Well, mostly hardware comparison since my Graphire doesn’t work properly (unless one long line drawing is your thing) and it isn’t recommended that you have two Wacom drivers on the same computer…so only the Bamboo can be active.

So I got a new graphics tablet for Christmas since my old one doesn’t really work properly anymore (well it works okay if you never want your line to end or as a mousepad). My tablet started spazzing out in 2008 since I have illustrations from 2008 that I finished with a mouse. (And most of the stuff I did in 2009 was from drawing did earlier but recoloured….).

Unlike some who are going from a older and/or smaller version of Bamboo to a Bamboo Create, I’m going from a Graphire 3 medium to a Bamboo Create. 10 years has passed since I got my first pen tablet.  The list price is/was the same for both tablets (about $200. A smaller version can be had for half the price or less but it does not have an eraser anymore.) They are roughly 3-5 generations apart (Graphire 3, Graphire 4, Bamboo, Bamboo 2nd Gen, Bamboo 3rd Gen)…well, there’s 3 generations between them and within the same category (Wacom’s consumer pen tablets).  What has changed? Is it better? Have I gotten any better at drawing since I was 13? Ha! Since 2003, I’ve been through quite a few computers (at least 2-3 I think), my monitor is now a widescreen flat panel and I’m now using Windows 7.

Model Graphire 3 6×8
(CTE-630W)
Bamboo Create
(CTH-670M)
Brand Wacom Wacom
Release Date 2003 (Sept) 2011 (Sept)
Size 10.8 x 10.1 x 0.71 in (physical)
8.22 x 5.94 inches (active area)
13.8 x 8.2 x 0.4 in (physical)
8.5 x 5.4 inches (active area)
Pressure levels 512 1024
Programmable buttons 2 on pen, 0 on tablet 2 on pen, 4 express keys on tablet
Additional input Wireless mouse (two buttons + scroll wheel) Multi-touch
Surface texture Smooth (plastic…unless you dirty it) Slightly textured/matte
Included software (all full versions)  Adobe Photoshop Elements 1 or 2?? (I think) & Corel Painter Classic (?). I really don’t remember anymore… Adobe Photoshop Elements 9, Corel Painter Essentials 4 & Autodesk Sketchbook Express

Some of the other specs on the Graphire3 are now hard to find and I don’t think I have the box anymore.

The Graphire3 also has an hard to pry “photo frame” cover which is can be used for tracing if you want (I rarely did that).  All mine has is the instructions for said photo frame shoved in.

Note: at the time of the Graphire 3, the Intuos professional tablet had 1024 pressure levels. As of Intuos 4, it has doubled.

Enough of the specs, let’s see the two tablets!

First let’s open it

Inner Box

Bamboo Create packed

 

It comes with a micro USB cord but it is quite short if you have the tower underneath your desk. I think it may have reached (barely) but I wound up using the micro USB cord from the Sony Reader of all things (I’m getting a wireless kit but haven’t installed it yet).

Size

Bamboo Create & Graphire 3 6x8

Bamboo Create on top of Graphire 3 6x8

They are approximately the same size but in a different aspect ratio with the Bamboo being wider (but shorter) for widescreens.

However while the Graphire3 is not heavy by any means, compared to the Bamboo, the Graphire3 is significantly heavier than the new version. The Bamboo Create is very light.

Texture

Bamboo Create   Active Area

New, the Graphire3’s texture is smooth plastic. It IS smooth plastic.  Personally I have never really had an issue with it…maybe it’s unnatural but you get used to it.

The Bamboo’s texture matte/smooth but not slippery smooth to touch and to draw it’s like paper….or it has the resistance of paper It’s a bit like markers on paper (and I’m just using the normal nibs!). The only thing that is annoying is the slightly squeaky eraser but that could go away (I hope). The Bamboo doesn’t have any obvious border between the active and non active areas.

However, what is really important is that you keep the surface clean. Trust me, drawing through stuck on dirt (I’ve done it before) is not so great. It’s doable of course but it’s not great. If you not using your pen tablet, DO put it safely away!

