Wacom’s latest graphics tablet is a user- (and even kid-friendly), fun and functional device with enough value-add software to make you turn your PC into a tablet.Wacom has taken its decades of experience in making graphics tablets, taken it out of design industry hands and thrown the technology into the hands of the average consumer with the Bamboo Pen & Touch.
With the wide proliferation of tablets and touchscreen phones before them on the back of tech giants like Apple, the idea of pinch zoom and multi-finger swiping is ubiquitous enough for anyone to jump in and play with the Bamboo. Wacom has taken those outside of this loop of ubiquity into consideration though, and an interactive tutorial that blends audio, text and demonstrated examples quickly kick-starts users into using the product.
What you’ve got is a wide but flat and light tablet that plugs straight into a PC via USB, measuring up to 248 x 176 x 8.5 mm. In the middle of the slate sits a touch-sensitive pad that supports multiple-finger touch for all manner of gesture controls like swiping across pages, navigating web pages, zooming into pictures and the like. There’s also a battery-free stylus for pen control. This pen houses a pressure sensitive nib, a dual-button at the fingertip and an ‘eraser’ backing.
The unit is a quality build that’s light and plastic yet feels rigid and strong. The four ‘ExpressKeys,’ programmable buttons that double-up on functions like clicking, right-clicking and quick-launching apps, are fitted firmly into the tablet, separated in the middle by a context-sensitive LED. Around the edges sits a generally superfluous dark grey border, and icing the aesthetic cake is a red ‘Wacom’ tag that hangs off the edge. It cuts into the sleek, polished black-on-black veneer but stylishly so.
The touchpad sits at a 16:10 format that replicates your computer screen. By this I mean that if you were to touch any corner of the touchpad, the on-screen cursor would immediately pop up on the respective corner of your monitor. And the touchpad is very sensitive, making it perfect for drawing applications, though the touchpad size could have been increased to make it easier, especially since there’s so much room on the device given to blank, grey space.
The clever tech senses when the pen is near the surface, and hovering the pen over the pad still moves the cursor. While the pen is near, finger touch control is deactivated, but once away your fingers can go back to work. Incorporated into the software of the device is multi-touch gesture support for swiping through images, across web pages, back and forth through web history, rotating images, etc. It incorporates into existing operating system touch software like Windows 7 controls. For example, swiping multiple fingers upward on Windows 7 computers brings up the 3D window-select panels of Windows Explorer.
The real value-add comes from the extensive list of software that comes bundled with the device, including Adobe’s photo editing software, Photoshop Elements 9. There’s also the Bamboo Dock which sits on your desktop like a typical widget and holds around 25 preloaded apps, from Flash-like games to utilities, all customised for the Bamboo tablet. More can be downloaded through the Dock or through the attached website, with future apps being developed. For tablet users or anyone with an Android device or iPhone, the layout will be very familiar and welcoming.
There’s also the Ink-Squared Deluxe software that creates a canvas on your desktop. On either a blank canvas or overlaying a transparent layer onto the computer screen, users can draw or take notes on what they see on the screen and save screengrabs. Whether it be drawing a route on Google Maps or circling pictures and links, it’s up to the user in finding the value of this feature depending on what they use it for.
It wouldn’t be practical to use this tablet as a complete mouse replacement, though it does have some very practical applications. And even if you’re using it for fun, there are plenty of thrown in additives to make it worth to buy, whether you’re teaching your children to write or you’re looking to get creative on an affordable graphics tablet.