Is Wacom Making the Same Mistakes as Apple?

Is Wacom Making the Same Mistakes as Apple?

Wacom has renewed its Intuos tablet lineup with two new models, including the paper edition in medium and large sizes, while still offering the old Intuos Pro model in small size. The new design seems like bringing some novelty, but in fact, innovation might not be always safe. Because as a long time user, my disappointment was the same like the time Apple started ignoring its core users' needs. I have been using Wacom tablets for more than eight years as a photographer and retoucher. My first Wacom tablet was an entry model Bamboo, and then I continued using Intuos tablets for my daily retouching work, and since then, they became an essential part of my professional photography life. As we all know, Wacom is the industry leader with no strong competitors and have been serving designers, photographers and digital artists with great products for years. When my old Intuos Pro started frazzling, I decided to upgrade to the newly introduced Wacom Intuos Pro Creative Pen Tablet and bought one last month. And to be honest, after one week, all I could feel was regret. 

Wacom changed lots of things on the new model, for an in-depth review, check Alex Cooke's review of this model.

- New surface sheet
- New Wacom Pro Pen 2
- USB-C cable
- Slim design
- New button and touch ring design
- Smaller form factor
- New base material
- No wireless dongle, built-in Bluetooth feature

All these innovations seem handy at first glance, however, like Apple's innovations in its recent products, these are also immature and unnecessary in my opinion, here is why.

Due to my screen size and habits, I picked up the new Intuos Pro with Pro Pen in medium size. Its size is smaller than the previous version and almost the same size with the previous Intuos Pro Small. Wacom kept the tablet area larger on a smaller form factor, and this was the biggest innovation that caught my attention. In addition to this, the new tablet is now more robust with the aluminum base, which prevents squeaky noises that occur by time in old models. So, this was a big step up for Intuos Pro. However, the frame material is the same plastic that was used on the old model. 

Besides the new material and the form factor, the tablet comes with a new surface sheet, which feels harder than the default Intuos Pro surface. As you may imagine, it is a nib eater. After a week of use, I had to change three nibs due to this sandpaper like surface. But wait, I have some good news and bad news. A mini surface sheet tester is included in the package, so you can decide what you'd like to use in the future; and the bad news is, if you want to change the horrible default surface sheet immediately, unfortunately, you cannot, as they are not available yet. 

Another thing is the hard button placed on the edge of the tablet that activates the touch function. The tablet has eight customizable buttons, but to activate the touch feature, you have to pinch a tiny button on edge.

On the new model, the touch ring is now smaller, and it has never been hard before to use. I don't have fat fingers, but even for me, it was hard to use. Plus, when zooming in by rotating your finger around the touch ring, it occasionally zooms out. Probably due to a driver issue. 

Wacom Pro Pen 2

Wacom sells this pen with a high price tag and presents it like the best pen in its product line. Actually, including this pen to the new tablet, made the kit worse. The design is no different than the standard Wacom Intuos 5 Pen, the only difference is the metal frame around the pen buttons, which prevents using existing rubber grips with this one. The nibs are different than the usual nibs that the previous models' pens come with, and only two types of nibs are included. One of the nibs is the standard nib that comes with nearly every Wacom tablet by default, and the other one is the felted nib, which simulates paper drawing. Personally, I couldn't stand that more than five minutes, due to the annoying noise that came from this horrible combination of surface sheet and nib. I switched back to the standard nib, which melts like cheese in the microwave. 

Wacom also decided to change the pen stand design. They added weight to the base and changed the overall design from ink bottle shape to something weird like a pancake. It is low profile design, that looks like you stuck your pen into a cookie, and with a slight touch of your finger, the pen tips over easily. It is almost impossible to twist and open the stand, due to lack of friction and a gully. If you are lucky and vigorous enough to rotate and open the cap, it keeps clattering after closing. Also, say goodbye to the old nib changer metal piece, now you have to change your nibs by placing your pen into the hole at the bottom of the stand base. Wacom skipped telling which side should be used for this, so when trying to change the nib, nibs can be ejected like a rocket and so be prepared to lose the nibs. 
Also, keep the pen stand out of reach of children, cause in some cases, it can be used as a weapon due to its shape and weight. 

Installing and Compatibility

I use both Mac and Windows systems for work, and so far I had no issues with Wacom tablets regarding compatibility. Once installed, most Wacom tablets are just plug-and-play devices, which makes them great products, except this one. My new tablet didn't work on Windows, and I found no information about this on the Internet, including Wacom help forums. While thinking of returning it, I decided to give it a try on Mac, and the software suggested me to update the firmware. After updating the firmware on Mac, I finally made it work on Windows. However, there was a problem. After waking up the computer from sleep, the tablet keeps sleeping and waking it up; you have to unplug the cable and plug it in again. Or, you have to reset your PC. Also, another issue with the software is; it doesn't recognize your existing settings even if they are backed up at Wacom Cloud, so you have to adjust your settings overall. 
Wacom released a driver update for this sleep-wake issue specifically; however, it didn't fix anything either.
I wrote about these annoying issues to Wacom warranty, and as usual, I had no response for months.

All in all, the new standard surface sheet, the new pen and its nibs, new zoom wheel, and even cumbersome and impractical pen stand with existing driver issues make this product impossible to use. My experience with this tablet reminded me of what Apple did to its main clients over the years; by neglecting their primary needs, updating the designs in ridiculous ways, and releasing immature products. This tablet may be a great product for a digital painter or anyone else, but as a full-time photographer and retoucher, to use this device efficiently, I realized that I have to change the surface sheet and the pen, which will probably cost more than $150. Like an Apple Macbook Pro user that has to buy dongles and converters to use his hard drives. Besides the hardware issues, the driver based problems are even more frustrating that makes this tablet impossible to use.

