Gadgetslab: Wacom Bamboo Pad

bamboo pad

Since we first scribbled our thoughts on mud, leaves, papyrus and parchment, the stylus has been in our hands, allowing us to preserve our thoughts for future generations. The transition to digital media has changed the dynamic slightly, but for those in the visual arts, the stylus remains as handy as it was when we were scratching out glyphs on blocks of mud. The Bamboo Stylus is the current refinement of that art, and for those who still like putting pen to paper, it’s a godsend.

Design: 4/5

The Bamboo Stylus is a cute little device. It’s the size of a large notepad, and is thinner than a mobile phone. Our test unit was a plain white with attractive blue trim, with the stylized Bamboo name on the top angled edge. The right edge of the pad houses the single-button stylus, and the power switch is located on the opposite side. The top edge hides the battery compartment, and a handy little slot for the USB dongle which is used to connect the pad to your computer. The bottom of the touch area has a single clicky button for mouse controls.

The design is simple and uncomplicated, allowing you to just pick the stylus and go. Colors are understated enough to blend with any hardware you might have, with enough personality to make it feel like it’s your own.

Hardware: 3.5/5

The wireless version has a surface that’s comfortably large. It’s not the largest out there, but if you’re after sheer real estate, you might want to look at Bamboo’s professional line. The touchpad is powered by two AA batteries, which is great for keeping the device wireless, though since it’s a device that’s mostly meant to stay on a desk, perhaps an internal rechargeable battery would have been neater.

The USB dongle is a small, low-profile affair, and is tiny enough to keep plugged into your machine without getting in the way. I kept the dongle connected to my work laptop for the whole duration of this review, even when I was out and about covering events and social calls.

User experience: 4/5

Getting the Pad to go was dead easy. Pop in the batteries, plug the dongle in, and you’re in business. There’s no need to install drivers off a CD or the Internet. Once Windows has recognized the device, I was off sketching like a five-year-old.

The lack of art skills aside, the Bamboo Pad is a great addition to current-generation devices. The increasing integration of multi-touch in desktop operating systems means that a lot of us lose out on the shortcuts the OS creators include. The Bamboo Pad supports multi-touch, unlocking a lot of the features you wouldn’t normally have with just a mouse. Those who have nothing good to say about Windows 8 might reconsider once they have some time using the OS as it was intended.

bamboo pad 2

Using it as a large touchpad was very comfortable and intuitive. I hadn’t even noticed I was two-finger scrolling on websites until someone pointed it out. For those who want a more cohesive experience on desktop, laptop and tablet, this isn’t a bad way to go about it.

Sensitivity was just right, and the pad has a nice feel to it, not too slippery, but with just enough texture for your finger to glide smoothly over. The clicky button, which incorporates both the left and right click, is a little on the shallow side, though perfectly usable. You’re not likely to use it very much since you can tap on the touch surface, so it’s not going to be much of an issue.

Using the included stylus changes the experience significantly. It’s definitely more precise than any of your digits, and really lets you draw finely, thanks to the fine point on it, and it glides smoothly on the writing surface. I would have liked a little more resistance, but it does the job just fine. Imagine using a particularly slick ball point pen, and you’ll be in the ballpark.

The main difficulty I had with the pad was that the surface reflected the screen absolutely. The top left corner of the pad reflects the top left corner of the screen all the time. A small pad on a large screen can be a little difficult. Hovering, clicking, and manipulating the cursor is perfectly intuitive, and it’s perfectly possible to use the pad and no mouse at all.

While no additional apps are necessary to run the stylus, Wacom does offer a few apps that enrich the experience a bit. The first, a drawing app, let me channel what little artistic talent I have, and allowed me to diagram a few ideas I had for feature I was considering writing. There was no helping my lack of skill, but the device and app both performed flawlessly. The second, a note-taking app, let me take digital notes with almost the same ease as if I were using a pen and paper. It takes a bit of getting used to, of course, given that you aren’t exactly looking at the surface on which you are writing, but it’s not really that hard to get accustomed to. After just a day of use, I was scribbling away like I had been doing it since I was in grade school. Aside from being convenient, it’s actually a lot of fun.

Value: 3.5/5

At a sticker price of about PHP 2,500, it might be a little steep for those who don’t have a genuine need for a stylus and trackpad combo. Those who need that kind of tool for design, however, will appreciate the ease of use, setup, and real, usable precision this handy little device gives.

What’s hot:

Easy to set up

Great accuracy and precision

Not all that expensive

What’s not:

Might be a little small for some

Bottom line:

IF you want to see what the world of digital styli has to offer, don’t hesitate. Give this little accessory a try.