Wacom Graphire 3 Studio XL test and review from Computer Video Magazine

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Wacom Graphire 3 Studio XL

Sometimes a mouse just isn't the right tool. With titles to design, menu backgrounds to create and hand-writing to simulate, editors need something extra - perhaps the help of a Wacom Graphire 3?

When we last looked at Wacom's interactive pen technology, with the A6-size/£40 Volito, we were impressed by its usability and the opportunities it opened up for creativity in video projects. Now it's the turn of Wacom's £180 Graphire 3 Studio XL, offering a bigger working area - A5 (209 x 151mm active) - even greater usability and a software bundle aimed directly at the movie-maker.
Four CDs come in-pack, along with an easy-step install guide in a brief fold-out manual. After loading the CD containing drivers, we followed the on-screen instructions, plugging the tablet's USB lead into a free port on our Windows XP PC - USB 2.0 in this case, though USB 1.1 will do. Options to adjust the sensitivity of the mouse and pen are then installed and accessible from Windows' taskbar.
Once the drivers were loaded, we got into the swing of things by using the pen to peruse the rest of the CD's contents. There is a basic training section to help new users get the most from their tablets, and the included demo of the tablet's functions and features is well produced and informative.
Despite the specific advantages that the pen might offer, a mouse is still the best device to use for many PC operations. Some serious thought has gone in to the design of the Wacom mouse. As well as feeling solidly built, it's covered at the base with a felt material that creates just the right amount of friction with the pad. The mouse and the pen have no cables and do not require batteries, as both are powered by electromagnetic resonance.

The Graphire would be a significant addition to any video editor's creative toolkit. The tablet, pen and mouse are all well-finished, have a solid feel, and were easy to use. The supplied suite of programs - all good - is a major bonus, too.
Hopefully, future versions of the Graphire 3 Studio XL will include V9 of Pinnacle Studio, and the minor niggle with the installation of the penPalette plug-in will be ironed out. The only serious sticking point we have is the price - £180 is a lot for an input device, even when taking into account the quality software bundle.
The previous Wacom pad we looked at, the Volito, impressed us because it offered so much for so little - £40 was an incredible price for a piece of kit that included Photoshop Elements, a program currently selling on Amazon for £70. The jump from A6 to the Graphire's bigger A5 size represents a move towards the more serious end of Wacom's range and, for those wanting the software included, the price may be justifiable, especially considering the extra fun and creativity to be had. But, for those satisfied with their existing software, other, cheaper options might be more suitable, including Wacom's own Graphire 3 Classic, which is £100 or so less.

Hugo Frazer

Read the full review in May 2004's Computer Video magazine.

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