Wacom's main audience is digital artists, but there is also a paper edition of this tablet, which might suit their needs better I think. Also, Wacom should remember that photographers and retouchers are also their customers and their last innovation didn't excite.


Burak Erzincanli's picture

Burak is a photographer and creative retoucher specialising in fashion and advertising, working with international clients from Canada, Europe and Australia.

Currently lives and works in Manchester, UK.

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A iPad pro with Apple pencil with Astro pad studio costs more but is also an iPad, looks better all the time.

I forgot to mention in the article, hte standard grip pen doesn't work with the new one. I'll definitely give a try to ipad pro... that sounds interesting

Precisely why I'm stuck with my Bamboo. Everything else since has just been fluff and over-designing.

It truly boggles the mind why a manufacturer of a fine product feels the need to downgrade a product through innovation?? You may want to search Ebay for an older model that works for you until Wacom gets it right..

I did exactly the same, got the older version from Ebay

The older model are still available, why just not resend this model and order an older one?
I think, you are angry and your opinion was very bad because of this...

If you have a chance, I'd suggest you to try the latest version :) btw, now I have two old intuos models but it is nearly impossible to find it brand new in Melbourne, AU

I tried and tried to use the wacom buttons, but I never found them useful. Keyboard shortcuts are so much more convenient. I wish they make one a cheaper one without the buttons.

I'm working with lots of layers all the time, so I set my buttons to create a new layer, stamp visible etc. at that point they are quite handy for me, try different commands maybe you can like them?

Innovation stopped with the Intuos4 and it's ability to program button labels. The rest has been shite changes.

I have a medium Intuos4 and a wireless Intuos5 small. I'll take my 4 over the 5 any day. But use the 5 for location work in my bag.

Their drivers are getting buggy with each new release they offer. So I'll agree with this writer, I'm not a happy camper with WACOM as of late.


I own an Intuos and a Bamboo, but I only use the Bamboo. When the pen broke on the Bamboo, I bought the Intuos and hated it. Luckily the pen still works. I want to try other tablets, but I'm worried about making a $100-300 mistake.

That sucks. Still got my Intuos 4 and I hope it will continue working for a while longer.

Yes they are making the same mistake ... just like Adobe Apple, and Microsoft. They no longer put customers first. Hope they pay the price for ignoring their customers and remember that their big fat-cat business is because of their customers.

I'm still using an Intuos 4 small and I would buy another in a heartbeat - I do not want or need the new versions.

They are stuck in a similar problem as Apple where people do not want to upgrade their device so they have to come up with "enhancements" that really aren't enhancements at all to try and sell more.

Apple has the upper hand though because at some point their new OS's render their older phones more or less useless but Wacom can't really do that here.

I'm also still using an Intuos 4. The last 2 -3 upgrades have been really buggy tho, especially while using Lightroom CC. I had to downgrade to get it to work ok.

Yeah, Wacom gave me a hard time with my Intuos 4 pen/tablet with no servicable driver to run under Mac OSX 12. Even after 3 contacts with them I had to strip all the new driver and revert back two or three drivers for the pen to function even halfassly. I've had two Intuos tablets prior. Thanks for posting about Apples ipad/pen...... will check that out.

You really need an editor. I found this article hard to read, your sentence structure is very odd, and leaves a lot to be desired.

But I do appreciate the warning about the product, even if it is overtly biased against the product.

I received mine (paper version) on Monday. Had no time to play around with it yet but I had no problems installing the driver on Windows and updating the firmware there as well.
Bluetooth and touch input works like a charm. I will write more after I have used it a bit (if anyone is interested). BTW a drawing artist and friend of mine always uses drawing paper which he mounts over the surface of his Intuos Pro. Maybe that's an option for you instead of buying a surface sheet.

I also use paper on top of my Intuos 4 as I always have since the late 90's on all Wacoms including the old ArtPads.

My suggestion is 200lb color copy paper. This weight stays flat longer without rippling and without any pressure differences of any kind.

I also disable all of the buttons and slide strips if any and prefer keyboard shortcuts. The ideal tablet for me is a surface the size of an A4/Letter piece of paper.

Even better and actually innovative would be a pressure-sensitive pen without any tablet at all(!) that could be used on the surface of your choice.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the lumps and bumps this model has, Ive had two large units with distinct and visible lumps bang in the middle of the work area, I've seen at least 5 other cases of lumps and bends, its been brought up on the wacom forum, Facebook and in Youtube comments.

Thanks - v interesting read! It's weird that they don't just push on with things, but merely fiddle about, and so get it wrong some times :( Apt analogy with apple

All in all, I`m happy with the tablet. The only thing I don't like at all is how fas the nib is eaten and how fucking expensive these pieces of plastic are. I trying to find a good life hack here, but so far, no luck

that's the main point of the post Igor, users don't have to waste their time and try to find solutions for the faults of the products, brands should do that before launching their new products.

Check out Huion, Gaomon and XP-Pen, three amazing tablet companies. Look them up on Youtube.

Huion and XP-Pen. Check them out.

Meanwhile companies like Huion, XP-Pen and Gaomon are improving in a blazing fast rate and offer not only a fantastic products for unbeatable prices but also much more improved support.

I urge you to try one of their products.

thanks Motti, I will check them!