There really isn’t any catch. Of course the technical specification isn’t quite up to the standard of a product that costs over four times as much, but it is surprisingly close. It has a drawing resolution of 4,000 lpi (lines per inch), compared to 5,080lpi for an A4 Intuos3. The pen offers 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, which matches the Wacom pen, and the active drawing area is only a couple of centimetres smaller. The Intuos3 tablets only have 10 programmable hotkeys, and don’t have scroll wheels, but they do have pen angle sensitivity, something which the Genius tablet lacks. This is a feature that is really not that important for photo editing, although artists who like to paint and draw using a tablet may miss it. The drawing area can be switched at the touch of a button between 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios.
I’ve been using the M712 for about a week now, in place of my old A5 Wacom Graphire tablet, and I’m very impressed with it, although I have to say it didn’t start out that way. When I first installed the M712, I noticed that the pen response was very slow, and I also discovered a number of problems with other programs, which I quickly determined were caused by the device drivers supplied with the tablet. However when I uninstalled them, cleaned up my PC’s registry and then installed new updated drivers downloaded from Genius’s website all the problems disappeared, and the device has been working flawlessly ever since. I’d suggest that if you buy this tablet, ditch the supplied driver disk and download the updated drivers straight away. Hopefully the updated drivers will be included in subsequent releases, but for now it’s a case of better safe than sorry. I didn’t have the opportunity to test the Macintosh drivers, but I’d suggest the same precaution.
The other software supplied with the M712 is interesting. It comes with two complete photo editing programs; Ulead/Corel PhotoImpact 12SE and Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0, both of which are full OEM versions. Personally I prefer Elements, but PhotoImpact is also a very capable editing program. As well as these there are two rather nifty utilities that are installed along with the tablet drivers. One is the macro key manager used to program the hot key shortcuts on the tablet, and the other is Office Ink, a strange little program that lets you hand-write notes directly onto your desktop background, or to write and sketch in MS Office documents and emails, and then embed the graphics as GIF images into the documents, which can be used for adding your signature to product loan forms, if you happen to review gadgets for a living.