Home > Categories > Computer Hardware > Graphic and Writing Tablets > Wacom Bamboo review
• Bamboo's award winning design was conceived to make your experience as natural as using an ordinary pen. The ergonomic shape of the pen and smooth curves of the tablet will help say goodbye to sore hands and fingers that accompany extended use of a PC mouse. And, with six fully programmable buttons on the tablet and pen, Bamboo puts a wealth of commands at your finger tips.
• Up to 11 customizable settings for the 4 ExpressKeys. Move back and forward through presentation slides or web pages, bring up the desktop, flip through applications, set your own keyboard shortcuts, open specific applications and more.
• High resolution A6-sized tablet active area provides outstanding accuracy. The tablet surface, in combination with the pen tip, simulates the feel of real paper.
• The Bamboo Control Panel, along with adjusting button settings, will allow you to adjust the pressure sensitivity of the pen tip to 7 different levels from soft to firm. Use a softer setting for a lighter pen touch.
• Tablet Size: 200 x 186 x 10.7 mm (Width x Depth x Height)
• Tablet Weight: 370 g
• Tablet Color: Glossy and matte black
• Active Area Size: 147.6 x 92.3 mm (A6 size)
• Resolution: 2540 lpi
• Report Rate: 133 pps
• ExpressKeys: 4 programmable
• Interface: USB port
• Cable Length: 1.5 m USB cable
• Pressure levels: 512 levels
• Grip: Durable rubber grip
• Side switches (pen buttons): 2 side switches
• Eraser: 1 eraser
• PC: Windows ® 2000, XP or Vista including 64-bit editions, IBM-compatible PC (Pentium 200 or higher), 64 MB RAM, available USB port, 24-bit color display (800 x 600 or greater), CD-ROM drive
• Macintosh ®: Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later, Intel ® or PowerPC ® Processor, 128 MB RAM, available USB port, 24-bit color display (800 x 600 or greater), CD-ROM drive
*bundled software system requirements may differ
• Bamboo tablet
• Bamboo pen
• pen stand
• detachable USB cable
• driver CD-ROM (includes PDF user manual and tutorial)
• quick start guide
• JustWrite Office 4.4 (Windows XP/2000 only)
• IMDisguise Pro (Windows only)
Despite my best efforts, I have all the drawing ability of an ambidextrous aquatic lifeform... I can't draw a freehanded circle if it meant saving a life... but I tell you this, one of these would at least allow me to practice in a way that suits my style best... digitally. Better than a pen and paper, one of these is a great way for someone who *can* draw to get their artwork off the cellulose and into the machine without the need for a scanner. And how would one accomplish this, you may ask? Simple... and it's all to do with induction. Without going into the technicalities of it all (which is good, because I really don't understand a fair chunk of it) the surface of the tablet isn't actually the key to this device... it's the pen. Place your masterpiece over the tablet's working surface and 'draw' over the outlines, and you'll find your artwork automagically appearing in your favourite drawing application. With the industry basically fully behind the leading brands, you're probably aiming for Photoshop.
On the back of Vista's 'handwriting recognition' and assorted spin-off toys such as the virtual stickynotes and digital inking, this tablet is Wacom's bid to make inroads into the consumer market, and step out of the limited and restrictive 'commercial artist' market that has defined them for so long. A low-cost tablet with style and an easy interface is something that is becoming more attractive, with newer software making the creative process more accessible to a wider range of emerging young talent.
I'll start with the pen, as that will be your 'closest' link to the device. Not as stylish or comfortable as that from the Cintiq, this is still a good pen. Roughly the same size and shape as a standard biro, it's perfectly suited for us Kiwis, being all-black. You still have the kinda-rubber coating along most of it's length, giving anyone an excellent grip no matter your pen-holding style. As usual, you have the two left-click and right-click buttons right under your index finger (though I prefer to roll the pen slightly and place them under my thumb, for easier access) and the back-end still has the 'eraser' button, though I found this one a little less functionally useful, as Photoshop CS4 didn't want to select this as 'eraser' automatically, instead treating it as a clone of the tip, drawing more onscreen scribbles instead of rubbing them out. This could simply be a software incompatibility though, as the supplied drivers are far from being as up-to-date as CS4 itself. Pays to check the Wacom download page for updated drivers methinks. With only 512 levels of pressure sensitivity, you'll find the pen 'steps' your brushes a little more, but from playing with many other units, I have founbd that my hand can really only apply about 64 steps of pressure anyway, so it's no biggie to me. A professional artist will undoubtedly have a more controlled hand... but then, this unit isn't really designed for the professional market. Us beginners will be more than adequateloy served by a mere 512. And of course, thanks to current-induction technology, the pen doesn't require batteries, so will never run out of juice right in the middle of your creative urges.
