Wacom Intuos5 touch Pen tablet Review

Related: intuos, Wacom

"At Wacom, we believe that technology should be easy to use and simple to understand. With products that rely on human intuition and natural movement, we strive to bring people and technology closer together."

-Wacom Company Overview

In the nearly 30 years since Wacom was founded in Japan, the company has become a worldwide symbol of excellence and innovation in graphics tablets. Wacom controls the lion's share of the market because they have steadily expanded graphics tablet technology. They have clearly met their goal of bringing people and technology closer together.

Building on the success of their innovative Inkling product in the fall of 2011, Wacom has recently released a new version of their Intuos5 touch line of mid-level pen tablets. Designed primarily for the professional artist and designer, the small, medium, large and extra-large Intuos5 touch pen tablets are so reasonably priced that enthusiasts and prosumers can also take advantage of Wacom's superb craftsmanship and innovative technology.

I'll be reviewing the PTH650 medium Intuos5 touch Pen tablet (8.8" x 5.5") and its included software. The only real difference between this and other versions of the tablet is the size. Having reviewed the early version of the Wacom Bamboo tablet a few years ago for Renderosity, the Intuos5 touch Pen tablet is a real step up from the entry level Bamboo tablet. Don't get me wrong, the Bamboo tablet is a very good entry level tablet, but the Intuos5 is in an entirely different league.

What's New in the Intuos5 touch Pen tablet

The Intuos4 series of graphics tablets was a real breakthrough for Wacom. A redesigned, more sensitive pen and a complete reworking of the tablet controls were just two of the innovations that made the Intuos4 a very popular tablet for Wacom.

Let's see what kind of improvements Wacom has made to the Intuos5 Pen tablet.

  • Multi-finger touch input – the Intuos5 took a page from the iPad and gave the Intuos5 series tablets the ability to respond to one to five fingers touching/moving on the surface of the tablet. You can program the touches to do just about anything you would like. For example, you could use two fingers to zoom, pan and rotate an image you are working with in Adobe Photoshop.
  • Updated ExpressKeys™ - eight programmable touch keys (plus a large TouchRing that sits in between them) are located on the left side of the tablet. Unlike the Intuos4 series where you had to take your eyes off of the screen to see the touch key you were using, the Intuos5 Pen tablet now puts those keys on your monitor screen to keep your workflow uninterrupted. You just touch the top Express key lightly and a complete view of your ExpressKey settings appears right on your monitor.
  • Wireless Capability – you now have the freedom to move the tablet to a more comfortable position on your lap, or to any position you like since the Intuos5 touch is now wireless-capable. You have to purchase a wireless kit separately, though. Something I think Wacom got wrong, but more about this later.
  • New, sleeker design – the entire tablet seems more like an Apple designed product. It's got a slightly rubberized area surrounding the main drawing area, which has a soft, matte finish. The keys and ring are both blended in with the finish and have a good feel under your fingers.

Using the Intuos5 touch Pen tablet

This is one beautiful pen tablet. Even the packaging is aesthetically pleasing (I've still got it tucked behind the computer table). You get the tablet itself, the Grip Pen and pen holder, 10 replacement nibs (and nib removal tool) for the pen, a six-foot USB cable, a quick-start guide and installation key. You also get a numeric key for the (excellent) bundled software that comes with the Intuos5 touch Pen tablet.

Installation of the Intuos5 touch tablet is easy. I installed the hardware/software on a Windows 7, 64 bit PC. I then registered and downloaded the superb software bundle from Wacom's site. The free software includes:

I installed the optional wireless kit and waited overnight for the tablet to charge up (you get about 7-9 hours of battery life on one charge). The next day I started working with the Corel Painter software. The Grip Pen has 2048 levels of pen pressure and can tilt up to 60 degrees, so I spent a good amount of time learning how to adjust the pressure on the pen and create a variety of stroke sizes and shapes. Then, I switched over to using the tablet for Windows operations and internet browsing. It didn't take too much time to get used to the tablet and pen as they responded beautifully to my hand and fingers.

The touch gestures really add an ease to using the tablet that I've never experienced before, especially when working with photographs. The training modules at the Wacom website make it easy to get up to speed on how to customize your gestures. And the promise that Intuos5 touch would speed up your workflow is true. After I became accustomed to the controls, I hardly ever looked down at the tablet itself. This allowed me to focus on working with my drawings and photographs.

I don't draw very well, but somehow it didn't make any difference using the Intuos5 touch Pen tablet. I found myself drawing and working with images/photographs for several hours without even thinking about it. Putting together the quick sketches for an animation story board was so much faster and more fun using the Intuos5 touch. I love a product that helps you do something better than you think you can.

Final Thoughts

The new Intuos5 touch is an absolute pleasure to use. Technically, it's almost a flawless piece of digital hardware. It's such a powerful, yet simple way of interacting with your computer that I don't think I'll be going back to a mouse anytime soon. The new touch interaction is almost exactly the same as what you'd get from working with a high quality touch interface like the iPad. There was literally zero delay in how the pen interacted with whatever software I was using.

And speaking of software, the included bundle is really super. I only wish that the very useful Corel Painter would have come in a light version instead of only a 90-day trial. After some research, I picked up a cheaper alternative, ArtRage, which worked very well for my needs. For those who purchase and register their Intuos5 touch tablet, Wacom offers a decent "privileges program" that includes a discount on software like Corel Painter and Nik. The full list is at this Wacom page.

I'm also impressed with the training and customer service Wacom offers in support of the Intuos5 line of touch tablets. The main website is very well designed to provide information and support to both beginners and professional users. It's always a plus to review a product and then find that the support is equally good. Kudos to Wacom.

My only gripe with the Intuos5 touch is the fact that you have to buy an extra kit to make the tablet wireless. I understand why Wacom chose to make more money this way, but I think it's a mistake. Reward your customers and they will come back again and again. If you force your customer to pay extra for wireless, and I believe most users will, you leave the impression that your company is not thinking of their customers first. A better choice would've been to include wireless in the Intuos5 touch and increase the price slightly to cover manufacturing.

However, wireless issue aside, the Intuos5 touch Pen tablet is the single best piece of hardware I've used in years. It's fun, easy to use, and opens up the user's ability to work creatively without interference. Renderosity members should seriously consider buying one of the Intuos5 touch tablets. Not only does it allow you to work faster, but it just looks great on your desk!

The Intuos5 touch Pen tablet gets my highest recommendation.

Notes

The medium size Intuos5 touch Pen tablet (PTH650) is priced at $349 ($449 with the full Corel Painter 12 software). Check the Wacom website for pricing on the other sizes (small, large and extra large). You can compare models at this Wacom webpage. There is a 2-year warranty on all tablets in the Intuos5 line.

The wireless kit is priced at $39.95. There are also a variety of accessories for the Intuos5 line of tablets including different pens, custom mouse, carrying case and replacement parts. I used the Art pen for this review and found it to be an excellent addition to the tablet.

And all you need on your computer to use the Wacom tablets is a USB port.

My thanks to Wacom for providing the wonderful Intuos5 touch Pen tablet for review. I'd also like to thank Doug Little at Wacom for his help.

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Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.

 

 

 


July 9, 2012

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