One morning I awoke to find my wrist and elbow having more than the average arthritic pain that age has added to my life. I thought over all my activities of the past week and realized I am spending more and more time in front of my computer in my “digital darkroom”. I asked myself if that might have something more to do with the pain I was feeling than old age. When the answer was a resounding “YES!”, the next question was, “What can I do to alleviate some of the stresses I am putting on my wrist and arm?”
I began to explore the idea of using a pen and tablet instead of a mouse when I am editing photos. It is ergonomically better to use a tablet and pen than using a mouse, thereby giving your wrist and arm a break from repetitive stress Then I began to question how many other programs and activities on my computer could I use a pen and tablet for? I needed to do a justification for the expenditure incurred with the pen and tablet. It needed to have value added, not just a little pain relief. I needed to put sound judgment to a frivolous purchase that might be driven by a lust for the latest and greatest technology (a far too common event in my household).
I began to investigate the different tablets and pens that are in the market place. There are two popular manufacturers of these items: Wacom and Aiptek.
Wacom Technology Corporation
This manufacturer claims that their pen tablets are the fastest and most comfortable way to work at your computer. They claim to have over 100 compatible programs they work with on both the PC platform as well as Macs. All their tablets are built using pen-enabled technology to feel like a regular writing instrument in your hand.
The web site promotes the idea of enjoying your experience and having fun with their tablets. If you want to have fun with digital photos, draw, paint, jot notes, and annotate documents, a tablet may be your answer.
The first group of tablets are called GRAPHIRE. The latest version, the Graphire4, is available in a choice of three colors (Silver, White, and Metallic Blue) and two sizes (4×5 and 6×8). The 6×8 size has over twice the tablet area of the 4×5 for even more comfort and control. There is also a Graphire Bluetooth 6×8 that gives you up to 30 feet of wireless freedom.
According to the manufacturer, the Graphire4 tablet offers two programmable ExpressKeys for convenient mouse clicks and keyboard shortcuts, plus a handy scroll wheel. The pen stays nearby with the integrated pen compartment and a separate pen stand. A transparent photo frame allows for easy personalization with photos and artwork – fun samples and a template are included in the package. The included Graphire4 Pen offers 512 levels of pressure sensitivity for natural brush control, patented cordless battery-free technology, two programmable buttons and a pressure-sensitive eraser for easy fixes. The included Graphire4 cordless mouse that always moves freely also features patented cordless, battery-free technology, as well as a scrolling fingerwheel that allows for easy navigation while functioning as a third programmable button. The Graphire4 seems to have nearly everything a serious amateur or emerging professional could ask for.
For the “serious” photographer, designer and artist , the model of choice is the INTUOS. These “professional” pen tablets have “ExpressKeysÃ?Â?” and “Touch Strips” on the tablet which give you keyboard shortcuts, scrolling, zooming, and brush size control plus more.
The Intuos comes in six sizes: 4×5, 6×8, 6×11, 9×12, 12×12, 12×19.
Since I am a “PC” owner, I have not experienced any tablet on a Mac, however, the manufacturer says you can use your Graphire pen to enjoy all the digital-inking capabilities of the Apple Inkwell.
Aiptek makes a model called a “Hyperpen”.
Aiptek’s HyperPen comes in 4 models:
HyperPen 12000U is a 12 inch x 9 inch tablet (with cordless pen and mouse) which gives you the ability to use the pen to fast, easily and accurately edit your digital photographs, digitize, trace, draw, and illustrate graphics, as well as manage your cursor and navigate menus. Draw, paint, create artwork, sign your name, and annotate documents directly in Microsoft Ã?Â® Office XP. With the included software you can keep it in your own handwriting or convert it to text.
HyperPen 8000U is a 8 inch x 6 inch tablet with exactly the same technical specs as its bigger 12000U. Just has a slightly smaller working area. This could be a very important issue to anyone who has a big screen monitor and is used to working every inch of the monitor.
HyperPen 6000U is a 6 inch x 4.5 inch tablet with exactly the same technical specs as the two larger models. The 6000U has a yet slightly smaller working area. If this is an issue to anyone with the 8000U, it will be a really big issue for you.
HyperPen Bluetooth Tablet is the same size as a 6000U but with Bluetooth capability. With Bluetooth technology, the new Aiptek Bluetooth tablet provides a wireless solution for tablet users. You could walk around in the meeting room and handwrite annotations or draw graphs simultaneously during your presentation. It provides cable-free mobility during meetings and presentations.
Bluetooth is an up and coming mobility tool. Both Wacom and Aiptek has moved quickly to integrate this into their tablets. With Aiptek, their least expensive tablet has incorporated Bluetooth, bringing the Bluetooth Tablet in as their most expensive tablet. If latest and greatest technology is important to you, this is a feature to consider regardless of manufacturer. However, if you are only looking for a great tablet to be ergonomically correct while you do photo and graphics work on your desktop or laptop computer, these tablets may not be the tablet for you.
Having now owned two of the models listed here, the Aiptek HyperPen 6000U and the Wacom Graphire4, the Graphire4 meets my criteria better than the 6000U did. I had the HyperPen 6000U several years ago (so it was an older version, although it looked exactly the same). It seemed a little balky when I tried to make it work. I cannot say that the current 6000U is better or worse than the original (which was easily 4 years older) because I have not used the latest version.
With the Wacom Graphire4, one of the most important determining buying factors was the additional programs available in the manufacturer’s packaging. For just under $100, I was not only able to purchase the Graphire4 – 4X5 tablet with wireless pen and mouse, I also got Corel Painter Essentials2, Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0, nik Color Efex Pro 2GE, and EverNote Plus and JustWrite Office (included digital-inking software) included. At the time of my purchase, Adobe Photoshop Elements version 3.0 was retailing at the same price as this whole package. This was the full version, not a trial or limited version. Needless to say, the added software wins this tablet package my “Best Buy” vote!