Any of you who have tried to bash out a Botticelli using a £5 ball mouse from your local computer store will know the frustration of trying to emulate strokes you know perfectly well had you been holding a pen. Granted, while it is completely possible to create decent (even stunning) pictures using just a mouse, sometimes many artists can only create their best work using a authentic tools such as a pen, pencil or brush.
Today I'm taking a look at the Genius 8x6 MousePen graphics tablet. Being a budding artist (well, I did Art A-Level but failed, so not so much budding as limply turning brown behind a bush of proud roses) having a graphics tablet is something which takes a lot of the effort out of trying to create natural artwork using an unnatural device.
Firstly the MousePen is 8" by 6" (20.3 x 15.2 cm), which is approximately A5 sized. Whilst this may not seem particularly big when you can readily pick up a sheet of A4 or A3 to doodle on, bear in mind this is in comparison to the cheaper and more common A6 or even A7 tablets on the market today. Genius themselves sell models right down to 4" x 3", however to give you an idea of scale they also produce a professional 9" x 12" model (Same orientation, however on the professional series they are branded portrait and not landscape).
Included in the box is a cordless stylus and mouse, with the driver disk and a trial copy of Corel Painter.
Looking at the stylus, it is similar to a chunky ballpoint pen, with a tip (not unsurprisingly) for writing with, plus a two position 'thumb' button. In it's most basic mode, the tip emulates the left mouse button, whilst the thumb button is Middle and Right click respectively. If desired, these can be reconfigured to perform any task you like. It was a little disappointing not to have an 'eraser' button included on the opposite tip (as you find in the Wacom series, where Genius' main competition will undoubtedly lay in the tablet market) however it's not exactly a show stopper.
Again, in contrast to the Wacom styli, the pen is driven by a single AAA battery, which obviously adds to the size and weight. Whilst a resonant-coupling driven pen would obviously be ideal, it's a patented technology by Wacom and not absolutely necessary, especially if you had to develop your own independently.
Whilst useful for Computer Aided Design (CAD) and other technical drawing, the cordless mouse is designed to let you use the tablet for regular computer work as well. This also contains an AAA battery and is driven using the same technology as the pen, as opposed to using a ball or optics. To look at, it is quite small and sports two buttons and a mouse 'wheel' - however upon use you will find the wheel is in fact a three-position micro switch which clicks forward and backwards.
Finally the tablet itself comes in 'metallic slate' coloured plastic and measures 11.8" x 10.8" (30 x 27.5cm) edge to edge. It weighs in at around 1kg which is more of a benefit than a hindrance, given that you don't want it slipping all over the desk when you're trying to draw. Coupled with the non-slip rubber feet, it stays firmly put. Along the top, below the recessed pen holder, are 13 pre-programmed 'hot spots', such as New Document, Save, Print etc.. and 8 additional ones down either side, although all 29 of them are reprogrammable if desired.
It comes with a 1.3m USB lead attached, which some people may find too short to reach their PC. The device itself only draws 100mA from the hub, but I found that it did not like sharing with other devices and movement anomalies occured if too many other USB devices were connected alongside it.