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The Bamboo Fun even looks fun, doesn’t it?
Digital artists can be divided into two groups: those who use drawing tablets and those who don’t know what they’re missing. The Bamboo Fun aims for this introductory market, acting as a great gateway tablet for home photo edits and other digital art without being too pricey. And it works so well with precise, pressure-sensitive control that many of those amateur dabblers will never outgrow its features.
The Bamboo Fun excels as an introductory drawing tablet. Owners grip its comfortable, battery-free stylus to write on the 5.8-by-
3.7-inch active area. (The “medium” tablet size grows to 8.5 by 5.3 inches and a $199 price tag.) Graze the surface to move the pointer, and use a harder touch to draw. With a little practice, we felt a much tighter connection to our art applications—and the bundled, old versions of Photoshop Elements 4 and Painter Essentials 3—than with a traditional mouse.
But this control is only half of the advantage. The tablet registers 512 levels of pressure, and brush strokes vary appropriately. A light touch can give your design a wispy hairline, while heavy pressure leaves thick, dark trails. While this feature makes the stylus feel like a real-world pencil, brush, or other tool, it even helps with picture editing. We gently tuned Photoshop layer opacities, slowly letting background objects appear with a light stroke. And we physically flipped the tool over to use its eraser end to scrub out mistakes.
A few buttons built directly onto the thin tablet are useful without being excessive. Forward and Back buttons page through websites, and F1 and F2 buttons activate system commands. We frequently spun a finger around the touch-sensitive, iPod-like trackpad circle to zoom in and out of photos and sketches. And all of these extra buttons, including the stylus eraser and its two-position rocker switch, can be customized.
While we like the Bamboo Fun for its stylus, the tablet also ships with a battery-free, wireless mouse. (A non-“Fun” Bamboo is also available for $79 without a mouse or the software bundle.) This substantial-feeling pointer is pretty typical—click and Control-click, plus a scrollwheel—but could replace a desktop mouse in tight quarters. But because it has to stay in contact with the active tablet area, we felt a little cramped; we’re used to running our optical mice over any nearby surface.
The bottom line. The bundled mouse is a nice extra, but the movement- and pressure-sensitive stylus will rewire the way amateur graphics editors use Photoshop, Painter, and other applications.
PRICE: $99 small, $199 medium
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.3.9 or later, USB
Directly improves control and results in graphics apps. Pressure-sensitive stylus also wireless and battery-free. Eraser end instantly selects new onscreen tool. Includes wireless, battery-free mouse. Stylish, slim design. Works with Inkwell.
Software bundle good to get started, but includes out-of-date versions.