Recommended Graphics Tablet For Note Taking and Sketching
July 15, 2008 8:39 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to try a graphics tablet for the work I do. I know Wacom is the big dog in the field, but am unclear on what the real differences between the models are (too much marketing spiel).

The work I see myself using it for includes note taking, sketching and storyboarding (paper prototyping). I use linux (ubuntu) at home and WinXP for work. OneNote and Visio are used pretty often on the windows side. I don't see myself doing any high fidelity work on this; I'm pretty lousy at drawing. Does it matter what I choose? What should I look for/focus on? Any recommendations?

posted by defben to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Setting aside the Ubuntu-driver question (which I know nothing about; maybe it's not aan issue at all), the Bamboo is definitely what you want.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:46 AM on July 15, 2008

I would recommend the medium size Bamboo Fun. I have a 6x8 Graphire 4 (which the Bamboo replaces), and having just a little more area would make it much closer to the size of my monitor. The medium Bamboo Fun is 11x9.3, which is quite a bit larger. The less you have to compensate for the difference in size between the tablet and the monitor, the better.
posted by jedicus at 9:05 AM on July 15, 2008

The littlest Bamboo is sometimes available for less than $80. You could consider starting out with that and see how you like the whole tablet thing. I've found them to be the only input device that eliminates repetitive-stress symptoms for me.
I use a Bamboo predecessor, a 4x6 Graphire 3, at work as a mouse replacement and the small size actually lets me zip around the screen very quickly. At home I have a 6x8 version, which is a bit better for doing actual detailed graphics work.
posted by Tubes at 9:17 AM on July 15, 2008

I don't think Wacom has any real competitors in the field. The cheap tablets are awful.

I own an Intuos3 6x8 and love it, but I do a lot of detail work, so the closer mapping is more of an issue for me (plus I use the heck out of both function pad things). You will probably be served just fine by the 4x6 model considering your needs - honestly, it will probably be better for you than the larger ones.

If you do pick one up, don't be discouraged by the learning curve. I was slow and terrible for the first week, but after that it was amazing.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:31 AM on July 15, 2008

When I researched tablets a couple years back, the 6x8 was touted as the most comfortable model. If there's a place you can test out a tablet (either in the store or friend's house), definitely do that. The 4x5 was inconvenient for sketching (too small), so now I mainly use it to edit photos.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 9:34 AM on July 15, 2008

Best answer: I am a big fan of tablet pcs because it is a lot of bang for your buck if you are looking for a very large space (I also like seeing exactly where on the screen my drawing is going and the wacom tablets wig me out a little bit, but you get used to them). I have used a variety of linux flavors with the tablet pc which I imagine is much more difficult to configure than a usb device (and not that difficult at this point in time anyway). Cursory googling seems to indicate you should have no problem with ubuntu.

I'd definitely vote for the biggest one you can afford (which is the point of my comment rather than, buy a new computer!), it just makes sketching and notes a lot easier versus having to focus on a small spot and then move your canvas. Especially if you aren't going to be doing detail work. Also, inkscape rocks with a tablet, check it out if you need something to do quick diagrams or doodles with in linux.
posted by shownomercy at 9:57 AM on July 15, 2008

Aiptek is a cheaper competitor and has linux drivers.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:09 AM on July 15, 2008

I use a Graphire which works pretty well for my needs of basic photo work, but my wife has really been pining for a Cintiq. The main differences that I've seen are size, levels of pressure sensitivity, and with the Cintiq, the built in screen.

All of the ones I clicked on here appear to have Linux drivers.
posted by quin at 10:34 AM on July 15, 2008

My own house is admittedly full of Wacom tablets, but you might find it helpful in general - the resolution on the 4x5 Graphire is lousy, and the hard slick plastic surface on my 6x8 Graphire makes it kinda hard to write on (though the resolution is otherwise fine.)

A dude I knew back in the day used to tape a piece of drawing paper to his Graphire to get a nice toothy surface for writing/drawing. This would probably also work for any other tablet, too, if you find something with a crappy surface but otherwise cheap/meets your needs.
posted by rubadub at 11:24 AM on July 15, 2008

At work I'm spoiled with a 12x12 Intuos 2, which I love. A tablet that big is expensive though. At what size are you normally sketching or storyboarding?. If your hand is used to drawing postcard sized sketches then a small tablet that size should be fine. But if you're used to storyboarding on a large easel or a board, a small tablet might feel restrictive. The better sensitivity of the Intuos vs. the Graphite makes it worth the extra $$, in my opinion.

I've found them to be the only input device that eliminates repetitive-stress symptoms for me.

Ditto. I don't restrict my use of the tablet to graphics applications. With one hand on the stylus and one on the keyboard I comfortably navigate the web, work on spreadsheets, play games, etc. Using a mouse is actually quite awkward for me now.
posted by Kabanos at 11:30 AM on July 15, 2008

The Wacom Bamboo works wonderfully on Ubuntu (I used it on Ubuntu for months before I switched over to Debian, where the tablet works just as well.)

Here is an amazing thread from the Ubuntu forums describing how to get Wacom drivers working (the newest version of linuxwacom has support for the Bamboo tablets)
posted by Geppp at 11:35 AM on July 15, 2008

what about a tablet pc?. compaq 2710p, lenovo x61 are pretty good at linux compatibility. That way you get a laptop and tablet in the same place. Most of the tablet pc have wacom drivers but you won't find the pressure sensitivity setting like the bamboo but from your inquiry I do not think you will need those advanced settings
posted by radsqd at 1:09 PM on July 15, 2008

Best answer: assuming that the best option (a tablet-pc with wacom digitizer built into the screen) is not on the cards, then my advice is:

Don't sweat it. Wacom tablets are a bit like MS-Word - pretty much everything the average user could possibly want was already implemented 10 years ago, and since then, they've just been getting better for expert users, and cheaper for everyone. So long as it's Wacom, and not too big and not too small, you can't really go wrong.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:35 PM on July 15, 2008

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