iPad Stylus Review: Sensu vs. Bamboo pocket

For the past month I’ve been using 2 different styli, the Wacom Bamboo Stylus pocket and the Sensu, with the goal of finding the best one for sketchnoting on my iPad. I wanted something hardy enough to tote from event to event and comfortable enough for drawing in long stretches. It would be an added plus to find one for creating polished digital paintings.

For my comparisons, I used the styli with Procreate and Paper on an iPad 3. Here’s how they stacked up:

Form Factor

Wacom Bamboo Stylus pocket form factor

The Bamboo pocket is touted for its portability. It comes with a removable pen cap that attaches to your iPad via a headphone jack dongle, it can be hung with its pocket clip, and it telescopes from a collapsed length of 3.5″ to an extended length of 4.6″.  The stylus end is a rubber nub seen on many other capacitive tablet styli.  There is also a black comfort grip.

The product packaging is well designed, although it’s a little difficult to extract from its seat. Interestingly it comes with 4 colored rings that can be changed for a personal touch. While this is a nice idea, I can’t imagine there being a strong need to personalize your stylus unless you’re worried it will get lost among a sea of Bamboo pocket users at your next conference.

Bamboo Pocket telescoped to its full length

Aside from the high quality comfort grip, I’m not a huge fan of the Bamboo pocket’s form factor. I find the pocket clip annoying because it bumps against my hand when I draw. The full extended length is still shorter than the average pen, so it feels like I’m holding a stubby Expo marker (and you should know that I have small hands compared to most people I know!). Finally, the headphone-connector-cap is more of a hassle than a convenience; it takes a bit of a tug to uncap the stylus, I can’t listen to music when it’s attached, and if I remove it from the jack to plug in headphones, I can’t cap it to the end of the stylus for safe keeping. I’ve nearly lost the thing a half dozen times.

The Sensu form factor

On the other hand, the Sensu is unassumingly simple.  The packaging is no fussit arrives in a foam sleeve inside a box smaller than the Pocket’s boxand there are no additional accessories.  It looks a little like a silver bullet. On one end it has a rubber nub similar to the one on the Bamboo pocket, and on the other end there is an artist’s brush with capacitive bristles.

When transporting the Sensu, the rubber nub end serves as a cap for the brush end. In its capped state it serves as a simple 4.5″ stylus. To use the brush end, uncap it and slide the rubber nub end into the brush end to create a longer handle (full length is about 7″). After constantly capping and uncapping it for a month, I can say there has been no damage to the metal shell.

Sensu with the brush end capped

Sensu with the brush end exposed

The Sensu’s brush end also has a comfort grip, although it is less substantial than the grip on the Bamboo pocket. The Sensu is well weighted and is very comfortable to use in “brush mode”. It also looks incredibly artsy-coolI’ve gotten a ton of comments when using it.


The nice thing about most iPad styli is that there is no setup time required; just pull out the stylus and start drawing. That said, there are definitely differences in experience between the Bamboo Pocket and the Sensu.

Drawing with the Bamboo pocket

The tip of the Bamboo pocket is a rubber nub, which is a typical element on several iPad styli. It’s cheap, highly durable, and maximizes the touch area for initiating a stroke. On the Bamboo pocket it is roughly the size of a pencil eraser, and after use of over a month I have not experienced any wearing down.

I find drawing with the Bamboo pocket unwieldy. The rubber nub occludes the drawing underneath and I can’t always tell if lines are registering. I also have to exert quite a bit of pressure to make a stroke. I end up spending a lot of time dragging and driving the Pocket around the screen, leading to fatigue and inconsistent or broken stroke lines. This is compounded by the short length of the stylus which makes it harder to hold.

That said, it is pretty handy for drawing text, dots, or small areas of detail.  I wouldn’t use the Pocket for expansive sketches or fills.

This is a video of me drawing with a Bamboo Pocket.

Drawing with the Sensu

The Sensu has two tip options; a rubber nub and a brush tip.

Since the rubber nub tip of the Sensu is almost exactly the same as that on the Bamboo pocket, my drawing experience with it is unfortunately the same: It requires a lot of pressure, creates inconsistent or broken strokes, and is inefficient for large areas or fills.

In stark contrast, drawing with the brush side of the Sensu is a dream. The bristles are capacitive, so it requires little to no pressure to exact a line. You instead use light, sweeping strokes to paint or sketch. This, paired with the more comfortable length of the Sensu, make it feel like a natural artist’s tool (especially for anyone who longs for that feeling of a ball point pen gliding across sketchbook paper).

Sensu bristles are still holding up strong after continued use

The bristles have endured well over the past month. I haven’t seen any splaying and none have fallen out. That said, I would recommend being careful when capping the brush end, as you might accidentally catch some of the bristles under the cap.

I recommend the Sensu for large, loose sketches, paintings, or to quickly fill a large area. Because the bristles tend to create an angled touch point instead of a round one like the rubber nubs, it isn’t as practical for drawing text.

This is a video of me drawing with a Sensu.


The Wacom Bamboo Stylus pocket costs $34.95 on Wacom’s site and comes with accessories such as personalization rings.

The Sensu is in a similar price range. It costs $39.99 on the Sensu site. It is sold with no accessories.

The Winner

The Sensu, hands down. I have to be able to sketch fluidly and en masse, and the Sensu brush affords the smoothest, most reliable drawing experience. It was also the most comfortable form factor (in brush mode), was easy to slide into my pocket when capped, and there were no accessories to keep track of. It is also a great fit for making final paintings in an application like Procreate.