Graphire4 Studio XL
The Wacom Graphire4 Studio XL is a 6 x 8-inch A5 tablet, small enough to sit on a modest desktop, yet large enough to accommodate the biggest of hands and broadest of strokes. It’s positioned at the top end of the entry-level consumer range, below the professional Intuos and premium Cintiq.
Despite the entry-level tag, it has most, if not all, the functions you could possibly want from enthusiast to pro level. With each upgrade Wacom continues to refine and add features, many previously found only on less affordable models. The Graphire4 range adds user-configured ExpressKeys, centred at the top so they don’t distract from the sleek design. These can be assigned your preferred shortcuts or macros within favourite graphics applications. They sit on either side of a new scroll wheel. The wheel allows scrolling without the aid of a mouse, which is just as well as no mouse is provided with the Graphire4 range in the UK, despite some online reviews suggesting otherwise.
A transparent photo frame on the tablet now allows you to trace clearly or add a little decoration, scrawling across loved-ones faces to your heart’s content. The shiny, silver surface is encased in a plastic clip-on frame, illuminated by a small blue light that turns green when the pen is in use. You can still use the tablet without the frame, although the pen response is a little scratchy without the plastic casing. Conveniently, the pen now clips into the plastic frame tightly enough not to be lost in transit.
Wacom has wisely dumped the rocker switch on the pen tool with this upgrade, replacing it with a pair of neat buttons. These are set as right click and double click by default, the top button working as a double click, which supersedes tapping twice with the pen tip on the tablet. The pen has been streamlined from earlier models and resembles a more traditional designer ballpoint pen, weighing just 12 grams. Wacom claims it has 512 levels of pressure sensitivity, which is difficult to argue with considering the refined precise results. The pen simply oozes quality and worked sublimely with every graphic application thrown at it. A grey, rubberised grip helps maintain a feeling of effortlessness even during extended use.
The bundled software is useful for beginners, but is starting to look a little dated. The nik Color Efex Pro 2.0 Standard filter collection, and a Photoshop-style plug-in set, are worth having, but Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0, superseded by version 4 on the PC, does not best showcase the tablet’s potential.
For anyone still chasing a mouse across a desk tryingto draw digitally without a tablet, now is the time to switch. The Graphire4 is an excellent upgrade worthyof the Wacom name. The entry-level tag is misleadingas the pen and tablet outperform earlier models at twice the price.