Wacom has been in the middle of a transition. With the market embracing cheaper tablets and touch gesture technologies, it was an inevitability that the company would follow suit in one way or another. These changes are part of a campaign to integrate their lineup into a more singular family, and first on the list of changes are the Intuos Pro. The results are a moderately refreshed and renamed version of the lauded Intuos5 that debuted a year ago.
Potential customers and owners (me included) have been vocal regarding the improvements Wacom should make with their products and how quickly they should be implemented. In response, they’ve taken their original tablets back to the drawing board and came up with tweaks to satisfy the creative masses. For reference, the brand has gone ahead and unified their entire product lineup, Bamboos have become the Intuos, while the former Intuos tablets of yore are now called the Intuos Pro. The Cintiq pen displays retain their names, with now-current models retaining their specifications and capabilities in the brand hierarchy.
The Wacom Intuos Pro comes in three standard models: the small (PTH451) for $249, the medium (PTH651) for $349, and the Large (PTH851) for $499. Our test unit was the Special Edition (PTH651SE) which is nearly identical to the Medium but with platinum-silver bezel accents and additional features for $379.
From the looks alone, it doesn’t seem like anything has changed, unless you’re familiar with the previous version. The matte bezel is still a soft textured but firm rubberized grey surround with an active area that’s touch-enabled. The side area sports the same trackpad-style Touch Ring that streamlines four switchable functions like auto Zoom/Scroll, layers switching, Brush resizing, and Canvas rotation, performed by moving your finger in either clockwise or counter-clockwise directions. The ExpressKeys are still adjustable for one button keyboard shortcuts, with an onscreen dialog window that pops up whenever its activated. The general appearance is still straightforward and purely purpose-based in mind.
Those distinctions remain, but during our post-review impressions of the PTH650, we realized that the molded and contoured features of the ExpressKeys were far too sensitive, with the onscreen menu popping up whenever our fingers merely slid over them or when your hand rested over the tablet. It was an annoying occurrence that’s fixed with conventional buttons (the external accents still exist), along with the center Touch Ring button that’s been discreetly raised for better tactile response. The alterations are minimal but serve to make this device less cumbersome than its immediate predecessor.
Another improvement is the boxed inclusion of wireless functionality through USB on all Intuos Pro models. The feature isn’t directly built in, but Wacom gives owners the Wireless Accessory Kit (ACK40401) which is a rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery and mini 2.4GHz RF receiver that works up to 30’ (ft.). At close to medium distances (4’–10′) the wireless works decently lasting around 14-18 hours with inference only occurring once during our testing. Overall it’s great that wireless is finally standard, especially since this optional attachment costs $39.99 by itself, a pricey extra no matter how you see it.
Other than the features for the facelifted models, the same cordless EMR (electro magnetic resonance) pen technology along with the robust 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity are accounted for, and the accuracy (±0.01 in.), stroke angle (± 60°), and 5080 LPI (lines per inch) resolution have also gone unchanged.
But even after all this time, these figures still keep the Intuos Pro at the top compared to other competitors. And since we’re quite familiar with how efficient workflow can be with a professional-grade graphic tablet, only a single gram of pressure is required to put anything on canvas for exact or broad linework. It’s refined and performance strain is typically nonexistent when connected to midrange PCs/Mac setups and above. Like the shared internals of the Intuos5 and Intuos4, the extra mouse and pen accessories will work without a hitch.
Our tester was the Special Edition which comes in a classier platinum-silver plastic finish, along with the unique ability to automatically detect running applications (e.g. Adobe Creative Suite, AutoDesk, Corel, etc.) and change ExpressKeys functions accordingly without user input. The optimization works decently if you’re getting started, but we’re sure that most will end up configuring their tablet almost immediately and ignore the presets.
With the complete shuffling of product names, Wacom has also brought some much needed mid-generation improvements to the Intuos Pro (née Intuos5). Even though it’s the same graphic device with a little nip-tuck the long-term issues are addressed, and we appreciate the wireless capability now that it’s a part of the package. For artists holding out for a truly definitive upgrade the Pro might be a worthwhile replacement you’ve been dreaming of.
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