Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet

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As Wacom attempts to expand its fanbase of designers and artists into the regular consumer space with the recently launched Bamboo, one question springs to mind: does the Bamboo have what it takes to replace the mouse? The makers claim it ‘reinvents the pen for the 21st century', but there are grounds for scepticism.

Compared to usual tablet standards, the bamboo is relatively small in size - 200 x 186 x 10.7mm - making it easy to carry around but not easy when it comes to writing or manipulating shapes when drawing. After installing the accompanying CD and plugging in the USB cable, you're ready to go. Open up a Word document and scribble away. At the beginning however, don't be surprised if you can't get the hang of it, especially if you're not a regular tablet user. One of the aspects that will grab your attention at first is that the Bamboo detects the pen well before it touches the tablet. The tutorial suggests that the pen takes effect around 3mm from the surface of the tablet. Your first attempts will most likely result in huge, clumsy and rather childlike lettering, however, once you take to the device, manipulating your handwriting gets easier.

Your first attempts will most likely result in huge, clumsy and rather childlike lettering, however, once you take to the device, manipulating your handwriting gets easier.

While free handwriting gives you a kick and feels much more liberating, there's a limit to how much you can fit on a piece of paper using this method. It all boils down to what you intend to get out of your Bamboo. Scribbling notes on a computerized sheet of paper rather than on your notepad doesn't seem to make much sense. It's not faster and if anything, you have to go through much more hassle to complete a simple task such as note-taking. That said, however, the scenario is very different when it comes to design. The pen gives designers more control when drawing shapes and much-needed flexibility. Given the small size of the tablet, however, making accurate lengthy pen strokes could prove tricky. After a while though, you'll find that the Bamboo's input area represents the whole display screen. This means that you don't have to scroll to a given area, but rather lift and point, and the cursor will appear.

While the drawing area is not large, it does not lack features. At the top area of the tablet four customisable program keys surround a virtual scroll wheel, dubbed by Wacom as "Touch Ring".

The function of the wheel varies depending on the application in use, but is generally used for either zooming in and out, or scrolling in the style of a wheel mouse.

Whereas the Bamboo operates under Mac OS X, the product was designed taking Windows Vista into consideration. The application suite provided is Windows-only with a series of navigation and shortcut commands available under Vista such as the ability to use Flip3D simply by clicking on the FN2 key on the Bamboo tablet itself.

Giri Rajan from Wacom is very optimistic about the product, and says: "Bamboo unlocks enhanced pen-based features in Microsoft Vista, Office 2007 or Mac OS offering a new way to interact with the computer. Bamboo provides a simpler, more natural way to navigate through information or create documents with greater impact."

Verdict:the Bamboo is ideal for individuals working in the graphics space, but not as useful for business people with very little time on their hands.


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