I know there are a few people around the traps who use a graphics tablet (or would like to use one). So I thought I'd post my thoughts on the Wacom Bamboo.

Wacom Bamboo (small, black, 20cm x 18cm)

Summary: Excellent mouse alternative and entry level tablet

I've had the Wacom Bamboo for a few months now. I'd used a Wacom Intuos at work for about 18 months before I bought it, so I already knew I liked using a tablet.

how and why i use a tablet

I use the tablet as an alternative/replacement for a traditional mouse. I use it for everything except gaming; for which I keep a Microsoft Intellimouse 3 connected.

So I use the Bamboo for all of my browsing, coding, word processing and the relatively small amount of Photoshop work I do (photo retouching and cutting up images, but not original artwork).

My main reason for the switch from a mouse was an RSI problem in my wrist. The position of the stylus just seems to put less stress on my wrist than a mouse. The transition to a tablet does take a couple of days, so if you haven't used one before just be prepared for a short adjustment period. It really is worth it!

bamboo breaks the cost barrier

The main barrier to buying a tablet for home use was the cost. The Intuos3 is nice, but at AUD$569 I wasn't going to be justifying that purchase too soon. The smaller 4x6 Intuos3 only runs to AUD$379 so I could perhaps afford that; but I'm not wild about having the extra buttons on the left. At work I actually turn the 6x8 around and remap the touch area, so the active surface is quite close to the edge of the keyboard. It looks a bit odd but it reduces reach by a couple of inches; and I don't miss the extra touch area anyway.

Although Wacom did have a budget model before (and still do in fact; the Graphire is still available), it wasn't as nicely packaged (or as good looking) as the Bamboo. Plus, it didn't come with a stand for the stylus; and that would be a pain in the bum.

The Bamboo just hits a sweet spot of good specs, nice looks (it's black!) and really low price at AUD$130. Having used the more expensive model at work, my main concerns were how the cheaper tablet would feel; and what the quality would be like.

so what's it like?

It turns out I needn't have worried about it being cheaper. The Bamboo has a really nice feel - grippier than the slick surfaced Intuos, but that actually just makes it feel more precise for general computing tasks.

The stylus isn't quite as nice in the hand as the Intuos stylus, which is a pity. I'd love to be able to buy a better stylus and a heavier base for it to sit in. Still, the Bamboo stylus isn't bad, it's just not quite as nice as the chunky, rubberised stylus with the more expensive tablet (and keep in mind we're talking about another produced which is four times more expensive!).

There are some preset function buttons, but I don't use them all that much since I have keyboard shortcuts worked out for most things. Still, it never hurts to have extra buttons around. They're a little heavy to click, although that might loosen up over time if you actually use them a bit.

touch ring = fail

The only real disappointment with the Bamboo is the Touch Ring, which just doesn't work for me at all. This is a pity as scrolling is a key weakness of ditching a standard wheel mouse for a tablet. You don't want to be stuck scrolling by pointing and dragging, as that's quite tiring for your hand.

So anyway the touch ring is meant to respond to an up+down motion for scrolling and a circular motion for zooming. Scrolling barely works for me - I have to have several goes to get it to respond. Zooming does work a bit better but I don't really use it that much.


I've ended up with a slightly odd compromise for scrolling - my wheel mouse is tucked to the left of my keyboard; and I use the scroll wheel on it with my left hand.

As a sidenote, I have heard of people being unable to reverse the mouse buttons for left-hand use while the Bamboo was connected; but I didn't have any trouble setting different click settings for the mouse. This may be because I have the full MS Mouse software package installed to manage the mouse.

final thoughts

So, who should buy a Bamboo? Well, basically anyone who hasn't used a tablet before and wants to try one; and anyone who gets sore using a mouse. Professional designers and artists might be better off investing in the more expensive models, but for an aspiring artist (or an artist on a budget) the larger Bamboo would be well worth a shot before shelling out the big bucks.

All up, the Bamboo is a good quality tablet with a really low price. It is inexpensive, not cheap. My only regret is that I didn't buy one sooner.