'

Wacom Bamboo Folio, First Take: From paper to cloud

bamboo-folio-a5-header.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    Not yet rated
  • $159.95

Wacom's Bamboo Folio is part of a product range the company calls 'smartpads'. The idea is that you can write directly onto paper, and whatever you produce is converted into digital content and shared to the cloud automatically. So, that fantastic business idea, those outline plans for your new kitchen, or the design for a product that will change the world are all noted down once, and once only. The back of an envelope no longer cuts the mustard for this kind of thing.

Currently there are two Bamboo smartpad products: the Slate, which looks like a clipboard, and the Folio, which takes the clipboard and puts it inside a folder. Both devices come in A4 and A5 sizes. I was sent the Bamboo Folio A5 to take a look at. Here's a price comparison:

Bamboo Slate A4£124.99
Bamboo Slate A5£100.00
Bamboo Folio A4£164.99
Bamboo Folio A5£124.99
wacom-bamboo-foliomain.jpg

Even the A5 Bamboo Folio is a sizeable piece of kit weighing 460g; the A4 version weighs 810g.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Don't be fooled about the size of these devices. The Folio A5 turned out to be quite large. It incorporates a pad of paper that's A5 in size, but the overall folio measures 200mm wide by 257mm by 19 mm deep, and weighs 460g. (The A4 Bamboo Folio measures 268mm x 338mm x 19mm, and weighs 810g.)

The stylus is crucial. It liaises with the clipboard-style base to capture what's being written, and the clipboard sends it to the cloud. You get one replacement ink cartridge for the stylus, and they are £8.09 for a pack of three. The paper isn't so important: its dot pattern is there for decoration and helps you write in a straight line, but it's not part of the data capture system. So you can use any pad of paper -- ideally with a card back sheet that will slot into the holder to keep it in places. Replacement packs of three 40-page notepads direct from Wacom cost £14.99 for A4 and £11.99 for A5.

Setup is a bit of a hassle. First you'll need to charge the Bamboo Folio via its Micro-USB port, then download the Wacom Inskspace app to an iOS or Android tablet or smartphone -- there's no Windows support.

You then run the app and it walks you through making a Bluetooth connection to the device. This didn't go entirely smoothly for me, and the instructions aren't great. A 'tap to confirm pairing' screen looks like you should be tapping the tablet or handset screen, when in fact it's the Bamboo Folio power button that needs tapping. Who'd have thought it would be possible to get such simple instructions wrong!

Top ZDNET Reviews

You then need to set up a Wacom ID, tell the app the orientation of your device so that it presents your jottings the right way up (although you can rotate digital documents in the app) and finally decide whether you want to use Inkspace in online or offline mode. This matters a lot, and there's no on-device help explaining the two options -- it's all online.

Take the online mode choice and your web browser opens. Now you have to log into your Wacom account, or set one up. Going through the setup process earns you 5GB of Inkspace Basic storage. There's an Inkspace Plus option that provides 50GB of storage, plus more features. Importantly, anyone wanting to convert handwriting to text and export to Word or Google Docs will need the Plus option, which is charged on a monthly subscription after a free three-month trial. It's not as easy as it should be to compare features on Wacom's website, and I reverted to doing this on my laptop rather than using a smartphone. Even then, it's difficult to find the post-trial pricing -- online sources suggests it is £3 per month.

As with the installation procedure, so using the Bamboo Folio is not without issue. I found it necessary to unpair and repair a few times during different periods of use, because my notes wouldn't transfer. Anything written or drawn before a repairing is lost, so has to be input to paper again. There was quite a wait between text being transferred and it appearing in the Inkspace app, which is fine, unless you're waiting for a transfer in order to export or otherwise use the digital version of your creation.

wacom-bamboo-foliotext-conversion.png

Handwriting conversion was somewhat hit-and-miss in our experience.

Images: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Sadly, the handwriting-to-text conversion, which is arguably the key reason for opting for a paid for Inkspace Plus account, is too hit-and-miss to be useful. My handwriting might not be perfect, but I've seen other systems make a much better job of turning it into editable text (see above).

In the end, all this left me wondering who would really use the Bamboo Folio enough to justify both the expense -- which racks up when you take into account the cost of an Inkspace Plus subscription, stylus ink refills and paper (if you like Wacom's grid-style pads), and factor in the need to carry what's a pretty chunky piece of kit to house an A5 pad.

After all, direct handwritten input is relatively easy these days on both smartphones and tablets, there are some very good, inexpensive Bluetooth keyboards and tablet keyboard covers for those who want to type regularly; and there are also mobile speech-to-text options. And if drawing is more your thing, there are plenty of apps that save to cloud on Windows as well as Android and iOS platforms. It seems, then, the Bamboo Folio is a solution to a problem that's solved better in other ways.

Read more reviews

Specifications

Miscellaneous
Color Category gray
Header
Brand Wacom
Product Line Wacom Bamboo
Model Spark with Tablet Sleeve
Packaged Quantity 1
Dimensions & Weight
Width 8.1 in
Depth 10 in
Height 1.1 in
Weight 21.87 oz

Where To Buy

Price
$159.95

Top ZDNET Reviews

Where To Buy

Wacom Bamboo Spark tablet sleeve (CDS-600P)

Part Number: CDS-600P
Price
$159.95