Graphics tablets take a big step towards popular acceptance with the Wacom Bamboo Touch. It's the first tablet that can be controlled by touching the surface of the pad with your fingers, and we can report it's an absolute joy to use.
Tablets can take some getting used to, but the Touch is incredibly intuitive. The range of options offered by stroking and tapping the tablet makes it versatile for the everyday user, and allows graphics pros to zoom and scroll without taking their drawing hand away from the pad.
We tested the Wacom Bamboo Fun Touch, a sleek silver marvel we could run our fingers over all day. And we probably will.
The pad supports multi-touch. It's similar to the way you interact with an iPhone or Microsoft Surface: you can scroll and click with one finger, or use two fingers.
With two fingers you make a swiping motion to scroll, or a pinching gesture to zoom, or in some programs, roll your fingers to rotate. By holding down one finger and moving another you can drag and drop.
The Touch includes an elasticated pen holder on the side. This makes it easier to carry around than the small plastic holder included with previous Bamboos. The pen has an extremely sensitive sensor inside the nib, while the pad itself deals with 1,024 pressure levels. Touch is disabled when the pen nib is detected hovering over the pad, so you can use it to scroll and click without your hand interfering. The pen sports two buttons on the side, which can be set up to perform set tasks in the preferences menu.
There are four buttons to the side of the pad. These can also be programmed to perform different tasks, from right-click to copy and paste or Alt+Tab to move between programs. Southpaws just flip the pad round for left-handed working.
Multi-touch is supported in Windows Vista, the forthcoming Windows 7 and Apple's Mac OS X Snow Leopard. The pen and tablet will work with XP and older OS X, but you won't be able to use your fingers. Some programs support extra features, such as rotation and handwriting recognition. Word, for example, allows you to write in documents, and highlight and annotate text.
The Touch is incredibly thin, with a sight curve to the bezel to rest your hand on.
Each Bamboo comes with handwriting program Bamboo Scribe. Wacom throws in a selection of software: every tablet includes Adobe Photoshop Elements, and larger tablets bundle Corel Painter Essentials. Bamboo Dock is a range of nifty little apps such as Landmarker, which allows you to doodle on Google Maps and share the results. Assorted games teach you how to use the tablet. More widgets can be downloaded from Bamboo Space, where an open SDK means developers can create their own apps.
The silver Wacom Bamboo Fun Touch pictured here costs £175. The smaller black Bamboo Touch costs a very respectable £60. There are pen-only or touch-only versions, but we found the combination of the two irresistible. Right, we're off to bin our mouse.