If you’re a graphic artist who’s fed up with the mouse, and who’s never quite got the hang of using a pen tablet, take a look at Wacom’s new PL500 – a 15-inch LCD that you can draw or paint on with a pressure-sensitive stylus. It’s unique, but it’s expensive for what it is. The PL500 is only about 2-inches thick and weighs a mere 10lbs (4.5kg).
It uses USB for the graphics-tablet functions and DVI for the display – so it works only with certain G4 Power Macs. The newest Macs that sport Apple’s new ADC connection are not compatible without a third-party card. For most Macs, it requires a digital video card, such as the £159 VoodooMac 4500 (3dfx, 01753 502 800, www.3dfx.com). Priced at £2,190, the PL500 requires a hefty bank account. Wacom also offers the £1,899 PL400, which has a 13.3-inch screen.
The PL500 is larger than Wacom’s other LCD tablets, and it offers a better image – it’s the first of Wacom’s PL line to offer a 24-bit LCD, for millions of colours. It’s also brighter than previous models, and it has better contrast.
Drawing on the PL500 takes some getting used to. Because the tablet surface is a fraction of an inch above the LCD screen, the tip of your stylus doesn’t actually touch the on-screen image. Simply put, it feels a little odd. If you expect using the PL500 to be like drawing on paper, you’ll be disappointed.
The PL500 ships with a standard Wacom pen that supports 256 levels of pressure – the more levels of pressure a pen can sense, the smoother the curves and gradations between shades of grey it can produce. A rocker switch by the nib has two programmable buttons for quickly issuing commands, such as Save.
The pen can also simulate a pencil, since it has an eraser on the end. You can opt to set the eraser as a brush or any other tool, and just like the pen tip, the eraser is pressure sensitive. It’s a little curious though, that Wacom didn’t choose to include one of its Intuos pens, which support 1,024 levels of pressure and a host of other features.
The PL500 might seem to be a bit of a luxury, since drawing and painting with a regular Wacom tablet is relatively easy, and most high-end tablets ship with more-sensitive pens. But, if you need an intuitive, easy-to-use interface for a kiosk or presentation, the PL500 might be well worth its price.