Wacom Intuos Review – Portable Pen Tablet

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I’ve been using Wacom tablets for many years now and as anyone who has one will attest to, there’s no going back!  The time saving, even for day-to-day tasks is significant and the whole computer experience is simply more comfortable and far more accurate for image editing.  Wacom’s tablet lineup is quite broad and covers a range of prices.  Their Pro lineup is considerably more expensive than the standard Intuos lineup but I was very interested in checking out the regular Intuos tablet alongside my Pro one because they make a small one that looked perfect for travel.  In 2013 Wacom changed their product naming conventions so what is now called Intuos, was once called Bamboo.  What was then called Intuos, is now called Intuos Pro.  With me?

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Impressions And Usage

So this is the small Intuos tablet that I picked up to go alongside my MacBook Air when I’m on the road.  Whilst I do very little critical image editing when I’m traveling, I was interested in the overall workflow speed savings that are possible with a tablet setup.  When Wacom changed their naming convention and launched this new Intuos, they also took some steps to make the product look considerably less toy-like too.  Maybe it’s only a cosmetic difference, but hey, it got me to take a second look at them!

The Intuos Pen only comes in the small size and the Intuos Pen & Touch comes in either small or medium.  All three variations feature a slot for an optional battery powered wireless kit if you want to ditch the USB cable.  I chose against getting the multitouch enabled Pen & Touch version.  It’s just not something that I ever use.  I get a tablet to use the pen, not using the pen seems to defeat the purpose a little bit (or quite a lot!) and the regular Intuos Pen version is a good portion cheaper as well.

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You might be wondering what the difference is between the cheaper Intuos lineup and the Intuos Pro.  A lot of it has to do with the pressure sensitivity levels of the pen itself.  The small Intuos Pen in this review has 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity whereas the Pro lineup takes things up to 2048.  In all honesty, for normal photography usage in Photoshop and Lightroom, this difference is hard to feel.  I imagine that digital artists who paint in Photoshop and other similar applications, can tell the difference immediately, but I could not for my regular Photoshop routines. In terms of build quality though their difference is readily apparent, as you would expect for a product that’s more than 3x the price.  The Intuos Pen feels a little on the flimsy side but this also has the effect of making it VERY lightweight and hence perfect for a travel companion! I’ve been using this for about 4 or 5 months now and not had any issues at all.  It has considerably sped up my out of office workflow and really, this thing is so small, you simply don’t ever notice that it’s in your bag.  My one main grievance with it is the user assignable buttons on the top.  There’s 2 on each side but in reality only two are easily useable.  If you are right-handed then the ones on the left are totally useable, but the ones on the right are shielded by your hand holding the pen. Vice-versa if you are left-handed.

Conclusion

For the price I honestly got more than I was expecting.  It doesn’t feel like an expensive accessory because it’s not, but that’s fine.  It will introduce more people to the wonders and benefits of tablet usage and that’s a great thing.  I was worried that I would notice the pressure sensitivity difference between this and my Intuos Pro, but surprisingly that wasn’t the case for the type of Photoshop work that I tend to do. For photographers who travel a lot, I can wholeheartedly recommend spending the sub-$70 ticket price for this product.  I won’t be travelling anywhere without mine.  This is a product that would also make a great gift!

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Dan Carr

Professional photographer based in Yukon, Canada, and founder of Shutter Muse. His editorial work has been featured in publications all over the world, and his commercial clients include brands such as Nike, Apple, Adobe and Red Bull.

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8 thoughts on “Wacom Intuos Review – Portable Pen Tablet”

  1. I currently use the previous edition medium bamboo, which connects and is powered by USB. Is it the same with this? Don’t fancy taking along an extra power cord when travelling!

    Reply
  2. Nice one Dan!
    I picked one of the small touch and pen versions up about 6 months ago – this is my first foray into the world of tablets, and like you read everywhere, now I’m hooked!
    I went for the touch model as I was anticipating the pinch/zoom functionality would come in handy when zooming in for fine detail work on an image. It’s not quite as seamless as I’d hoped, but it does allow me to simply shift the pen into a slightly different grip, pinch to zoom, then go straight back to editing.
    The other added bonus I found was in the left hand folder navigator pane of Lighroom, the pen doesn’t seem to like scrolling through my collection of folders… it always wants to drag a folder into a new location! But luckily a quick two-finger swipe lets me scroll up and down.
    But seriously, the thing is so configurable that you can probably figure out ways to handle these actions on the non-touch model too!
    This tablet has really taken my landscape image post work to the next level, as I now do a lot of manual blending of multiple exposures, and the results are impressive compared to previously trying to use a mouse.
    I’m looking forward to when I can afford one of the big brother models!!!

    Reply
    • Glad to hear it’s working well for you mate. Theses things should be standard issue to all photographers IMO. Especially at this price!!

      Reply
  3. Hi Dan and Others

    I received a Pen and Touch model for Christmas and, to be honest, have been struggling with it ever since.

    My main irritation is that when adjusting sliders in Lightroom, as you lift the pen off the surface of the Wacom the position of the slider changes. This is even more annoying in, for example, InDesign when lining elements up. As you lift off the element moves and is no longer where you wanted it.

    Does anyone else suffer from this? Do you use different settings to counteract this or is it something that just comes with practise?

    If I were to purchase it again (and in my case I’m not sure I would) I wouldn’t spring for the Pen and Touch model. The touch isn’t as fluid as you might imagine certainly not up to standards of the Mac trackpads (or indeed any trackpad I have tried recently).

    Anyway those are my thoughts, I’m very much hoping that my experience improves as I would love to use it all the time.

    Yours

    Jason

    Reply
    • Hey Jason, how much have you tried playing with the various pen settings? It’s not an issue that I have come across really. The pro versions have something called precision mode which can be a help when working with fiddly sliders, but I haven’t fount that I missed it much using this cheaper on. Hope it improves for you!

      Reply
  4. I had a XP-Pen Deco 01 : https://www.xp-pen.com/product/84.html , and before that a Wacom Intuos 4 , so I know both brands. Maybe not a very fair comparison though, due to the tablets’ differences in age and size…

    Anyway, the reason I had to replace the Wacom was because the upper part of the drawing area stopped working (you know, exactly the area where the little red ‘X’ is to close programs when you work with a full screen window, how convenient.) The thing was 7 years old though, so it didn’t surprise me. Wacoms are expensive, but they will last for a long time. It was the only problem I had with it.

    I bought a XP-Pen because I could get a big tablet for a small price. Comparable Wacoms were thrice as expensive, and I found that rather ridiculous. I liked working with it, and the fact that left-handed people can use it too without messing up with the hotkeys .
    That being said, Huion clearly is of a lower quality. The tablet feels flimsier, but it does the job well.

    Reply

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