“Most important, I suppose, is that the driver screams. Painting with the stylus—with pressure—actually draws faster than the Apple mouse and my MacAlly mouse, which use no pressure at all, in applications like Adobe Photoshop and Synthetik Studio Artist.”

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REVIEW OCTOBER 17, 2000
Wacom Graphire Power Suite

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The mouse is also quite functional, with two buttons and a scroll wheel that also acts as a third button. As you may be aware from reading some of my other pieces, I'm a big fan of my MacAlly three-button scrolling mouse. But the cordless mouse that comes with the Graphire is actually more accurate and less buggy, particularly in the area of scrolling. Although, for some reason, it refuses to scroll frames in Internet Explorer, it does hang in there in situations where the MacAlly mouse typically fails, such as working in Dreamweaver documents. Of course, the Graphire mouse is limited to the active area of the Graphire tablet, so it might not be practical for all users.

Regardless, the pen offers sufficient control to act as my primary input device for all occasions, so I just leave all of my mice plugged in but off to one side and out of the way of my work.

Performance
The key to the Graphire winning me over was convincing me that a low-end tablet could actually enhance my Mac experience (rather than sacrificing functionality for pressure sensitivity), not only in graphics applications, but in general use as well. It did this quite well.

The tablet has 1,015 lines per inch of resolution, more than twice the resolution of the Apple optical mouse shipping with current systems, and it's noticeable. It makes positioning the cursor in between text characters much easier. (Particularly important for those of us using the old G4 keyboard, since we're constantly having to go in and correct missed keystrokes.) And it means you don't have to zoom in 400 percent in a Photoshop document to get a stroke started at just the right coordinate.

The 512 levels of pressure sensitivity are also nice. If you don't like the default settings, you can alter the pressure curve through a graphical interface in the Wacom Control Panel. I did. The result of the slight tweak was an extraordinarily natural response from the stylus, whether applied to opacity or brush size. The applications for pressure sensitivity are, of course, numerous and beyond the scope of this review. Whether you're creating masks, working with cloning operations or just painting, the Graphire tablet adds 512 levels of variation on the fly. (I should note that most graphics applications do support pressure-sensitive tablets right out of the box, so no additional plugins are required, including some 3D programs and most image editors and paint programs. Those that don't support pressure sensitivity will simply recognize the stylus as a mouse and operate normally.)

Most important, I suppose, is that the driver screams. Painting with the stylus—with pressure—actually draws faster than the Apple mouse and my MacAlly mouse, which use no pressure at all, in applications like Adobe Photoshop and Synthetik Studio Artist.

Early on in the release of the Graphire Power Suite (August), there were some reports of incompatibilities with the G4 desktops. But this has now either been corrected in the most recent drivers, or it just doesn't apply to the software I use. And I use most of the major software titles available for Mac. If you're worried about incompatibilities, you can stop. And, just for the record, I'm running mine off the Mac keyboard's underpowered USB port with no problems.

The bottom line
Since I received this tablet, I haven't been able to stop using it. It works well. It works fast. And it greatly enhances the process of creating art on the Mac. At a price of only $99, there's no excuse in the world for anyone not to buy one.

For more information, visit http://www.wacom.com.

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital DTP; host of the Creative Mac, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion and Synthetik Studio Artist WWUGs; and executive producer of Creative Mac, DCC Designer, Digital DTP, Digital Pro Sound, Digital Webcast, Hollywood Industry, Presentation Master, Plugin Central, ProAudio.net and Video Systems sites. All are part of the Digital Media Net family of online industry hubs.

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