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Wacom Bamboo Spark review

Katharine Byrne
10 Dec 2015
Wacom Bamboo Spark
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
120
inc VAT

An accurate and intuitive digital note-taker that uses ordinary paper, but it only takes A5 and doesn't turn your notes into typed text

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Specifications

Paper size: A5, Charging type: USB, Pressure levels: 1,024, Size: 206x253x30mmWeight: 535g

Wacom might be the purveyor of all manner of digital styli and drawing equipment, but the company is looking to put pen and paper back at the centre of your daily note-taking routine with the Bamboo Spark. The smart electromagnetic resonance folio lets you jot down notes and drawings with Wacom's ballpoint pen on a normal A5 pad of paper, but still have every single pen stroke stored and digitised in the cloud. It certainly beats having to contend with a stylus on a tablet touchscreen, and it's arguably more intuitive than other digital note-taking pens - where you either have to use special paper or clip a tracking sensor onto the top of your page.

At £120, it's also cheaper than other digital note-taking alternatives, and the textured folio case makes it look professional enough to take into a meeting without looking too scruffy. The Spark also has room for your phone, an iPad Air 2 or any other 9.7in or smaller tablet, depending on which of the three models you pick. Our review sample was the Bamboo Spark with gadget pocket, which lets you slot in a phone as well as an extra pad of A5 paper. Ultimately, you're going to be installing the same Bamboo Spark app on whatever device you decide to take with you, so it's really a matter of preference over which Spark you go with.

Wacom Bamboo Spark with pen

On our smartphone, the Bamboo Spark app was very simple and easy to use. The onscreen instructions take you through a very quick pairing process, and then you're ready to go. On the main home page you'll see thumbnails of all your notes and sketches, which you can tap to view them in full. You can then share, rotate or delete them, add more notes via the Draw option, or split your notes into separate documents using Wacom's excellent rewind tool. This captures every pen stroke to create a digital timeline of your work, allowing you to go back to the beginning of a paragraph, for example, and add in a new one from a different note.

The only problem is that you'll probably have to use a different piece of paper in order to do so, and make sure you write your note in roughly the same area, as you can't then drag and drop bits of different notes into position or select it onscreen to change its size. This is a little restrictive, but luckily Wacom doesn't stop you from editing your notes in other applications, such as Evernote, DropBox, or AutoDesk Sketchbook, so you can always add extra embellishments elsewhere if necessary.

Once you've written your note, all you need to do is tap the Spark's circular button in the centre of the folio and it will automatically sync with your device in less than ten seconds. Just beware that each button press effectively begins a new note, so you won't want to press it too often unless you want to spend ages stitching everything back together again. Of course, you will need to press it each time you turn a page, otherwise the Spark will just record the notes on your new page directly on top of the previous one.

Wacom Bamboo Spark sync button

The Spark has its drawbacks, then, but provided you don't forget to sync at the right time, it's surprisingly effective at capturing your handwriting and sketches. You don't even need to have your phone or tablet with you to sync your notes either, as the Spark can store up to 100 individual pages. Then, when you have your tablet again, you can upload them all at once.

It's not particularly good for capturing very fine pen strokes, as its even the pad's 1,024 pressure levels won't necessarily pick this up through the pad of paper to capture them accurately. The Spark is therefore best for quick doodles as opposed to detailed sketches, but it's still useful if you want to jot something down quickly for editing later.

Wacom Bamboo Spark app screenshot

^ With the Bamboo Spark app, you can view all your notes as thumbnails, combine different notes and split them apart again

The pen is relatively heavy compared to your standard ballpoint pen, but it's still very easy to use, and its textured grip is comfy to hold for long periods of time. It comes with two replacement ink cartridges as well. All you need to do to replace the cartridge is use the provided metal ring to pinch the old cartridge out of the pen and slide a new one in. No fiddly twisting involved.

It's a shame the Bamboo Spark isn't compatible with larger A4 sheets of paper, but the fact you can use almost any A5 pad you like (provided it's no thicker than 5mm) makes this one of the most natural and intuitive digital note-takers I've seen. The fact there's also room for your phone and tablet as well gives you the best of both worlds, too, as you can check your notes on the fly and send them out via email or share them via Dropbox or Evernote there and then. You will, however, be stuck with notes written in your handwriting, as the Bamboo Spark won't turn it into typed text. If that doesn't bother you, though, then the Spark is a good choice.

Hardware
Paper sizeA5
Charging typeMicro USB
Pressure levels1,024
Supported OSiOS 8+, Android 4.3+
BluetoothBluetooth 4.0 Smart
Dimensions206x253x30mm
Weight535g
Buying information
Price including VAT£120
WarrantyTwo years RTB
Supplierwww.uk.shop.wacom.eu
Detailswww.wacom.com
Part codeCDS-600G

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