Pen holder

Graphire 3 Pen Holder
Graphire

Bamboo Pen Holder
Bamboo

I really like the Graphire 3 pen holder. It’s easy to slip in and out and it’s fairly secure. I haven’t lost the pen in the 8-9 years I’ve had the tablet (yes, I’ve used on several computers). The Graphire 3 also came with a pen stand that I’ve long since lost.

The Bamboo’s pen holder kind of annoying. It’s just a piece of fabric with a very tight fit. At first I couldn’t get it in!

The trick is to slide in eraser side first. Trying the other way is a very tight experience!

Drivers/Software

The Graphire 3 pen driver was very creatively called “Pen Tablet”. Other than the software package, it didn’t really come with anything else. I think it worked…

I don’t remember using the other software but I do remember using Photoshop Elements. It was an early version, probably Photoshop Elements 1 or 2. However, the interface was very Photoshop-like. Then I wanted do some stuff that Elements wouldn’t do (like putting text on a path) so I switched to Photoshop.

The Bamboo came with the Bamboo driver (called bamboo) and Bamboo Dock, a collection of random things do to with your pen. It’s a fun idea but doesn’t really work well (the Adobe Air or whatever platform crashes). Also, I attempted to update my driver (well, it said there was any update…) only to have my cursor stuck in the upper left corner in touch mode!  Luckily the pen worked (since I was running out of USBs, I was playing around with plugging in my mouse…my mouse didn’t work) and I was able to uninstall and reinstall the pen driver (so if it says update your pen driver…just…wait…).

Painter Essentials is interesting, especially for watercolours. Sketchbook seems almost the same thing but I do find the pen-interface for Sketchbook cool (not that I’ve really used it yet). Photoshop Elements seems to have moved further from Photoshop but I’m not sure since I’m using such an old version of Photoshop (CS3, the comparison version of Photoshop Elements 9 is Photoshop CS5!). It’s more photo-orientated then Photoshop.  I could rant about the Photoshop undo/redo thing but I’ll save it for another time…let’s just say that I keep using Photoshop shortcuts…that don’t work in Elements or I;m getting lost since something is moved in Elements. It also has a multimedia organizer which I actually like better than Adobe Bridge (Photoshop etc)…because Bridge hates my computer (it works but not well). If Photoshop Elements 9 is all I had, then I think I would be okay (it’s very decent for the average user and beginners…it even has blending modes which I didn’t learn about until recently, masks and can use all the cool brushes and gradients and other fun things for photoshop). But for some reason I find Photoshop to be more…comfortable. I will probably end up using Photoshop again after a stint in Elements (again). For most people who aren’t doing anything major, Elements would do though. It’s better than GIMP! (GIMP feels so foreign I can’t do anything in it without taking a long time and much googling!). If you don’t have Photoshop at all (and don’t want to pirate ha!), yeah I’ll say a Wacom tablet with Photoshop Elements is worth it (since Photoshop Elements alone retails for about $100, even though Wacom ones aren’t the most recent they’re still full versions). However, Photoshop Elements doesn’t have any animation or video features or CMYK colour modes so if you want to do animation or print work, it probably won’t be enough (I don’t do print anyway…if I did I’ll go crazy calibrating my display because it drives me nuts that the monitor colours and printed colours don’t match!).

I’ll say this after playing around with pro and consumer art software. Consumer Software takes your hand and constantly offers you help while simplifying the interface. Pro software just throws around a whole bunch of toolbars at you and a work area (that you specify of course) and that’s it. If you don’t know what you’re doing you end up hovering trying to figure out what the is the names of these tools, for starters. (Then you google.)  I also find that consumer software tends to be more graphic based while pro software is more text-based UI-wise.

Pen

Bamboo Create and Graphire 3 pens

The Graphire3 has a plastic pen, with a dual rocker button and an eraser.

The Bamboo has a plastic pen with a slight rubber-like grip coating on the bottom half. It’s a bit longer and a bit heavier than the Graphire pen. It also has a dual rocker button and an eraser. I prefer the Bamboo Create pen.

Drawing

The Graphire only had 512 pressure levels but I don’t recall it ever being an issue. Then one day it wouldn’t release the lines…so the lines wouldn’t end and I suck at etch a sketch so that didn’t work. I tried replacing the nib and it helped a bit…but not enough, at all (but now I have more nibs for my Bamboo!).

