Introduced earlier this year, the Bamboo Sketch is Wacom's latest precision stylus designed to work with the iPhone and the iPad over Bluetooth. It's meant to mimic the feel of traditional pen-and-paper writing and drawing with interchangeable pen nibs and customizable shortcut buttons.

Priced at $80, Wacom's new stylus isn't a better option than the Apple Pencil for iPad Pro users, but for the iPhone and other iPad models, it's worth checking out.

bamboosketch

Design

The all-black Bamboo Sketch looks sleek and stylish. It's made from a textured plastic that's super grippy, so it's easy to hold and feels comfortable when writing.

sketchinhand2
It's both thicker and heavier than a regular pen, and while it is well-balanced in the hand, my hand did get tired while writing after about 15 to 20 minutes because of its weight and diameter. Size wise, it measures in at 142mm long (about the size of your average pen) and it is 10mm in diameter. Its official weight is 18 grams, which is actually lighter than the Apple Pencil.

bamboosketchdesign
Design wise, the Bamboo Sketch features two shortcut buttons at the top that are customizable with different functions, and a spot where the charger connects at the bottom. Aside from those design elements, this a standard pen-like stylus.

sketchchargingport
The Bamboo Sketch features a unique swappable tip, with 1.9mm firm and soft pen nibs included in the packaging for a custom feel when writing. I didn't notice much difference between the two different tips, but mostly stuck with the soft one because it felt a bit smoother.

Wacom ships the Bamboo Sketch in a high-quality carrying case that houses the stylus, extra tips, and the USB charger. When I opened the package, I thought the case also doubled as a way to charge the Sketch, but that's not how it works.

sketchwithcase
The Bamboo Sketch attaches magnetically to an included USB charger, which then can be plugged into a computer or a standard USB outlet. The charging dongle is tiny (about the size of a small flash drive) and feels like something I'm bound to lose at some point, so that's a negative, but at least it can be stored in the carrying case when not in use.

bamboosketchchargerattached
Charging through the case would have been a lot more convenient because attaching a stylus to my computer is somewhat awkward, but it's superior to a wired solution. The Bamboo Sketch's battery should last for about 16 hours. In my experience, that was enough for about two weeks of use for approximately 30 to 45 minutes a day.

The case also includes a hole that's used for swapping out the aforementioned interchangeable nibs. Stick the Sketch into the side of the case and tilt it to pull out the existing tip, pop a new tip out of its slot inside the case, and press it into the top of the stylus. It's a simple, hassle-free process and I appreciate how easy Wacom made it to swap tips.

Features and Writing Experience

Wacom says the Sketch has a natural, precise feel that's similar to a pen on paper. It doesn't feel like writing on paper, of course, but it was smooth and comfortable to write with, and as precise as you'd expect a Bluetooth-connected stylus with a fine tip to be. It's about as close to a pen and paper experience as you can get on a tablet or a phone screen.

The Bamboo Sketch connects to the iPad using Bluetooth. Once charged, pressing one of the buttons on the stylus activates Bluetooth, and it can be connected to an iPad or iPhone using one of Wacom's apps, or through the Bluetooth section of the Settings app on the device.

sketchiphone
While in use with an iPad, the Bamboo Sketch requires you to disable multitasking gestures to enable palm rejection features within apps. That means no using four and five finger gestures to do things like pinch to the Home screen or swipe between apps.

If you're someone who often uses those gestures, turning the feature off will be a hassle because it'll need to be toggled off every time you want to use the stylus and then on again when you're done.

sketchipadpro
The Bamboo Sketch is able to work systemwide on the iPhone or the iPad, so it can be used as a finger replacement. Within select apps, it also has additional features like pressure sensitivity and palm rejection.

Support for the Bamboo Sketch has to be enabled through software, so the experience is simply not as good as an Apple Pencil on an iPad Pro, especially the newest iPad Pro models with ProMotion display technology.

Palm rejection worked poorly for me regardless of which app I was using and whether I was using my iPhone or my iPad. It kept detecting small movements from my hand, leaving marks on the page and interrupting what I was writing or sketching.

sketchinhand
I much preferred to just not touch my palm to the display than to deal with the spotty palm rejection features while writing. Unfortunately, holding my palm up isn't always comfortable.

Palm rejection with the Apple Pencil works much better because with the Pencil connected, it rejects all touch when the Apple Pencil's tip is on the screen of the iPad Pro. It's hard to compete with that.

On non iPad Pro devices, spotty palm rejection is about as good as it gets. Some apps do it better than others, but it's never going to be perfect. It helps a lot to start writing before you put your palm down, but it isn't foolproof.

As for pressure sensitivity, the Bamboo Sketch was as natural and fluid to use as the Apple Pencil. Pressure sensitivity worked well -- a light press gave me a thin line, and as I pressed down harder, the line got thicker. Bamboo Sketch has 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity.

