The various makers and manufacturers of graphics tablets and interactive pen displays have realised that people want to use them for different things. Some people use them to produce high quality, commercial images used for advertising, print and film, where as others will be used by part time creative people or children.
The smaller and cheaper graphics tablets such as the Wacom Bamboo model have been produced with the younger market in mind. A small, colored tablet that allows even the smallest computer artist to unleash their creativity onto the screen. Wacom have identified that this market needs a smaller canvas to work on and therefore the smaller tablets come in sizes of around 6 x 4 inches active area. This is the area where you can use the pen to draw.
These smaller tablets are perfect for a first time user or someone who may only want to use them to annotate documents or create images now and then. For the person who wants to use the tablet more often, they are supplied in a series of larger sizes, from 6 x 4 inches up to 18 x 12 inches. These graphics tablets are designed with the professional in mind and offer a larger drawing area which in turn will provide a higher resolution output to the screen. The larger the graphics tablet, the more detailed your work will become. Although it may be tempting to start with a larger tablet, if you are a first time user, it might be prudent to start with something smaller.
The next sizes and levels up from these graphics tablets will be the interactive pen displays that allow you to draw directly onto a screen as if you were using the application through the tablet. These products do come at a price as they also incorporate the same technology as a TFT screen but the experience of using one means that you can be more tactile with the image and you will produce better results. The largest of these displays allows you to draw directly onto the same size area as a 21 inch monitor. The “active area” is 17 x 12.5 inches which will allow you to really get to grips with creating digital artwork and images.
To conclude this advice, I suggest that if you are younger, a less frequent user of graphics applications or you just want to try your hand at making digital artwork, a smaller graphics tablet is your best choice. However, if you are already a traditional artist looking to transfer to a digital medium, a larger digital pen display would suit you better as it will be easier to work with based on your current skills and experience.