Wacom Graphire Bluetooth tablet
The Graphire Bluetooth Tablet marks the first time Wacom has added Bluetooth connectivity to a tablet. The Graphire set includes a digital pen, a mouse, and a tablet designed for artists and graphic designers who need a degree of control unattainable with a standard mouse. Regular computer users who suffer from repetitive strain injuries--heck, anyone interested in a different way to work--will also appreciate its ease of use. However, at a price of nearly $250, only serious artists and designers will shell out for the Graphire.
Installing the Graphire Bluetooth tablet is easy and includes installing the drivers and the software from an included CD. The Bluetooth setup, however, is a bit more problematic--it took us a few attempts to connect using the Bluetooth Setup Wizard on our PC. After the initial setup, the computer's Bluetooth consistently recognized the tablet if it was in range--within approximately 30 feet. The Graphire's start-up guide offers instructions on how to set up on both Macs and Windows machines, but it gives little Bluetooth troubleshooting advice. A more detailed user manual is included on the installation CD.
Once the Graphire's battery is fully charged, you can use it without the limitations of cords, and it comes with no wired hook-ups, so if you don't have Bluetooth, this isn't the tablet set for you. And, unlike some other sets, such as the Adesso CyberTablet 8600, neither the pen nor the mouse requires batteries of their own.
The sleek, gray Graphire tablet matches the pen and the mouse. The tablet's active area, which is 6 inches by 8 inches, is covered by a removable plastic panel. You can place a photo or a piece of art under it for easy tracing--a handy feature for artists. There's also a place to stow the pen on the back of the tablet. The mouse, the pen, and the tablet have buttons that you can configure using the intuitive Pen Tablet Properties control panel, which installs along with the driver. The pen, which is about the same size as an average ballpoint, has a conveniently placed rocker switch that defaults to left- and right-click buttons, and the tip and eraser's sensitivity levels are adjustable. The mouse has three programmable buttons: left- and right-click buttons and a scrollwheel. The tablet has two programmable buttons that can open files, launch programs, or perform keystrokes.
Both the pen and the mouse have their own operating modes to which the tablet adjusts its sensitivity accordingly. In pen mode, the active area defaults to absolute positioning--if you rest the tip of the pen on the bottom-right corner of the active area, the cursor will point to the bottom-right corner of the screen. In mouse mode, the tablet reverts to relative positioning, and the cursor moves as with any mouse. Because the tablet recognizes the pen's movement up to a quarter inch above the actual tablet surface, drawing and writing accurately takes some practice and requires deliberate movements; but the pen is very sensitive and accurate. The mouse also works only on the tablet pad and moves by touch, which creates slightly more resistance while sliding the mouse over the tablet than when using a typical optical mouse on a desk. When using both the pen and the mouse to move the cursor, we didn't experience any cursor lag or loss of signal.
The accompanying software bundle is impressive and, undoubtedly, is a factor in the set's premium price. Included in the pack are Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0, Corel Painter Essentials 2.0, and Nik Color Effect Pro 2.0 GE. It's a fairly powerful pack of software, but we can't help but think that anyone who's willing to shell out $250 for the Graphire already has their own graphics software. We wish Wacom offered a less expensive, hardware-only package.
Wacom offers toll-free phone support from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday PT; driver downloads and e-mail support are also available via the Wacom Web site. The Graphire for Bluetooth comes with a one-year limited warranty for the hardware.