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Wacom Bamboo Ink Plus adds tilt, rechargeable battery to its repertoire

Wacom's second generation of its Windows Ink stylus offers some refinements that should make it better and more reliable than before.


The Wacom Bamboo Ink Plus sports a better design than its predecessor.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you feel like stepping up to a more premium-feeling pen for your Windows 10 two-in-one or tablet to create or to annotate, Wacom's ready for you. The Bamboo Ink Plus improves on its predecessor in several ways -- it's better designed overall -- while still retaining its ability to connect to any Windows Ink-compatible device via either Wacom AES (Active Electrostatic) or MPP (Microsoft Pen Protocol). Plus, Wacom supplements its 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity with added tilt support (provided your device is capable).

It's shipping this month but it's also more expensive than its predecessor: $99.95 (directly converted, about £80 and AU$145) compared to $79.95 (£70; not available in Australia). That's comparable to the Microsoft Surface Pen, though. 

The Bamboo Ink Plus retains some of the nice aspects of its design, including the triangular barrel that keeps it from rolling off the desk and the easily replaceable nibs. The barrel is covered in the popular brushed-rubber-type surface that makes it a little grippier in your hand than the usual pen barrel, but with the side effect of always looking dusty.


No more AAAA battery required -- it has a USB-C-rechargeable built in. And Wacom redesigned the top button, which people complained was prone to break.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The three most important updates seem to address the most common gripes about the earlier model. There's an internal battery, charged via a USB-C port on the barrel (with one of those dangly covers that you know is going to get ripped off at some point), so if you buy from one of the shadier sellers on Amazon you at least won't have to worry about a missing battery. The initial charge takes three hours. I'm not sure how long the battery lasts, though.

The top button, which you use for Bluetooth pairing and as a shortcut to bring up apps in Windows, has also been redesigned; there used to be a gap, which made the connection to the barrel less durable. Now it's all one piece. 

Some users also complained that the nibs would break off inside the barrel, but rather than sticking straight out they have a more ink-pen-like graduated design that's likely to be less stressful on the tip when you throw it into a bag.


In the original Bamboo Ink, the nib is a small projection with no support on the sides, similar to the Wacom Pro Pen 2. Now it has a more analog-pen-like angled design which should make it a little more durable.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Wacom also adds a new nib type, blue, to the soft, medium and firm options. Aside from stating "on certain devices the blue nib...can enhance your pen experience" there's no description of what that means or when it applies.

To me "blue" feels like the typical bundled stylus, a bit skittery on the glossy displays; it looks like it's made out of a different plastic. Soft is closest to the feel of the Microsoft Surface Pen -- it's not as rubbery and I like it better. Medium comes in the stylus and swapping the nibs is easy. 

The most annoying part of using it is the Bluetooth pairing, which typically takes me a few tries; for switching between connection types or entering Bluetooth pairing mode, it seems like you need to hold down the buttons just a smidge longer than the instruction dictate. Once it's paired it quickly reconnects, though. 

As before, you don't need any special drivers, but that also means no battery-level icon in the system tray. (If you don't know which protocol your laptop uses, just try them both.)

There are far more devices that don't support tilt than do, most of which are Microsoft Surfaces -- check Wacom's compatibility list to see if your device is capable -- as well as the LG Gram 2-in-1. I tried it on the Surface Studio 2 and it performed at least as well as the Surface Pen for tilt and pressure detection, parallax and latency. All of those will vary depending upon the system and the software you use, however.

It's very nice for note-taking as well, which is also bolstered by the tilt support because of the way we hold pens. I always find myself accidentally hitting the buttons on the barrel, though (which is more likely my problem than Wacom's).

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