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Wacom Intuos A5 Graphite 10/10

Writing tablets have been around for several thousand years! Wacom's latest Intuos Graphite range is the American company's idea of a writing tablet in the 21st century. Connecting through your computer's USB port, it is very simple to install. It takes all it's power from the USB port, so it does not require an additional power adapter. The tablet is available without the Graphite transparent finish, but I think it makes a change from the dull beige computer gear most of my office consists of. You can either use it on a Mac or PC. I tested it out on a Dell 1.5 GHz Win2000 machine. You can buy serial connecting tablets, but I can't see why anybody would want a serial tablet, when you can buy a USB tablet!

Essentially you can use the pen and tablet instead of a mouse. To click you just press on the tablet. Right clicking can be done by pressing a button on the cordless pen (which requires no battery). In addition you can buy different types of pen and also a mouse (some of which are quite expensive), for precise positioning to use with the tablet. There is a tracing pen, airbrush pen, an ink pen etc. The tablet automatically recognises which pen you are using with it and changes its settings accordingly (although I was not able to test this). I can see that this would save you alot of time if you have several different pens. It does take about 10 minutes to get used to looking at the screen and moving the pen about on the tablet, without looking at your hand, since I am sure most of us can't write without looking at our hand. However, once you get used to this, the tablet is a joy to use. Electronically signing documents is no longer difficult, neither is precise control of the cursor for graphics apps. For music applications, this level of control makes it far easier to move objects in arrangements, in programmes like Sonar or Logic, without having to zoom in constantly. If you prefer the mouse for general use, you can still use the mouse alongside the tablet, since people prefer a mouse for general use. You can do this since it is possible to connect the tablet and your mouse at the same time.

The tablet has a very powerful setup programme, which can alter all its settings. For general Windows use, the A5 size is too big, since you have to move your hand about a long way to move the mouse, however, you can setup the tablet to map the screen in a smaller area on the tablet. Or you can use the mouse mode, which turns on most of the time but then turns off in graphics apps. For graphics applications the A5 size is perfect though, for precise positioning, the mouse mouse settings change automatically when you use Photoshop or other graphics apps. It does take up a bit of desk space. If you have a small desk, you'll have to opt for the smaller A6 version and forego some of the control. The tablet really does come into its own when using Photoshop. You get special Pentools plugins which give you additional functionality in Photoshop. You can even use the cordless pen's eraser. Just turn the pen upside down and press the plastic eraser. Photoshop automatically activates the eraser tool and you can rub out. You can however configure the tablet to activate other functions when you use its eraser end. Turn back the pen, and Photoshop will return the paint tool. There are also buttons on the pad, labelled new, open etc. and these can be configured to activate commands, so you can quickly access functions in your applications. Like all other Wacom tablets, graphics applications detect how much pressure you are using. Just like a real pencil, if you press hard on the pad, the line produced will the thicker. This detection of pressure also helps when using not only the paintbrush tool, but opacity tool, cloning tool, basically most tools on Photoshop. This graphite special edition tablet can detect 1024 different levels and to an accuracy of 2500 dpi (probably even more accurate than your eyesight!)

At around £200 I can see this Intuos finding a home alongside many computer musicians and artists computers, especially in this Graphite finish which will match nearly all Macs. I used to own an A6 Tablet several years ago, which was good value for money. This new model is far better, being cheaper in real terms.