Wacom has established a reputation as a leader in the graphics tablet field and is now entering into handwriting recognition. The Bamboo is aimed at Windows Vista users because Vista incorporates the same handwriting features that debuted with Microsoft's Tablet PC concept.

The Bamboo can be used with other operating systems, but software such as Microsoft's One Note would need to be installed.

Wacom has always produced quality products and the Bamboo is no exception. Beautifully packaged, the Bamboo is finished in sleek matt black with four glossy function buttons, which are backlit by blue LEDs. Located between the buttons is a circular area that acts like a touchpad on a laptop.

Rotate your finger to zoom in or out, or tap the 12 and six o'clock positions to scroll. Scrolling could be smoother, but the zoom function works well, especially for increasing the font size.

Mightier than mouse?

If you've not used a pen tablet before, then it takes quite an effort to get to grips with one. However, after a couple of weeks we found it our preferred method of input. Having said that, we used it mainly as a replacement mouse and not as an alternative method of entering text.

No matter what Microsoft might claim, entering handwritten text is slower than typing, especially if your handwriting is as awful as ours. Vista's handwriting recognition can be trained and it does improve over time. For those who write better than they type, then this type of input may be preferable.

One nifty feature is Pen Flicks, which enable you to navigate Web pages and some documents by pen strokes.

The only problem we had was that occasionally Vista would start up and inform us the tablet driver hadn't loaded, while at other times we'd lose functionality or mapping would be out, so cursor position bore no resemblance to the pen on the tablet. However we're sure that's more likely to be a Vista issue.

If you suffer from RSI, a pen is a great way of controlling your cursor. If you're persistent you might get the handwriting side to work for you, too.