Wacom's second generation Bamboo input devices add multi-touch support to its standard pressure sensitive pen providing users with a cheap, cross-platform solution to experience both multi-touch and ultra precise pointer control on their personal computers with a single tablet.
Since multi-touch technology was popularized with the introduction of Apple's iPhone, many companies have come to realize its great potential in terms of improving the user experience. But rather than featuring it exclusively, Wacom's approach is to offer any combination of the two for the Bamboo's second generation - pen only, multi-touch only, or the two combined.
The pen and the multi-touch sensor share a common controller circuit, but they can only be employed one at a time. When the tip of the pen approaches the writing surface the multi-touch circuitry is deactivated, and as soon as it gets far enough (14mm is the threshold) you can start using your fingers for a mouse. For both the small and the medium models, the touch area is slightly smaller than the one you can use with your pen.
Apple MacBook users may not find this piece of news to be particularly impressive so far, but the Bamboo touch interface does offer a number of features that add even to Apple's multi-touch trackpads. For starters, all gestures such as two-finger scrolling, zooming and rotating are supported. The area that you can use to point with your fingers is however 33 to 300 percent larger for the small and medium version respectively, giving your fingers a lot more room.
But there's more. The Bamboo maps directly to your screen monitor, meaning you won't have to lift your finger (or pen) just because you've run out of space. Finally, one last advantage of the Bamboo over an Apple trackpad is that it provides you with four shortcut keys that you can program to do whatever you want, from simply showing your desktop to a complicated Photoshop macro, and will certainly improve your productivity.
The pressure-sensitive pen was already featured in the Bamboo's first generation, but still deserves a few words. It incorporates two buttons on the side, one for right-click and a second one for conveniently dragging your selection with an intuitive hand motion.
With an impressive report rate of 133 points per second and accuracy of 0.25mm, the pen is well suited to precision drawing. When you add sensitivity to up to 1024 pressure levels and a large display that you can simply draw on like you would do with a normal pen, the Bamboo becomes an even more attractive tool for the Photoshop junkie.
Bamboos support Windows XP, Vista, 7 and Mac OS 10.4 and 10.5 gestures out-of-the-box, and come in five versions: Touch, Pen, Pen&Touch;, Fun Small and Fun Medium. The first four feature a touch area of 125.0x85.0mm (4.92x3.35in), while the latter has a touch area of 190.0x130.0mm (7.48x5.12in). Prices start at USD$69 for the Touch version and at USD$99 for the Pen&Touch; device.