Review and unboxing of the Genius G-Pen M712X graphics tablet
We’ve seen quite a few Genius tablets floating around for a while now and we’ve always wondered how they compared to the giant Wacom-sized elephant in the room. Thankfully Genius has allowed us to answer that question as they were kind enough to send us their G-Pen M712X for review. After spending quite a bit of time using it in all manner of ways we have to wonder why this current batch of Genius tablets isn’t getting more notoriety.
Genius has been building graphics tablets for a few years now. They aim to provide affordable tablets in larger sizes to beginning digital artists and hobbyists. Even their website, www.GeniusTablet.com, focuses on tutorials on how to use graphics tablets better and artwork made by Genius tablet users. Their new G-Pen Power series (M609 and M712) provides a large size tablet (an active area of 12 x 7.25 inches in the M712x’s case) for a very affordable price. Each G-Pen Power series model has an “x” model which means it has “dual mode” that switches between widescreen 16:9 format and fullscreen 4:3.
Genius G-Pen M712X Specs
The M712X has a 12 x 7.25 inch active area in wide and 9.5 x 7.25 inch active area in standard mode. If features 4,000 LPI, has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, a 200 point per second refresh rate and an accuracy of +/- 0.3mm. On the tablet you’ll find two rolling pads for scrolling, zooming, volume control, brush size and selecting with center click. There’s also a series of menu buttons that toggle what the rolling pads control and the dual mode selector (which switches between 16:9 and 4:3 active area). Surrounding the active area is a whopping 34 hot keys that you can link to any manner of program and OS shortcuts.
To start, the Genius G-Pen M712X comes in a very large and well-built box. The outside is chalk full of information. The back specifically has spec information in 25 languages and a nice details of the tablet and cordless pen.
All in all it does a good job describing the abilities of the M712X in both text and visual icons.
When you open the box you’ll find the tablet taking up nearly the entire space of the box. The tablet is wrapped in a packing sheet and anchored with two styrofoam pieces holding it in place.
After lifting out the tablet you’ll find the manual, installation and program CDs in a clear plastic ziplock bag and the cordless pen, battery, extra pen nibs and nib remover in a plastic molded case.
Here’s the entire contents of the box. You have the wrapped M712X tablet, pen holder, cordless pen, nibs, nib remover, battery, nib removal instructions and manual bag with paper manual and CDs.
Contents of the pen case.
Four CD’s come with the G-Pen M712X. You have installation CDs for both Windows and Mac OS, Photoshop Elements 6.0 and Ulead PhotoImpact 12 SE.
The G-Pen M712X is very well built and sturdy. It’s built with glossy black plastic around the drawing surface. The active area surface itself has a clear vellum cover that can be lifted and used to secure papers placed under it for tracing.
We got off to a bad start with the G-Pen M712X. The included software drivers weren’t up-to-date with our Mac OS X Snow Leopard and Windows 7 test computers. While not a big deal — we simply went to the Genius site and downloaded the most recent drivers — one usually expects to have everything you need to start using your tablet included in the box. The driver itself is rather simple and easy to setup any of its 34 shortcut keys.
There was one more thing that irked us. Once you load the driver on a Mac it continually stays there. It’s possible there may be a way to remove it from your active programs list, but we haven’t found it. Day and night, tablet plugged in or not, the driver is still there, waiting in the shadows of the other applications, waiting to annoy you when you close programs or go to shut down your computer. Sure it doesn’t hurt anything, but aesthetically it’s a source of frustration.
The pen tablet, however, is another story. It’s quick, responsive and very easy to use. It’s constructed of sturdy, black glossy plastic and lays perfectly flat with no flexing or movement when working. We were quite impressed with the build quality actually. The large size allows you to really focus on an area of work. The wheel and selector is much more useful than we had anticipated and being able to set it for zoom, scroll or brush size saves a lot of time when working on a project. The wheel clicks slightly when you rotate it. Some have remarked that this makes it feel cheap, but we found it a nice supportive measure when using the wheel. The other selectors along the top of the tablet include volume control and widescreen/fullscreen selector.
Surrounding the active area of the pad, which comes within 2-3 inches of the edge, are the 34 shortcut keys. While we don’t use shortcut keys that often it’s easy to see this as immensely useful for those that are. You can easily set up the keys with the driver in a series of simple dropdown menus. It supports both hot key setup (by allowing you to check option/shift/command and select the keyboard key with it) or links (which you can use to link to programs and applications).
The surface of the active area is protected with a translucent sheet of plastic that can be lifted up at the bottom to expose the traditional graphic tablet surface. At first it seems rather odd to include, but after using it for a while we’ve grown quite fond of it. First, it keeps dust, grease and hand oils off the tablet’s surface and is easy to wipe off or clean. Second, it’s quite useful for tracing images into a graphic program. We used it quite a few times to trace a sketch from sketchpads and then work on it in Illustrator or Photoshop. There was no lack of sensitivity or inaccuracy of recording with a sheet of paper sandwiched between the active surface and the plastic sheet. Being able to trace the item without looking at the screen is quite useful as well. Trying to do the same thing with other graphics tablets failed and we finally had to tape the sheet down to keep it stable. Not a great situation. The plastic sheet also makes for a smooth writing surface. It’s firm and smooth as opposed to the slightly more rubber texture we’re accustomed to.
Many of the complaints stated about the Genius tablets revolve around the pen. The pen is certainly thicker than Wacom’s as it holds an AAA battery in it. The case is light plastic and cigar shaped and doesn’t have any eraser end, only a contact end with exposed nib. It also has a clear plastic rocker switch that isn’t all that ergonomic. Maybe it’s due to our large hands, but we didn’t have much of a problem with the pen. It certainly is of a lesser quality than pens that come with Wacom’s line of tablets and the weight and balance is a little off, but its size is typical of most larger pens and didn’t cause our hand to cramp after hours of use (which the Wacom pens sometimes do). The lack of eraser function is sorely missed however and if Genius put a little thought into redesigning their pens the hardware for the G-Pen series would be pretty great.
When all is said and done the Genius G-Pen M712X has two criticisms — its pen and software. For us, the pen wasn’t that much of an issue. Baring its cheaper feel it didn’t have any flaws per se, but we could see where people wouldn’t like it. The software should be an easy fix in the future. Genius needs to invest a bit in their driver interface and fix some of the program issues (especially those mentioned above).
These criticisms wane when compared to the actual performance of the tablet. Truth be told, we’ve become rather dependent on the M712X. It really is a great tablet. After using it for months now — mostly due to the nature of reviews we’ve read on Genius’s other tablets — we have never encountered a random glitch, dead area in the pad or any sort of hardware hickup. We’ve tried to reproduce many of the problems listed and haven’t succeeded after clocking over 80 hours with the tablet.
Whether or not this represents a turn in quality for Genius is something we can’t answer. All we do know is the G-Pen M712X far exceeded my expectations. We’d recommend it for the graphic artist who wants an affordable large scale tablet and can’t afford a Wacom Intuos4 Medium or Large graphics tablet.