The tablet itself is next. At the basic level, it's an almost-square piece of black plastic style about 20cm a side and rising a majestic 10mm off the tabletop. The active pad is about the size of a normal piece of paper folded into quarters, aka A6, and located horizontally just below center, leaving you a bottom edge of about 3cm to act as wrist-rest area. For those with about-average hands, this is a perfect placement, as the pen will easily reach right to all four edges of the pad without any major wrist-flexing. The active pad itself will report 133 positions-per-second, which means that you won't suffer 'jumpies' as it tries to catch up with you. Even with some serious speed-moving, I wasn't able to make it 'jump' the cursor, so I have to assume that somewhere inside this is a psychic demon with the ability to predict where I am about to move to, so it starts rerouting the cursor smoothly!
One of the biggest drawbacks to the tablets previously attempting to gain support in the consumer market was the navigation aspects. Having to find that fine line down the edge of the tablet's active pad to grab scrollbars was a relative nightmare. Too far, and you weren't grabbing anything, not far enough and you were scribbling in the margins. The Bamboo has come out with a real market-beater to address this issue. Along the top edge of the elegantly-styled tablet, above the active pad, is your control panel. With four blue-glowing control keys and a circular scroll-pad, you have a basic control interface. When correctly configured, scrolling is as easy as running your finger up and down the center of the scroll-pad. Page zooming is also built-in: clockwise to enlarge page, anti-clockwise to zoom out. Your four buttons are pre-configured for Plug-n-Go operation: the top two are equivalent to your web-browser's previous/next page buttons. Under those are two 'fumction' keys, marked FN1 and FN2. FN1 defaults to "Show Desktop", where it minimises all applications and takes you back to a blank desktop, great for those of us who really push our system's multi-taksing abilities to the limit. FN2 defaults to "Task Switcher", otherwise accessed by the Alt-TAB key-combo. If you were smart and installed a TaskSwitcher replacement from either Microsoft or a third-party developer, you'll get that firing up instead. Because it is only one button instead of the two-button combo, it will take a little getting used to. Normally, you keep the switcher active by keeping the Alt key pressed, and releasing both buttons actions your choice... with this, there is an action delay, meaning repeated tapping of the FN2 button cycles through the open apps, and after a half-second of no tapping, whichever one is currently highlighted is the task you are taken to. As I said... a little practice to get this one 'instinctive'.
The downside of this control panel... though you can assign custom functions to the buttons, you can't use any key-combo that required the Ctrl or Alt keys (other than task-switcher of course). This can seriously hamper some possibilities, and may need to be addressed by Wacom in a (not too distant) future software update. Along with providing a decent manual, and a better configuration utility... both of which I found to be quite annoyingly sparce.
As for operability... though this unit *is* Mac-compatible, it seems to be heavily biased towards a Windows O/S, with some particular features and configurations definitely Vista-oriented.
Overall, a very nice offering to the lower-end market. Though it is not by any means the cheapest, the old addage applies as ever: "You get what you pay for, so beware the bargain price!" With a decently-placed pricetag, this unit gives you great quality for a fair price, and the reassurance of a quality brand backing it. However, a manufacturing issue early in the run had many units giving off a low but constant buzzing-hum. If you are unfortunate enough to get one of these units, don't worry. Wacom have known about the issue and addressed it at the manufacturing level. Simply take it back to your retailer and ask for a replacement, which I strongly suggest you test in-store. The unit I got suffered from this fault, however the assistance of a sympathetic local retailer soon had me enjoying buzz-free productivity in no time. My only gripe is the pen-stand. Hollow, plastic, and just too darned easy to knock over if you stand the pen upright in it. A bit of weight in the bottom would have been a great addition, in my mind.
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