The next evolution on the Intuos line is here with the Intuos5. After our initial first impressions, we decided to take a closer look at this tablet, along with a comparative look at what changes Wacom has made from the Intuos4. With this review, you'll be able to get a full undisclosed look at one of the best tablets to date.
After the initial unboxing and first impressions of the Intuos5 that Wacom kindly sent us, I was already impressed with what I had seen at a glance. Based on the initial press release from Wacom, there were already apparent changes in store that I knew could be a huge boost in productivity for any creative professional. However, things always differ when you use them, so I had to put them to the test. Let's go ahead and break it down.
As you can see from the overview video, Wacom has added a few key features that have been improved even over the Intuos4.
1. Aesthetics and Build
The aesthetics is one of the most discussed feature about the tablet. The Intuos4 has a shiny look with the reflective plastic coating on the side where the touch ring and express keys are. With the succesor, not only is the entire tablet now covered in soft rubber, the express key buttons are embossed into the tablet itself, making for easier transitions when you're working and focused on the monitor. Similarly, the touch ring feels better to transition to while you're working since the surface area feels relatively similar across the tablet. There's less of a contrast in how the entire surface feels than there is with the Intuos4. Everything is more uniformed and streamlined.
I found the plastic in the predecessor made your fingers stick as you dragged them across the surface near the express keys, which always led me to look down more often than I'd like. Now I can keep my eyes glued to the screen with the new surface on the Intuos5. The imperative word that allows for the productivity is that all the functions sit 'flush' into the tablet in familiar locations.
The soft rubber coating on the tablet is similar to the coating you feel above the grip on your Intuos4 pen for those of you who need a reference point.
A light but beautiful touch are the four illuminated white corner markers that depict the active working area of the tablet. Combine that with the ergonomic design and feel and you can't really help but forget about the Intuos4 already. It's love at first touch.
Equaled to the impressive looks is the build of the tablet that is constructed in a way that ensures it can withstand the test of time. So far, from previous experiences, Wacom has always come through with durability as all of my tablets I own are still functional. Mine all still work, all the way back to the Graphire 4, which I first purchased approximately 7 years ago.
I also learned another great fact recently from Douglas Little at Wacom. A few people have asked why there is so much inactive area on the tablet surface to the right (considering you are right handed).
The EMR (electro-magentic resonance) board beneath the tablet surface is built to extend beyond the borders of the active area to better communicate the X and Y data. If the EMR board ended exactly at the border, the pen dynamics would not be very accurate. Wacom professional pens are able to communicate X and Y data, tilt, bearing and pressure. In addition, the Art Pen (for the Intuos and Cintiq) can deliver these five as well as a sixth, rotation.
Finally, without the inactive area, you would simply be resting your hand on the table, which would make for awkward usage of the tablet if you're not level with it. You need an area to rest your hand and work if you get to the edge of the active area.
2. Cost and Sizes
You can get the tablet in small, medium, or large. The one we tested was the medium. They retail, respectively, for $230, $350, $470. If you're not sure which tablet is right for you, there's an easy way to find out with a quick test. If you prefer pivoting with your elbow when you draw, then chances are you're going to need a large tablet. For me personally, whenever I draw or write, I always pivot mostly with my wrist while keeping my arm still. Each person is different so not one tablet is suitable for everyone's needs. Keep in mind that you can narrow down the working space of your tablet if it is too large for you through the settings.
Wires, who needs them? The Intuos5 now gives you the ability to insert a wireless module if you wish to get rid of the connection. You can buy the module for $39.00 here in case you'd like the option to do so. It's a nice touch. Before, you had just one option based on what tablet you bought, now you can do both.
With the wireless module, the battery life varies based on what size you own.
Large: 6 hours
Medium: 8 hours
Small: 10 hours
These are not tested, but based upon the specs given on the website. The other benefit is that this module can also be used in the Bamboo Capture or Create.
4. On screen express key display
On the Intuos4, the express keys had a visual display next to each key. They showed you what function each key is assigned to (medium and large only). Wacom did something ingenious with 'express view' on the '5'.
With the checkbox in the corner, you can allow the tablet to display (on screen) what it is you're pressing, based on what button your hovering over. So for instance, if you have your finger hovering over the last express key, the layout pulls up on screen in the corner highlighting where your finger is, and what the button does that you're about to press. This is better than the illuminated labels in the previous version because it allows you to keep your eyes on the screen instead of looking down. You can also turn it off once you've memorized the layout as well.
5. Grip Pen
The actual pen itself doesn't seem to have changed as it has no mention of it doing so. In the future, possible additions of new buttons may be great. One thing I would like to mention, is that with a new grip you can feel a direct translation to better precision with your strokes and clicks with the pen. It's the equivalent of driving a professional race car with racing tires, the grip gives you that added performance and control. This is also a PSA to all Wacom tablet owners in the importance of changing out your grips as it can relate to better experience and overall performance.
