For years Wacom has been at the forefront of graphics tablet technology and is, without question, the undisputed market leader. The lengthy existence of the Graphire range makes it easy to see why. The precise control of a pen over a bog-standard mouse is a breath of fresh air once you get up and running with the Graphire4, and that's the clincher.
Precision for vector and bitmap drawings and enhanced sensitivity in supported software are a great advantage, and the features we have all come to expect - from the pressure-sensitive nib to the eraser on the opposite end of the pen - are all apparent. With the customisable buttons and extremely sensitive pad, this all adds up to a good basic feature-set.
Alongside the bundled tablet driver (which allows customisation of all functions of the pen and tablet) is a copy of Corel Painter Essentials 2. It's a decent basic photo-editing package, but you'll most likely replace it with Paint Shop Pro or one of the incarnations of Photoshop if you want a little more power. The full version of Painter is well worth a look if you intend to be a little more arty with your tablet.
With an active area of just under A6 size, the removable frame allows a drawing or photo to be placed underneath, to aid tracing work or to use as reference. This model, though, is the smallest in the range, and the limited size can be the cause of some problems, especially when undertaking fiddly design work.
Being so cramped makes it rather hard to disregard your mouse altogether, although the Windows pen control is perfectly useable. The quality of the build is good, and there are very few niggles. We did have a slight issue with the placement of the two buttons on the pen, though.
While in the assumed position, ease-of-use varies depending on the size of your hands; remembering to hold it in the right way (which doesn't always feel natural) can be difficult, but this gets better with time and practise.
This little beauty doesn't have the wow factor of its big brother, but it's near enough perfect for the price and market that it's aimed at. It might not offer enough for owners of previous models to upgrade, but if you're a first-timer, you'll only have to choose between this and the 'XL' A5 model.