Tablets are one of those things that unless you're really serious about your Photoshop work, you've probably never considered one. Prices have become very reasonable now, to the extent that even those with a casual interest will consider handing over the dough. Most instant messenger packages allow you take advantage of a tablet, for sending strange doodles half way around the world. Many people choose them as an alternative to a mouse – especially those that suffer badly from RSI or arthritis.
Wacom has cornered the market for quite some time, being as synonymous with tablets as Hoover is with vacuum cleaners. There are a number of manufacturers competing for this area now and Genius is one of them.
The G-Pen F350 is an entry-level tablet at only £39.99. As tablets go, it's very slim and portable at around 5mm thick, with the largest section being at the top where the USB cable comes out. It would happily slip into a notebook bag without bulging out.
It has a 3 x 5-inch tablet space, which is a widescreen aspect ratio and one of the smallest tablets you'll find. Plugging it in to Ubuntu or Windows and it picked it up automatically, essentially mapping the tablet to your screen resolution – the corner of the tablet goes to the corner of your screen. If you're running an older 4:3 monitor, or in our case a dual display setup – this is where you'll have problems as the aspect ratio will be wrong. It'll function, but trying to draw a circle will give you an ellipse.
On the outside edge of the tablet are 22 hot spots. If you've installed the software that comes with it, clicking these hot spots will do various things such as launching an application, cut, paste, print or zoom. The surface of the tablet is a thin plastic film which can be lifted up. This is useful when tracing something – but also allows you to insert one of the pre-printed cards with the icon set for your operating system – XP/Vista or Mac.
Although only a 3 x 5-inch tablet, it has 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity – unusually high for a tablet in this price range. The larger a tablet size, the more accuracy you have – but the further you have to move your arm to move around the screen, so the smaller tablet size can be argued either way. Certainly if you're looking for a mouse replacement, this is a much better size, giving you access to most of the screen without having to move your hand. Of course, with USB there is nothing stopping you from having a mouse plugged in as well and using both simultaneously.
The pen itself is wireless and requires a single AAA battery. It has two buttons and comes with replaceable tips. The quality of the pen could be questioned, feeling flimsy and plastic and lacks the eraser function of more expensive tablets, but you have to expect something to be missing at this price.
The Genius G-Pen F-350 offers excellent value for money – a good quality tablet that doesn't take up your entire desk. If you've always fancied giving a tablet a go, you couldn't go far wrong with this.