This tablet provides exactly the functionality that I was looking for in a replacement for my aging Graphire 4. The Stylus:
No battery is needed for the stylus. This was a major selling point for me, and the reason why I will always buy tablets from Wacom. It is also very lightweight, comparable to an actual pen or pencil, and its overall ergonomics are a great improvement over the Graphire. The rubber grip has a nice feel to it and doesn't slip. The buttons are easily located without the need to look, yet low-profile enough that they won't get in the way. This version's stylus does not have a built-in eraser, but it isn't really much of a loss in my opinion, as it is quite possible to erase using the pen side of the stylus. When drawing or writing, the feel of the nib against the tablet surface offers a similar resistance to what one would experience when using a real pencil, which was a very welcome surprise. This likely comes at the expense of the longevity of the nibs, but they are fairly inexpensive to replace, and four replacement nibs can be found in a small compartment on the underside of the tablet. There is a small, blue rubber ring at the top of the pen, possibly to keep it from rolling on the desk. A black ring is also included, if blue doesn't fit one's sense of aesthetics. The Tablet:
The tablet itself has a thinner profile than the Graphire, and is somewhat lighter as well, a fact which may prove useful if one is using it with a laptop. The rubber feet on the bottom work very well with the tablet's low profile, so much so that once placed, it almost feels like it's part of the desk. There is a fabric loop affixed to the back of the tablet for use as a holder for the stylus, but in my experience the pen fits into it a bit tightly to be practical for everyday use. The loop is a light blue by default, but the tablet comes with a black loop if a more neutral color suits your fancy. The tablet surface is fairly smooth, but also very slightly grainy, like a sheet of paper, and has four dots etched on it, representing the corners of the drawable area. The four buttons at the top can be easily located without looking, thanks to the small, braille-like bumps on each one, and provide decent feedback when pressed. The Software (Windows 7):
The tablet driver installs easily, and includes a friendly application for computer novices to manage their device. It requires the .NET framework 4.0/4.5, and by default tries to run at startup, so don't be alarmed if you get an error message. In most cases, Windows update will automatically install the required version of .NET for you. However, it is possible and easy to configure the tablet using the Tablet Properties tool alone. By default, the pressure sensitivity was a bit too firm for my preference, but that was very easy to change. The properties tool even provides a feedback scale, allowing you to easily see how the physical pressure relates to the current level of firmness. The properties tool also provides a wide range of options for customizing the buttons, including a unique radial menu which can be assigned to any button, allowing quick access to the tablet properties tool, among other things, which is great if you find yourself desiring different levels of firmness at different times while working. I have not had time to test the included creative software, but I remember from previous tests on my Graphire that Artrage is a fairly decent painting application, although the version included with the tablet is not the most recent. Pressure sensitivity also works well in the GIMP, Adobe Photoshop, and most other programs that support it. It also integrates with Windows 7's handwriting features. Summary:
Sturdy, lightweight and low-profile. No battery needed for stylus. Feels like natural pencil and paper. Intuitive button placement. Highly configurable driver application. Fairly good software.