with Microsoft Surface devices running Windows 10. I'm not sure if you can use them with other Windows 10 tablets from other brands though (e.g. Lenovo, Dell, HP) but it's likely you can do so since it's Windows Ink support is specifically mentioned.

My pen was bought from AliExpress for US $50 including shipping. The price will vary depending on where and who you buy the pen from. US $50 for a stylus is quite reasonable considering the Apple Pencil v1 and Microsoft Surface Pen are both US $99.

The Lenovo Precision Pen 2 released recently (bought at US $50 as a bundle) is also more affordable and has Wacom AES 2 (with tilt support) instead of Wacom AES 1. So if you can find the Lenovo Precision Pen 2 (review) at a good price, you should probably skip the Wacom Bamboo Ink 2nd gen.

The pen has a cylindrical metal body with matte textured surface and excellent build quality. It has a nice weight to it and is comfortable to hold.

There are two side buttons for shortcuts. What shortcuts you can get will depend on the apps you use. Sometimes the same button can function as an eyedropper, a right click or eraser or something else. Most apps don't actually allow you to customise the shortcuts for the buttons. Microsoft Windows do have customisation for stylus but I can't tell you the customisation possible because I don't have any Windows tablet currently to test.

To reset the pen if something's not working as expected, just press and hold the two side buttons to reset the pen.

The pen uses one AAAA battery which is removable. Battery life, according to my experience with other styluses that use the same battery, is around six months to a year. The pen is always on so there's no need to power it on.

The pen tip is a hard plastic tip that glides smoothly on the glass, thankfully not slippery.

There are replacement nibs available in the form of a 3-nib kit called ACK-424-16-ZX or ACK42416. Official retail price is US $9.95. You get soft, medium and firm nibs in the set. If you prefer to use a certain hardness, it's like paying US $10 to buy one small replacement nib.

The default nib on the Bamboo Ink 2nd gen is considered hard. There is some in-out movement but it's minimal. I would consider it a firm nib overall.

This pen is good for writing. There is some input lag but mostly due to the tablet. I was able to get the my favourite note taking app Wacom Bamboo Paper to capture my handwriting rather accurately.

This is an active stylus. A cursor will appear when the pen tip hovers close to the display. Those apps that allow you choose only pen input will have perfect palm rejection while still offering you finger gestures for navigation.

Initial activation force is minimal but you do have to press slightly so that you won't get broken lines.

Pressure sensitivity curve can be adjusted with certain apps, e.g. Krita, Clip Studio Paint and though Microsft OS settings.

The pen supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity but not tilt sensitivity. The thin and thick lines shown above were drawn with the Lenovo Precision Pen 2 with tilt sensitivity.

Red lines are from Wacom Bamboo Ink 2nd gen, blue lines are from Lenovo Precision Pen 2

There's still some jitter or wobble with slow diagonal lines, but this has improved significantly over the previous generation which is usable only for writing and not drawing.

The Lenovo Precision Pen 2 seems to perform slightly better but if this is a blind test I probably can't tell the two pens apart.

Drawing is where you can see more noticeable jitter and wobble. The Lenovo Precision Pen 2 does seem to perform better but both pens will have wobble or jitter regardless. You can certainly use them for drawing, quick sketches but I can't recommend them for work that require more precision, or if you're someone who draws slow which will make line jitter more obvious.

As a stylus for writing, I can recommend the Wacom Bamboo Ink 2nd gen easily.

Oh, the Wacom Bamboo Ink does not work with Samsung Galaxy tablets that support the S Pen and obvious iPads.

Where to buy

I bought mine on AliExpress for US $50 with shipping included. You can also find the stylus (produce code CS323A) on Amazon, eBay and Wacom's web store. Links below:

AliExpress | | Wacom