The Wacom Bamboo is a pen driven graphics tablet aimed at the consumer market, but like the professional Intuos product line, really oozes oodles of quality. Straight from the box, you can see that this compact sized tablet is well made and will be a lot more useful than just signing the odd document.
The active area of the Bamboo is just under A5 size, and above the active area are four customisable ExpressKeys, to which you can assign various functions. There is also a rather cool looking TouchRing for zooming into and scrolling around documents. The supplied pen offers 512 levels of pressure sensitivity, has a double switch rocker button and an eraser tip.
Where the Intuos tablet from Wacom is aimed at the graphic design professional, the Bamboo has been designed with the regular consumer in mind. Offering up the extra features for ease of navigation, I really wanted to see if I could get used to using the Bamboo instead of my mouse. To start off with it was tricky, the main adjustment is in the exact positioning of screen pointer. With a mouse you move your pointer around the screen, if you run out of room a quick reposition of the mouse and off you go again. With the Bamboo, the active area is mapped to directly relate to your screen real estate. You put the pen in the top left of the tablet area and that is where your pointer goes on your desktop. Of note; if you are running dual screens, you can restrict the Bamboo to the work area of just one screen or have it mapped across your dual screen area.
So navigating your desktop is very quick and precise. The ExpressKeys, which are lit up in blue when your Bamboo is connected, also help a great deal. Within the Pen Tablet system preference pane (on Mac OS X) you can assign each of the four buttons to different actions, keystrokes, modifiers, or even to launch certain applications. The top two buttons have a default assignment of Back and Forward, so this is really handy for surfing and general use. The TouchRing is also pretty neat, if you move your finger in a circular motion on it, you zoom in and out of your current application. Tapping to the top and bottom of the area scrolls you up and down. I found this really neat and it soon became a very fast way of navigating my documents.
Apart from general day-to-day use for common tasks, I wanted to try the Bamboo out in PhotoShop and Illustrator. Whilst not giving the work area of a larger Intuos tablet, the Bamboo performed really well. The pressure sensitivity allowed me to be really creative in PhotoShop and the accurate mapping allowed me to manually trace something in Illustrator. So for the occasional bit of professional work the Bamboo really does hold its own.
For under £70 you get a superb piece of kit, quite how Wacom do it for this price baffles me, you even get a two year warranty, which in my mind adds value. If you don't spend all your time in PhotoShop, but want to give those wrists a rest from constant mouse use, then give this tablet a try. The Bamboo is well made, and very user friendly indeed. I really hope my review model does not have to be sent back, otherwise the credit card will have to come out to play.