Pressure sensitivity matched the Apple Pencil, but on iPad Pro models, the Bamboo Sketch can't compete when it comes to latency. When you write or draw with the Apple Pencil on one of the new iPad Pro models, the line is right at the tip of the stylus and it stays there as the Apple Pencil moves. With the Bamboo Sketch, it's offset and noticeably slower at tracking. It's also not able to do the side of the pencil shading that's possible with the Apple Pencil.

These features only apply to the iPad Pro -- if you don't have an iPad Pro, the Bamboo Sketch works as well or better than any other connected stylus I've tried (I'd say better on the whole, given its ergonomics, grip, and pressure sensitivity).

The Bamboo Sketch has one edge over the Apple Pencil -- two shortcut buttons. In select apps, shortcuts can be assigned to the two buttons on the stylus. For example, in Wacom's Bamboo Paper app, the buttons can be set to do things like erase, undo, redo, or open full screen mode.

Supported Apps and Devices

There are a good number of apps that support the Bamboo Sketch and all of its available features. ArtRage, Astropad, AutoDesk SketchBook, Bamboo Paper, Concepts, Good Notes, IbisPaint, MediBang, Notes Plus, Procreate, Sketch Club, Tayasui Sketch, Zen Brush 2, and Zoom Notes all support pressure sensitivity and shortcut functionality.

All of the above listed apps aside from ArtRage and Procreate support palm rejection.

bamboosketchsupportedapps
According to Wacom, the Bamboo Sketch works with previous iPad generations that feature Bluetooth connectivity and the iPhone 6 and above. I tested it on a previous-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, a current-generation 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and an iPhone 7 Plus.

Bottom Line

For iPad Pro owners, the Apple Pencil is the best stylus on the market and it's not really worth considering any alternatives, including the Bamboo Sketch. There's no comparison, especially with iOS 11 improvements that allow the Apple Pencil to be used system-wide.

If you have the money to spend on a high-end stylus and have an iPad Pro, buy the Apple Pencil. If you don't have an iPad Pro and need a stylus that offers enough precision for note taking and fine sketching, the Bamboo Sketch is a great option.

How to Buy

The Bamboo Sketch can be purchased from the Wacom website for $79.95.

Note: Wacom provided a Bamboo Sketch to MacRumors for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received.

Top Rated Comments

macduke Avatar
55 months ago
I'm kind of surprised that no third parties have come out with replacement nibs for the Apple Pencil that feel more paper-like. Is Apple's tip design patented or something? I really wish Apple had some tips available that have more friction to them. It's pretty good on my 10.5" Pro but still isn't as good as paper.

What is with Wacom's obsession with oversized markers for pens?
I think it has less to do with an obsession of thickness on their part and more to do with Apple's obsession with thinness. People like to berate Apple for continually making products thinner, but the experience gained from things like that has enabled them to make things like the AirPods and Apple Pencil which pack a lot of wireless tech into a thin and light package.

As for me, I'm just glad Apple finally came out with a drawing tool for the iPad. I had tried Adonit's Adobe Ink device and it was garbage. I'm reminded of the difference between my Motorola ROKR with "iTunes" in 2005 and my iPhone in 2007.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
yoonsookang Avatar
55 months ago
I owned and used both Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus 1 and 2. I bought this hoping that it would have made significant improvements, especially when I looked at the overwhelming price tag. I've used for a month and returned it as it didn't solve all the major issues that existed in previous iOS active styluses, notably inaccurate registration of the tip depending on different writing postures and zigzagged diagonal lines when drawing straight diagonal lines. I've recorded and posted these issues on YouTube. Simply search for "Wacom Bamboo Sketch Issue."

In sum, if you own any other active styluses with two buttons, save your cash for a truly worthy stylus. This latest stylus marginally improved upon previous generations and Wacom's marketing is simply deceptive. I lost my faith in this company as far as iOS active styluses go.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kasakka Avatar
55 months ago
I'm kind of surprised that no third parties have come out with replacement nibs for the Apple Pencil that feel more paper-like. Is Apple's tip design patented or something? I really wish Apple had some tips available that have more friction to them. It's pretty good on my 10.5" Pro but still isn't as good as paper.
That would be a good idea and significantly better than applying a matter screen protector to simulate a paper-like surface.


I think it has less to do with an obsession of thickness on their part and more to do with Apple's obsession with thinness. People like to berate Apple for continually making products thinner, but the experience gained from things like that has enabled them to make things like the AirPods and Apple Pencil which pack a lot of wireless tech into a thin and light package.
Apple and other manufacturers deserve all the flack for building phones that are so thin they have small batteries and camera bumps for no good reason. After a certain point thinness does not improve the experience.

