Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wacom's Bamboo Solo Stylus

Wacom's Bamboo series of styluses
Wacom has been the leader in pen-based computer input devices for years, so naturally they have introduced a stylus for capacitive touchscreens, like the iPad's. They've named the line after their smallest drawing tablet, the Bamboo. I'm evaluating the Bamboo Solo, MSRP $29.95.

I received the Bamboo Solo stylus gratis from Wacom for the purpose of evaluating it for use by children, particularly special needs children. I evaluated it concurrently with the Studio Neat Cosmonaut (which you can read about in it's own post).

With other, cheaper styluses I've let the kids use in the past (the next post will be about those), the rubber tip always comes off and is ruined. Typically within a couple of days. The Bamboo's rubber tip cap is secured by a cone that screws on the end, just like on a pen. When you remove it, rubber tip is exposed. It seems quite secure. To replace, you pull the old one off and push the new one on. Replacement "nibs" are $4.95 for a pack of three. In addition to the "soft" nib that is included with the Bamboo stylus, you can also purchase "firm" nibs. They sent me a replacement pack of the standard nibs, but not the firm ones so I'm unable to describe them.

My initial impression is that it's very pen-like, which is what you would expect, but you would be surprised at how little like a pen many cheaper styluses feel. It's a little shorter than a standard pen, 120.8mm. The barrel's diameter measures 9mm. According to Wikipedia, the standard pencil diameter is 6mm-7mm and it's length is 190mm. It looks like a pen, it feels like a pen. That's good because our kiddos are practicing to be able to write, draw and color with real pens and pencils.

The outside of tip of the stylus is rubber, which I am not usually a fan of. I've been looking for a good stylus that uses something other than rubber for a tip. I don't like when a stylus has that rubbery feeling when dragging a rubber tip across an iPad screen, like it's gripping the glass. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly the Bamboo glided. There is, however, a caution in the very brief  "Quick start guide" included in the package that notes, "Choking hazard, keep away from children." So I would exercise caution if your kid is a chewer (which Joseph certainly is).

Heft: Great. It doesn't feel like you're holding a toy. It has the weight and balance of a nice pen.

Chewability: Low. It's almost all metal, except for the tip. If the tip was chewed upon it probably would come off. The first tip was chewed upon and came off quickly. Not so good for oral stimmers. The non-writing end also has a little metal cap that twists off so you can remove the pocket clip. This can get lost of swallowed if fidgeted with.

Adaptability: Good. It's close enough to the standard diameter of a writing tool that adaptive devices can be used with it.

In a Nutshell: Great design, very much like a traditional writing tool. A good pick when working on more fine pen and pencil skills. I'd choose this one for handwriting practice in particular. An excellent choice as long as your child is not a chewer like mine is. :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

The 'Cosmonaut' stylus from Studio Neat

There are loads of choices when it comes to finding a stylus for your iPad or other tablet device. So of course, there are loads of reviews of styluses out there. But all the reviews I found were meant to help adults choose a stylus for themselves. Kids have different needs when it comes to choosing things like styluses, so I'm attempting to review some of the options out there.

If you're looking for a stylus for your child, consult with their occupational therapist or teacher to see what shape you should be looking for, short, long, fat, thin, etc

Don't miss my next post, about Wacom's Bamboo Solo stylus.

The Cosmonaut by Studio Neat
MSRP $25

The first stylus I received gratis from Studio Neat, which they've named the Cosmonaut. It's fatter and shorter than the typical pen or pencil that many styluses are modeled after.The barrel is rubberized from end to end and the conical rubber tip is separate from the rubberized barrel. Though I've not had problems with the cover of the tip coming off, it is a concern in the long run as the Cosmonaut's texture invites gnawing from my youngest two. But I think that activity is naturally directed at the opposite end.

The Cosmonaut's monolithic design make it pretty simple to describe. It's two distinctive features are it's size, which is comparable to a dry-erase marker, and it's rubberized grip. In Joseph's case, the size seems to be more of a hindrance than a help, making it more difficult for him to form the proper tripod grip which he's been working on for a while and is coming along nicely. That's not to say this is a flaw, every kid is going to have their own needs. So if your child's OT says that wider writing tools would be easier for them to use, then this is a great bonusin their case. I've been informed that the fatter size is better for people tired hands and motor skill deficits.

The rubber that encases the Cosmonaut is the same texture as the outer layer of our OtterBox iPad case. It makes it very easy to grip, which means that it's easy for food and dirt to stick to it, but it wipes off easily.

Chewability: Excellent. If your kid is an oral stimmer like mine, the Cosmonaut is a good choice.

Adaptability: Not so much. It's unique size makes it impossible to use all the little attachments that help build a good tripod grip, but that may not be an issue if this is otherwise a good stylus for your child.

In a Nutshell: Great for oral stimmers, for kiddos with weak grips and fine motor difficulties, and for activities that would normally be done with a marker (coloring, some drawing, etc). I think the durability is the Cosmonaut's strongest feature.