capsule review

Bamboo Fun Drawing Tablet

At a Glance
  • Wacom Bamboo Fun Tablet

Drawing tablets have long been geared exclusively toward graphic designers and digital illustrators, but Wacom hopes to change that with its affordable, consumer-friendly Bamboo Fun.

The $199 tablet is a flat, black, 6-by-8-inch slate (a $99 version is 4 by 6 inches) and sits on your desk or lap. It connects to your PC via USB, and you use the included pen to move your cursor or pointer around the screen (mouse users will need time to get accustomed to handling it, but Wacom also throws in a cordless mouse that operates on the tablet surface to ease you in).

The point of the Bamboo is to improve the ease and accuracy of illustration and photo touch-ups, since the twitchy nature of a mouse makes it an imperfect tool for delicate drawings. That's where the "fun" comes in: The Bam­boo has complete versions of Adobe Photoshop Elements 5 and Corel Painter Essentials 3 bundled. Both are a generation old, but are complete and unrestricted, and alone they almost merit the unit's price. Also, if you have Windows Vista, plugging in the Bamboo "unlocks" the tablet PC features inside the OS.

In actual use, the Bamboo is not as refined as pricier professional counterparts. It has half the resolution (2540 lines per inch) and half the pressure sensitivity (512 levels) of Wacom's $330 Intuos3, for example, and you'll notice that the cursor becomes slightly jittery when doing extreme detail work unless you have a rock-steady hand. It does not detect the degree of tilt as you hold the pen, nor are accessory pens available, so airbrushing and calligraphy, for example, won't look as refined and natural.

Casual users, though, may not mind such limitations much because even if it's not the absolute latest technology, the Bamboo makes drawing far easier and--dare we say it?--fun, whether you're fixing the red-eye on a photo or just doodling to pass the time.

--Christopher Null

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At a Glance
  • It's tough to master, but makes drawing fun.


    • Inexpensive
    • Easy to install


    • Can be difficult to master
    • Lacks sensitivity of more expensive models
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