Review: Wacom Intuos5 Medium Touch Tablet

Below are two reviews originally published on websites of my friends Don Low and Drewscape respectively.

There are even more reviews of Wacom Intuos 5 Tablet on Amazon (US | UK | CA | DE | FR | ES | IT).

Don's review

When I received a mail from Wacom inviting me to test run and review the newly released Intuos 5 Touch, I was elated because I have already heard raving news about it. 2 days ago I got my set and eagerly “unbox” it. The package consists of a tablet (digitized pad) that can be plugged to the USB port of the computer and a Stylus (digital pen) that works with the tablet in tandem. It also comes with an optional RF add-on or the Wireless Accessory Kit that could make the tablet wireless, so you could work without the hassle of cluttering your working table top with too many wires, or glued to your work desk.

For anyone who is new to the product, the tablet is a pressure sensitive device that could detect how much pressure is translated to it via the pen as you draw or write with it. It works very well with applications like Photoshop and Painter. As you apply more or less pressure, the result is a variation of thickness of your pen or brush strokes, or more or less paint as you draw and paint in these application. Therefore you have more control over your work as compared to using a mouse. For any aspiring digital artist, a tablet is a must.

I have been using a tablet since the Intuos 2, so that was about 10 years ago. I bought for myself a 12″ X 12″ Blue then but found it too big later. Then I got a used Intuos 2 6X8 (Silver Grey) which was pretty nifty to use with my MacBook. When I upgraded to an 24″ LCD screen, I bought a Intuos 3 to go with it just for the Screen-Tablet ratio. Through these, I see the change in the design of the tablet. The latest release, like the 4, has a sleek, black but matted surface, yet soft to the touch. It looks contemporary. When you plug it in, the work area lighted up on the tablet surface. Its show 4 small corner light indications, so if you are always working in the dark, these show you where your tablet working area is. In addition, the stylus now delivers 2048 levels of pressure. I was excited to test this out because I do draw and ink with the stylus pen a lot. The increase in the sensitivity would allow me to work more intuitively, at the same time delivering a more realistic stroke result with less effort.

Wacom Intuos5 drawing tablet
Plug and Play
Setting up the tablet is easy and straight forward. Usually I place it behind the keyboard so it is right in front of me as I work. I am quite used to having my left hand place over the keyboard and the other hand using the pen. Next plug the cable to the tablet and attach the other end to the computer. I wouldn’t run the CD to install the driver. If you have internet connection, it is always advised to pay Wacom’s website a visit to download the latest driver and updates. That doesn’t mean that the driver found in the CD is not working. Another thing, it is also advised that the previous Tablet driver be uninstalled first before you installed the latest one. However I skipped that step and the new unit still runs as normal. Just a precaution though. Having said that, I even have Intuos 4 still connected to my computer while I am using the Intuos 5.

The current tablet cable comes with an addition feature that allows you to tidy up your trailing cable if you are plugging it on the right hand side. To me this feature is a bonus but it doesn’t really matter whether it’s there or not. As much as I wanted to keep my workspace tidy, there are already many other cables running back and forth on my desk. The best solution to not have any wire by utilizing the wireless kit.

Note: I set up the Intuos 5 Touch on an Intel 27″ iMac running OS 10.6.8 with 8 GB ram. It would definitely run on a PC running Microsoft Windows XP.

Wacom Intuos5 wireless kit and parts
Wireless kit
It took me just a little while to figure out the installation for the wireless kit. On the back side of the tablet, there are two panels that can be removed by sliding the covers horizontally sideway to reveal the wells for the battery and the wireless transmitter – the latter consists of a power switch and a LED indicator light. Beside the transmitter slot there is an additional well to house the wireless receiver while you are going mobile (see below), so you can simply stash the packaging box away. You may have to allow the battery to charge for about 4 hours. When it is fully charged, the LED light turns green. Try not to loose the wireless transmitter cover too.

When the battery is fully charged you may remove the cable from the tablet. Turn it on by pressing the ON button located on the wireless transmitter. The LED light on the tablet surface will light up showing the corner indications and another LED light beside the Touch Ring.

Stylus Pen
Wacom has allowed Intuos 4 Stylus pen to be used on Intuos 5.

Wacom Intuos 5 Touch Setup
Wacom Intuos 5 Touch Setup

Wacom Intuos5 Touch Setup
The new preference pane allows the pen tip’s sensitivity to be customized with a Curve Setting. In this way I could customize the pen to get a more natural result and feel from the device. The curve above shows my preference. I love to ink with the tablet and I am always trying to get it to work like my G nib. Thin lines at the starting and ending points and thicker lines in the center. A greater sensitivity coupled with the curve would take my mind off from physical pen control and focus on delivering the lines that I like digitally.

Multi-Touch & Express View
The new multitouch gesture support in Intuos 5, and “Express View” head-up display or HUD software, alongside a rather pleasing soft-touch feel gives the product the special edge over its predecessors . The entire tablet surface is a touch-sensitive input device allowing not only the use of the pen, but also enabling the use of our hand to do other functions and commands using Gesures. For example a light touch over the surface where the express keys are would show an overlay on the screen what functions you have assigned to the express keys. See screen capture below:

Wacom Multi-Touch & Express View
This would therefore enhances the user experience by allowing the user to spend more time with the tablet in his workflow and less time reaching for the tablet, keyboard or mouse! Besides, the express keys on the Intuos 5 are now indentations on the tablet surface rather than buttons. To me these provide a better recognition of the express keys as your finger runs over the surface.

Wacom Intuos4 and Intuos5 side by side comparison
Left: Intuos 4. Right: Intuos 5.

