Wacom Bamboo Spark: Pen and paper with digital tricks

Gizmo ZONE

Wacom Bamboo Spark: Pen and paper with digital tricks

The Wacom Bamboo Spark is the stylus-maker’s first attempt to make a hybrid paper notepad that records your scribbles and doodles in a digital form.

Why is a stylus and graphics tablet manufacturer making a pen system? Because paper feels and behaves differently to the glass of a screen or surface of a tablet and many people prefer it, but still want a digital copy without having to resort to scans or photos.

Others have tried to do this, but Wacom is using an interesting alternative method to it competitors. The Bamboo Spark is essentially two things: a standard-looking ballpoint pen and a smart folio that holds a normal A5 pad of paper.

Unlike the Livescribe Smartpen 3, it isn’t the pen or paper that’s smart, but the pad underneath the paper: it mirrors your scrawls as digital strokes. It works by detecting pen movements and some pressure sensitivity on the page, storing them in memory and transferring them via Bluetooth to the Bamboo Spark app an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet.

Design

The best bit is that the pen feels normal, like any slightly bigger ballpoint. But it also feels a bit cheap, the pen cap doesn’t always stay on the end when in use and you can only change the ballpoint cartridge — you can’t use your favourite pen. It’s a shame it just doesn’t feel a little bit nicer, given this is an expensive piece of technology.

Note taking

For taking written notes the system works well. Finish a page, hit the button and sync with the app. From there you can export your handwritten notes as text using handwriting recognition, as a JPG image, as a PDF or as a Wacom Ink Layer Language (Will) file for exporting to other apps that support the digital inking format.

Price

The Wacom Bamboo Spark costs £103 with either a gadget pocket, sleeve for a smaller tablet or a snap-fit case for an iPad Air 2. It comes with two replacement ink cartridges and a 30-page notepad of relatively poor quality. Competing systems such as the Livescribe Smartpen 3 Black Edition cost £120, but require special paper starting at around £3 for a notepad and refills costing £1 each.

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