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So you want a graphics tablet? And you can't figure out which one to buy- the temptingly cheap Trust/Genius tablets or an expensive wacom - a few years ago I had to make a similar decision and the following discusses why I bought the Wacom Bamboo fun A5 size tablet and my experiences.
First, the experience -
I have been overall really happy with my wacom. In the two years I have had it, it has never given me a single problem at any point, has always been super responsive and fast, never hung, and always sensitive to specification. That is saying something, not having a single glitch in two years. Wacom fully deserves the reputation of reliability it has built for all its tablets.
Wacom or not?
While you may get a much cheaper deal with the generic tablets sold by Trust, Genius et al. one look on forums and review websites will tell you they are not the most reliable or sensitive with quite a lot of people posting questions and problems on fixes etc. So the extra price for a wacom definitely works out over time when you don't have to deal with performance issues everyday and they last much longer.
This tablet is for you if you want a balance between price, precision and size. The Intuous tablets are quite expensive and are a must-have if you are a professional artist. If you don't want to spend so much but still want a good tablet, there is the bamboo range. The standard (not fun) bamboo tablet comes only in the A6 size so it is not ideal for art work but if you want a tablet only as a mouse replacement its a good fit.
I was however looking for a tablet mainly for my art work, so it had to be a bigger bamboo which comes in the fun range only. Note the A6 size bamboo and A6 size bamboo fun are really the same internally but look different to target different markets. Though doubtful in the beginning whether A5 would be big enough for drawing and painting, after having tried it I found it to be an excellent size for the purpose, A6 would have been too small and A4 is not really necessary to be able to create some good artwork. Also, compared to large 'sweeping' hand movements necessary for an A4, I found A5 to be much more comfortable and quicker for sketching etc.
The Pen has an excellent response and is comfortable to grip. There are two buttons on the side which you can press with your thumb and customise for particular functions. I have them set to Undo and right click. The end has an eraser which I guess is handy for some but I've always found it quicker to select the Eraser tool and erase with the front end. The tablet comes with a packet of nib replacements as well since the plastic nibs wear out after some time. I found the distance required for the pen to be near the tablet pretty comfortable, you don't have to scratch the surface all the time to make it work but can hover the pen over the tablet for smoother strokes.
The Wheel has been a mixed bag for me. Swirling your finger on it lets you zoom in or out and this function works really well. However touching the top or the bottom of the wheel should let you scroll easily but its not as responsive as I would have liked. Sometimes you have to really press it and sometimes just a slight touch does it - a bit temperamental.
The Bamboo series has 512 pressure levels compared to the Intuous's 1024. While it may sound a lot, I can assure you can do some great work with 512 and if you're a beginner won't even notice the difference. One of the best bits about pressure levels is that you can go into photoshop or painter and tell it how to use the pressure levels, for example, to vary brush size or intensity or pattern with varying pressure. You can be quite creative with pressure which is what makes tablets trump over simple touch panels like doodling on an iphone.
Here is where Wacom really shines and outdoes its competitors (if they can be called that) You can customise particular functions or keystrokes for each of the buttons on the tablet (4 of them) or on the pen (2). You can set one of the buttons to also pop out a menu which you can fill out with your most used functions for quick access. If set rightly you may not need to come near the keyboard at all. Other things customisable are sensitivity of the pen and eraser, whether you want the tablet to map the screen (more useful for artists) or make it mouse-like for navigation, how to register a double click, right click etc. Changes made take effect instantaneously so you can customise on the fly while working in photoshop.
Supposedly navigation can be made faster by flicking the pen in particular angles or positions in the screen. I never found it to work as nicely as I would have hoped, mouse gestures are much more convenient in execution.
Simply superb. Really feels like a piece of expensive engineered product rather than a flimsy plastic product. And I assure, it is made to last. The wire connections are placed well and unobtrusive. There is a nice blue glow from the wheel which looks really cool.
Conclusion and Updates
Bamboo fun tablets have entered the second generation and are still pretty much the same but with the extra 'touch' feature. So most of the review will apply to the second generation as well. All in all, the best tablet on the market for a beginner to mid level artist on a budget (relatively speaking!).
Have had this tablet for two to three years now, and I can say it's served me well, but is definitely on it's last legs. Inside the box you receive the tablet, a pen with extra nibs, a mouse that works with it and all the drivers necessary.
If you wish to use this with Photoshop and other programs that use sensitivity settings, it requires minimum setup, and after installation is just plug and play. You may need to go into the preferences and set the brush mode to Pen Pressure, but that's fairly easy.
The only problem I found when I first started using it, was that the drivers would randomly stop working every now and then, which is very frustrating when you are in the middle of a piece. Fortunately Wacom updated there drivers and the problem is now non-existent. However, there are occasions when the tablet recognises the mouse as the pen and the pen as the mouse (they work at different speeds) which can become annoying.
Also, since it's fairly oldish, the mouse has taken to double clicking when I single click on the odd occasion, which is easy to ignore, but not the best of things.
Overall, this is a fantastic tablet, especially for beginners who don't wish to shell out for a Intuos at this stage.