The above screen captures show the screen overlay when the express keys are “touched”. As you run your fingers along a specific key, the overlay shows it in orange. However the screen overlay would come on whenever your hand brushes against the keys whether deliberate or accidental. Sometimes I have to run my fingers over the keys a few times before the screen overlay would appear. This inconsistency in its function irks me though, though it doesn’t really affect the work flow at all.

Drewscape's review

Wacom kindly let me try out their latest Intuos 5 tablet for a few days. So for a few days, I had this nice sleek matt black wacom tablet placed on my desk in place of my old Intuos2 tablet which I've been using for the last 7 years. Has it been that long? I guess it goes to show that a Wacom tablet does last pretty long. And I didn't need to buy another one since it never broke down. Since I've never owned the Intuos3 or 4, I'll be comparing my old Intuos2 with this new Intuos as I do my review.

1. I really liked the overall look of the Intuos5. It had a nice matt texture to it which gave it a very nice tactile feel. It had rounded edges. It was like the designer for the bat mobile designed this. Overall, it looked very basic, which I like. The buttons did not stick out as knobs, instead they were neatly indented into the tablet's surface. The Intuos2 looks like a vintage tool compared to this new tablet.

2. The drawing surface also had a nice texture to it. It gave me the same feel as drawing with a pen or pencil on watercolour paper. That's a good thing for me since I do like feel the paper texture as I draw. My old Intuos2's drawing surface is smooth which feels more like drawing on an ice skating rink. My only concern with this is, will the nib of the Intuos5 wear out faster since there is more friction? Or is the nib made of some stronger than plastic material? I don't know.

3. This new tablet has an optional wireless set up. Which means, I insert this wireless connector into my computer and it can perform without any wires messing up my desk. And my desk can be very messy already. The only slight inconvenience with this is that I need to turn on the tablet every time I start my computer (by pressing the big circular button on the tablet) Also, there is a battery in the tablet. So when the battery is low, I have to connect the tablet to my computer with the wire cable again to charge it. If not, there might be no connection at all. It's a slight inconvenience but something I'm sure I could get used to easily.

4. The wacom pen is very well designed in my opinion. Balance and weight can make a difference when you are using the wacom to draw. And this pen is made very very well when it comes to balance and weight. It feels good when drawing. And it has a nice comfortable grip. I think they put a lot of thought into getting this pen feeling right for the designer/artist.

5. Buttons. The buttons seem to be set on the left side of the tablet. I'm not sure if I can turn the wacom the other way around and use it (like I could do with an iPad.) But that would help me. I'm right handed, so I place my wacom tablet on the right side of my keyboard. When I'm typing on my keyboard, I seem to keep pressing the tablet's buttons accidently with either the palm of my hand or my arm. That calls up the wacom setting displays on my screen. I'm not sure if there was a setting to shut the buttons off or rotate the tablet. But I wish the buttons were on the other side of the tablet where my hand doesn't press on so much. The Intuos2 doesn't have this problem because there are no buttons on it.

6. I liked the interface for the adjustment settings of the tablet. It felt like I could really fine-tune the tablet so I could get just the right sensitivity and "softness" for the pen - A plus point for any artist who thinks of a drawing tool as an extension of their hand.

Overall, It's a tablet I'd like to own. It looks good and works well as a tool for professional artists and designers.
Below are a few drawings I used the tablet with. Maybe not too different from what I've been doing, but it did feel different drawing with the Intuos5.

Drewscape drawing on Wacom Intuos5

Drewscape drawing on Wacom Intuos5

Drewscape drawing on Wacom Intuos5

Drewscape drawing on Wacom Intuos5

Drewscape drawing on Wacom Intuos5

Drewscape drawing on Wacom Intuos5

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Alas, Wacom executives still

Alas, Wacom executives still to this date refuse to fix the nib wear problem because it means more business for them by selling us replacement nibs and surface sheets at extortion. Their forums have been flooding with complaints of nib-wear for almost four years now.

Left or right sided button

Left or right sided button placement can indeed be adjusted under the wacom settings (though it's a bit difficult to find at first).

One big problem I've noticed is that if you're in Sketchbook Pro and pull out the cable (usb) and enter wireless mode, the program goes nuts and (in my case) the eraser side of the pen stopped being recognized and acted like another draw side.

Unfortunately there's a lot of physics in play with nib wear. Make the nib too hard and you'll scratch up your draw surface over time. Friction over time has to wear out one of the two surfaces.

My only recommendation as another Intuos 5 user is to bump up your sensitivity on your tablet to let you draw thicker lines with less pressure. Heavy handed drawers are simply going to chew through nibs faster than others.

Regarding the multi-touch in

Regarding the multi-touch in Windows: I had the chance to try an Intuos 5 Touch at a Wacom display. It was particularly nice when zooming, panning and rotating in Corel Painter. However, it only worked about a third of the time. The salesman said this was due to the demo being in Windows Vista, so while the tablet should work in Windows XP as mentioned in Don's review, the multi-touch probably won't. Windows 7 should be okay and Windows 8 should be excellent.

I'm wearing through nibs

I'm wearing through nibs pretty fast on my 5... I'm on my third nib in les than 6 months, when I haven't had to change nibs once on my intuos 4 in over 2 years. So I ordered 2 replacement packs (4 or 5 nibs each) from B&H. about 5 bucks each, plus shipping=15 bucks. not that big a deal....

I'm new to using my tablet

I'm new to using my tablet and I really want to use it but there's some problems I'm running into. Have any advice?

One the touch screen recognizes my hand and not so much the pen. ( I draw with my hand against the surface usually ) And it really interferes with my attempts at drawing digitally.
And also is there a way to fix the speed of the tablet; because the times I did try to draw it took a long time to actually show what I did on screen and not just that by change my lines into a artistic mess.

:( I would really like some help.

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