The tablet Sonic Screwdriver?
Sometimes I get sent products to review that I personally would never use, and when I do it can be really hard to get excited and be objective.
Those that know me will know that I rarely hand-write anything due to a somewhat damaged thumb. They also know that on any given day my tablet screen is about as dirty as the plexiglass at a chimp enclosure, because I can’t really use a stylus that well either.
So perhaps I’m not the best person to be reviewing a product who’s two primary selling points are as a pen and a tablet stylus. Nevermind.
As a pen
As a writing implement the Tracer Deluxe handles quite well, even for those with a rather sluggish Pollex. The pen shaft itself is made from machined aluminium, so is quite weighty when compared to a standard Biro pen. Inside the casing are two sealed, replaceable nibs/cartridges, one black and one red. Twisting the shaft one way or another will bring one of the nibs in to use, and show a coloured indicator at the side of the casing so that you know what colour you’re about to write in.
I quite like this feature, school teachers might even love it if it means they’ve only got to carry around one pen with them.
The writing action itself is fine, it’s definitely on par with mass produced pens like a Bic, but it doesn’t feel quite as smooth as a more expensive offering from the likes of Parker. Unlike a Bic, I’ve been using this pen for several weeks without any issues with the ball sticking or the ink drying up, so that’s a plus.
You also get a sturdy feeling clip on the side of the casing for securing the pen to a lanyard or shirt pocket. In practice I’ve found that it holds the pen securely, even when I’m crawling around under desks.
As a stylus
At the other end of the pen is a stylus for interacting with capacitive screens on smart phones and tablets. It works as well as any other similar stylus out there, but the weight of the pen and the presence of that retaining clip mean that some users (yo) might struggle to use it for extended periods of time. That being said, the feel of the aluminium shaft is certainly more pleasant than that of a plastic stylus, and it’s less prone to slippage as well.
Slide off the stylus part of the Tracer Deluxe and you’ll find a handy watchmakers screwdriver and a SIM card removal tool. Both are really cool additions, but I question their actual real world uses. The screwdriver is a Philips head, but a lot of mobile devices come with specific security screws which require a certain screwdriver. I also found the SIM removal tool to be too thick for a Nexus 4 and iPhone’s SIM trays, it might be useful for reset buttons and such, though. That being said, both feel very strong and sturdy, and should serve you well if they suit your particular device.
Would I buy this product? No, but that’s more about my aversion to hand writing and styluses rather than a reflection of this product. It’s very rare that I see anyone writing significant amounts of text, or using a stylus on their touch screen devices, but for those that do this could be a very useful device.
The writing action is on par with similar bespoke pens in the £15-20 range, and the fact that it’s dual colour is a major plus for anyone who has to annotate or grade anybody else’s text.
The addition of the stylus and the mobile device tools is a novel one, but I question just how useful either will be in a real world scenario. In a sense, the Tracer Deluxe is catering for a very select market; those that need to write in two colours, use a stylus and need momentary access to a SIM removal tool and screwdriver.
As a device, I can’t really fault it. It’s well built, writes well and functions adequately as a stylus. But, this definitely feels like a product that would be bought as a gift for someone, rather than being used by the purchaser.