Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch Review

Tablets are an underrated interface. A lot of people think they are only useful for artists. Most of those people have never tried one. I’ve been using tablets for years and find them great for annotating PDF documents, touching up photos, and making simple diagrams. Recently, Wacom provided me a review unit of their Bamboo Pen & Touch Tablet that I’ve now been using for several months on my iMac.

The Bamboo Pen & Touch offers a 5.8” x 3.6” active area for the pen and a slightly smaller active area for the touch functions. The tablet itself is approximately 10” x 7”. The package also includes a stylus and software discs containing drivers and a software bundle CD that has Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0 for mac (7.0 for Windows) and Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0.
The Bamboo Pen & Touch accepts both stylus and multitouch finger inputs. For laptop users who want their multitouch on their iMac’s, this is the only solution. The touch input is a nice feature but not as transparent as the touchpad on your laptop. For instance, I was unable to get it to work with the three finger swipe in BusyCal. I’ve been spoiled by Apple’s touch surfaces and the Pen & Touch surface felt a little too abrasive against my fingers. It is not so abrasive to be a show stopper but noticeable.

The pen mode features 2540 dpi resolution with 1024 pen pressure levels. Where the surface wasn’t ideal for the touch gestures, it felt just right for the pen, and much better than the texture on my 2 year old bluetooth Wacom. Clearly Wacom had to make some decisions selling a device that that supports both pen and touch. Wacom made the right decision here optimizing performance for the pen, that presumably gets used more often, over the touch input.

The tablet has four customizable buttons and an LED indicator that distinguishes between touch and pen mode. There is also a small, low tech, fabric tag to hold the stylus. The whole package fits nicely under an iMac ready to drop into your work area when needed. Because it is so accessible, I find myself using it all the time.

If you allow yourself to find your tablet groove, it is nice having an always ready pen input at your computer. Tasks like photo editing, drawing, and annotation quickly become second nature with the pen. Combining the Pen and Touch is really handy. You can draw with the pen and zoom and scroll with the touch features. The Wacom Pen & Touch is a nice upgrade to your iMac. The street price on the Bamboo Pen & Touch is $99 and you can find them from both online and brick and mortar retailers.