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Pen-on with the Aiptek SlimTablet 600u

The Aiptek SlimTablet 600u is an affordable graphics tablet with a giant working area, slender profile and option to email hamfisted cacography -- that's bad handwriting to you and me

Regular readers may have encountered the ideological schisms that split Crave down the middle like the English Channel at the start of Dad's Army. The Mac vs PC debate regularly leads to medieval duelling, while Cravers wave their Nokia N95s and iPhones like blades in West Side Story-style dance rumbles in the back alleys of Southwark. But the fiercest conflict is between those fuddy-duddy traditionalists who favour the out-dated, finger-cramping mouse, and the forward-thinking, finger-snapping young dandies that glide effortlessly across the screen with a graphics tablet. Having got on well with the market-dominating Wacom, we tried out the Aiptek SlimTablet 600u.

It certainly lives up to the name: the SlimTablet is a mere slip of a thing, with the writing surface sitting a gossamer-like 5mm off the desk. The total footprint is 36 by 26cm -- only slightly larger than a piece of A4 paper -- while the working area is a stadium-like 16 by 26cm. Like most tablets, this uses absolute positioning: the surface area represents the dimensions of the screen, so no superfluous dragging is required.

It comes with Power Presenter RE, a presentation application for Microsoft PowerPoint, the Office Ink handwriting application, and the Free Notes tool for adding handwritten notes to emails. Scrawl out your notes in your choice of colour and pen style, click send, and the JPEG of the missive is attached to an email automatically. Switch to desktop mode, and you can scribble all over the screen -- as we have above -- then save or email a grab of the whole screen, with squiggles.

As well as the working area the size of a football pitch, the 600u boasts no less than 29 customisable hotkeys. Cleverly, these keys, arranged around the sides of working area, pop up onscreen tooltips when you hover over them with the stylus, so you don't have to look down at the tablet.

The Aiptek SlimTablet 600u is available now for a very friendly £55, and works with Windows and Macs. -Rich Trenholm