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I recently decided that it was time for a change in mice. I've loved my cordless Mighty Mouse, but constantly having to clean the tiny track ball was annoying me to no end. I was also enjoying the multi-touch trackpad on my MacBook, so when Wacom released the new Bamboo touch tablets, I decided to make the change.

I thought about the least expensive Bamboo Touch, but decided to go with the Bamboo Pen & Touch (list $99, street $79) so that I would have the pen for photo retouching. As it turned out, I need the pen for more than that. The touch control is not as consistent as the Apple built-in trackpad. The drier my skin, the worse it is, and I think it's due to the dual nature (pen and touch) of the tablet. I find myself grabbing the pen to drag and drop graphics and text. It's annoying.

bamboo

For straight email and web surfing, the touch controls are great.  Swiping two fingers to page back and forth is easy. Horizontal and vertical scrolling with two fingers is great. Zooming in and out with the same pinch and spread motions that are used on the iPhone and iPod touch is marvelous. That said, I still had to grab my Mighty Mouse while trying to customize a video on JibJab. Some click & drag functions just seem to be easier with a mouse. I don't know whether to blame the software or the touch pad itself. It's not as consistent as the trackpad on my MacBook, but then, the MacBook can't use the stylus.

I'm not totally in love with the Bamboo Pen & Touch, but as I adjust to it and fine-tune the settings, things should improve. The pressure-sensitive pen is still great for photo retouching, and this version of the Bamboo comes bundled with Adobe Photoshop Elements (v. 7 for Windows and v. 6 for Mac) and Nik Color Efex Pro. Unfortunately, the preference panel settings are universal only. No separate settings for individual programs. With luck, that will be changed in the future.

A minor gripe is the location of the USB cable. In order to use the tablet with my right hand, I had to set it for left-hand use. The cable kept it too far to the side of the keyboard, and the cable also had a tendency to flop up over the numeric keypad on the keyboard. Cable should come off a top or bottom corner, not the middle of the side edge/ The tablet also sits too flat to the desk to be comfortable for my wrist. It's currently sitting on a book that raises it a centimeter.

If Apple had released the new Magic Mouse a couple of weeks earlier, I might not have bought this. While the pen is nice, I don't use it that often. And while I'm getting used to the touch controls, they're still not as solid as the MacBook and MacBook Pro. If anyone wants to give it a try, I'll have it at the next MacGroup meeting.

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