I recently upgraded my personal setup. I bought Adobe CS 5.5 Design Standard and found a great deal on a graphics tablet. I couldn’t bring myself to purchase a Wacom while I am in school (cost prohibitive), but I found a tablet with a big 10″ x 6.25″ drawing area for only $49 from Monoprice.com. My first impression is, “Awesome!” and my second was, “Glad I didn’t pay for a Wacom!” Definitely worth checking out. Plus, I won’t feel so bad if it breaks someday, and I don’t mind carrying it in my backpack.
It might take a while to get used to not drawing on the screen. My usual routine was manual pen and paper sketches and Photoshop rendering with a mouse. If I was feeling particularly ambitious, I used to render on the 21″ Wacom Cintiqs that they had at UW-Stout. After finding out Iowa State doesn’t have Cintiqs or any other tablets, I felt getting my own would be a good move.