Wacom Graphire Tablet

Wacom Graphire

I don’t expect too many people to find this post by searching for Graphire reviews, I know the hardware is pretty outdated these days. But I just got a Wacom CintiQ (review coming next!) so I wanted to write a bit about my previous experience with a Wacom tablet.

I was going through a major art-phase when I picked up the Wacom Graphire tablet. I thought it would be the answer to all my problems: drawing in Photoshop would never be the same! Unfortunately I was pretty let down. As it turns out, drawing with your hand while looking at a screen is not intuitive as it seems at all. When you draw non-digitally, you are following the pencil or brush stroke with your eye, while looking at what you’re drawing. With a graphics tablet, you can’t follow your utensil – making it much harder to judge your strokes.

I started to get familiar with it for awhile, but ultimately gave up. Every few years I’d dust it off and get excited for it again – only to be disappointed again.

Now, I’ve heard the same complaints about many different tablets, so I’m sure that it’s not Wacom’s fault – or even the Graphire’s fault. The graphire itself was built nicely, and the pen felt comfortable. One think I liked was that Wacom included a “wireless” mouse that was compatible with the tablet, so you could use the tablet as a mouse pad when not using the pen. One thing I didn’t like though, was the clear plastic screen that wraps around the actual tablet itself. It looks tacky, and scratched easily. I feel like I took pretty good care of it, but during a move it got scratched which makes it entirely useless. You can’t use it to trace a photo when the pen gets struck in a scratch and slides or creates a hiccup in the pen pressure. I typically used the tablet without the clear overlay, but I guess it was designed for tracing.

The biggest problem I had with the tablet though, was the driver. I have a multi-monitor setup and I can’t really compromise on that. So whatever I do, it needs to support multiple monitors. Unfortunately the driver for this tablet falls short of this.

The driver has two “modes” for the behavior of the Pen.

The first mode works like a track-pad. When you put the pen down, move it, and lift it, the mouse cursor will be in a new position on the screen. If you repeat the motion, the cursor will move again, ending up in yet another position. The problem with this mode is that it makes it impossible to write. Because the mouse only moves between the beginning and end of stroke, the letters will run into each other. (the next letters stroke will begin where the last letters stroke ended)

The second mode is more desirable if you have only one screen. With this mode, the tablet is mapped 1:1 with your screen, so the top left of the tablet is equal to the top-left of your monitor, and the bottom right is equivalent to the bottom right of the monitor. This is nice, because if you pick up the pen, move it to a new spot, the mouse will instantly jump there. This makes it possible to write or draw naturally because the pen will always be in the correct spot on the screen (You don’t have to “move” it there first). Though this sounds like perfection, it doesn’t work on multiple monitors. It either tries to stretch the tablet across multiple screens, or overlap awkwardly spilling onto the other screen. When it’s stretching across the whole screen, the horizontal movements will move twice as fast as vertical movements. If you were to draw a perfect circle on the tablet, you’d get an oval on the screen. In the other configuration, a circle will work, but its not mapped 1:1 with the screen. It will just choose your main monitor and sloppily overlap onto the other screen. This means that, while the pen is working correctly, it doesn’t have any correlation to the area of the track pad and your monitor.

From what I understand, other tablets (including new Wacom’s) have a better driver that allows you to specify a monitor and specify how it’s mapped. Maybe Wacom never updated their Graphire driver, but since I don’t own another tablet I can’t say for sure.

Overall I like the hardware quality except for the cheesy clear overlay. I like the Pen. But the driver made this unusable for me on a multi-screen setup. Perhaps this is a good solution for laptops or computers with only one monitor.

 

July 5, 2014 at 9:22 pm | Technology Reviews

 

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