What baffles me is that almost every pen stylus device, even the old Wacom tablet ones, are a bit too thick even in the best cases and that makes them more tiring to use for extended time. I don't see why they could not be designed to be slimmer at the areas where you would normally grip a pen.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Markoth Avatar
55 months ago
Not if you use materials that have a lower hardnesss than gorilla glass.
Yep. Basic geology. If you don't want a surface to get scratched by something, make that something softer. I'd assume that's a basic tenet of stylus design, though. I wouldn't worry about anyone at Apple not passing basic geology.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

m1x mac mini screen feature

High-End 'M1X' Mac Mini With New Design and Additional Ports Expected to Launch in the 'Next Several Months'

Sunday August 22, 2021 5:59 am PDT by
Apple can be expected to launch an updated high-end Mac mini with a new design and a faster "M1X" Apple silicon processor in the "next several months," Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reports. In the latest publication of his Power On newsletter, Gurman writes that a new high-end Mac mini, which has previously been reported to feature a new design with additional ports, can be expected to replace...
mac scanner permission error

Apple Says Fix Planned for 'You Do Not Have Permission to Open the Application' Error When Using a Scanner on Mac

Saturday August 14, 2021 6:15 am PDT by
In a newly published support document on its website, Apple has acknowledged an error that some users may receive when they try to use a scanner with a Mac in the Image Capture app, Preview app, or the Printers & Scanners section of System Preferences. A screenshot of the error message from the HP Support Community When attempting to use a scanner with a Mac, Apple said users might get an...
macbookpro13large

macOS Big Sur Update Bricking Some Older MacBook Pro Models

Sunday November 15, 2020 5:33 am PST by
A large number of late 2013 and mid 2014 13-inch MacBook Pro owners are reporting that the macOS Big Sur update is bricking their machines. A MacRumors forum thread contains a significant number of users reporting the issue, and similar problems are being reported across Reddit and the Apple Support Communities, suggesting the problem is widespread. Users are reporting that during the...
original iphone

Phil Schiller Says iPhone Was 'Earth-Shattering' Ten Years Ago and Remains 'Unmatched' Today

Monday January 9, 2017 7:15 am PST by
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller sat down with tech journalist Steven Levy for a wide-ranging interview about the smartphone's past, present, and future. The report first reflects upon the iPhone's lack of support for third-party apps in its first year. The argument inside Apple was split between whether the iPhone should be a closed...
m1 imac orange

New iMac Tidbits: Headphone Jack on Side, Ethernet Port on Power Adapter, Spatial Audio and WiFi 6 Support, No SD Card Slot

Wednesday April 21, 2021 6:38 am PDT by
Apple yesterday announced a completely redesigned 24-inch iMac with the M1 Apple silicon chip. The new iMac, the first major redesign of the Mac desktop computer since 2012, has several changes compared to the previous generation. In the aftermath of the event, a few new features and tidbits may have slipped under the radar, so we’ve compiled this list of some of the less-talked-about...
omg lightning cable comparison

Security Researcher Develops Lightning Cable With Hidden Chip to Steal Passwords

Thursday September 2, 2021 6:59 am PDT by
A normal-looking Lightning cable that can used to steal data like passwords and send it to a hacker has been developed, Vice reports. The "OMG Cable" compared to Apple's Lightning to USB cable. The "OMG Cable" works exactly like a normal Lightning to USB cable and can log keystrokes from connected Mac keyboards, iPads, and iPhones, and then send this data to a bad actor who could be over a...
Top Stories 75 Thumbnail

Top Stories: Last-Minute iPhone 13 Rumors, Apple Announces App Store Changes, and More

Saturday September 4, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
The finish line is in sight! Apple's annual iPhone event is likely just a week or so away and all eyes will be on the company as it unveils the next version of its most popular product line. With any luck, we'll also see the next-generation Apple Watch and perhaps even some new AirPods. Other news this week saw Apple making some more changes to its App Store policies in response to a...
General YouTube Feature 1

YouTube Premium and Music Surpass 50 Million Subscribers

Friday September 3, 2021 2:19 am PDT by
YouTube says it has passed 50 million subscribers for its Premium and Music subscriptions, making it the "fastest growing music subscription" service in the world, according to YouTube's global head of music, Lyor Cohen. YouTube says that it has more than 50 million paying subscribers collectively across YouTube Premium and YouTube Music. The Google-owned service says it attributes this...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Full iPhone 13 Feature Breakdown: Everything Rumors Say We Can Expect

Tuesday August 31, 2021 7:50 am PDT by
With the launch of Apple's iPhone 13 lineup believed to be just a few weeks away, we have compiled all of the coherent rumors from our coverage over the past year to build a full picture of the features and upgrades coming to the company's new smartphones. For clarity, only explicit improvements, upgrades, and new features compared to the iPhone 12 lineup are listed. It is worth noting that...
apple wallet drivers license

Apple Announces First U.S. States That Will Let You Add Your Driver's License to Your iPhone

Wednesday September 1, 2021 6:15 am PDT by
Apple today announced the first U.S. states that will be rolling out the ability for residents to add their driver's license or state ID to the Wallet app on the iPhone and Apple Watch. Arizona and Georgia will be the first states to support the feature, with Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah to follow, according to Apple. Apple said select TSA security checkpoints in ...