Pros: Multi Touch support. Sturdy and attractive design. Excellent software.
Cons: A bit sensitive when multi-touch is enabled; hand gets in the way.
by Chris Tofteberg, AAUG Member
Wacom has been in the tablet business for many years now, and their products continue to evolve and improve. The Bamboo Fun is just one example, and an excellent one at that.
I’ve always appreciated good packaging; most Mac fans do. I’ve always thought that if the manufacturer puts that much thought into packaging, then the package itself must be great. The Bamboo Fun comes packaged almost like a Macbook or iPhone or iPod, just as pleasant and fun to open. Sometimes unboxing is almost as satisfying as using what is in the box.
In the box is the Bamboo tablet, pen, software, and extra parts for the pen should the stylus need them. The tablet is very thin at around 1/4 inch. The silver color makes it a natural accompaniment to my Macbook Pro. Instructions are provided for installing the Bamboo, but the process is pretty straight forward. It just needs a driver. The software also installs a Preference pane for the Bamboo as well as an Ink preference pane. Ink takes care of handwriting recognition while the Bamboo pane provides full customization of the tablet and four buttons that are located off to the side of the active area of the tablet. The tablet itself plugs into your Mac (or PC) via USB.
About the software: In addition to the Bamboo software, Wacom includes full copies of Photoshop Elements 6 (7 for Windows users), Corel Painter Essentials 4 and Nik Color Efex Pro 3. Do the math and you’ll see that the software alone is worth the price. It’s almost like getting the Bamboo free!
While most people think of tablets like Wacom has as being accessories for photogs, general users should consider the Bamboo. Wacom has purposely widened their product line to capture customers ranging from professional photographers to computer newbies. The Bamboo somewhat falls into the latter category, although it is a fully functional product with advanced features that many users won’t even tap into.
So let’s talk about features. Wacom has added support for Multi Touch, which makes the Bamboo function not only as a tablet but as a mouse. You can turn the Multi Touch feature off if you desire to use the unit as a tablet only. Because the active area of the tablet is rather large, I did find that my palm would occasionally indicate gestures or movements that I didn’t intend. That’s more of a user issue than a design issue. The Bamboo works with Ink to support handwriting recognition. I have horrible handwriting, but the character recognition worked pretty well in Ink.
The stylus is comfortable and fortunately requires no batteries. In addition to the tip and the eraser ends, there are two customizable buttons toward where your index finger rests. I appreciate the flexibility in which button does what; that really helps a user make the most of the product. If you are a heavy Photoshop user, you might customize the buttons to capitalize on that. If you’re a casual computer user, you might customize the stylus another way.
An interesting prospect is replacing your mouse with the Bamboo. While the form factor is clearly different, the Bamboo works perfectly as a mouse. In fact, you can customize settings in the Bamboo Preference pane to function as a pen or a mouse, although I keep mine in pen mode as it works perfectly fine as a mouse in that mode. The mouse mode just makes the Bamboo act more like a traditional mouse in terms of clicking and positioning on the screen. The added Multi Touch makes the Bamboo work just like a mouse with just a slight learning curve. I keep my mouse handy, but I do find myself using the Bamboo and my mouse interchangeably. Certainly in Photoshop I am using the Bamboo, but just reading email or browsing the internet, the mouse is slightly more familiar. That may change as I use the Bamboo more.
The Bamboo Fun has become an always-plugged-in accessory on my Macbook. I am by no means a hardcore photographer or Photoshop user, but I’ve found that the Bamboo Fun does so much more than just edit photos. The Bamboo Fun is extremely easy to use and would be at home in any users workflow. If you’re looking for an alternative to your mouse or an input device with more accuracy, consider the Bamboo Fun.
Conflict of interest disclosure: The manufacturer provided a free review unit for the purpose of this review.