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Genius PenSketch 9x12 graphics tablet9x12-inch tablet with 200LPI, 1024 pressure levels
When it comes to graphics tablets, the only real game in town is Wacom. That company pretty much dominates the market. Recently, I was sent a graphics tablet from a company I've never heard of. Called the PenSketch 9x12 and manufactured by Genius, it is targeted at graphics users and comes with a cordless mouse and pen. The pen sports 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity for varying degrees of thickness control, and ships with a host of software, including tryout versions of Adobe Photoshop, Corel PaintShop Pro X, and Corel Painter IX; as well as full versions of Corel Painter Essentials 2 and Corel Photo Album 6. It also includes PenSuite software to take advantage of its pen computing capabilities, including Annotate All, Annotate for Word, Pen Commander, PenMail, PenSigner, and PenPresenter. The PenSketch sports a 2000 lines per inch resolution and a 9x12-inch writing surface. It connects to the computer via a free USB port.
Installation of the drivers for this unit was a challenge. The system could not find the setup file for the tablet drivers or the PenSuite tools on the supplied CD, but the tablet ran fine using Corel Painter Essentials. The tablet automatically synced to the size of the notebook's display, and I was able to work the pen as the pen should work. To get around the CD driver issue, I had to download the driver from the Genius website, which is probably the best solution anyway as you get the latest driver.
One aspect of the graphics tablet I would like to see is lighted shortcuts on the tablet's plate. There are several programmable shortcuts on the tablet's cover, including New Open, Save, print, Cut, Copy, Paste, Undo, Redo, page up, page down, back, forward, find, enter, and five custom buttons that you can apply your own shortcut commands to.
The included mouse works on the surface of the tablet only, like a big mouse pad, and fits fairly well in the hand. It complements the pen when you have to mouse around. I especially liked the scroll wheel, which doesn't scroll, but rather is a tactile feedback wheel; you just move it forward or backward to scroll. The pen ships with its own pen stand and two additional pen tips. The pen's two buttons can be user customized as the right and left mouse button.
The PenSketch 9x12 ($199 MSRP) offers a lot of the functionality of the high end graphics tablets at a fraction of the price. It is Macintosh and PC compatible, is just the right size for many graphics artists, and is of surprisingly high quality construction. Most users of the PenSketch will probably have Photoshop, Painter, or some other graphics application installed, so the trial versions are probably a waste of disk space. The PenSuite is a nice application that can take advantage of the capabilities a graphics tablet has to offer. The only downside was the lack of a working driver from the included CD-ROM, yet a driver was easily downloaded from the Internet. The mouse and pen are a good complement to the PenSketch, though it does take some practice using, especially for those who are new to using graphics tablets. The PenSketch won't take down Wacom's excellent line of graphics tablets, but it certainly should give digital artists a nice alternative to consider for the price and footprint available. For more information, visit http://www.geniuseshop.com.
John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at email@example.com
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