These are the most popular brands and models of graphics tablets available in the US. The pressure-sensitive graphics tablets featured here are well-suited to both professional and home users who will be using the tablet for photo editing and digital art, or as a mouse replacement for everyday computing. I have deliberately excluded high-end digitizers for technical design and CAD work. Unless otherwise noted, these products are available for both Macintosh and Windows. (Updated: Nov. 2011)
The Intuos4 pen provides 2,048 levels of pen tip and eraser pressure sensitivity, tilt sensitivity, is batterly-free and cordless, and features a programmable DuoSwitch and soft grip. It also comes with a cordless, programmable 5-button optical scroll mouse. The tablet features a 4-way touch ring, 8 ExpressKeys, and comes with a pen stand. With Intuos4, you also have the option of purchasing additional programmable accessories. (Footprint ~15x10") Photo Tour of Intuos4
Bamboo Create is the choice for those who want all the creative freedom they can get. Bamboo Create provides multi-touch input along with pressure-sensitive pen input. Bamboo Create has a wide-format active area, a textured feel to the tablet surface, and a touch-sensitive surface supporting a variety of gestures
for clicking, dragging, zooming, scrolling, and so on. There is also an optional wireless accessory kit
for those who do not wish to be tethered by a cable. For creative work like painting, drawing, and touching up photos, the larger size of the Bamboo Create tablet is ideal. It comes with a bundle of creative software including Adobe Photoshop Elements 9, Corel Painter Essentials, and Nik Color Efex. (Footprint: 13.9" x 8.2")
If you want the highest level of precision and the professional features of the Intuos 4, but don't have a lot of desk space or need to spend a little less, the Intuos4 Small model is for you. The smaller size is also a good choice for frequent travelers. At approximately 12 by 8 inches in overall size, it's small enough to slip into your laptop case. The Small model has the same pen and mouse as the larger Intuos4 models, but the tablet has 6 instead of 8 ExpressKeys, and the same 4-way touch ring. Like the other Intuos4 models, it provides the highest level of pressure sensitivity, advanced customization options, and can utilize any accessories available for the Intuos4 line. Photo Tour of Intuos4
The larger size of the Intuos4 Large tablet will let you achieve the wider, sweeping strokes some artists prefer. It comes at a cost in desk space, though — this tablet has a footprint of about 19 by 13 inches. Except for the larger size, it is identical to the Intuos4 Medium with the same software bundle and optional accessories. Photo Tour of Intuos4
For the price, Bamboo is an excellent entry-point to the Wacom product line. The Bamboo Connect
model is slightly cheaper if you want only pen input, but for a bit more, this model provides both pen and touch input. Bamboo Capture comes with Photoshop Elements 8 in addition to Autodesk Sketchbook Express and is intended for creative uses such as photo editing, digital scrapbooking, painting, and drawing. It does not offer an eraser on the pen, but the tablet does have four ExpressKeys which can be assigned to various functions. It is also compatible with the optional Wireless Accessory Kit
, which makes it convenient to reposition the tablet. (Footprint: 10.9" x 6.9")
The Intuos4 Wireless is a professional pen tablet with integrated Bluetooth wireless technology. The Intuos4 Wireless is nearly identical in size and features to the Intuos4 Medium tablet, but with the ability to be used without any cord connecting it to your computer. The Bluetooth connection provides up to 33 feet of wireless range. The Intuos4 Wireless is slightly thicker than the regular Intuos4 Medium, but the footprint dimensions are about the same, making it a convenient size for carrying in a laptop bag. The tablet's active area is slightly smaller than the Intuos4 Medium (8 x 5 inches versus 8.8 x 5.5 inches). In addition to the pen stand, an optional clip-on pen holder is provided for attaching the pen to the tablet. Unlike the wired version, the wireless Intuos4 does not come with a mouse.
I've recently learned that Monoprice now has their own line of inexpensive graphics tablets for Windows and Mac. The tablets come in four sizes - 4x3, 5.5x4, 8x6, and 10x6. The tablet features a number of programmable macro keys around the sides of the tablet, 1023 pressure sensitivity levels, 2540 LPI resolution, and 100 RPS report rate for speed. You also get an extra pen, batteries for both pens, and replacement nibs for the pens. I have not used the Monoprice tablets myself, but they have a high satisfaction rating on Monoprice.com and I have had good experience with other Monoprice products.
The DigiPro drawing tablets are is an inexpensive, yet capable, pressure-sensitive pen tablet option for budget conscious users. They are not flashy or feature packed, but do the job they're supposed to do. The DigiPro tablets will also work on older systems, including Windows 98Se and higher, Mac OS 9, and Mac OS X. If you're curious about using a graphics tablet, but don't want to spend a lot of money, the DigiPro drawing tablets are a solid choice. Many of the DigiPro tablets can be purchased for less than $50.
It's pricey, but as long as you can afford it, who wouldn't want to draw right on the computer screen? The Cintiq combines an LCD monitor with a pressure sensitive tablet surface, so you can do just that. The 24 inch wide-screen Cintiq 24HD includes a counter-weighted stand which allows for some unique positioning. It also features a 2-button Grip Pen, 10 ExpressKeys and 2 Touch Strips, 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, and a 1920x1200 resolution LCD with DVI or VGA video input. For Windows and Macintosh.
For those that can't afford the larger Cintiq pen display above, Wacom offers a 12-inch model with 1280 by 800 pixels of resolution. The smaller size of this Cintiq model allows it to be used in your lap, flat on the desk, or in two different inclined positions. When used horizontally, a pivot point on the back allows you to rotate the display for the most comfortable drawing position. It also features a 2-button Grip Pen, 8 ExpressKeys and 2 Touch Strips, 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, and a 12.1" TFT wide-screen LCD with DVI or VGA video input. For Windows and Macintosh.
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