Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch review

Price when reviewed

A graphics tablet is undoubtedly the best means of taking advantage of illustration and photo editing software, but if you’ve ever used one you’ll know it’s best to keep a mouse to hand for every day Windows jobs. Wacom’s Bamboo Pen & Touch aims to change all that by combining a traditional digitiser pen with finger-driven touchpad technology – and multitouch as well.

The tablet itself looks straightforward enough. The model on review boasts an A5 drawing area – so it’s one for the occasional doodle and photo retouching job rather than full-time use – but after a few minutes’ use it’s clear this is no toy.

The pen – stowed in a fabric loop on the right hand edge of the tablet – is comfortable to use and requires no battery. It boasts eraser and pen facilities plus a rocker button on the barrel. Resolution is a decent 2,540dpi, and it feels accurate and natural in general use.

As usual the buttons on the barrel of the pen are awkward to click while holding the pen still, so the Bamboo also boasts four customisable buttons to the left of the pad (or right when set up for left handers); by default the bottom pair is configured for left and right mouse clicks, while the top button lets you toggle touch on and off.

Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch

Put the pen down, though, and the Bamboo transforms into a giant touchpad. This takes some getting used to, but the multitouch facility does have its advantages. You can use pinch gestures to zoom in and out of web pages and photos, scroll and pan using two fingers and, in applications that support it, rotate images too. And it has the benefit of working in both Windows 7 and Vista.

It’s not perfect, though. Although the pen part of the pad works well, the touch part feels sluggish and unresponsive. Single taps suffer from a momentary delay, gestures feel similarly laggy and we couldn’t get flicks to work at all. Worse still, on a Windows 7 system, the control panel crashed regularly, preventing us from adjusting the pad’s more advanced settings.

So, the first multitouch graphics tablet turns out to be a bit of a let-down. We like the idea of a dual-purpose pad. It’s neater than having to run a mouse alongside a standard graphics tablet, and the price is reasonable. But it needs to be more accurately and reliably implemented than this to win us over.

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