Review: Wacom Bamboo Fun
Ian Waugh has fun with a graphics tablet
Bamboo Pen £49.99
Bamboo Touch £59.99
Bamboo Fun Small £89.99
Bamboo Fun Medium £169.99
|We like||Fun! Excellent graphics software included|
|We don't like||Touch not universally useable, Bamboo Medium a little pricey|
|Requirements||XP, Vista, and Windows 7, Mac OS 10.4+|
Most people will be familiar with Wacom, a company that seems to monopolise the graphics tablet market. Its latest models combine pen and multi-touch input, much like the overpriced iPhone, and they're called Bamboo Fun.
The name might suggest a, well, 'fun' device rather than a serious piece of equipment but that would be misleading. You can use the tablets for controlling your computer instead of or as well as the mouse, and they are seriously useful - yes, and fun! - when used with drawing and photo editing software.
The Full Range
There are a total of five models in the new range. Here we're looking at the Bamboo Fun Small (that's the way they say it!) which is 248 x 176mm. The actual working area is only 149 x 91mm but it's surprisingly large enough to offer fair control over a whole screen. The Bamboo Fun Medium is larger at 337 x 223mm. There is not aFun Large yet! The tablets have a 16:10 aspect ratio which is well suited to modern monitors.
Other models include the straightforward Bamboo, the Bamboo Touch which only supports touch input and the Bamboo Pen which only supports Pen input.
All products include Bamboo Scribe which is a handwriting analysis program, and Bamboo Explore, a pen/touch driven browser. The two Fun models also come with Adobe Photoshop Elements and ArtRage. Fun Medium also includes Corel Painter Essentials although we were also able to download this for our Fun Small.
Left or Right
The tablet connects to your PC via USB and can be set to work either left- or right-handed. You can control the mouse pointer and simulate left and right clicks simply with one or two fingers. You can scroll left and right, zoom in and out and spin and rotate images. It takes a little getting used to and it doesn't work with all programs which limits its usefulness. It was fun skipping through photos, though.
The pen doesn't require a battery and has a two-position rocker switch on the side that can be programmed for a range of functions. It defaults to right-click and scroll.
The pen is more intuitive, more like using a mouse. It doesn't have to actually touch the tablet; it will take control of the mouse pointer from up to 16mm away. Tap the tablet to click and tap it twice for a double click. Four buttons on the tablet itself are programmable and can also be used for right-and left-clicking.
It's quite possible, and quickly intuitive, to control the computer with the tablet. If you're not a fan of mice you could well enjoy this.
But the main reason most people consider a graphics tablet is to use with graphics software. If you've tried using the mouse to draw or paint you'll know how difficult, if not impossible, it is.
Using Bamboo Fun opens up a completely new dimension. It feels much more natural, more like actually using a pen. The harder you press, the deeper or wider the line or brush stroke.
It takes a little getting used to, partly because you're looking at the screen and not the 'pencil tip' as you would be if you were drawing on paper and partly because, well, it's not the same as pen or brush on paper. But compared to using a mouse it's fun and liberating.
You can't use touch and pen at the same time - which is probably just as well - so you can rest your hand on the tablet while you draw which does make the process easier and more natural.
But is it Art?
ArtRage is probably the most fun program in the package, enabling you to paint in a vast range of styles. It's certainly an enjoyable program although serious artists will also find a wealth of potential in it, too.
Although Photoshop Elements is a cut-down version of Photoshop, very little has been omitted - you'd probably have to be a pro graphics designer to need the extras - and it's a superbly powerful program for editing digital photos and creating art from scratch.
Elements works brilliantly with the pen. Whether you're a beginner or an accomplished artist, you'll be amazed by the freedom and extra control it gives you over the images.
Given that even Bamboo Small includes the excellent Photoshop Elements and ArtRage, the package is incredibly good value for money even if you don't get Corel Painter Essentials 4 as we did.
Bamboo Fun Medium might seem to be disproportionately priced. If you're into serious art work or editing you may consider the additional working area to be money well spent. However, we didn't feel particularly constrained by Bamboo Small and for a budget graphics tablet, you can't go wrong.