Wacom pen tablets have been a favourite of design and photography professionals for years. Wacom’s Bamboo Fun line brings pen and tablet computing to another audience: the casual home or office user.

Bamboo tablets offer consumers a welcome alternative to a traditional mouse. Using a mouse can be like trying to draw with a bar of soap, requiring lots of repositioning and repetitive movements.

By contrast, Bamboo Fun tablets are designed to provide a more natural experience, similar to touching pen to paper. The tablet represents your computer monitor in a one-to-one relationship, so that a stroke of the pen translates to a matching line on the screen.

The pen that comes with the Bamboo Fun tablet is pressure-sensitive, allowing you to make fine lines or bold strokes by varying how hard you press.

Wacom’s Bamboo line consists of two products—Bamboo Fun (reviewed here) and Bamboo. Bamboo Fun, for creative consumers, replaces the Graphire4. (Creative professionals are still best served by Wacom’s Intuos and Cintiq lines.) Bamboo Fun is available in a choice of four colours (black, white, silver, or blue) and two sizes (small, also known as the A6, or medium, A5).

Both sizes include a cordless pen with eraser. The Bamboo Fun package also comes with a collection of popular design software — Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0 or Corel Painter Essentials, and ArtRage2.

The small Bamboo Fun, at £69, is the best value in the line, taking into account these extra goodies. The medium Bamboo Fun costs £129.

The Bamboo does not include the mouse, eraser, and design software that comes with the Bamboo Fun. This model comes only in black and in one size (a roughly 6x4in active area). The Bamboo is targeted at office users, but its low price of £44 should make it attractive to students and other budget-minded consumers.

All of the Bamboo tablets are thin, lightweight, and stylish. They feature four programmable ExpressKeys, useful for accessing frequent keystrokes or launching selected applications. The Touch Ring at the top of the tablet resembles an iPod clickwheel. Move your finger around the Touch Ring to easily zoom or scroll through a document.

The Bamboo Fun pen is sleek and comfortable. It features two buttons that can be set to a choice of functions, or to which you can assign a custom pop-up menu of your favourite commands.

Bamboo Fun tablets are great for creative activities, from sketching to scrapbooking to photo retouching. They also offer a unique opportunity to integrate handwriting with digitized documents.

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