Bamboo Pen and Touch TabletManufacturer:
WacomMSRP: $100 Lowest Historical Price: $50 HistoryIntroduction
Two years after the introduction of its Bamboo line of entry-level pen tablets, Wacom has released redesigned followups now featuring multitouch functionality. Although it was by no means a mouse replacement, I was satisfied with the original Bamboo pen tablet
. So I took the Bamboo Pen and Touch Tablet for a spin to see if the new touch capabilities were a game-changer or if it was more of the same old, same old.Unboxing and First Impressions
Wacom likes to enhance the customer experience with slick packaging, Ã la Apple. A cover inside the box greets you with "Welcome to your Bamboo experience" in 12 languages. In addition to the tablet, pen, and driver CD, the box includes worthwhile pack-ins like Adobe Elements 6 (Mac) / 7 (Windows). Newer versions have been released, but it's still a great value for those who don't own it. You'll also find three extra pen nibs, which is not insignificant if you're a heavy pen user.Design and Specs
Measuring 9.8" horizontally by 6.9" vertically, the new Bamboo is rectangular rather than square like the original version. This makes sense for widescreen displays, but since the Bamboo can only be positioned horizontally, it hogs up a lot of room on the keyboard tray or desk if you already have a keyboard with a numeric keypad and a mouse. Wacom suggests placing the tablet below the keyboard which I found awkward. Your best bet is try out different arrangements, but the narrower, squarer shape of the previous Bamboo tablet made it a better fit on my desk.
Two minor quibbles. One, the elegant pen stand from the original version is now gone, replaced by a useless fabric pen holder attached to the side of the tablet. Two, the tablet features a bright LED status light that changes from white in touch mode to amber in pen mode, but you can't turn it off.
The tablet's active area is a relatively small 4.9" x 3.4" compared to the previous version's pen surface which was 5.8" x 3.7". The resolution is 2540 lpi with a pressure sensitivity of 1024 levels. There are four ExpressKeys which can be positioned on the left side (for righties) or right side (for lefties), and the keys are customizable for different functions like right clicking, Show Desktop, ExposÃ© (for Mac), etc.Review
The installation disc includes Windows/Mac drivers, plus a helpful tutorial for anyone new to using the pen and/or multitouch features. For those not experienced with pen tablets, there is a learning curve. While a pen tablet is typically thought of for graphics work, it's also a pretty efficient way to get around on the computer and stave off repetitive stress injuries.
The best thing about the pen, especially if you have a large screen or multiple monitors, is that you direct the cursor by moving the pen about a half-inch over the tablet surface. It'll feel like you're flying around the desktop compared to the slow slog of a mouse. Or you can simply lift the pen away from the tablet and then tap another spot on the active area that corresponds to where you want to be on your computer desktop. After a while, knowing where specific points on the tablet correspond to on the desktop becomes second nature.
The pen itself has also changed from the previous version. It's slightly lighter, but still features the two customizable thumb buttons. I found drawing, writing, and doing photo work like cropping or retouching to be very easy with the pen, and its accuracy should be satisfactory for all but the most advanced users.
Now on to the multitouch features. Unfortunately, this is the major disappointment of the new Bamboo. The touch functions are frustratingly hit or miss. For example, two-finger scrolling is neither fast nor responsive. Over time, the scrolling has gotten easier, but it's still quirky. Swipe gestures (e.g. going forwards/backwards in a browser) often register as other commands or nothing at all. Another disappointment is that "multitouch" is actually restricted to two fingers. Perhaps improvements will come with updated drivers, but as it stands now, the Bamboo's touch functions fall below expectations.Conclusion
The Bamboo Pen & Touch Tablet is not the answer to those seeking a mouse replacement. If you still want to upgrade your old Bamboo tablet, keep in mind the pen features are pretty much the same, and the multitouch capabilities are limited and inconsistently executed.Image Gallery