Tuesday, February 12, 2013

TUESDAY TIP - Tool Review: @Wacom Bamboo Capture Tablet #cartooning #bookcovers #indie #selfpub #bamboo

Back with another Tuesday Tip tool review.

Last week I started this review with the Wacom Bamboo Solo Pen that I got for use with my iPad. This week, I'll look at the other Wacom products I bought at the same time, as part of my strategic solution for continuing work cartooning art for my book covers.

Specifically, today I'll look at the Wacom Bamboo Capture Tablet and its associated Wireless Accessory Kit. Click through the jump break to see what I think of it all.

Purchased 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.


1) Ease of Installation.
This was totally plug n' play out of the box. I was pleased with the self-governed, fully-automated installation, though I suppose it would have been nice if it had been polite enough to ask me to review and confirm all of the settings before it wrote things into my Registry. Wacom used to be polite that way. I guess times have changed.

2) Wireless Accessory Kit.
Again, pretty much plug n' play out of the box. Also, as far as I could tell, there was zero impact on performance due to the using the wireless mode versus the tethered-via-USB-cable mode. I love that the wireless kit installed so quickly, easily and without any mysteries. Just one ergonomic mistake in the design. In order to grasp the tablet and install and/or turn on/off the wireless function, I have to hold the tablet at the same end/spot where the tablet's 4 buttons are located. It's a little annoying to "click" a button by accident--especially if I don't notice it and then run the battery down.

All in all, the wireless accessory kit was a 50/50 split. Awesome functionality, poor implementation. If they moved the location of all the little fobs and storage slots to either one of the sides or to the other end, we'd be all set. As it is, I found the design to be to the advantage of the engineers, not the end users.


1) Size.

I only have two major grips to mention and then two minor ones. First big issue for me is the size. Look at the image to the left. The Capture is the fairly small, just barely larger than an iPad, and the Wacom tablets I've typically used are about 25% larger with an active area the size of the edge-to-edge area of an iPad. I don't really mind the smaller size and could get to used to it, especially when I'm in the multitouch mode. Maybe it's a factor of my Android phone and iPad usage.

The size becomes an issue, however, in pen tablet mode, when working for long periods of time drawing and cartooning. After 20 years of using something larger, decreasing my screen by 25-30% is a hard adaptation.

2) Memory Management. 
The second gripe is the memory management. This device has a serious issue with its ability to manage available memory and either hogs RAM or fails to use available RAM. Whether the issue is in the driver or the hardware, itself, I don't know but it's obvious that there is a problem. Without changing any of my settings in Photoshop or seeing any difference in my computer's ability to run efficiently, I simply switched from my old Wacom Intuos (USB tethered) tablet to the Wacom Bamboo Capture (in USB tethered mode) tablet and *bam* seconds-long delays whenever I move the pen.

After 20+ years of using "tethered" Wacom tablets that simply delivered an "instant" and 1:1 cause:effect response, I suppose I'm spoiled on the subject but I feel strongly that when the pen touches the surface of the tablet, the cursor on the screen should move. It should not take a second or two (or more); it should simply move "now." That's one of the most-fundamental concepts in the design of  a digital pen tablet. The worst part is Wacom had mastered this; now they've ruined it.

I've actually switched back to my older, outdated Intuos and seen improved performance. Again, I'm not changing anything on my computer, simply unplugging one USB cable and plugging in the other and voila performance increase achieved. Very sad.

3) Installation.
Although I listed the ease of installation in the "pros" category, I have to list the installation of the control panel in the "cons" category. I don't find it easy to make the control panel stop installing and opening itself up. It's possible to do, but I shouldn't have to continually reset this any/every time I plug in or out the USB cable. Web sites can write cookies and the Wacom installation program wrote directly to my Windows 7 Registry. Why can't I just tick a box to say yes or no to "start the control panel when Windows starts"? Bad "usability" choice, Wacom! Not like you guys at all.

4) Wireless Accessory Kit.
My biggest gripe about this one is Why is it an add-on? I do think it's worth $40 but I don't see why it's not just automatically included. Having it be an additional expense is a negative psychological experience. I think Wacom missed the boat on marketing strategy here. They could/should just include this for the two higher-priced Bamboo models (the only two that take it anyway) and simply tack another $40 onto the base price.  Making it a separate purchase just feels too negative--and atypical of Wacom's historical approach to customer-centered business. What happened to Wacom??

Bottom Line Rating:  5 out of 10
I'm evenly split on the rating for this tool simply because I know what Wacom is capable of delivering--and it is far better than this! In multitouch mode, I just love this tablet but it's a pen tablet, not a touch tablet so I'm not sure why the multitouch mode should be superior in manageability and functionality to the pen mode.

Additionally, I heartily dislike the memory-hog lagging of the pen use. If Wacom can figure out what they did "wrong" and fix it, I'd be interested in an updated driver but unfortunately, at this point, I'm 75% sure I'll just be returning the device and asking for my money back. After 20 years of using Wacom products, I know all too well that the Bamboo Capture falls short of Wacom's quality standards.

I'm not sure what kind of pen tablet to try instead. I've been a loyal Wacom customer all this time and simply never even considered another brand. Times change, and I guess I'll be learning who Wacom's competition is. Stay tuned for a future pen tablet review once I figure out what to try next!

Thanks for stopping by!


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