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Product Review: Intuos5 From Wacom

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If you use a product like Adobe Photoshop, or Corel Painter, and you are not using a pen tablet, then you don’t really understand what you are missing. A pen tablet allows you much more control than you can get with a mouse. It gives you much more efficiency in your movement and the pressure sensitivity gives you the same kind of control that you would get from a pen, pencil, or paint brush.

The Intuos5 Touch, the latest release from Wacom, consists of a digitized pad that plugs in to the USB port on your computer and a digital pen that works in tandem with the pad. Your computer then treats the device as though it were a mouse. There is also an optional RF add-on that can make your tablet wireless.

Through the use of a product like Photoshop CS5 or Painter you can take advantage of the rich technology that the pad enables. Using the pen you can draw or paint within your application, you can apply more or less pressure which translates to various thicknesses in the case of painting or drawing, and this gives you much more control than you would ever get from a mouse.FDFF172FB2F840399DF37586A744CE49.ashx

There was a time when the pen tablet was geared just for the commercial artist. They were expensive and the limited amount of software that was enabled to use the device was also geared toward the professional. With the Intuos line, this began to change and especially with the introduction of the Intuos3 which, along with being reasonably priced, also had more products to work with, now had even more traditional artists, photographers, and graphics designers getting in on this technology.

Now enter the Intuos5 line of pen tablets. Not only has the price remained reasonable, but the quality of the product has improved dramatically. Continuing on with the improvements that came with the Intuos4 – the total shape and surface were completely re-engineered, but now they have added new touch controls, redesigned how the buttons work, and, the capability of being wireless.

I have worked with both the Intuos3 and 4 (the 6 x 8 inch medium tablet) for a number of years and it has become a mainstay in my workflow. Early on that workflow was primarily photography where it has helped me with things like dodge, burn, sharpen, and blur effects and many other techniques using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Over the course of the last couple of years, I have added Painter to my arsenal as well Adobe After Effects and would be hard pressed not having a Wacom tablet with both of those programs as well. The amount of control you have over your work is just phenomenal.PTH650_1.ashx

In the new Intuos5 line the tablet sizes are small (6.2 x 3.9), medium (8.8 x 5.5), and large (12.8 x 8.0). For those who still need an extra-large (18.2 12.0), the Intuos4 is still available. The one I now have is the medium and it is the same size as my Intuos4. For those who still use the Intuos3, this is a tad bit smaller on the overall area, but as I realized with the longer width and smaller height is that it works better with my wide screen monitor.

What do you need to run the Wacom Intuos5?

• Windows XP (SP2), Windows Vista, or Mac OS X10.4.8+.
• Color Display.
• Powered USB Port.
• CD/DVD Drive.
• Internet connection to download the bundled software that comes with the tablet.

What do you get with the Wacom Intuos5?
• The Intuos5 tablet.
• The Intuos5 Grip Pen.

• Pen stand.
• Ten replacement nibs (five standard, one flex, one stroke, and three hard felt nibs).
• Nib extractor.
• 5′ USB cable.
• Quick start Guide.
• Installation CD (includes tablet driver software and electronic user manual).

Opening the box you have the tablet itself. It still retains its black appearance albeit not as shiny as the 4. The eight programmable ExpressKeys are grouped on one side, but now instead of being illuminated labels that light up as they were with the 4, they now do not light up but rather the information is displayed on the screen. The pen and holder are pretty much the same as before.

Installing the software is a snap. Pop in the disk and follow instructions. You do want to wait till prompted before you plug the tablet in. This time there is only one USB port on the unit that balances in the middle.7C598C51CA91437AB589139FC2855E0B.ashx

So what is new with the Wacom Intuos5?

Human touch is a feature that lets you use gestures to control your application – assuming the application supports these as does Adobe Photoshop. Multi-Touch gives you the ability to zoom in, rotate your canvas, as well as other movements directly on the pad itself. When the pen comes in contact with the pad, the Multi-Touch is turned off, and the pen is back in control. It is natural to use and it can be programmed to the way you work. You can use your hand and fingers to pan, zoom, and rotate on your canvas, and then use your pen for precise movements.

New ExpressKeys now lets you keep your eyes on the screen for your configuration of shortcuts and modifiers. If you need a reminder of what key is what just press lightly on the capacitive ExpressKey, and you will see on the screen exactly what the keys function is. You can set up the ExpressKeys to work exactly as you wish within each application just as you can with the touch wheel.ACK40401_1.ashx

Wireless capability is brought to you by an optional wireless accessory kit.You can make any of the Intuos5 tablets wireless – as well as the Bamboo Capture or Bamboo Create. You just add a battery to the bottom side of the tablet along with the wireless adapter. Then when you’re ready to use the tablet, just pop out the wireless dongle and plug it into a USB port and you are off and running.

Another thing that Wacom did well on this go around is that the pen for the Intuos5 is the compatible with the Intuos4. What that means is that not only is the pen essentially the same, but any pens you purchased for the Intuos4 will work with the Intuos5 so you don’t have to replace any of them.

While I liked the shiny old tablet really well, the new flat black styling is really nice as well. The tablet itself is has a bit of an improvement in that it seem that it is not as gritty as the earlier Intuos4 so perhaps that may prove to be less wear and tear on the pen nibs.

I had played with the touch feature on the Wacom Bamboo Fun and really wished that the Intuos4 had it so when I saw that it now does, I really wanted to work with it and it has not disappointed. The one thing that freaked me out a bit is that it comes set up for all applications. I tend to leave my tablet on a pull-out tray on my desk and sometimes my arm will come to rest on it. Needless to say when applications started opening on their own, it startled me. I have since turned it off for all applications and turned it on for the ones that I use it with.

That said, I think that the upgrade is worth it just for the touch mode and the wireless capabilities alone. So, if you are considering a graphics pen tablet, and are still on the fence, then let me give you a little push. For the price, the Wacom Intuos5 Medium is really a good deal. One thing to keep in mind that from the stand point of size, the Medium is probably the largest that most people will need. It takes up a good bit of desk space, but is balanced with the size of the new monitors.9838D8163C15473D9A74169BCA837C1C.ashx

One other thing to note is that they no longer include a mouse with the tablet. I do not look at this as a bad thing since in all of my time using an Intuos tablet, the only thing I ever used the mouse for was to hold down the pages in a book. I had my Intuos3 for over four years and my Intuos4 for two and both have served me well – in fact I cannot live without a tablet. Once you get accustom to using the pen tool, you will wonder how you could have survived without it. It is for that reason that I very highly recommend the Wacom Intuos5 Medium Tablet.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.