Sunday
Mar042012

Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch Graphics Tablet Review

The Bamboo Pen & Touch for Mac and PC is radically different to anything else I have seen on the market. It has all the functionality of a drawing tablet alongside the ability for it to understand your fingers essentially turning it into a trackpad. 

The design is razor slim and practically weightless but at the same time the grip given on a desk is very strong with four rubber feet attached to the bottom. The overall construction is very solid and resilient, making it perfect to take on your travels. The four buttons have a textured feel to help you find them when not looking but it also adds to the sleek design of the unit. One colour is available being black but it does have a lime green underneath and this translates to the pen/ stylus which is all black except for the subtle artificial lime green clicker on top. 

Making your Mac or PC talk to the Bamboo Pen & Touch is relatively easy. I found the Mac much easier to set the tablet up on though. My iMac running 10.7 Lion understood the tablet immediately when I plugged it in via USB but Apps like Pixel Mator and Photoshop didn’t work all that great so I downloaded the Bamboo Software and then everything worked as it was supposed to. Windows didn’t even acknowledge the Bamboo when I plugged it in, so I downloaded the Bamboo Software. I restarted twice and then it worked. Both platforms using Photoshop were working identically with the Pen & Touch.

Drawing in Apps like Photoshop and Pixel Mator is very pleasant. The pen for one thing has a hard rubber like grip and feels very nice to hold in the hand. Also when pressing the pen up against the tablet it just glides effortlessly along. So what does this all mean onscreen. Well it feels like and translates well enough to as if you are putting pen to paper. The harder you press the pen against the tablet the denser your pens drawing becomes and the less pressure you apply the lighter it becomes. Also the speed of your pen movement is tracked spot on. 

Of course when drawing in one of these Apps you don’t want to be drawing in the bottom right hand corner and go to left by drawing all the way there. You can take the nib of the pen off the tablet and if you keep the pen hovering close enough to the tablets surface without touching it will move the cursor like a mouse. Four buttons are positioned on top, two for left and right and another triggers the touch feature on & off. The fourth button was redundant to do anything on my Bamboo so I assigned it to trigger Expose on the Mac, you can re assign all the buttons to do whatever you’d like. Right click can also be triggered by the pen from pressing the integrated button on it’s side 

If you were considering purchasing the Apple Magic Trackpad, maybe the Bamboo Pen and Touch is a better option for you? As I just mentioned if you press the button to turn on the touch functionality you can use your tablet as a trackpad. And it’s not just a typical old school trackpad but a multi touch trackpad. On the mac you can swipe between spaces, trigger Expose and Dashboard, you can pinch to zoom and rotate pictures & photos. All the multi touch goodness works extremely well. However it doesn’t yet work in games bought from the Mac App Store.

The Mac has a few little bonuses integrated into the OS X System for tablets. You can write words and sentences and have them translated into text within any text input field. This works quite well but gets increasingly intelligent and begins to understand your handwriting the more you use it. My handwriting is far slower than typing so this is kind of a gimmick for me personally but is still very cool to show people. You can also highlight and edit text with the pen so perhaps some could integrate that functionality into their usage. 

Our unit uses a lithium battery that is inserted beneath because it’s had the Bamboo Graphics Tablet Wireless Accessory Kit added. The accessory kit includes the battery, a USB wireless receiver and another wireless receiver which plugs into the tablet. Then you insert the software disc and install all appropriate drivers. Having the wireless ability is so much better than having the USB cable annoyingly sitting on your desk. You can now freely draw in you lap or anywhere on your desk without the need to worry about how much cable you have left before your computer falls off. The range is 10+ metres and the battery lasts for around 7-8 hours. To recharge you can just plug the USB cable in, plus you can still use your tablet when this is happening.

Having both touch functionality and pen input allows the Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch Tablet to scribble all over it’s competition.

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