In a couple of ways, replacing the standard mouse with a pen tablet is just plain smart. For instance, repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel can be avoided with the ease of using a pen for many tasks. Also, digital artists can gain a great deal of natural artistic freedom and precision with the use of a pen over the mouse.
While this knowledge surely doesn't come as a surprise to many readers here, perhaps there are some who have been considering trying a pen tablet, or have been daunted by the price of some tablets currently on the market. So, with that in mind, let me introduce Adesso and their line of tablets, including the Z12 model this review is based on.
I will admit right upfront that I have used a Wacom Intuos tablet in the past with no complaints whatsoever. Unfortunately, the technology of USB controlled devices made my serial connected tablet unusable. So, along came Adesso and I gave their Z12 model a shot.
First, I must say that the slim, lightweight design of this tablet is simply outstanding. Fitting comfortably on both the desktop and in the lap makes it a great tool to work with. It didn't even take me long to get back into the swing of using a tablet again. This brings up a point I should mention. If you have never used a tablet before, it will take some time getting used to.
The Z12 tablet comes supplied with a pen and two extra pen nibs, two AA batteries for the pen (which takes only one), the driver (Macro Key Manager) on disc, various Office handwriting apps on another disc, and Ulead PhotoImpact software, as well as accompanying manuals. The active tablet space in this model is 10" x 6.25", which worked perfectly for me.
Setting up was a breeze, as it's just a matter of connecting the tablet to a USB port and installing the driver/software. I did, however, have to use the updated driver (Macro Key Manager) on the Adesso website for it to work correctly. The Macro Key Manager is responsible for the function key settings on the tablet, and before getting the updated driver, I wasn't able to program function keys.
Getting to the function keys, there are 12 preprogrammed keys along the top, which are indicated by icons of what they do. These are the standard cut, copy, paste, save, etc. There are then 16 function key areas (8 on each side) that can be programmed by the user simply by creating a new function name and setting it's action. For example, you can set keys to open certain programs.
If you are running Windows Vista, there is added pen functionality, as you can take advantage of new handwriting recognition technology, turning your writing into typed text. But, let's get down to what folks here are looking for - the artistic aspect.
The pen gives you 1024 levels of pressure-sensitivity and works well with most common painting applications. So far, I've tried it with ArtRage, the provided Ulead PhotoImpact, and Adobe Photoshop CS4 with great results. As pictured above, there is a plastic transparent sheet on the tablet surface that is great for use in tracing photos or even just to personalize the tablet.
The tablet responds just as quick as the mouse while in use, and the sensitivity is fantastic. But, I do have a couple of complaints. Well, actually one valid complaint and one feature wish. First, at times there was a delay in response when placing the pen to the tablet after some time of non-use had passed. Not a huge delay, but enough to be annoying at times. However, as I said, while actively in use there was no delay whatsoever.
Now, as for my feature wish, I would so love to see an eraser function by using the opposite end of the pen. Sure, you can simply set the erase function in your 2D program of choice and use the pen normally, but I've worked with this feature I speak of and it is very nice. Perhaps this might be available in future models, though.
All in all, the Z12 is a very nice tablet to work with. The features and sensitivity are great, and the slim design is absolutely fantastic. But the best part for most might be the price. At $129.99 (USD), there is little reason to put off the purchase if that's what's holding you back. Do yourself a favor and take a look at the line of tablets offered by Adesso and see if either the Z12 or any of the others might fit your needs.
The CyberTablet 6400
Now, I also had the opportunity to check out the CyberTablet 6400 at the time I received the Z12. If you are looking for a tablet for navigational, handwriting, and simple editing tasks, you might want to give the 6400 a try at it's very affordable price of $69.99 (USD). However, with a small 6" X 4" workspace and 512 levels of pen sensitivity, I would not recommend this one for purely artistic endeavors.
Nick C. Sorbin is a digital artist, sculptor, writer, and Managing Editor for Renderosity's Front Page News.
September 14, 2009
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