An Introduction to Digital Tablets

The major parts of this hardware are a mouse, a tablet, and a pen. For general navigation, the mouse that comes with the tablet is completely capable of replacing your old mouse. Its size, shape, and capabilities are the same as a regular mouse; only this one doesn't work off of the tablet. If you prefer to do so, you can combine your current mouse with the new tablet and pen. For a really good time, plug both mice in and roll around with both hands. Dance, little pointer!

Next, the tablet generally acts as the pad for the pen and mouse. Sweeping either of the two tools over the surface enables the creation of lines or repositioning of desktop items, among many other things. The tablet has a mapped out area of space on it that coincides with positions on the computer screen; meaning that if you place the pen on the lower left-hand corner of the active space, the pointer will move to the lower left-hand corner of the screen (this action doesn't work the same way with the mouse, however, because the mouse doesn't follow absolute positioning).

Finally, the tablet pen looks, feels and works like a regular pen would. However, the pen has a completely different relationship with the tablet than the mouse does. It takes a while to get used to the action of the pen. The absolute positioning is so different from the relative motion of a mouse that it can get confusing; but then again, the function of the pen is for drawing while the mouse is more a navigational tool. However, there is a side button that clicks and renders the same actions as a mouse button. Sometimes the pen turns in your hand and the button ends up under a finger, causing some trouble when in the midst of illustrating or doing something precise.

If you are a big fan of using a pencil and paper to create special details and textures, the tablet's drawing functions might not be good enough to replace your usual artistic endeavors. The tablet does make some sketching easy, though hardly as beautiful as hand-drawn art. But, if you don't care as much for the extreme details, the tablet works very well to replace the traditional pen and paper.


We compared three tablets in the sub-$150 price range, all meeting the entry-level requirements for this roundup.

Each of these tablets is connected to the computer via a USB cable. Aiptek's HyperPen models provide a generous 6 feet of cord from tablet to computer, while Wacom's Graphire3 offers a potentially problematic 4 and a half feet.

Index Wacom's Graphire3
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  • holymaniac - Monday, December 15, 2003 - link

    Does anyone know of any pen that does not hover or that you can adjust the hover so that it only works when touching the pad?
    I hate the hover feature on my wacom intuit2 tablet. It always seems like it is loose.
  • DXM - Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - link

    #15, I suggest you look up the difference between "accuracy" (line placement) and "precision" (your dpi comparison). I'll give you a hint, they're not the same.

    But anyways, my question has been answered (thanks Doop) and I have no interest in continuing to hold a discussion with a man/boy who's only method of rebuttal is to insult and flame.
  • pcpimp - Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - link


    >> it was about acuracy

    use the extra room you are given on the larger tablets. otherwise it's a handicapped test. look at the friggin test images! they are different sizes

    >>It also seems that the only time the author >>mentions using a mouse to do any photoshop work is

    nope, read it, especially for the aiptek. it seems she 'only' tries the mouse before giving up? wtf?

    >>would not understand that "multiple trips to the >>history menu" means going to the little bar that >>says history and undoing things.

    My point was, any normal person would use alt-z, and probably not even have palettes on especially for this operation. Why is a photoshop newbie reviewing a graphics tablet? Does my grandma test drive race cars?

    >>>And even simpler than hitting E is flipping over your pen

    laughing my ass off. you just lost your cursor position and it is slower. speed matters when you have work to do. you switch to every other tool using keyboard in photoshop.

    >>The aiptek and the wacom cost EXACTLY the same price

    really laughing now. the 8x6 aiptek is 1/2 the 8x6 graphire. who didn't read?

    >>And for the final blow, you call the author a he even though Laura is a female name

    I dont care what she is why is why are photoshop newbs doing anandtech tablet reviews?

  • bobolicious - Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - link


    I think you're the idot here man ... you might have read the article before making yourself look like an ass.

    First off, the trace test wasn't about DPI, it was about acuracy. From the test, any one can see that the wacom draws draws lines on the screen that are more acurate to the lines drawn on the pad. I also think using a fixed sized image for tracing gives a very good indication of how different sized tablets map to real world mechanics: moving a short distance on a small tablet covers the same area as moving a long distance on a large one. I think the images make it easier to really grok what that means.

    It also seems that the only time the author mentions using a mouse to do any photoshop work is when the Aiptek 8000 tablet fails to be able to do the simple task of cutting and pasting a couple images. Obviously the tests done on these tablets were to test the functionality of the pen, and the reason for talking about the mice included with the tablets was to indicate that they could or do not do exactly the same thing as a normal ps/2 mouse (to which the answer is an astounding 'no' for the aiptek 8000u tablet). Even you admit to not using the tablets supplied mouse.

