Genius PenSketch 9x12

21st Aug 2007 | 23:00

Genius PenSketch 9x12

Great value, but its far from perfect

TechRadar rating:

3.5 stars

A comparable Wacom tablet costs four times as much but isn't four times better

Like:

<p>Superb value</p><p>Reasonable richness from driver</p>

Dislike:

<p>Not as good as Wacom's tablets</p><p>Feels cheap</p><p>Requires batteries</p><p>No bundled software for Mac users</p>

Graphics tablets are a sound investment for anybody working in the creative industries.

It's a particular boon if you're a Photoshop user; the ability to use a pressure-sensitive stylus to create selections in Quick Mask mode, more naturally airbrush out blemishes or just paint onto a canvas can make you more productive, and makes the creative process feel more natural. Even if you're not a Photoshop pro, being able to digitise your signature or doodle notes on documents is, if nothing else, fun.

Affordable tablet

The main reason there isn't a graphics tablet beside every Mac and PC, we suspect, is because they're expensive. This is particularly true for Mac users, who are usually forced to buy from Wacom's range simply because it's the only manufacturer dedicated to producing drivers for the platform.

While Wacom's tablets are undeniably superb, there's no getting away from the prices. The Intuos3 A4, the model in the current range from Wacom with an active area that best matches this tablet, costs £329; that's four times the cost of the one we're reviewing here, Genius' PenSketch 9x12.

It will come as no surprise to learn that, after weeks of testing, we think the Intuos3 range is better than Genius' offering, but the huge price difference means that making a purchasing recommendation is not a simple matter of deciding which manufacturer produces better products.

One of our main criticisms of the PenSketch is with fit and finish. The tablet itself is smart enough, and sufficiently slim that you can use it naturally, but the stylus and bundled mouse do feel cheap. The mouse rattles and is flimsy, and the scroll wheel isn't a wheel but a switch that rocks back and forward.

The stylus is chunky but lacks heft, and the buttons of the shaft are spongy and difficult to press without an awkward motion. The pen well is poorly weighted and rocks when you drop the stylus into it. And none of the blues match.

The driver software is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it looks horribly clunky and doesn't offer some features that you'd find in Wacom's Intuos driver, but on the other it is surprisingly rich.

As you'd expect, you can define what the tip and two barrel buttons do - the list is short - and you can specify what the 'hot cells' (soft buttons along the top of the active area) trigger. Though the process of setting these up is a little clunky, you can accept the defaults or select behaviours from a long list.

Commendably, as well as enabling you to define the active area manually, it can automatically map to your screen's aspect ratio or letterbox it; the tablet's physical active area is in 4:3 ratio so this is handy if you use a widescreen monitor. Corel Painter Essentials 2 was included with our test model and Photoshop Elements 3.0 apparently should be too, but both are Windows-only.

The drawing surface is a little slippery for our tastes, and we've become so used to the usefulness of Wacom's inclusion of a configurable 'eraser' on the opposite end of the stylus that its omission here is disappointing.

Worse, unlike with Wacom's electromagnetic resonance technology, both the stylus and the mouse require a battery, and while this running cost in no way makes up for the difference in the price tags from Wacom and Genius, it's worth remembering that you need to factor it in.

Ultimately, the PenSketch 9x12 loses out to the Intuos3 on performance and quality. They both have 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, but drawing, painting and editing with the Intuos feel smoother, and it boasts tilt as well as pressure sensitivity.

That said, Genius' offering trounces Wacom's on value for money. If you're on a budget then this will do the job, and do it competently.

GeniusPeripheralsGraphics
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