WACOM INTUOS5 TOUCH PEN TABLET
FINGER-DANCING OR WHERE’S THE MOUSE?
Redesigned with Multitouch plus Wireless Option
Early Summer, 2012
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By Eden Maxwell
It’s no secret that Wacom is the undisputed leader in digital pen tablets. And for good reason: they create superb products. So, it’s also no surprise that the Intuos5 is yet another fine offering for current users and new customers.
Wacom’s talented team of designers and engineers have redesigned the Intuos5 Touch for a still better user experience, which includes keeping up with the increasingly popular touch technology used in smartphones, iPads, the iPod Touch, and other handheld digital tablet devices.
Unlike its hard plastic predecessor, the Intuos5 features an elegantly sculpted soft to the touch tablet with a matte black finish; most controls are now displayed on your computer screen in HUD fashion. And, as someone pointed out to me, the matte type plastic surface sheet, which now extends beyond the usable working surface, allows your pen to move smoothly inside and even off the active area without getting your pen’s nib stuck on the edges of the surface sheet, as it might have on the Intuos4.
Four illuminated (LED) corner markers set off the active working surface area. To accommodate left-handed or right-handed use, the Intuos5 can be flipped in either direction.
Note: Because of the touch technology, the Intuos5 working surface is not user replaceable. Wacom must do any replacing—and at a reasonable cost according to them. In all my previous Wacom tablets, I have never had to replace a surface, which held up remarkably well in daily use. How well will this new surface hold up to wear, and will the pen nibs last longer?
When I first opened the box (Medium size tablet), I said: Where’s the mouse? And then, after hooking the tablet up to my computer, I said: Where are the LED display labels for the ExpressKeys?
Eventually, it became clear that although you can still use a wireless mouse, Wacom now concluded that it is an accessory since implementing the touch technology offers everything a mouse can do, and more.
Intuos5: Touch Ring and Capactive ExpressKey Buttons.
EXPRESSKEYS / EXPRESSVIEW
As users most likely know, ExpressKeys are designed for your own unique configuration of timesaving shortcuts and modifiers.
The ExpressKeys are still there—designed more to be felt, not seen, as they are mere indentations (capacitive buttons) in the matte-black tablet. Running your finger very lightly over any ExpressKey brings up ExpressView, an Intuos5 HUD feature, on your screen with a reminder of all their respective settings.
Being able to keep your eyes on your work with ExpressView is especially useful when you are engrossed in the creative, or creator process. Yes. There is a difference. You can also switch the touch feature on or off on-screen in ExpressView.
You can use the default short cuts already set to the ExpressKeys, or program your own application specific shortcuts. ExpressKeys when combined with the on-screen ExpressView means that you will have a handy reference to all your short cut settings.
MULTI-FUNCTION TOUCH RING
The finger-sensitive Multi-Function Touch Ring has not been redesigned, as it functions quite well in its present form.
You can control up to four-user defined functions such as scrolling, zooming, brush size, canvas rotation, and more. After much experimentation, I found that the Touch Ring itself feels more responsive and it seems to work more smoothly, too.
GESTURES / FINGER DANCING
Touch or gestures enable you to interact with a computer using nothing more than your fingertips on a Wacom tablet. You can use basic actions to perform typical mouse operations. Gestures are used to scroll, rotate, and perform other functions, much like one does on an iPad.
It takes practice to get the feeling for the touch, tap, and finger dancing. As you begin to learn, be aware that you may find yourself inadvertently moving folders or trashing one from the desktop until you discover the right touch and pressure for your commands. Touch and gestures don’t work when your pen is near the tablet.
But, it’s well worth learning the basic gestures, as you can work more efficiently directly through your tablet. For additional economy of movement, I find myself alternating among gestures, the pen, and keyboard shortcuts.
Download a handy Wacom gestures guide here.
PREFERENCES ACCESS IMPROVED
Preferences allow you to customize your Wacom tablet experience. If you haven’t explored this software area, then you might want to see how it can benefit you.
Instead of having to first launch System Preferences (Mac), Wacom now lets you access preferences directly from an icon in the upper right menu bar of your screen. In addition to various standard configurations in preferences, you can also modify the settings to suit you for touch, gestures, and my gestures.
