Wacom aims new tablets at the general user. (December 20th, 2007)
Product Manufacturer: Wacom
Price: $79 to $199 US
- Easy installation if only tablet connected. Good tutorials. Bamboo Fun has good software bundle. Good choice of sizes.
- If another tablet drive is installed, may need to do some troubleshooting. Not spill-proof. No travel cover.
It's about time that the reign of The Mouse as the dominant input device is overturned, and who better to do it than Wacom. The new Bamboo Series promises tablets for the masses, employing a textured surface to mimic the pen-and-paper feel for your stylus and to replace the mouse in everyday tasks such as handwriting text, drawing, and even general desktop navigation. The Bamboo branding challenged my initial skepticism, turning out to be somewhat apropos; the instrument's origins reach back to the first bamboo and fur pens in China. Although its sleek look is less than organic, the Bamboo packs the same surprising functionality in a small footprint as it grass namesake.
The BambooAs a creative professional that has long since traded a mouse for a 9" x 12" Wacom Intuos tablet, I was eager to find out if the less than 6" x 4" Bamboo could keep up with its detail-oriented big brother. It did, and rather quickly. I found myself using it with Photoshop on a 15" laptop minutes after install. The tablet was even perceptive enough to maintain accuracy when plugged into a 40" dual monitor setup. Wacom didn't sacrifice performance at all with this very cool everyday user tablet. The Bamboo eases the transition from mouse to tablet by adding features already familiar to the public, such as its iPod-esque touch-scroll and forward and back buttons.
The Bamboo FunThe Bamboo Fun would find itself comfortable in any home with a digital camera, and with its included mouse could easily replace the traditional mouse pad. An easy installation and simple tutorials for tablet novices gives the beginner a solid foundation in which to start. The included software package includes basic graphic editing programs, such as Photoshop Elements, Corel Painter Essentials, and Nik Color Efex Pro, which make the whole package a leg up in the next generation of desktop publishing. This tablet is not only for graphics. The Mac Ink handwriting recognition software had no problem converting my handwriting to text and inserted it right into the word processor.
Room For ImprovementWacom still needs to do a bit of cleaning up to make the transition from mouse to tablet seamless. When I first installed a second tablet driver on one machine I had to comb through some conflicting and confused preferences. New users may become confused, but veteran users can resolve the conflicts with a little logic and trouble-shooting techniques. Physically, the tablet is rather vulnerable to desktop spills, so keep your liquids away from your workspace. I was also surprised to find that with the boasted transportability of both Bamboo products, Wacom only offers a travel bag for the Intuos. A sleeve of some kind would be a nice addition.
The VerdictThe Bamboo tablet's functionality far exceeds the mediocre travel mouse for any laptop-toting professional. Both products have 512 levels of pressure sensitivity, a finger-sensitive touch ring, and four ExpressKeys. The Bamboo had me when I removed its USB cable and it slid snugly beside the laptop in my bag. With its accuracy and transportability, I don't feel handicapped moving between the desk and the conference room.
If you're wondering whether the Bamboo products are worth the price tag, I can say with absolutely with confidence. The Bamboo is 7.88" W x 7.36" D x 0.3" H and is $79, with no software included. The Bamboo Fun comes in two sizes, small and medium, both larger than the Bamboo. The Fun version is also available in Black, Silver, White, and Blue and comes with the complete complement of software and a mouse. The bundle is well worth the $99 and $199 price tag. For the amateur digital photographer or graphic arts hobbyist, the Bamboo Fun introduces a new creative element to the home PC. Overall, with more control and less wrist problems, this is a better solution for home and travel.
Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor