You can set the Bamboo for right or left-handed use with a simple selection in the Pen Tablet Properties application. In its right-handed position, the Bamboo offers four large buttons called ExpressKeys to the left, divided into pairs by a narrow LED strip that glows orange when receiving input from either the pen or your fingers. These buttons offer excellent, crisp feedback. Our only complaint is their glossy finish, which will need regular cleaning to keep finger-print free; as so often with modern devices, style has been prioritised over convenience, though at least the tablet’s surface has been kept matt.
By default, the ExpressKeys are logically set up as right and left click for the top two, while the bottom ones go ‘Back’ or switch the touch sensitivity on or off. If you’re not happy with these presets they can be programmed to perform any function, emulate any key or even macro commands using the Pen Tablet Properties. This makes them among the most versatile device buttons around, similar to the G-keys found on the likes of Logitech’s G13 Gameboard, and potentially a huge boost to productivity.
On the opposite side of the tablet is a cloth tag bearing the Wacom logo. This is more than just a fashion statement as it serves to hold the pen, further emphasising the tablet’s portability. Another area where the Bamboo is notably inferior to the Intuos 4 is with the pen itself. While not unpleasant to hold, it’s made of hard matt plastic and its contours are straight – a far cry from the Intuos’ soft-touch, moulded effort. Still, it features the same responsive fully programmable rocker switch and sprung eraser top, and thanks to Wacom’s unique Penabled electromagnetic resonance technology, this pen will never need a battery. Build quality is also very solid and thanks to the extractor, replacing nibs is incredibly easy.
So far so good, but how does the Bamboo Pen & Touch fare in use? Installation is a piece of cake, with drivers for Windows XP to 7 and OS X (Wacom’s drivers provide the multi-touch features for XP and Vista). Once installed, the Pen Tablet Properties applet lets you customise pen and tablet settings to your heart’s content with a clear, logical interface. The Pen Tablet Preference File Utility, meanwhile, will let you Remove, Backup or Restore preferences, though a simpler, integrated and above all on-the-fly switchable profiles system would be preferable.
On the hardware side, while not sporting the prodigious 2,048 pressure sensitivity levels of the Intuos 4 Grip Pen, the Bamboo Pen & Touch pen does sport 1,024 of them. Considering that the pens in Wacom’s previous top-end Intuos 3 line-up and current Cintiq (pricey) range use this pressure sensitivity level, it’s certainly nothing to sniff at and will be more than good enough for even professional artists and photo-editors.