6. The Surface
Recently, we believed that due to a lack of replacement pads on the Wacom website on launch day, that the surface area may have changed so that it is not replaceable. There also had not been much notice on what options are available if the tablet would produce wear and tear. It turns out that details are beginning to surface that the tablet will wear out. Per the link, it seems you will have to get it sent in to get it replaced. I would have much rather had it like the Intuos4 where you could replace the tablet surface on your own. The details are still formulating from this moment as the link mentions, so keep posted on Wacom's site for pad replacement options.
7. Touch Feature and Gestures
Borrowed from the Bamboo line, touch finally makes its way to the Intuos line. I've heard some comments where people did not want it there, so the good news is you can turn it off if it's not your cup of joe. However, with the touch ability, comes gestures. Gestures are basically shortcuts you can activate based on what motion you make with your fingers.
Here are all the adjustable options. Though you can't customize one and two finger options, under 'my gestures' you can customize what happens with three, four, and five fingers. I would have liked to see a customizable section for two fingers. That way instead of using them to do what the limited options say, we could use it to enable whatever we wanted. Because when you're working with the pen, you can extend out the middle and ring finger with ease to do certain commands if it were an option.
The only option I found difficult to do was rotate with the tablet, it wasn't as easy as I was expecting. The zooming also isn't as responsive as say the Apple Magic Trackpad. I feel this could be improved upon. The rest are easy to do and provide some creative ways to boost productivity.
Every now and then, I get people who are completely surprised that there are nibs within the base of the pen holder. As it's one feature not advertised directly, a few people don't know they are there. So if you're one of those people, congratulations on your new discovery! Aside from that, the nibs that come with the Intuos5 are identical to those that came with the '4' as you can see from the image below.
9. Other Technical Specs
|Active Area||8.8" x 5.5"(224 x 140 mm)|
|Advanced Pen Tip Sensor||Yes|
|Bundled Software Download Program||Yes|
|Compatibility||Mac and PC|
|Connection||USB or RF wireless|
(with Wireless Accessory Kit sold separately)
|Express View Display (HUD)||Yes|
|Finger Sensitive Input||User-defined Touch Ring controls up to four functions|
|Max Data Rate||200 pps|
|Pen Accuracy||+/- 0.01" (0.25 mm)|
|Physical Size||15" x 9.9" x 0.5"(380 x 251 x 12 mm)|
|Resolution||5080 lpi (lines per inch)|
|Tilt Sensitivity||+/- 60 degrees|
|Wacom Wireless Kit Support||Yes|
|Warranty||2-year in USA and Canada2-year in Latin America|
|Weight||2.18 lbs. (990 g)|
Included in the Intuos5 touch Medium package:
- Intuos5 touch medium pen tablet
- Intuos5 Grip Pen
- Pen stand (Pen nibs are stored inside)
- Ten replacement nibs (five standard nibs, one flex nib, one stroke nib, and three hard felt nibs)
- Pen nib removal tool
- 6.5 ft (2.0m) USB cable
- Quick Start Guide
- Installation CD (includes tablet driver software and electronic user manual)
- Bundled software download key (this key allows original purchasers of Intuos5 pen tablets to download several valuable software applications that are included with purchase. See free bundled software for details.)
The Intuos5 is a great buy, especially if you’ve never owned a tablet before. If you have been wavering on the fence, this may be the time to think about investing in one as it tremendously increases your retouching and creative speed. For those of who you already own the Intuos4 or the bamboo line, there are plenty of reasons to upgrade. Though there are subtle areas where they could improve further, Wacom has really stepped it up by going in the right direction with their advancements, designs, and new features. The most prominent is the quality of the build and the way it feels while you are working.
The end result of it all is that the product feels great in your hands. There may not be many new features added but the beauty of it is that they revised all the existing features to help in a better experience for tablet users.
For me, the retouching just feels more “organic”. The feel of the surface when using the pen is much more delightful. While I work, I use the scroll wheel and buttons regularly and it feels more comfortable to use due to the new build and soft rubber streamlined surface. All of this results in a greater experience, more control, and finer precision.
What does this all amount to? It adds up to better efficiency with more enjoyment. This is exactly what I found in this tablet. Will you share the same viewpoint? If you’re a regular user, chances are you will. It all depends on what you want out of it. Not everyone is the same or has the same needs. I would suggest giving one a try, so far everyone I have heard from has liked it but there are those that may not. It’s not to say you will, but I hope this review helps you make an educated decision if you’re interested in picking one up.