For digital drawing and painting, I recently bought a Huion 580 8x5 pen tablet for $40, and I love it! I used to have a Wacom Graphire 4x5 but it finally crapped out on me so I had to toss it and get a new one. I liked the low price of the Huion, and that it was twice as big as my old one for half the price. I hadn't used a bigger tablet and I wanted to try it out and see if I'd like more space, and to see how a lesser known brand would compare to the almighty Wacom. I figured it was worth a shot, and I could always easily return it to Amazon if I didn't think it was up to par. And I'm glad I took the chance! :)
The tablet's pen takes a AAA battery, but you can turn it off with a cool pen-like click button on the end of the pen to save battery. The pressure sensitivity is amazing, and is better than my old Wacom. The bigger drawing area is really nice and makes drawing easier too. The 8x5 space better mimics the ratio of a widescreen monitor. I like the texture of the pad, and the pen tip feels similar to pen on paper. Plus, the tablet just looks slick and nice. My old Wacom actually looked and felt kinda cheap compared to this one.
I'm pretty sure the part that broke on my Wacom tablet was the USB cord because I'd wrap it around the pad when not in use and it started darkening near the connection to the pad (the cord was the see-through kind). I wasted a couple hours taking it apart and attempting to solder a new connection but it didn't work (I didn't really expect it to though). Fortunately the Huion tablet has a detachable mini USB cord so I can just unplug it and twist-tie it back up when I'm not using it. But if I wanted to wrap it around the pad I could do that too, and if it ever stops working I can simply replace the USB cord rather than having to replace the entire tablet.
I use the tablet primarily for painting with Corel Painter or sometimes in Photoshop. I prefer the way Painter mimics natural media to Photoshop. I've never been able to use Photoshop in a way that feels or looks like real painting. A while back I decided any more painting I will do will be in Painter rather than using real paints and canvas because of how much easier it is to use and get started. It encourages me to paint more because I'm not burdened with the setup/mess/cleanup and lack of undo/layers/infinite colors. I can't tell you how many times I've been painting a real watercolor and said, "Agh, CTRL-Z, CTRL-Z!!!"