Tuesday, January 22, 2013

TUESDAY TIP Tool Review: @Wacom Bamboo Stylus for #iPad #digitizer #writing #cartooning #product #review

Today's Tuesday Tip is a tool review. I recently bought a collection of new tools with which I am (hopefully) going to be continuing my cartooning of book covers with more ease than I've been suffering by doing pixel-level work on my Windows laptop until now. I've been working in Photoshop using an older, pressure-sensitive Wacom Intuos tablet I've had for years. I've been a user and fan of Wacom tablets since they first came out. However, I wanted something wireless--and I wanted the option of working not only on my laptop but also on my iPad.

Since I already own the iPad app version of AutoDesk's Sketchbook Pro (but haven't used it much because working with my fingertips is not as easy as it sounds), I wanted a solution that would work on both my Window s laptop and on the iPad without having to switch mental gears for a different hardware environment.

Click through the jump break to read my review of the Solo Stylus for the iPad, which is the only thing I've had time so far to use enough to review for you.

My Solution:
Wacom Bamboo Capture ($99 MSRP)
Wireless accessory kit ($39.95 MSRP)
Wacom Bamboo Solo Stylus for the iPad ($29.95)
Autodesk Sketchbook Pro 6 for my laptop ($59.00 MSRP)

I bought all of the components through Amazon.com at discounted prices and got the free shipping, so my total cost was a mere $173.72.

This commits me to learning Sketchbook Pro in depth. We shall see. I'm doubtful I'll ever completely leave Photoshop. I've been using it since version 1 so I'm kind of stuck on the Adobe environment but then again, as a Mechanical Engineer, I also used AutoCAD for years.

The Autodesk software environs have usually been pretty good. So far, I'm not impressed with the iPad app but the older I get, the less patience I have for "cutesy" tools. I like my tools to just work. Of course, I have not yet tried to RTFM (haha) Yeah, I guess I should get to that before I disclaim Sketchbook's cutesy-ness.

If you'd like to check out Sketchbook Pro 6 for yourself, get a free trial from the Autodesk web site by clicking here.

Where to Buy
First of all, if you want to get one of your own, you can buy it directly from Wacom. They offered a discount code on the @Wacom Twitterstream (posted the following on January 8, 2013) to get $5 off the purchase price of a Solo

I replied, asking if the code were still valid (since it's now 2 weeks later) but no one has answered the @Wacom Twitterstream :-( It's also possible you can buy it from Amazon's marketplace for the same low $24.95 discounted price--or lower. Check daily for the lowest prices, as Amazon's Marketplace listings change all the time.

In the Box
All that came in the box was the stylus itself and a little pamphlet encouraging me to register my device, providing support contact details (a hallmark of Wacom is outstanding customer service) and an over-simplified illustration allegedly showing me how to "personalize" my stylus. Alas, I have not been able to perform the actions shown in the illustration at all. My phone took the following pic of the illustration. The clip does not move nor does the top of the pen twise or turn in any way whatsoever :-( Therefore, my stylus is "as is" out of the box.

Since I'm a Mechanical Engineer, I'll come at this review by discussing the product's design features from that perspective.

1) Size.
The stylus is nice and thin (for my small hand, it's a comfortable size) about the diameter of a normal #2 pencil. It's a little heavier than I'd have expected, the metal feeling like the source of the weight.

2) Weight. 
I'd say it's about the same weight in my hand as a solid 10KT Gold Cross Pen (like the ones I got in the late 1970s as a gift and loved for years until I could no longer find the ink refills)

3) Form vs. Function.

There's really very little "functionality" to this stylus, so it's pretty easy to just use out of the box. That is, this is just going to replace a fingertip--no more, no less--and have a clip so that it can be "attached" somewhere (like to my flexible iPad travelling cover.

1) Normal Wear & Tear. The nib (the rubbery tip of the stylus which is the point of contact with the iPad) is really flimsy. It feels thin and "wobbles" around when I drag it over my iPad surface (unless I press down really hard) so the "touch" is going to take a little getting used to, which means it's not a "plug n' play" solution for me.

2) Form vs. Function.
This has to fall under both pros and cons. As mentioned, I had to press hard--or what seemed "harder" than I wanted to, given a choice. It feels as though there should be some support behind the nib if I'm to be required to press down so hard just to make a "tap" contact (not even talking about click-and-drag contacts, just a tap selection!) To me, this feels like a #FAIL on design of the form versus function, like there was a disconnect between conceptualization and implementation during the engineering process. Something did not make it "over the wall" as they say.

3) Design Against Failure. (#FAIL)

I anticipate that as I press (hard) and drag the stylus frequently in normal usage, the nib will wear out quickly. Many of the comments on the Wacom web site and Amazon reviews indicated that the original stylus nib will (does...has, soon after purchase) rip and tear requiring replacement. I suppose that's why Wacom sells replacement nib kits at $4.95 for 3 nibs, eh?  :-(

That's unfortunate. I really dislike it when a company sets out to design a product to fail rather than against failure. Wacom products used to be designed against failure, so this is an unfortunate change of direction for the company--and I definitely see it as a method for Wacom to generate residual sales from existing customers.

4) Design for Usability.
This is not the antithesis of #3 above. Rather, it's a category of product design where an engineer considers how a customer is going to use the product "in real life," rather than in the manner the design engineers hoped and imagined. In manufacturing, the usability of a product is usually evaluated by the Quality Control Dept., with a focus on conformance to specification, rather than on what the specifications said and "Gee, does that make sense for real-world usage?"

Software engineers look at these two categories, calling them, "gotta have's" and "nice-to-have's" respectively. I think manufacturing engineers should do this kind of evaluation, too, since consumers certainly do! Wacom's engineers definitely did not. My gripe under this category is not, strictly, anything "wrong" with the product "as designed," but rather that Wacom's Design Engineering Dept. did not consider how real users would deploy the product in real-life situations.

Specifically, they gave us a clip on one end of the stylus so that it could be attached to, say, a shirt pocket. They did not, however, give us a cap to protect the flimsy and easily-worn nib at the end. Therefore, whether traveling in a shirt pocket or (more likely) clipped to the binder of an iPad case cover, the nib will be at risk for further damage beyond normal wear and tear. So why didn't they include a cap or cover?

I did notice (and seconded) another user making this comment and adding a request for a cap/cover to the wish list. Won't help those of us who already own one, though. Again, I guess I have to :-(

Bottom Line Rating:  6 out of 10
I started out with a rating of 10 out of 10 and took away one for each negative point I noticed, so we're at a rating of 6 out of 10. That seems about right (in my gut) given I like this well enough but am not overwhelmed by its wonders as I was the first time I used a Wacom digitizer tablet and the stylus feels pretty expensive  at $24.95 given I'll have to pay to maintain it in good working order.

If the price were half that cost, I'd raise the rating but I feel like I'm not sure why I got this thing if I'm going to have to constantly pour money into maintaining it in good working condition. All in all, I'm not as excited about the Solo Stylus as I am about the Bamboo Capture tablet. I'll need time to install/setup the Capture and am working a 10-day-straight stint at my 2 day jobs right now so playing with the Capture on the laptop will have to wait a bit. Soon, my pretty, soon!

What's Next....
On Monday, of course, I'll be back with another Monday Marketing blog for you but I'll try to get a feel for the Bamboo Capture and its wireless kit usage by next Tuesday so I can do another tool review for you. I hope I'll see you then.

Thanks for stopping by!


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