    I don't understand how anyone who's ever touched photoshop would not understand that "multiple trips to the history menu" means going to the little bar that says history and undoing things. And even simpler than hitting E is flipping over your pen and using it like an pencil eraser (which the aiptek cannot do). The fewer the keyboard shortcuts and on screen buttons I need to press, the more productive I'll be in any application.

    And for the clencher of your retardation, may I submit this for your approval:

    "I dont think anyone thinks an aiptek is technically superior to a wacom just like a duron compared to a p4ee but for a value buyers guide I expect a lot better discussion!"

    Ummm ... its a value buyers guide -> The aiptek and the wacom cost EXACTLY the same price -> The review shows that you can have a "technically superior" tablet (your words AND what the review implies) instead of a pile of dog excrement. I think that in that sense, you couldn't get a better review: even the defensive aiptek fanboi (how embarrassing is it to be /that guy/) is admitting his product is inferior to a product that costs exactly the same ammount of money. While still saying the review is bad. Beautiful.

    And for the final blow, you call the author a he even though Laura is a female name in every culture I know.

    Try reading before you stick your foot in your mouth next time.
  • pcpimp - Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - link

    in all seriousness...since drawing on screen without looking on your hand takes a decent amount of time to get used to, although still you should show an on screen trace test as well, maybe after a few runs with each tablet to get used to it, for the physical trace test at least make proper sized printouts of your sheet (that corresponds to the active area of each pad). you need to take in consideration the larger sizes of the tablets which mean your hand doesnt have to be held as precise all the time. and on your trace test, as in your other test, it seems like you are testing the mouse more than the stylus. wtf! the mouse is just there when you arent using gfx apps.

    finally, I seriously am shaking my head at the photoshop page. I have no idea why you are even using the mice on any tablet at all in this test. you use stylus (And keyboard with your other hand) in photoshop period. there are so many things here that make no sense to a photoshop user, like "multiple trips to the history menu"
    and "Wacom's Graphire3 didn't even require using the eraser tool from the side bar" (tried pressing E? it's a lot faster!) I see no mention of what monitor size you have. the larger monitor you have you want a larger pad or it feels really wierd.

    anyway nice idea anandtech I think tablets are must have for serious photoshop users, they save a ton of time. however, next time get a reviewer with some experience with the topic. I dont think anyone thinks an aiptek is technically superior to a wacom just like a duron compared to a p4ee but for a value buyers guide I expect a lot better discussion! by the way, aiptek doesnt work well on linux at the moment, I Think wacoms are better supported in Xfree86. If you like to run photoshop under linux or something :)
  • pcpimp - Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - link

    13, you are an idiot. did you notice the images were different sizes? duh! of course the smallest tablet is going to have the highest dpi. that test only works when the tablets are the same size you dolt! on different sized pads, trace the image on screen, in a second layer in photoshop! duh! but reading the laughable photoshop adventures of the reviewer I doubt he would even be able to figure that out!
  • Doop - Monday, December 8, 2003 - link

    I think the Intuos 2 has twice the resolution and twice the pressure sensitivity...
  • DXM - Monday, December 8, 2003 - link

    The Wacom Graphire3 looks pretty good according to the review. Does anyone know what the absolute differences between the Intuos2 and Graphire3?

    #12, get a clue. The reviewer traced a drawing for a reproducible image so you could compare the accuracy of the tablets.
  • pcpimp - Monday, December 8, 2003 - link

    by the way, do I need to mention how silly it is to do a fixed size tracing test on different sized tablets? hello! try doing ON SCREEN drawing like you would if you were DRAWING.

  • pcpimp - Monday, December 8, 2003 - link

    Uh, this so called 'artist' reviewer needs a clue...if I'm coughing up money for a wacom I'd better see a lot better review than this....I've had a hyperpen 8000 for over two years (was $99 at the time as well) and I clean up my scans and color them in photoshop and it works great...can not STAND using mice in photoshop know you work zoomed in on that stuff (no need to strain your eyes looking for single pixels) and you move fast as hell so if you're talking hairline resolution differences who cares...pressure sensitivity is a different matter although again, the aiptek works ok for me there. btw on my second AAA battery for the stylus, and dont use the mouse, I just plop my ball ps/2 mouse on top of it when not doing gfx stuff and works fine.

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