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A friend of mine works a lot with CAD programs like AutoCAD or Autodesk Tools. To his birthday I thought it would be a good idea to present him with a graphic tablet for 3D applications. Unfortunately, I'm very unexperienced in this field :-) so my questions are 1) is it really a good idea and 2) what are important characteristics of such a tablet I have to consider when I select one. I could image resolution, and size?

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I believe that (unlike Adobe design applications) 3D software is usually good at treating touch and pen input differently in sensible ways. So one feature to consider would be a tablet with both pen and touch input (and good touch rejection when the pen is near the surface). Other than that, I'm not aware of differences between tablets for 2D and 3D. More importantly: there's a lot of personal preference with tablets particularly with ideal size. I'd suggest talking to the guy first rather than getting it as a surprise. – user568458 Oct 10 '12 at 9:29
...if the "talk to the guy first" comment sounds like no fun, don't forget that he's (hopefully) going to be using it for hours on end every working day :) Also to clarify when I said "not aware of differences between tablets for 2D and 3D", I should have said "no significant differences in how people use tablets are used for 2D and 3D" - they are the same tablets. – user568458 Oct 10 '12 at 19:58
Thank you for your comments!! – strauberry Oct 11 '12 at 6:33
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I would recommend a 3D mouse instead of tablet. I have both and 3D mouse is better for 3D applications such as Autocad.

Check out some options:

In this case (as a gift), consider their SpaceNavigator which is an affordable model.

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3d mouse is what I had in my mind as well, though the price does get pretty high if you want one that has buttons. I mean ( For those who are not aware ) 3d mouses are meant for your left hand. So, some basic buttons to control your 3d program is a big plus so you don't have to juggle between the 3d mouse and keyboard necessarily (Not to diss the Spacenavigator. It is pretty damn great too). But yea (+1). I'm not big fan of using tablets for 3d programs actually ( except for zBrush ). – Joonas Oct 11 '12 at 9:47
+1 Interesting, never seen these before. Do people ever use these alongside tablets? For example, if right handed, pen in the right hand for input, 3D mouse in the left for navigation? – user568458 Oct 11 '12 at 10:28
Yes, that's a functional setup. Personally I find the regular mouse to work better for me when it comes to 3D modelling and animation (using the 3D mouse on the left for navigation in the scene). Tablets are perfect for 2D ("Photoshop", video etc.). But of course, this boils down to personal preference. – K3N Oct 11 '12 at 10:50

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