This pen is mightier than the mouse - but this mouse is pretty good, too.


A pen tablet makes life easier for graphics folks. Wacom's Graphire series has always been a solid choice, and with the latest iteration, Wacom makes many welcome improvements.


The new Graphire4 design is more flexible and easier to use than ever. Unlike the Graphire3, which lacked tablet buttons, the Graphire4 has two programmable ExpressKeys with a scroll wheel wedged in between. Each ExpressKey can be quickly assigned the keyboard shortcut or mouse click of your choice through Wacom's software (accessible via System Preferences when installed), and the scroll wheel works like one on a mouse-just spin it a few times to scan through or position large documents.


Other big design changes include a rectangularish-yet-comfy mouse and a uniformly cylindrical pen (gone is the hourglass-shaped grip of the Graphire3's pen). We aren't too keen on the new pen's two buttons, as they force us to adjust our grip quite a bit when reaching for them - the rocker switch on the Graphire3 was much friendlier to our fingers. The Graphire4's love-it-or-leave-it plastic overlay is still slick like the Graphire3's, but at least now it's a cinch to remove. Just slide four tabs on the back of the tablet - no more prying with your fingernails as you had to do with the Graphire3.


We found the performance of the Graphire4 right on par with the Graphire3. Despite pared-down sensitivity and no tilt, the pen had enough precision for edits in Photoshop and simple drawings in Painter. The ExpressKeys and scroll wheel are a boon for common everyday tasks such as Web browsing and email.


The bottom line. This is, without a doubt, the best Graphire package to date.


CONTACT: 800-922-9348,
PRICE: $99.99
REQUIREMENTS: USB-equipped Mac, Mac OS 10.2.8 or later
Programmable ExpressKeys. Convenient scroll wheel. Easily removable overlay.
Uncomfortable placement of pen buttons.





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