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Before Buying a Graphics Tablet

Sep 9, 2008
In short, a graphics tablet is a piece of equipment acts as a different type of input device for your computer. Graphics tablets (sometimes referred to as digitizing tablets, graphics pads or drawing tablets) are flat surfaces with a demarcated pad and a pen or stylus for input. They are often used just like a pen and paper, but with the motions of the "pen" displayed virtually on the computer.

How do I go about buying a graphics tablet?

Buying a graphics tablet can be a little overwhelming at first, but here are the most important features to consider before purchasing anything: the tablet's price and size (these two go hand-in-hand; the larger the input area on a tablet, the steeper the price), interface (how the tablet connects to your computer), pressure sensitivity (how sensitive the tablet is to reading differing pressure levels from the stylus) and any accessories or peripherals (note any included stylus, mice, connection cables) .

First, decide how much you'd like to spend. Most of the higher-end tablets are very costly, and often out of the price range of home tablet user. They will also often have specifications not necessary or even useful for someone who isn't a professional artist. It should be noted that the lower-end models do not necessarily denote the product's cheapness or bad quality, but simply a more practical option for more novice artists or people seeking alternative input devices for their computers.

The size of a graphic tablet refers to the size of the input surface area, not necessarily the size of the actual physical tablet. Standard sizes include 4"x5", 6"x8" and 9"x12". It is important to note that the prices increase dramatically with the size, so it helps to keep in mind the price limit that you've set for yourself.

Another important feature of any graphics tablet is how it interfaces with the computer. Some tablets require a separate power source, some only utilize a USB cord. It is imperative that you know beforehand if the tablet may require any connection ports that your computer may or may not have, such as with a tablet that has a serial interface.

Another important feature of graphics tablets is their sensitivity to pressure. Standard pressure sensitivities are 256, 512 and 1024, where the higher the number means a higher sensitivity to pressure input from the pen stylus. Tablets with a higher sensitivity are often priced higher than those with lower sensitivity, so it's important to note in order to stay within your price range.

Finally, you should pay attention to the included stylus and any other accessories or peripherals. For any potential tablet, it is important to test the stylus- Is it comfortable to hold in your hand? Does it feel cheaply made? Is it tethered to the tablet, or wireless? Does it require any batteries or outside power source? What other accessories are included? Will I actually use any of them? Does it include any software? It's important to think about how you will be using your tablet when deciding the pros and cons of any included stylus and/or accessories.

Graphics tablets are a really fun way to interact with your computer, and I hope that this article helps to get you started down the path of purchasing one. Just remember what you're looking to get out of your tablet and what you'll be using it for, and you should have no problem weighing the different pros and cons of each potential tablet.
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