Earlier last year we declared that Wacom and their
then-expensive Intuos4 graphic tablet was the best, if not only, real choice for the
serious designer. Even though it feels like ages since our testing of the
PTK-640, itís been a staple in my workspace and an artistic tool that I canít
believe I lived without. Obviously, this revelation means that I'd make a
beeline to try out its next iteration and see what new creative goodies it had
in store for me. With little
fanfare and an intimate debut, the Intuos5 series continues where its forerunner left
off, bringing†outstanding performance with a more sophisticated emphasis on streamlining
the creative process.
Some might be surprised that Wacom would even bother
updating an already well-rounded tablet - apart from the obvious financial
incentive. But just about everything in the
companyís portfolio is rapidly expanding, too, from the criminally hard-to-find Inkling to
the hyper-premium Cintiq 24HD professional display tablet. For this review we
went hands-on with the ĎMediumí model of the Intuos5 Touch Medium Pen Tablet
(PTH650), which proves that perhaps change is necessary after all.
And change is what the Intuos5 is about,
and it begins with the looks of this tablet, which is almost a complete
turnaround compared to the previous iteration. The matte bezel is literally
transformed from a smooth flat black surface to a softer (but still firm)
rubberized grey surround of the non-working area, with Mini-USB and wireless
option inserts on the side and bottom. The top side area also surrenders the
polished gloss dťcor for the same no-nonsense treatment eliminating the
individual LED displays (except for the four lights around the touch ring). The
always functional and fully customizable ExpressKeys are now recessed within the
tablet and accented for tactile feedback, while the working area itself is
better depicted with illuminated borders.
Overall, the outward presentation is
greatly purpose-oriented and certainly feels more durable than ever before.
The intuitive Touch Ring returns and still resides
on the mid-side for program-specific functions. Essentially, it continues the
familiar job of being a circular trackpad with a middle button that allows you
to choose four different and adjustable actions like auto Zoom/Scroll, cycling
between layers, Brush sizes and Canvas rotation, all by moving your finger in
either clockwise or counter-clockwise directions. Switching between functions is
done by pressing the center button with an onscreen dialog window that displays
each task, this not only includes the options for the Touch Ring but the
ExpressKeys as well.
(PTH450), medium (PTH650), or large (PTH850) models each comes packing
identical features (save
for six ExpressKeys on the small, compared to eight on the bigger sizes) that
apply equally to all the sizes, including extra accessories.
If you've experienced an Intuos4 then you shouldn't have a problem getting acquainted with the standard features
and performance of this tablet. Nearly all of the essential specifications have
been carried over, the same cordless EMR (electro magnetic resonance) pen
technology along the still-amazing 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity are
standard, and that's a good thing. Even the accuracy (Ī0.01 in.), stroke angle (Ī 60į),
and 5080 lpi (lines per inch) resolution have also made the transition intact.
For the majority of artists out there these indistinguishable figures will be
more than enough (since they were basically class-leading to begin with) for
nearly any project.
Speaking of precision, our tests with the Intuos5
proved that even with the same performance benchmarks the results was on-point
no matter what the objective. There were little-to-no differences or abrupt
drops during our long-term all-nighters that had popped up under processing
stress, an astonishing feat considering my personal style is brisk and fairly
loose for nearly all degrees of work. This really isnít surprising since only a
single gram of pressure is required to put anything on canvas. Itís refined,
silky smooth, and is fairly difficult to push this tablet to its absolute limits
on most PC/Mac configurations.
Last but not least, Wacom appears to have solved
backward compatibility issues by keeping the Stylus and mouse accessories
unchanged and working without a hitch, though you'll have to purchase the
laser clicker yourself as itís not included this time around.
Wacom is intent on
including touch and gestures wherever possible, and there is clearly no
exception to the rule considering every one of their other graphic tablets
contains this specific ability. Apparently magic (or voodoo) has been applied to
the Intuos5 with gestures such as pinch/zoom, swipes, and finger tap commands
being moderately improved that work with quick response, and certain actions can
be assigned to favorite programs. The fresh implementation also benefits from
the wider working area and feels less like a gimmick and actually helpful compared
to the smaller Bamboo. Frankly, itís now been proven (to me) that gesture
controls definitely can work if the device is wide enough.
Wacom has no intention of letting their recently
released (and optional) Wireless Accessory Kit (ACK40401) go to waste, as all
models are able to take advantage of this neat addition. A USB receiver
transmits RF signals up to 33í and a rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery
fits underneath and inside, easily providing at least 36-48 hours of consistent
operation without any noticeable issues during our testing. This effectively
replaces the former wireless Bluetooth version of the Intuos4 which in my
opinion and experience is an excellent tablet on its own. From a technical
standpoint itís a little disappointing because the Bluetooth model worked just
as well, if not better than the current setup, doubly hampering when you realize
you have to give up some coin ($39.99 MSRP) for this cords-free attachment.
take long to realize that Wacom has engineered yet another supreme graphic tablet
with their refreshed Intuos5 Touch Medium Pen Tablet lineup,
and I'm confident this is another device that belongs in
any serious designers' workspace. While the improvements are limited mostly to
modified bezel, newly-introduced touch controls and reworked inclusion of RF
wireless connectivity, considering how great its predecessor was that's not a
bad thing. Those current owners hoping for a drastic refresh may be somewhat
disappointed by the lack of 'new' features, performance trumps all and in that
department the Intuos5 delivers.