Writing and sketching on a smartphone or tablet is usually a pretty poor experience, unless you invest in something like Samsung’s Galaxy Note line. But even then, Samsung has been hesitant to keep the Note tablet line refreshed, and many people don’t want to buy a Samsung device just for that purpose.
You could always invest a ton of money into, say, a Microsoft Surface tablet, but that’s expensive and overkill for a lot of things when you already have a functional phone or tablet that you’d like to use. That’s where accessories like the Bamboo Slate and Bamboo Folio come in.
Both devices feature an intelligent pen and paper writing pad that is crafted onto either a folio “notebook” or a slate pad. In case you were wondering where the Slate and Folio names came from, there you go.
Aside from the different designs that house the writing pad, both versions are nearly identical. The Folio is quite a bit bigger, which might be beneficial for someone wanting to take a longer page of notes or a bigger sketch, but otherwise you’ll get the same features from both.
The writing pad itself is really just a simple paper notepad with tearaway pages. It features a grid of dots to help you line things up if you’re drawing or sketching, but otherwise it’s just regular paper. The pen feels the same, offering an easy way to jot down notes on anything that you’d normally use. It’s not restricted to the writing pad, although using the two together is the only way to transfer notes to the digital Inkspace app that Bamboo offers.
That unfortunately means that you’ll need to keep up with the pen and replace the ink when it runs out, because a regular ballpoint pen won’t transfer your ideas to a digital format. At that point it’s just a very expensive paper notepad.
But that tight integration allows the Slate and Folio to do some very cool things. Everything is tied through the Inkspace app, which allows you to transfer your digital files to other services, continue editing and creating, and collaborate with other users.
The free version gives you 5GB of storage to play with, allowing you to upload and store your files so you’ll always have access to them. You can also shoot for a Plus subscription that ups the storage to 50GB but also gives you the ability to transfer your hand-written notes to text files, export to vector formats for further editing, and the collaboration features.
Using the Slate and Folio was actually really, really fun. Once you’ve turned the device on and synced it with your phone or tablet, you just start drawing, sketching, or writing on the first sheet of paper. Tap the button and it magically appears on your device, all digital and ready to be sent out to other services.
Or, if you’d rather see what you’re drawing in real time, there’s also a fully functional Live Mode that updates as you draw.
Everything you draw is completely accurate when it shows up on your device’s screen. It tracks how hard you’re pressing the pen, it handles sketching perfectly, and it captures the intricacies of handwriting without any problems. It’s a niche device, but it does its job absolutely flawlessly.
But that in itself is the biggest struggle to overcome with the Slate and the Folio. They’re both fantastic devices, but the Slate costs $129 or $149, depending on size, and the Folio costs $199. They’re both pretty effectively priced outside of the “impulse buy” category, so the only kind of person that’s seriously interested in these will be artists, writers, and students. It’s a tough sell to anyone else.
However, if the price point doesn’t put you off and you’re looking for a way to create digital copies or your sketches and notes, look no further. Bamboo knocked it out of the park.