SOFTWARE DRIVER GLITCH / MAC OS 10.6.8 / WIRELESS
In this version (apparently Lion is unaffected) of the Mac OS X, waking the computer from sleep and turning on the tablet produces an error message—there isn’t a Bluetooth wireless mouse or trackpad connected. Touch and gestures seems to work but when accessing preferences, another error message might or might not appear: a supported tablet is not found on this system.
The workaround, after waking from sleep in wireless mode, is to turn the tablet on and off, then on again. Wacom is aware of this issue, which should be resolved with a software update. Tapping the center of the Touch Ring turns the tablet on, but not off, which you must do with the power button on the side of the tablet.
Your choice with the Intuos4 was between a wired and a wireless enabled Bluetooth version of the tablet.
Intuos5 connects to your PC or Mac through a single USB connection directly to your computer or through a powered USB hub. Or, if you prefer, any size Intuos5 tablet can be easily converted to an RF wireless connection with the Wacom Wireless Accessory Kit.
The wireless accessory kit includes 2 USB receivers, a rechargeable battery, and is available for the Intuos5, Bamboo Capture, or Bamboo Create. You can, for example, expect 9-hour battery life with Intuos5 touch Medium.
You can also operate your pen tablet while the battery is recharging. A status light on the tablet turns green, indicating that your battery is fully charged. The Wacom icon in the menu bar indicates how much charge is left.
Admittedly, it’s difficult to determine whether this wireless convenience is a benefit to you until you’ve tried it. I found that I use the wireless mode about 25% of the time.
While the pen technology remains the same from Intuos4 to Intuos5, you might want to look into the Art Pen ($99.95) for a more lifelike feel and expressiveness.
Unlike the narrow pen tips of its traditional Grip Pen counterpart, the Art Pen has a broad, chisel-shaped pen tip (your choice of plastic or felt). While the shape of the Art Pen is nearly identical to the standard pen that ships with the tablet, the feel is a bit heftier, still comfortable. Because the felt-like strokes on the tablet surface seem to offer more resistance it provides a more tactile experience—which is why I prefer the Art Pen with its felt chisel nibs.
In addition to pressure- and tilt-sensitivity, the Art Pen is also responsive to rotation. Rotating the barrel in supporting software applications, such as Corel Painter or Adobe Photoshop, creates often-unanticipated effects like those in the real world.
For ArtRage users: If you have a Multitouch Touch Screen and are using Windows 7, or if you are using a Wacom graphics tablet (Intuos5 will do) that supports Multitouch you can use Multitouch Gestures to manipulate various basic commands.
My main interest in the Art Pen is for the modifier key levers and the feel of the nibs on the surface, and less so for the rotation feature.
Note: The Art pen works on Intuos4, Intuos5 tablets, and Cintiq models.
FREE BUNDLED SOFTWARE
Here’s an additional goodie value bag from Wacom.
Intuos5 owners are entitled to download free software titles, including Adobe Photoshop Elements, Anime Studio Debut by Smith Micro, AutodeskSketchbook Express, and Nik Color Effects Pro 4 Select Edition. In addition, Intuos5 owners are entitled to a 90-day trial and special offer from Corel Painter 12. Product registration is required.
SUMMARY / WIZARDRY
This happens often: Someone visiting my studio asks me about how I make my art. I answer that I’ve been creating my art on the computer for over ten years now. I show them an artwork print. I can see that they can’t make the connection between the art with its depth and rich colors and the computer.Then, quizzical looks fade away after I show them my Wacom tablet and how it interfaces with a computer paint program. As you work with your Wacom tablet, the entire learning and expansive process is technological wizardry put to good use.
Is the Intuos5 worth the upgrade from the Intuos4? While the Wacom Intuos5 Touch may not be an essential upgrade for some, for many others who take the plunge, it will not disappoint.
Eventually, you are going to want to learn the speedier touch and gestures system of a Wacom Intuos5, so why not now?
Intuos5 Touch is available in three wide-format sizes, small, medium and large.
Medium: $349.00 (And a bargain at that!)
2-year in USA and Canada
2-year in Latin America
Wireless Accessory Kit: $39.95