Wacom Graphire Bluetooth Tablet Review

Being an amateur photographer and having a background in photo editing, image manipulation and touch-ups, may make me appreciate the Wacom Graphire Bluetooth Tablet a little more than most users, which is why I jumped at the chance to get one when it first came out.

Wacom has a large catalog of tablets available, from a fun entry-level $99 Graphire used for drawing, painting and editing digital photos, to the professional quality Intuos 3, a faster, more responsive tablet with many more configuration options. They have even gone as far as to integrate a tablet into an LCD display, with extreme accuracy and responsiveness, the $1800 Cintiqu appeals to designers, illustrators and doctors. Today we are looking at the Wacom Graphire Bluetooth Tablet – if it didn’t’ have Bluetooth, sadly I wouldn’t be writing about it, but lucky for that.

At US $249, the Bluetooth Graphire 6×8 tablet is priced pretty well, considering the standard USB Graphire 6×8 sells for $199, replacing this with Bluetooth for $50 more isn’t too crazy. However I don’t like the fact of it being strictly Bluetooth. Wacom should have kept it with both Bluetooth and USB, having it only work with Bluetooth however is a bit crazy. A nice feature if it had USB would have been the ability to charge through USB, but no such luck. With that said, anyone purchasing this device is only purchasing it because it’s wireless, don’t expect to be able to switch between Bluetooth and USB, there is no USB.

So why would you want a wireless tablet? Well, for one, it’s much nicer to carry around. With the pen tool neatly snapped away into the top of the tablet, you can leave the power adapter at home and slip the Graphire into your laptop bag with no problems. It only measures 10.13 x 0.96 x 11.03 inches and weighs 1.9 lbs. With that being the only thing you have to carry, it’s easy, quick, and keeps the gear bag light.

Another good reason is that if you do a lot of presentations, draw charts in front of an audience, or something along those lines, you need to be able to sit or stand anywhere you please and still have the comfort and reliability of a tablet. You can’t compare this type of control to those wireless remote control thumb-stick gadgets, they whip around the screen and hardly maintain accuracy. You will look like a sloppy fool.

It will surely appeal to photographers and their digital production crew. I have worked on several photography sets, having a Powerbook and Tablet are among the main gear we use. With the mobility of a Bluetooth tablet, you can basically take your entire working operation on location with you (the beach, abandoned warehouses, wherever you’re shooting), and not worry about getting power to your gear.


Design and Durability

The design of the Bluetooth Graphire is identical in shape and style to the non-Bluetooth USB models, a nice smooth gray appearance with silver buttons. It gives you a comfortable 5.94” x 8.22” workable area, which is a decent size especially for working on a 15-inch or smaller notebook with 1280×768 resolution. The pen holder uses a tough rubber material to grasp the pen when you push it in place, I never had an issue of the pen falling out, but I could see it losing it’s ability to grasp tightly after some time.

The pen itself is made of a light plastic, it has the point and eraser on one end. These are pressure sensitive, up to 512 different sensitivities. There is also a toggle style button for right and left clicks, or for customizing. The Graphires 3-button mouse is very well designed; it has good weight to it, nice ergonomics, and is symmetrical for both left and right-handed users. It even has a scroll wheel, which many cannot live without these days.

Features and Functions

With the tablet, in addition to the pen, you get a mouse that works in the same fashion – only on the tablet. This is how the power is received for both devices, since they require no additional batteries; the pen and mouse use a very interesting type of energy transfer. The tablet is in fact a mesh grid of fine wires, when the surface of the pen or mouse come into contact with it, the electrical waves cause a coil to resonate, which creates power.

At the top of the tablet are two buttons “ExpressKeys”, they are customizable from the Tablet software, you can set them to run shortcut commands within applications, or launch specific applications on their own. These are not available on the standard USB Graphire, only the Bluetooth model. It’s really up to you what they do, this is also possible with the thumb toggle button on the pen.

The face of the tablet has a flip up plastic screen overlay. Primarily it can be used for drawing or tracing an image, or in the meantime you can store your favorite photo for everyone to see.

Performance

Drawing and moving around can take some getting used to. If you have used a tablet in the past, then it shouldn’t be a problem. I had been used to the intuos line of tablets that Wacom makes, this in fact “spoiled me” according to their tech support. The Intuos is more forgiving on how far up you lift the pen from the tablets face, with the Graphire line, you must remain within 6mm or so for it to track properly. If you raise it to high, you will notice a break or jitter in your movements. I later found out this was a user error and not a problem with the product or any type of Bluetooth connectivity lag.

While Bluetooth connectivity limits the range of the device, it sure does meet the Bluetooth minimum specifications of 30 feet. I had it about 25 feet behind walls and didn’t notice any tracking delays.

The battery is a 3.7V 1800mA Li-polymer rechargeable. It is rated to last 25 hours, I got maybe 15 to 20 with mine, definitely enough for a days work. You can buy extras if you need from Wacom at $40 a pop.

Conclusion

Wacom’s Bluetooth Graphire 6×8 is the only Bluetooth wireless tablet ever designed and marketed. For Wacom to keep the same performance and functionality as their non-Bluetooth models, they must have gone through some hefty research and development.

Priced at US $249 the Wacom Graphire Bluetooth 6×8 comes bundled with Adobe Photoshop Elements, Corel Painter Essentials 2 and Color Efex Pro 2 GE. Hopefully Wacom will continue with their wireless offerings and add the technology to their Intuos line.

Additional Photos


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