Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch

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Back when Wacom released the Cintiq Series, they all had touch sensitive input areas.  I used the Wacom Cintiq 20wsx for a year or so and always thought to myself, "It'd be really nice if they just put touch functioning onto the screen as well."  While the latest addition to the Wacom family hasn't done that just yet, they did release a new Bamboo line that incorporates touch enabled pen tablets.

Bamboo Family

The new line includes 5 Bamboo tablets, each with their own function and capabilities:

Bamboo Touch (touch-only)

Bamboo Pen (Pen-only)

Bamboo Pen and Touch (pen and touch)

Bamboo Craft (pen and touch)

Bamboo Fun (pen and touch)

I needed a solution for when I travel or need to do work when I'm mobile and not at my desktop.  I was never a fan of the Bamboo series due to the lack of sensitivity that my Cintiq or Intuos 4 had. (512 VS 2,048 pressure levels)  I was looking at getting the smaller Intuos 4, but couldn’t justify paying over 200.  When Wacom announced the new Bamboo series, I was sold.  It seemed like the perfect solution to what I needed.  The day they went on sale, I had to get one.  I placed my order for the Bamboo Pen and Touch and eagerly awaited the solution to all my problems.  Yes, ALL of them.

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But is it a powerful graphics tablet that could keep up with the functionality of my Intuos 4?

Before I go on with the review, I'll explain why I chose the Bamboo Pen and Touch model out of the 5 that have been released.  I didn't like the grey/white style of the Bamboo Fun/Bamboo Craft.  I didn't want to purchase the tablet that just did touch.  I didn't need an oversized track pad when my Macbook’s track pad works just fine.  But, the Pen and touch allows me to do my pen work, and do multi-touch zooms and pans without having to use the keyboard shortcuts.  Note: none of the new bamboo models include a mouse anymore, but this isn't a deal killer at all.

When I opened the box up, my first thought was, "Wow, this is small!  I love it, but is it TOO small?"  I do the majority on my work on the large Intous4, which has an active pen area of 12.8 x 8 inches.  The Bamboo Pen and Touch has an active area of 6 x 3.5" Difference in size below:

bamboo comparison

The feel is pretty rugged, and thin!  I'm never a fan of hi gloss because of how magnetic fingerprints are to it, so I was disappointed to see the part that would get touched the most by my fingers was saturated with a hi gloss coating.  The pen stores in a little nylon loop on the side of the tablet.  At first I thought it looked cheap, but now I see the value and practicality of it. I plugged it in, installed the software, and started putting it through the tests.  I should note that the included bundled software includes Corel Painter Essentials, Adobe Photoshop Elements, and Nik Color Efex.  It also comes with 3 spare pen nib replacements.

First up, the track pad:

My experience with the multi-touch was hit or miss.  While I did enjoy the zoom in/out function and the pan feature, I found myself frustrated with unintentional clicks and erratic sensitivity.  The touch pad is not touch sensitive; so don't plan on doing any finger painting in Corel Paint and having it look true to life. Unfortunately, I still found myself reaching up and using the track pad on my laptop instead of using the finger gestures on the Bamboo tablet.  In the video review, you can see what I'm referring to.  The light turns orange when it registers fingers, and turns a shade softer of the white when it registers a pen.  This allows you to do work with the pen and not worry that your hand will accidently trigger gesture movements.

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I've included a list below that outlines the touch gestures for the Bamboo:

BambooGestures

Navigate - Drag one finger along the tablet's active area.

Click or Select - Move the cursor to the item you want to click or select, then tap the tablet with one finger.

Double click - Move the cursor to the item you want to click or select, then tap the tablet twice in quick succession.

Right click - Touching the tablet with two fingers placed slightly apart invokes a right click action. This can also be achieved by touching a second finger to the tablet while one finger is already on the tablet.

Forward and Back - Touch two fingers to the tablet and flick left for back, or right for forward.

Scroll - You can scroll by moving two fingers placed slightly apart. Move your two fingers up or down to scroll vertically, and left or right to scroll horizontally. To scroll long distances, flick your two fingers quickly, and the document will continue scrolling for a time after you lift your fingers. To stop scrolling at any time, just touch the tablet surface.

Select and Drag - Move the cursor to the item you want to move, then tap to select it, and quickly touch the tablet again and drag the item to where you want it, then lift your finger to release.

Zoom - A pinch and spread gesture lets you zoom in and out. Touching two fingers to the tablet: spread your fingers apart to zoom in, and pinch them together to zoom out.

Rotate - Place two fingers on the tablet and rotate them in the direction you wish to rotate the image.

The Pen:

The pen has a really good feel.  It's a little bit slimmer than the Intous pen, but has an overall good feel.  I've set up the two side buttons to be the left and right click buttons that I would usually use on a mouse.  The eraser on the top is nice, but I hardly ever use it anyway.  Much easier to press E in Photoshop then flip the pen around :)

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Pen on tablet:

This is where I needed the Pen and Touch to excel.  And it does.  The active area is perfect.  It's a little oversensitive and I found myself trying to do longer movements.  The coating on the tablet is a little more textures than the Intous4.  But it's not a bad thing.  It's like going from sketching on a piece of paper to cardstock.  As I said before, the pen stores in the nifty red nylon tag on the edge of the tablet.  Pretty cool.  No more loose pen when I have to take a tablet with me.

38afe65ec239b07797d10f07a9cd5462_7Tablet Buttons (Express Keys):

In the Intuos line, you can customize the express keys according to application.  When I'm working in Photoshop, the keys change to what I set them to, and will completely change when I go into Lightroom.  The Pan and Touch has 4 Express keys, and they are not application map able.  I was extremely disappointed in this.  I set my express keys to keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop, and have a completely different set of shortcuts that I use in different programs.  Needless to say, this makes the express keys null when I move about programs.  This isn't a deal killer (although it got pretty close) since when I'm using this, I'm on my laptop and the keyboard isn't terribly far away.

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Overall:

The Bamboo Pen and Touch is a great tablet at a great price.  While I don't see anyone "upgrading" from their Intuos or Cintiq series, this is a great beginner tablet and has some functionality for experienced tablet users.  The upgraded sensitivity levels and multi-touch functionality is a welcome change.  The inability to map express keys to programs is a severe disappointment and might turn some designers off.  I hope they'll release a software update that will allow that functionality in the future.

Tutorials/ReviewsMerek Davis