Wacom has just launched its new Wacom Intuos 5 product line. I just got one of these (Medium size), so I thought I'd write a small review about it, since it's the most fundamental tool for my job.
It's been quite a few years since my last upgrade. For the record, before that I've also used a Graphire 1 (A6), an Intuos 3 (A6), an Intuos 3 (A5 Wide SE), and a Cintiq 21UX (currently I've been using the Intuos 3 A5W).
First of all, here's the official specs of the model:
Dimensions (W x D x H): 380 mm x 251 mm x 12 mm
Active area Pen (W x D): 224 mm x 140 mm
Active area Touch (W x D): 224 mm x 140 mm
Weight: 990 g
Multi-touch Support: yes
Wireless Accessory Support: yes
Resolution (per point): 0.005 mm (5,080 lines per inch)
Tilt sensitivity: ± 60°
Maximum reading height with pen: 10 mm
No. of ExpressKeys: 8 capacitve keys
Touch Ring controller: 1
So in terms of specs there's nothing exciting about it, it's the same specs with Intuos 4 and almost the same with Intuos 3. Actually, the Intuos 4 pens are compatible with Intuos 5 tablets.
However, what sets it apart from previous versions is the design/build quality, optional wireless connectivity and the multi-touch functionality (by the way, there's also a version of Intuos 5 WITHOUT multitouch functionality, so keep that in mind to avoid confusion).
But the specs don't mean a lot; how do all these features affect the creative process of a digital artist? DESIGN
Being a lefty myself, I really appreciate the ambidextrous nature and ergonomic design of the new tablet. That means you can rotate the tablet so that you can have the express keys positioned at the left or at the right side of the tablet, which is pretty cool. The general layout is quite similar to Intuos 4, and I'm glad that they retained this feature in the new version. The pen design is the same with Intuos 4, which is a bit lighter and shorter than an Intuos 3 pen.
The new canvas surface is one of the biggest improvements for me. It actually feels like a grainy paper, and it has more friction than the previous models which were a bit slippery. That results in much better accuracy when drawing.
The rest of the surface (including the keys and the touch ring) is covered in high quality silk plastic, which gives it a nice matte look, it's less slippery, and also prevents nasty fingerprints appearing all over the place. Furthermore, there are no seams around the buttons (they are engraved), because the entire area is one solid piece. That makes cleaning a breeze!
I also like the fact that EVERYTHING is black with no other visible signs (the ref image is deceiving, it IS totally black), other than the 4 corner marks of the canvas area which glow white using backlighting; which gives it a nice hi-tech look (it's also a great match for my slim Logitech wired/wireless illuminated keyboard)! FUNCTIONALITY
The most profound new feature of Intuos 5 Touch is the multi-touch functionality and support for various gestures. I had my reservations about this feature regarding how helpful it would be in the end. Thankfully, it turns out that it's a welcome addition.
Apart from the fact that the tablet can be used as a large touchpad for simple navigation, it supports some standard universal (MacBook-like) gestures, plus some custom gestures that you can assign macro commands and they can also be program-specific, which is great.
There are plenty of options to adjust in the Touch section of the settings, such as pointer speed, scrolling speed, pointer acceleration, double-tap time, or completely disable the touch input. I'd say that the touchpad could very well replace the need for a mouse for general use.
-The standard gestures are the usual: tap to click, two finger tap to right click, two finger drag to scroll, pinch to zoom/rotate, three finger swipe left-right to navigate, four finger swipe left-right to switch application. You can also disable any of them.
-The customizeable gestures are: three finger tap and hold, four finger swipe up/down, five finger tap and hold, and five finger swipe up/down. That makes a total of 5 programmable gestures.
But how all of these work in action? Well, most of them work pretty much as expected. The pinch-to-zoom action is basically the Ctrl+(+/-) or Ctrl+(MouseWheelUP/MouseWheelDOWN) hotkeys, and it works wherever that function is supported (i.e. in web/image browsers or the Win desktop/explorer to resize icons). Strangely, pinch to zoom doesn't work inside Photoshop (but I wouldn't use that anyway). On the opposite, two finger canvas rotation works inside Photoshop, but it's still not supported in any other programs yet, unfortunately.
What I found as the most useful aspect of touch features in my workstation, is the fact that it's now much easier to navigate between my two monitors. I have mapped my tablet to my main monitor naturally, so until now I had to use the mouse each time I needed to jump to the other screen (the display-toggle function isn't too helpful in this case IMO).
Also, the new programmable gestures made room for more quick shortcuts in Photoshop and other apps as well.
Another cool feature is the new "Express View Display", which allows you to access and view all pen tablet settings on your monitor. You can see how your Express Keys are assigned in a hud display at the edge of your screen, just by touching them (you must press to use)! That allows you to quickly review and change your settings.
The option of wireless connectivity is also a plus, but I don't think I'm going to use that, since there's no reason to do so; I always work along with my keyboard on my desk. Wacom says that it lasts for 10 hours on a single charge, but still it's kind of restrictive. Also, the Wireless Accessory Kit is sold separately. CONCLUSION
Like I said, the best features for me are canvas surface, which allows for better control, and the programmable gestures. The touchpad also gets a pass as a mouse replacement for most scenarios.
In terms of size, I think that Medium is the right size for desktops and Small for use with laptops. The Large size seems too large for me, eats up a lot of space and it's actually more tiring to move your arm at longer distances while painting (I've tried that). I use mine (M) with a 30" monitor and it's just fine.
The Wacom Intuos 5 Touch is definitely a nice facelift, but is it worth buying one? If you are upgrading from Intuos 3 or earlier, then yes, I think it's worth it. If you have an Intuos 4, the difference is less dramatic; so I'd suggest upgrading if you absolutely want multitouch support or wireless connectivity. The Intuos 5 obviously has a more sleek and ergonomic design, but that alone wouldn't justify an upgrade - unless you want the latest and greatest.
If you also got one, feel free to share your thoughts!
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