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December 22nd, 1999


Wacom Graphire

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Contact And Other Information
Manufacturer: Wacom
Product Home Page: Graphire
Description: Cordless mouse and pen set
Address: Wacom Technology Corporation
1311 SE Cardinal Court
Vancouver, WA 98683

Price: US$99.95 - List
US$89.95 - Outpost.com

Telephone: (800) 922-9348
Fax: (360) 896-9724
Requirements: PowerPC processor, USB port, Mac OS 8.0 or later, CD-ROM drive, color monitor
System Used For Testing: Power Computing PowerCenter with G3 upgrade, Entrega USB card, 96 MB of RAM, and Mac OS 8.6
[Review]
Wacom's Graphire Is A Great Tablet & An Excellent Value

Wacom Graphire
by Oliver Dueck

Introduction

Graphics tablets have traditionally been the domain of high end users; they have not traditionally been seen hooked up to home computers. That will certainly change, thanks to Wacom's affordable new pen and mouse set, dubbed Graphire. Priced at $99.95, Graphire is an incredible value, and has few shortcomings.


Setup and Documentation

Setup and installation is a snap. First, simply plug the tablet into a free USB port. At this point, Graphire is in mouse emulation mode, which means that while you can use the pen or mouse to move the cursor, you are missing on out on all the cool features. To remedy this, insert the Graphire CD and run the installer, which provides you with the Wacom control panel and documentation. The CD also includes the Painter Classic graphics package, and PenTools plugins for Adobe Photoshop.

The only paper documentation provided is a fold-out Quick Start Guide that does a good job of covering the basics. Further documentation is included via an excellent Mac-specific PDF manual, in a variety of languages.


Using the Mouse and Pen

The Graphire mouse is comfortably contoured, and its symmetrical design means it is compatible with both left and right-handed users. Besides being cordless, the mouse also lacks a ball, which means there are no moving parts that can get dirty and impede use. To top it off, it is also batteryless.

The mouse features two buttons, as well as a scrolling wheel that doubles as a third button, also programmable. Changing the function of each of the buttons is a simple task, thanks to the handy Wacom Tablet control panel. We found the scrolling wheel to be a very handy feature; it too is programmable, so you can adjust the rate of scrolling. The only problem we had with it was that scrolling would not work when browsing web sites with frames.

Using a mouse on a tablet takes some getting used to, but we got the hang of it very quickly. The biggest drawback of the Graphire tablet is its small size; at only four by five inches, it can sometimes get crowded when mousing around on a large screen. On the other hand, we found it very easy to make small, precise mouse movements, no doubt thanks to the tablet's high resolution and the mouse's lack of moving parts.

Like the mouse, Graphire's pen is comfortably shaped and lacks a battery. The side of the pen has a handy two-function programmable switch. The pen also features an eraser; both the tip and eraser are pressure-sensitive. The tablet sports a detachable pen stand, and a transparent overlay allows for easy tracing.

The pen is very nice to use; it is worlds better than trying to clumsily draw with a mouse, as it is much more natural. Using the included Painter Classic software, it is easy to appreciate the tablet's 512 levels of pressure sensitivity.

The pen can also be used as a mouse, for everyday mousing tasks. However, some users will definitely find this very tricky. Most people will want to stick to the mouse when not drawing. The pen does have a very handy feature for text editing, though; the eraser can be used to select and delete text.


Customizing the Tablet

The Wacom Tablet control panel allows a high degree of customization, and has an intuitive and attractive tabbed interface to boot. You can create completely different setups for different applications; this is handy for setting up graphics applications differently from your word processor, for example.

As mentioned above, the buttons on both the pen and mouse are programmable, and both the pen tip and eraser's sensitivity can be adjusted. Another handy feature is the ability to have a custom pop-up menu, triggered by your choice of mouse or pen button. The menu allows you to manually switch between mouse and pen mode, and you can add custom keystrokes or third party macros to it.


Conclusion

At around $100, the Wacom Graphire is an excellent value. It sports a good software bundle, is easy to set up and use, and offers a high degree of customization. While the tablet may be rather small, it is adequate for home use; professional users will probably want to take a look at Wacom's Intuos tablets, which come in a wide variety of sizes. But you can't really go wrong with the Graphire.


Final Score (Maximum Score is 5 Gadgies)
4 Gadgies
Pros Affordable
Customizable
Easy to set up and use
Good software bundle.
Cons Tablet is rather small
Scrolling wheel does not work when browsing web sites with frames.



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