Review: Wacom Graphire2

In the old days, we used to use sticks to scratch (October 3rd, 2002)

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Product Manufacturer: Wacom

Price: $99

The Good

  • Drawing becomes second-nature, great for low-end photo editing, reasonably priced

The Bad

  • Size restriction for large images, Inkwell isnít robust

In the old days, we used to use sticks to scratch symbols in the dirt. That was then. Today, I think I prefer my millions of colors and multi-layered Photoshop file to the tools of old, thank-you-very-much. But the fact is, a person in the dirt can freehand draw a circle better than anyone with a mouse. Wacom's new Graphire2 promises to make freehand drawing second nature.

Speculation has run rampant about the quality and usability of Wacom's Graphire2 tablet. Is this value tablet useful at its price of $99, or is it the preferable alternative to the Graphire2 cracking open a piggybank for a higher-end tablet?

In the Beginning...

A quick survey of first reactions to the tablet revealed frustration associated with the fundamentals of navigation. On a laptop trackpad, the point where you place your finger on the trackpad is tied to the mouse pointer, so that relative finger movement on the trackpad moves the pointer. However, on a tablet, each point represents directly to a point on the screen. Just because the tablet acts precisely contrary to most users' expectations doesn't mean the concept is wrong; it only means the tablet will, at first, confuse first timers.

The Old Fashioned Keyboard and Mouse

Tablets are not yet ready to replace the conventional combination of the keyboard and mouse. For text input, tablets are not yet ready to replace the keyboard. The stylus used as a mouse is not only impractical, but slow. Perfect penmanship is hardly possible with reasonable speed: quickly-written "b"'s end up being translated as "lo," and "d"'s translated as "ol." Also, older G3's and even the newest G4 Power Macs exhibit the same problem of hanging for several seconds while queuing up actions before doing them sequentially. Although the Graphire is not responsible for hanging or penmanship recognition problems, text recognition shouldn't solely drive you to purchase this tablet.

Maybe it's me...Maybe it's you

Some people may be able to use the Inkwell functionality, but I don't recommend this tablet for any serious graphic designer, either. A 4-by-5 inch tablet is simply too small for any kind of detail-oriented work (or convenient text recognition, for that matter). The mouse Wacom provides is relatively cumbersome, too, though it does serve as a temporary alternative to a trackpad.

Inner Beauty

The truly enjoyable part of using this tablet is in drawing, painting, and photo editing with the stylus. There's no question about how great it is; pressure sensitivity is bliss to shade or color photos. The transition from the writing tip and eraser tip is seamless; flip over the pen and it instantly becomes an eraser that does exactly that: erase like an eraser should. Drawing becomes second-nature through the use of a tablet. Size restriction is the only problem here.

Tying Up the Loose Ends

Plagued with cumbersome text input and only low-sensitivity graphics design capabilities, the Wacom Graphire2 tablet can serve only as a novelty unless you want an entry-level tablet to doodle free-hand on. There's a reason Wacom has its Intuos tablet line.

by Florian Maurer


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