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Performance under various Applications
Under Photoshop, tools that support pressure show extra options, such as the paintbrush allowing brush-size and opacity to be altered based on pressure sensitivity. One stroke is all it takes to get a budding artist (aka moi) hooked, line and sinker. It offers that smooth elusive control that casual doodlers find inherently missing in mice pointers, driving them back to the pencil/scanner solution, which inevitably gives irritating paper marks and scanner noise. The PotStirę test, where you rapidly draw large circles, shows data rate problems in both pens. The Graphire is however less smooth than the DuoPen, although the latter tends to lose some data in bursts, alluding perhaps to buffering problems?
Under Painter, with its more natural-modelling brushes, everyone can be a Rembrandt with the Undo function. 'Nuff said. However, Painter 5 has an inherent bug where pressure information is unavailable, due to an old DLL from its software. The new DLL can ironically be installed from the ArtDabbler software that comes free with the tablet!!
In Macromedia programs, the drivers on the CD had problems with Flash and Freehand, but downloading the revision drivers from their website resolved this.
Close look at the Duopen
The major advantage of the DuoPen, hence the name, is the switchable tip function. Much like those pen/pencil combos, a quick click on the rear end switches the low tactile-feedback pressure-sensitive tip into a mouse button. It is innovatively simple! In comparion, no other tablet seem to possess this functionality. Instead, the other tablets tend to rely on a Click-Threshold that determines when a touch represents a click or drag based on a preset pressure value. This is especially bad for quick-click responses (like Diablo II!).
No matter how I try to phrase this, it would undoubtedly conjure up a funny image for you readers. Imagine frantically clicking on Sand Crawlers and Returned's on a tablet! But I tried and enjoyed it very much. No wrist-pain incurred even after 10-hour sessions I can testify! And accuracy, due to the absolute mapping I prefer, was way ahead of my PS/2 200Hz MouseMan+, now left sobbing in a corner. I will try FPS games as soon as I upgrade to a better video card!
Normal pointer games, like Red Alert, would see using mouse acceleration to be better suited than the tablet, which was a tad over-sized to access menus.
On the Mac side, the 3 buttons, tip, front, rear (not the tip-switch), default to Click. Otherwise usage is similar to the PC. Unfortunately, I had no games to test with though.
- Cheaper than the Graphire.
- Available for legacy RS232-ports.
- Cord prevents lost pens (no more drop-and-roll-under-the-tables!)
- Less wrist pain.
- Available in cool iMac colours.
- Free Chinese recognition software.
- Fast technical support response.
- No USB drivers for win2k/ME yet. RS232 version is fine.
- Still not that cheap.
- Corded pen can be hindering movement at times.
- No USB drivers for win2k/ME yet.
- Tends to suck user into 3-4 hour PhotoShop stints more frequently.
Although I have no prior experience with professional tablets that cost "an arm, leg and eye", I feel that this tablet's area (6" x 5") and 256 levels of pressure is detailed enough for the casual and even serious budget artist. Afterall, there is only 256 shades in the mainstream PC world at present, and the tablet size is just nice for a complete reach over the full screen without moving your hand excessively.
To be fair, for its attractive $159 price, the rival Graphire includes a pseudo-mouse which ONLY works with the tablet. It also has an "eraser" on the other end of the pen, which I feel is gimmicky since it's easier to use the keyboard for changing tools.
It is true that the ePad has a narrow market, as with other tablets out there. As such, tablet products do not get updated frequently or have new releases to address niggling bugs, such as the associated problems of a corded pen. A spring-based "cord-lifter" might help reduce entanglement, but that is by itself awkward. In all, each pen has its faults and distinct "gimmicks".
For the DuoPen, I really like the switchable tip as the clickable tip can truly serve as a mouse replacement. And for Mr Paranoia, the pressure sensitive adds further value.
For SG$129, this tablet offers budding artists an economical shot at their dreams of being a digital-Renaissance painter. I am sure that canvas, paint, brushes and easel costs much more to buy and not to metion the need to set-up and clean up in turn. And sans Undo, so similar to the digital versus film argument for cameras.
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