I find that I have to press a bit harder which is odd since it’s supposed to more sensitive but maybe I need to tweak my settings… But it does feel like paper. More specifically  it sort of feels like markers on paper for some reason (I’m just using normal nibs).

Additional Input

The Graphire3 comes with a wireless mouse. It’s good mouse and we used it for awhile. It is better than my current mouse which makes annoying clicking sound with the scroll wheel (maybe that’s not saying much since I have a cheap mouse). The mouse part of the tablet still works I think.

The Bamboo Create is also a multi-touch tablet which is way cooler than a mouse (you probably already have a mouse anyway). I’m still learning and getting used to the gestures but it works pretty decently. Much better than my laptop (although my laptop has a crappy touchpad). You can either tap to click or use the buttons on the side which is nice (single button clickers for touchpad are the best…the rocker button on my laptop is clunky). It’s pretty responsive. The only trouble I have is that it keeps thinking I want to rotate and I have trouble with zoom in sometimes (thinks I want to rotate…again. What’s with me and rotate? My laptop with crappy multitouch ability used to do that too! Maybe I’m too crooked or something) but maybe that’s just me. Right clicking with fingers only is a bit hit and miss but does work. Sometimes. There is no click to the touchpad itself but since I never had a Mac or used a Mac or used any touchpad with a click in the pad in itself long term I can’t miss it. Scrolling works well. I think the trick is that you need to stay straight so maybe it will improve posture too! Ha!

Working with the Computer

I was using  the Graphire 3 on Windows XP (several computers really, one of them was a laptop) and the Bamboo Create on Windows 7. I works fine. Windows 7 sees it as a pen tablet and will pull out the Tablet PC features if you want it which is neat (kind of unnecessary since it’s catered to handwriting but neat). I think XP only had Tablet PC features in Office. Windows 7 also supports the touch features okay with a cool Flip 3D windows mode (I said it’s cool…I never said it worked that well). However the tablet PC writing tab annoying gets in the way of most Adobe main toolbars.

I don’t have a mac but I would imagine OS X will support the multi-touch better as will Windows 8. Maybe. Windows 8 is still a UI nightmare I think though…I think it’s confusing and it’s not self-evident enough (now I’m on the desktop…now what? How do I get back to the start screen/menu/thing?).

I am still annoyed that Windows 7 does not show .PSD files in thumbnails. I’m going to have to remedy that one day since I often save multiple .PSD files per drawing (all at different layer states) or even more for animation with lame names since I’m busy working on whatever I was working. (All the software can the tablet comes with can save in .PSD).

I might add the the eraser (and pressure) still doesn’t work in MS Paint. But it also never did. Even with the Graphire on XP. MS Paint is stupid but can be good if you just want something that is very quick to open to doodle around randomly.

Verdict

The Bamboo Create is a decent successor to the Graphire3. I think the space also maps out better to my widescreen monitor. I like the new touch functionality (though I did use a laptop as a main computer for a year with no mouse and an okay touchpad) and I think it’s better than a plain old mouse. I can’t say the new surface is better or worse compared to the Graphire though since I haven’t really worked with it very long. This time, I will keep it clean though!

I have not used an Intuos tablet or Cintiq and I will not use them because I know I will be spoiled if I do and would want one even though I don’t need one. Besides, I don’t have the skill for those professional products that cost an arm and a leg (or more) anyway!

The driver could be a bit better though. Aside from the cursor in the corner thing – sometimes, after a fairly long period of time (and at least a sleep), the touch randomly stops working. A reboot fixes that but I wonder if that’s more of a Windows issue… At any rate, most issues aren’t hardware issues

I use it for Adobe CS. Even if you’re not drawing per se, it’s still easier to make that sideways motion (that most Adobe programs use to adjust properties….I don’t know what you call it but you use a sideways sliding motion to change adjust it) with a pen than a mouse.

A few photos of it in action.

On
On

Touch mode
Touch

Pen mode
Pen
(Nothing from the Graphire really since I’m not installing drivers for the Graphire along with the Bamboo. But I think the orange light turned green when in pen mode)

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