Adesso CyberTablet 8600

I don’t think I’m being a snob, but it still kind of amazes me that there are Photoshop users out there who don’t work with a pressure-sensitive tablet. Tablets provide a substantially easier-to-use interface than a mouse for just about any type of retouching. For years, Wacom has dominated the Mac tablet market; but now it faces a new competitor in Adesso’s CyberTablet series.

Providing a drawing space of 8-by-6 inches, the CyberTablet 8600 has a total footprint of 13-by-13.5-by-0.25 inches, making for a comfortable fit on your lap. The CyberTablet’s two other models are the 12000 (with a 12-by-9-inch drawing surface) and the 6400 (with a 6-by-4-inch drawing surface). All models ship with a wireless scroll mouse.

Realistic brush action

Like Wacom’s tablets, the CyberTablet 8600 plugs into your Mac’s USB port and provides a 512-level pressure-sensitive pen. Pressure sensitivity means that if your application supports a pressure-sensitive input device (Adobe Photoshop and Elements and Corel Painter do), then your brush tools will respond to pressure on the tip of the stylus, just like a real brush. Depending on how you configure your software, the brush mark on the page gets larger as you press harder, or changes color or shape.

Sixteen function keys, which can be programmed using the included software, line the top of the tablet. These function keys let you create quick shortcuts to menu items.

The tablet has a very nice surface that doesn’t skid, yet doesn’t have too much friction either. The pen is comfortable, and provides a two-button programmable switch on the side of the barrel. Overall, the hardware is well designed and very functional.

Unlike Wacom’s tablets, the Adesso CyberTablet uses a battery-operated pen. While this doesn’t affect the performance of the tablet, it is more of a hassle to be concerned about battery life and to figure out whether a charge will last through your current job.

Software glitches

The software is not easy to use. The CyberTablet application crashed repeatedly as I tried to configure the tablet. This is a far cry from Wacom’s excellent software that shows up in OS X’s System Preferences, and which doesn’t even require a restart after installation. But the CyberTablet’s most egregious shortcoming is that it’s not currently compatible with Photoshop. Adesso is aware of the problem and is planning an update soon.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

Though Wacom’s tablets score higher than the CyberTablet, thanks to their battery-less pen, Adesso’s tablet costs $70 less than Wacom’s least expensive 6-by-8-inch tablet. However, if you’re planning to use the CyberTablet with Photoshop, you’ll want to first contact Adesso to see if it will work with the app.

[ Ben Long is the author of Complete Digital Photography , 3rd Edition (Charles River Books, 2004). ]

Adesso CyberTablet 8600

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