Product Review: Wacom's Bamboo Pen & Touch
I've had the chance to try out one of Wacom's latest tablets in their Bamboo line, specifically the Bamboo Pen & Touch. As the name implies, in addition to pen functionality, the tablet also has the ability for touch input. I found this multi-touch device is certainly capable of improving a digital artist's workflow.
Might as well start with a look at the physical product first. Now, the product itself measures 9.8" x 6.9", with an active area of 4.9" x 3.4". The whole unit is very thin, about one-half inch thick, and really looks great. The tablet connects via USB and can sit on the desktop in either left-hand or right-hand orientation. There are four function buttons, called ExpressKeys, alongside the active pad area, which can be programmed as you wish.
As for the pen, it is very light, but comfortable and easy to work with. It is battery-free and has two-button click functionality, which is in easy range to use, as well as eraser end functionality. And when the pen is not in use, it can be conveniently stowed into a cloth tag attached to the side of the tablet, which I thought was quite nice.
Bundled with the Bamboo Pen & Touch, you get two discs. One of which contains the tablet drivers, including an interactive tutorial that gets installed with the drivers (more on this later). The second disc contains Adobe Elements 7 software, as well as Nik's Color Effects Wacom Edition (a plug-in to Photoshop, basically, which allows image enhancements, such as tonal and temperature effects).
Now, onto configuring the tablet and pen functionality. After installing the drivers, functionality is easily accessed via Control Panel > Bamboo Properties. Here, you can make any adjustments you need for the way you work and what is most comfortable. This includes pen sensitivity, click functionality on the pen itself, as well as programming those four ExpressKeys on the pad. Here, you can also adjust the multi-touch sensitivity of the pad.
Of course, to fully understand and optimally set up functionality, there is that interactive tutorial I mentioned. This tutorial is a fantastic walk-through to the use of the tablet and gets you up and running in no time. I thought this was an excellent feature to be included, and is definitely something you need to best familiarize yourself with the Bamboo's multi-touch features.
Bamboo Pen & Touch In Use
In my time with this tablet, I have tested it with Adobe Photoshop CS5 and Autodesk's Mudbox 2011, as well as common navigational tasks. In all, the response time was excellent, and using the tablet did not cause any issues or slow-downs. I should also note that the thinness of the tablet also is a great contributor to its comfortability in use.
The pen functionality is excellent, with 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity. There is no tilt-sensitivity with this model, however. But, it truly does have a pen-on-paper feel as advertised.
In touch mode, it works well in most navigational tasks. Through gestures you learn in the interactive tutorial, you can also pinch-zoom and rotate images, among other things. However, I couldn't rotate an image in Photoshop, but could do so in Windows Picture Viewer, which I found odd. But, I could pinch-zoom just fine in Photoshop, which is nice.
The tablet can be used in both pen and touch modes together, or you can switch between them (turning one of these modes completely off). You can even learn to use both modes together nicely, if it suits your work. That is to say, you can, for example, choose a tool by touch, and pick up the pen to use that tool. This is the way I found easiest for me.
The Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch is easy to set-up, fairly quick to learn, but mostly pure fun to use. I like how it looks and fits on the desktop, and I like the pen storage fabric loop on the side, which holds the pen perfectly snug. However, it would certainly be nice if Wacom included a protective pouch or case if you might need to port this unit around.
Using a tablet is just plain smart for many reasons, but mainly for a comfortable and easier workflow. This is what you are promised with the Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch, and that is what is delivered. And, of course, with the current economy, the $99.00 (USD) pricetag is absolutely wonderful. Highly recommended.
Each Package Includes:
For more information, please visit the Wacom Website.
Nick C. Sorbin is a digital artist, sculptor, writer, and Managing Editor for Renderosity's Front Page News.
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