Published on November 24th, 2015 | by Greg0
Wacom Bamboo Spark: Simple Digital Note-Taking
The pen is mightier than… well, just about anything, in the right hands. And if you’re anything like us, note taking has only gotten harder with the advent on tablets and smartphones. Stylii are great, and the new iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface devices can certainly do a good job of helping you electronically capture your writing- but they are expensive and bulky and not optimal for use outdoors or in a meeting. Pen and paper are fast, tactile, efficient, portable, and inexpensive- but once you lose that pad (or napkin), it’s gone forever. And Siri or other voice-notation systems are OK for quick comments, but won’t work for charts, diagrams, or longer thoughts.
In between are electronic note-taking options, like the Wacom Bamboo Spark. Available in three different models, this smart folio as tested has a pocket for your phone or business card, though versions with a flexible pocket capable of accommodating up to a 9.7-inch tablet or a snap-in place specifically built for the iPad Air 2. To use the Spark, you’ll want to own a Bluetooth Smart Ready device, like the iPad mini, iPad 3, iPad Air or later; iPhone 4s or later; or most Android devices with version 4.3 or later.
We’ve seen plenty of cool Wacom gear before, but this one is different- there is a smart pen and the folio itself serves as a transceiver, allowing you to use regular paper and then have your notes or drawings instantly, wirelessly transmitted to your device. Using the Spark app, you can edit your notes, save them to cloud storage services, play them back, or export them as JPGs or PDF files. There are battery limitations- about eight hours of life between charges- but that’s enough for just about the busiest day of writing that we can imagine. One thing you don’t need to worry much about is having your phone or tablet nearby at all times, since the Spark can save up to 100 pages of notes in memory between transfers.
The last great note-taking improvement was the Livescribe system, but it requires special paper and has a pretty awkward pen. This pen is subtle and won’t attract attention, and the folio itself is well-built and feels great in the hand. On the flipside, this system won’t transcribe your notes, which is a definite downside but may not matter to you. Graphic designers might miss true pressure sensitivity but others will love the professionalism of the Spark. The only major flaw in the system that we noticed was that you’ll need to go to Wacom for their custom ink cartridges, though two extras were included. The Wacom Bamboo Spark is available now, online and in stores, for around $150.