Wacom Intuos 3 review
For anyone with aspirations of creating or editing visual work on a PC, whether it’s to make a simple digital line drawing or touch up a photograph, there can be no more useful device than a graphics tablet. By simulating the natural process of drawing with a pen or pencil, and integrating pressure, rotation and tilt recognition, you can take control over your creations in a way that a mouse is unable to match. But prices vary wildly, so what do you get for your money?
With desktop space always at a premium, we’re reviewing A5-sized tablets. All come with a battery-powered wireless mouse that can only be used on the tablet’s surface, because it uses the tablet’s signal rather than an optical sensor or ball, but you can keep your usual mouse plugged in at the same time. Drawbacks of the cheaper units are a lack of features and in particular the need for a battery to power the pen.
Adding the extra weight of a battery to the cheap-feeling plastic pen of the Genius MousePen 8×6 might seem like the straw to break the camel’s back, but it did improve its balance in our hand. Although it lacks the replacement nibs of the Trust and Wacom tablets and doesn’t have an eraser button on top, it was comfortable to hold. The tablet’s surface, though, felt rough and hollow and this was made worse by its poor sensitivity, despite the fact that Genius claims it has 1,024 levels of pressure. It was also necessary to press firmly to register a strong response, even after tweaking the pressure settings – something that could quickly become uncomfortable with prolonged use. It isn’t perfect by any means, but for the price the Genius MousePen isn’t a bad purchase. The numerous programmable Hot Cells and fuss-free control panel are easy to use, and it also includes Corel Painter 8 and a number of PenSuite utilities for adding handwritten notes to other apps, including Microsoft Word.
The most noticeable difference between the Trust TB-3100 Wireless Tablet and the Genius is its pen. Despite feeling slightly unbalanced in your hand due to the battery fitting into the top half, its replaceable nibs and overall design appear to be a step up in quality to the point that it even rivals the pen of Wacom’s much more expensive Graphire Bluetooth.
With 512 levels of pressure, the Trust should be less responsive than the Genius, but this didn’t prove true in use. However, it works best when held at 90 degrees to the tablet – an unnatural position for working with a pen, and this proved irritating. There also seems to be little change in sensitivity made by the tablet’s control settings, and it suffers a similar pressure problem to the Genius in that you need to press firmly to initiate a strong response – something that will once again prove tiring. Fortunately, the tablet itself is smooth to draw on, with less friction present compared to the MousePen. Overall, the Trust TB-3100 won’t look pretty on your desk, doesn’t come with any software and the mouse is lightweight and cheap-feeling, but for the price it’s hard to complain.
Wacom’s Graphire Bluetooth is the first completely wireless graphics tablet (also available in a non-Bluetooth version; see Alternative sizes, opposite). The unit is rechargeable and is claimed to last for up to 25 hours. With 512 pressure levels – half that of the Intuos 3 – it can seem less precise in use than it should. This can be partly attributed to the Bluetooth connection, which is easy to set up and fast to connect initially, but introduces a very slight lag.