Company: Wacom Technology Corp., 1311 SE Cardinal Court, Vancouver, WA 98683. Phone: (360) 896-9833; Internet: www.wacom.com.
Price: The small Bamboo Fun Pen Tablet retails for $99, or $79 without the software DVD. The medium Bamboo Fun Pen Tablet is priced at $199.
Minimum System Requirements: The Bamboo pen tablets work with computers running Windows 2000, XP, or Vista (32- or 64-bit) and Macintosh computers running Mac OS X 10.3.9 and above. The computer requirements include an Intel or PowerPC processor, a color display, powered USB port, and a CD/DVD drive. Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free software program, is needed to read the electronic user manual.
Description: A pen tablet is an input device used with a computer (a keyboard or a mouse is also an input device). The pen tablet includes a special electronic pen and a tablet (called a plate). The electronic pen functions on the tablet in a manner similar to a mouse. The Bamboo Fun Pen Tablet includes a pen and a special mouse that work on the active area of the tablet.
Specifications: The small Bamboo Fun Pen Tablet is very thin and lightweight with dimensions of 8.4" x 7.3" x 0.3" and an active area of 5.8" x 3.7". The medium Bamboo Fun Pen Tablet is 11.0" x 9.3" x 0.3" with an active area of 8.5" x 5.3".
For both pen tablets, the pressure sensitivity is 512 levels with a resolution of 2,540 lines per inch. The tablets feature four ExpressKeys and a finger-sensitive input touch ring. The units are available in black, silver, white, and blue.
Warranty: One-year warranty for materials and workmanship with registration within 30 days of purchase and a receipt.
Overall Rating: *****
Ease of Use A
Product Support A
Installation: Installation was very easy. The tablet is plugged into the USB port and the software is installed from the accompanying CD-ROM and DVD. The installation process was standard and included answering the usual installation questions. Installation Rating: A
Features: According to the makers of the Bamboo Fun Pen Tablet, the device turns a computer into a canvas by allowing free expression with the touch of the pen tip to the tablet. The unit can be used to touch up digital photos, create artwork and paintings, and recognize handwriting.
The pen tablet also can be used for inputting freehand drawings, diagrams, and characters. Users can write notes by hand, mark up documents, sign their name, make sketches and doodles, handwrite email, prepare slide presentations, make collages of photos, and more.
The Bamboo Fun device works with any software. Many software applications have special features and tools designed for use with an electronic pen. The unit also works with the new handwriting recognition, inking, and pen features included in Windows Vista (all editions but Home Basic) and Apple operating systems (OS X).
The creators of the Animation-ish software program reviewed in this issue of MultiMedia & Internet @Schools recommend using a drawing tablet (manufactured by Wacom, in particular) with their software. While working on the Animation-ish review, I thought it would be interesting to give a pen tablet a try. Even though I’m a doodler at best, I find drawing with a mouse to be awkward.
The first thing to say about the Bamboo Fun Pen Tablet is that it is an attractive, lightweight, amazingly thin device that is well thought out, well made, and fun to use. It comes with both a pen and a mouse. I immediately tried the pen with the Animation-ish software. With very little practice, my drawing improved quite a bit.
I also found out there is a good deal more to the Bamboo Fun Pen Tablet than I had realized. The Bamboo works through electromagnetic induction, a technology that allows battery-free and cordless input operation. The tablet gets the very small amount of energy it uses through the USB connection; the pen doesn’t need batteries or other power to operate.
An electromagnetic field is formed on the tablet’s active area. When the pen moves on or just above the active area, electricity runs through the coil inside the pen. The tablet receives inductive signals generated by the magnetic field formed on the pen side. The process is rapidly repeated a number of times so that the pen’s paths are smoothly read by the tablet. Since the special pen can detect the force placed on it and the angle of force, it can draw different line widths and color gradations. An eraser can be added to the pen.
The pen operates by "hovering navigation." Some functions are performed by tapping on the pad’s active area. Cursor movement on the screen is guided by holding the pen just off the screen and moving it there. Using the pen consistently and well takes a bit of practice, but an excellent tutorial helps to get the user up-to-speed.
Using the pen with Animation-ish required touching the screen to draw and using the hovering navigation feature to move to the buttons outside the drawing area. Going back and forth between the two operations definitely required practice. The device’s two customizable thumb-operated buttons on the side also required a bit of practice.
The Bamboo tablet’s active area is pressure sensitive. Lines of varying thickness can be drawn by pressing with more or less force while drawing. The unit’s four ExpressKeys buttons provide shortcuts that can be defined by the user. Scrolling and zooming are facilitated with a finger-sensitive Touch Ring.
Each Bamboo Fun package includes a Bamboo Fun pen tablet, a mouse, a special pen and pen stand, a package of three replacement pen nibs, a USB cable, a quick start guide, and an installation CD that includes a tablet driver and electronic user manual. The package also includes a software DVD with Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0 Win/4.0 Mac (for photo editing), Corel Painter Essentials 3.0 (for creating artwork), and Nik Color Efex Pro 2.0 GE (for applying photo effects). Features Rating: A
Ease of Use: The Bamboo Fun Pen tablet takes practice to learn to use and has a bit of a learning curve. However, the device did everything flawlessly after I had a bit of practice. The excellent tutorial, clean online help, wonderful electronic manual, and the intuitive interface all support the ease of use. Ease of Use Rating: A
Product Support: Free U.S.-based technical support is available online at www.wacom.com/productsupport and by phone at (360) 896-9833 during normal business hours. An online inquiry form is available at www.wacom.com/
The Bamboo Fun unit is also supported with excellent documentation. Product Support Rating: A
Recommendation: I recommend the Bamboo Fun Pen Tablet to anyone who would like to interact with a computer for any purpose in a manner that is close to the use of a pencil and paper. This is a wonderful product at a great price with amazing potential.
New users will need to keep in mind that practice is necessary to use the pen tablet effectively and to its full potential.
The Bamboo Fun Pen Tablet is excellent with the Animation-ish software intended for use by K–12 students. However, after years of watching K–2 students struggle as they learn to use a mouse, I’m not sure they could take full advantage of a pen tablet.
I recommend this device for school use with third or fourth grade and older students with programs like Animation-ish and other software. Older students would have a great time annotating photos for a yearbook, school paper, reports, and other projects. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Charles Doe, Media Specialist, Hastings Area Schools, Hastings, MI.