Editors’ Note, 9/21/2013:
Due to recent updates, including the release of the latest
Intuos Pro models, we have
adjusted our rating of the Intous5 accordingly to match current testing results.
Aside from these immediate changes, this review has not otherwise been modified.
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 PTK640, it’s been a staple in my workspace and an artistic tool that I can’t
believe I lived without. Obviously, this revelation means that I'd make a
beeline to try out its next iteration and see what was improved. With little
fanfare and an intimate debut, the Intuos5 series continues where its predecessor left
off, bringing excellent 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–But just about everything in the
company’s portfolio is rapidly expanding also, 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 ‘Medium’ model of the Intuos5 Touch Pen Tablet, proving that the smallest changes can make the biggest differences.
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 bezel is literally
transformed from a hard plastic surface to a softer (but still firm)
rubberized grey surround of the non-working area, with Mini-USB and wireless
option inserts on the edge and bottom. The top side area also surrenders the
polished piano gloss décor 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 and molded within the
tablet for accented style, while the working area itself is
better depicted with illuminated corner borders.
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.
The Intuos5 comes
in three models: The Small (PTH450) for $249, the Medium (PTH650) for $349, and
the Large (PTH850) for $499. Each graphic tablet share 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. The Extra Large
(XL) Intuos4 (PTH1240) is also available for $799.
If you've experienced an Intuos4 then you shouldn't have a problem getting acquainted with the standard features of this tablet either. All of the essential specifications have
been carried over, the same cordless EMR (electro magnetic resonance) pen
technology along the robust 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity are
standard. Even the accuracy (±0.01 in.), stroke angle (± 60°),
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 for any project, since they were already class-leading to begin with.
Our tests with the Intuos5 proved that even with the same performance benchmarks the results were precise
no matter what the objective. There were little-to-no differences or abrupt
drops during our long-term tests that had popped up under processing
stress for quick and fairly efficiency for nearly all degrees of work. This really isn’t surprising since only a
single gram of pressure is required to put anything on canvas, It’s refined, smooth, and is fairly difficult to induce performance strain on most PC/Mac configurations.
Last but not least, Wacom kept the basic internals making
backward compatibility issues nonexistent by keeping the additional Stylus and mouse accessories
unchanged and working without a hitch, though you'll have to purchase the laser clicker yourself as it’s 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, it’s 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 33’ and a rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery
fits underneath and inside, easily providing at least 16-21 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 it’s a little disappointing because the standalone Bluetooth model worked just
as well as the current setup, especially when you realize
you have to give up some coin ($39.99 MSRP) just for the cords-free attachment.
It looks like Wacom has engineered another supreme tool with the Intuos5 Touch lineup,
and I'm confident this is another device that belongs in
any serious designers' workspace. While the improvements are limited mostly to
a heavily modified bezel, newly-introduced touch controls and reworked inclusion of RF
wireless connectivity which blend understated styling with proven functionality. Current Intuos4 owners probably don't need to bother upgrading, but the changes of this latest model are definitely for designers who don't have a real professional tablet yet.