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I got a new tablet, an Intuos 4, last night, and after having messed around with it a great deal (I've nearly finished a piece with it), I felt like writing something. My old tablet, a Bamboo Pen, began to fail me and has stopped working after serving me well for most of a year, mostly as a result of a computer problem. Since we often get posts in the art forum about tablets and what kinds of tablets people should aim for, I figured I'd use this chance to make a reference tool with reviews of the two tablets I've now owned- the two that most aspiring digital artists will consider. Should anybody ask in the forum, I'll refer them to this post.
Bear in mind these are based on my experiences with each of these tablets. Not everybody may have the problems I've had and some may have problems where I haven't.
Comes with: A Bamboo tablet, a pen, installation software, two replacement nibs, and a copy of Corel Painter Essentials OR Photoshop Essentials (depending on how/where you buy it.)
It's a simple little tablet. It comes packaged in a rather mediocre manner, but it's obviously very nice and well made for its price. The tablet itself has a nice matte finish and looks rather nice, with a little white light that turns on when you touch the. The pen is fairly ugly and plain looking.
It's rather well made. The tablet itself is sturdy and feels very pleasant to touch, which is important considering how it's used. The pen has to be held in a little cloth notch on the right side of the tablet, which many might not even realize is intended to hold the pen. The lack of a proper and easy to use place to put the pen led to my losing the pen fairly often when I would take a break from drawing. The pen is somewhat unpleasant to hold.
The tablet works well enough with the software it comes packaged with, and works well for navigating in general. The workspace is very small, but that's something that one adjusts to. The pressure sensitivity of the pen is great for how simple and small the tablet is. The main problems with the tablet, however, lie in this area. It's options are hard to manage and it has a difficult time working with certain programs other than the ones it comes with. Though I tried every way possible and asked numerous people and the company itself, I couldn't figure out how to configure the tablet to work with certain programs. My tablet also had a problem with bugging up occasionally and not working in quite the right manner when plugged into certain USB ports. It would ocassionally cause this extremely odd glitch where my computer would begin to act as though it had the space bar held down. Whenever this occurred, I would have to restart whenever this would occur. In general, the tablet served me very well, despite these problems. Mainly because of my computer, partially because of the tablet itself, I lost use of this tablet a few weeks ago. That's why I upgraded to the Intuos.
The tablet is just that. A small workspace for one to draw on that comes with some relatively simple and limited software. It can't do anything besides draw and navigate. It's excellent for the purpose it serves, though.
For $70, this is a wonderful tablet, and its inclusion of software (namely software intended for beginners) adds to its value. It's well worth the money, and it's a great deal for beginners to get a feel for digital art through.
: 3.75 / 5
(That isn't an average, that's my personal scoring for the tablet.)
Make no mistake, the bamboo is an excellent tablet and it serves its purpose very well. It's intended for people who are new to digital art and it does well in acclimating those people to digital art. It's an excellent deal and I recommend it to anybody who's considering entering the realm of digital art but isn't entirely sure of how seriously they'd like to take it or are simply on a budget.
If you're a beginner, this is probably the tablet for you.
Cost: ~$350 alone, ~$400 with Corel Painter 11
Includes: Intuos 4 tablet, removable USB cable, Intuos Pen, 10 replacement nibs with various uses, pen holster, Intuos Mouse, Installation software, (if you buy a bundle) Corel Painter 11.
The first thing I thought upon receiving the tablet was "damn, this comes in a nice box." It's very well packaged. The tablet itself is very classy and sleek in appearance. The pen looks great, as does its holster. Even the replacement nibs for the pen are nicely presented, sticking straight up out of the removable bottom of the pen holster, and thusly easily accessed. There are LED displays next to each button on the tablet to display what each button does, and these displays can be customized to say whatever you'd like in accordance with how you customize the buttons themselves. The buttons and scroll wheel are well organized and look good, and are presented on a sleek area to the right/left of the tablet. Also mentionable is that this tablet is made to work perfectly well turned over for left-handed users, as the buttons are organized in much the same manner. My only complaint is that Painter 11 came in a sleeve, rather than a box, which is hardly important.
It's made of a slightly nicer, but very similar material to the Bamboo; black plastic with a matte finish. It's sturdy and very pleasant to the touch. One very nice aspect is that the sleek area where the buttons are doesn't track fingerprints as you'd expect it to. The USB cord is replaceable, which reduces risk of ruining the cord, which could be a potential problem with any device with a built in cord. It uses the same kind of cord as PS3 controllers and many phones, so finding a replacement is relatively simple. The pen holster gives a good place to rest the pen when not using it and is also made of a good, sturdy matte plastic. The pen is much nicer in quality than that of the bamboo. The mouse is nice and is made to work in a manner that won't harm the tablet when moved across it. Though I have no intent to use the mouse (I prefer my own), it's worth mentioning that the scroll wheel is uncomfortable to scroll. The pen is very comfortable to hold.
The Intuos has a ridiculous high number of levels of pressure sensitivity, and has excellent tilt detection. As a result of all the extra additions to the tablet, I find the Intuos much easier to draw with than the Bamboo. Its work space is large and is made to correlate perfectly with a widescreen setup. This could be a potential problem for those who have standard sized displays, but since most don't, it's easily considered an advantage. The tablet is customizable, and the quick keys make for easy access to any function you'd like to set them to. The scroll wheel is wonderful for navigation and incremental changes to something; it can be used to scroll, zoom, change brush sizes, cycle layers, and various other things depending on how it's customized. The wheel can be excellently convenient when drawing. It's options are varied and the tablets applications and shortcuts can be configured to any program, and can actually be made to do different things in different programs. The pen itself has an excellent eraser on the end of it that can make drawing feel more natural in being able to simply flip the pen over and erase rather than changing the tool between the brush and the eraser. The high customization and comfort of use makes the Intuos an excellent tablet to draw with and capable of suiting the needs of different users. I have yet to come across a single problem using the tablet, though that is subject to change since I haven't had it very long.
This was discussed in depth in the previous section, but the tablet is highly customizable and is accordingly capable of suiting the needs of the user. It can effectively do more than simply drawing, in regard to working within a program. Make no mistake, though, this is still a very specialized instrument, and the purpose is still solely the creation of art. The added features are simply conducive to making this more convenient. The tablet also comes If you buy the bundle with Corel Painter 11, the addition of a full-size, professional program is excellent.
: 4/5 if alone, 5/5 if bundled with Painter 11.
The tablet is excellent, but ~350 is a LOT of money. You really need to know if you want this or not before buying it, and I'd only really recommend this to people who are already used to digital media or those who already have a lot of experience and skill with art and want to go into digital work. This is a fairly serious purchase, so it should be made with care. Corel Painter 11 is a $300 program, so getting it bundled for only $50 extra is amazing. The bundle is a wonderful deal.
: 4.75 / 5
This tablet is wonderful. It's expensive, but if you know it's going to be a worthwhile purchase, it's great. My opinion could change as I use it more if I begin to run into problems, but thus far I feel that the tablet was an excellent purchase. If you like Corel Painter (it's a matter of opinion), the bundle is fantastic.
Here's hoping these opinions help someone out eventually.