Wednesday, 21 April 2010
Wacom - Bamboo Fun Pen & Touch
When I was asked to test and review a new game for Nintendo DS (Squeeballs Party), I said yes without a second's hesitation (and you can read the review here). When this same very nice man asked me if I'd also be interested in testing Wacom's new Pen & Touch tablet, I said ummmm .... what's that when it's at home?! After some hasty googling and a quick chat with a less "technologically handicapped" friend, I understood (I think !) the basic function of this impressive sounding gadget. You can use it instead of a mouse and it's great for creating graphic art or customising photos. Well, OK, let's give it a whirl then !
The tablet arrived ten days ago and I took it out of its box to admire it (it's really sleek and stylish) but then I put it away next to the computer "to come back to" because, to be quite honest, I was a bit nervous ! But yesterday, I finally plucked up the courage to try it out ...
The first thing I noticed was how very easy it is to install. You plug it into a USB port, the computer detects it's there and asks you to insert the Cdrom in the drive, you wait for a few minutes and that's it, you're ready to go ! I placed it near the keyboard, I wiggled my fingers on the touch-sensitive pad and abracadabra, the cursor started moving around the screen as if my fingers had just become an integral part of the computer. Sophie and Juliette (aged 8 and 5) were really impressed by this "magic" - my husband was slightly less overwhelmed because, as he said, it's just like on a laptop. OK, OK, little things please little minds ! Without consulting the instruction manual, I worked out how to move the cursor and do a left and right click, with my fingers but also using the buttons next to the touch-pad, so it's really obvious and easy to pick up. Phew !
I decided to watch the tutorial on the CDrom, which showsyou what the tablet can do and how to use it. It's very detailed - possibly slightly too detailed because it's very long - but Sophie loved watching the demonstrations and copying the actions when the reassuringly calm voice says, "Now it's your turn". She loved the little smiley face and the voice that said "excellent" every time she got it right !
I was really impressed to see that you can totally do without the mouse. Just by putting one or two fingers on the touch-pad, you can move the cursor, drag and drop files on the desktop, do a left, right or double-click, zoom in or out ...
As well as using your fingers, you can use the special digital pen that comes with the tablet (hence the name Pen & Touch), which reminded me a bit of the stylus you use on a DS Lite. This pen allows you to write or draw on the touch-pad and see your work directly on the computer screen. The harder you press (within reason !) on the pen, you thicker the line you draw and you can also change "ink" colour to your heart's content. The girls loved it and gaily covered the screen in handwritten messages. I immediately realised that the artistic opportunies are practically unlimited, especially for customising and playing around with photos, but also for creating a handwritten signature for your emails, producing fantastic personalised greetings cards, keeping an online bank of your children's drawings, ... For people who like digital scrapbooking, it is a fantastic tool for adding effects to photos, rotating them, putting on little handwritten messages or drawings - whatever you can think of really, so just let your imagination run wild !
We were testing the medium-sized tablet, but there is also a smaller one available - the dimensions are 33.7 cm x 22.3 cm x 0.85 cm (or for the smaller one, 24.8 cm x 17.6 cm x 8.5 cm). That means that you need quite a lot of space on your desk next to the keyboard (I had to tidy away the big pile of paperwork lying there !) but it gives you a large area to work with on the touch-pad.
It's a very sleek machine, all metallic silver with a white light when it's plugged in. There's a little ribbon loop on the side for you to keep your digital pen in, and it's the little touches like these that show they've thought of everything - the first thing I thought was that the pen would get lost. They also give you three spare nibs for the pen. For optimal comfort, left-handed people can turn the tablet around and select the left-handed option during the set-up process.
Now that I've tested it, I can vouch for the fact that it's really simple to use and my apprehension was totally unfounded. It takes just a few minutes to pick up the basic functions and do everything you could do with a mouse. It's a more comfortable alternative (especially for anyone with wrist problems) and looks so much more impressive on your computer desk. The artistic possibilities are only restricted by your imagination. It's a whole lot of fun for the whole family.
star rating : 5/5
RRP : £169.99