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Wacom's Intuos5 touch review

This article was taken from issue 82 of ImagineFX magazine, on sale now. Be the first to read ImagineFX articles in print before they're posted online and get your hands on loads of additional DVD content by subscribing. Visit our shop for more options.


Price: touch S £200; touch M £330; touch L £430 | Company Wacom | Web www.wacom.com | Contact 020 7744 0831

According to Wacom, Intuos users keep their tablet for on average six years before upgrading. As a result, the company has opted for an evolution rather than a complete reinvention of the Intuos range.

Visually the Intuos5 looks almost identical to its predecessor, except for a matte black finish that replaces the slightly plastic shiny feel of the Intuos4. The surface sheet on the tablet is now larger with a non-active border around the usable drawing surface (marked with white LED corner markers) and so gives a much better experience when working, because you’re no longer met with a hard edge when you reach the edge of the work area with your pen.

The main physical change to the Intuos is the OLED Express Keys, which have been replaced with recessed touch-sensitive buttons under a rubberised plastic surface. Alongside the familiar Touch Ring that’s also now touch sensitive, the Express Keys use a new heads-up display to show you the shortcuts on your monitor, rather than looking down at the tablet. This is a massive improvement on usability and a great way to keep working without breaking your concentration from the screen. However, we missed the feel of pressing actual buttons on the older Intuos; the touch ring in particular could be a little unresponsive at times.


Above: Wacom's grip pen from the previous Intuos with its 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity and 60 degrees of tilt is now standard across the entire Wacom range.


One element that hasn’t changed is the stylus, which is the same grip pen you’ll already be familiar with from previous Intuos and Cintiq models, and now works across all models on the Wacom range. This is the same for all other Wacom peripherals, which is a great way to reward loyal customers. One neat upgrade the company’s included for the pen is in the drivers. There’s a new pressure-sensitive curve that enables you to set sensitivity presets for the stylus in different apps.

Alongside these minor cosmetic changes is the major upgrade in the form of gestures. Already a feature on the beginner Bamboo tablet, it offers up to 16-point multi-touch gestures for collaborative working – although how you would use all those points we aren’t quite sure! As well as using your computer’s default gestures, you can also set up your own custom gestures based on any existing key command. So for example, you could use four finger swipes for Undo or three finger taps to access New Layers.

As with the Express Keys you can then set different gestures for different apps, which is a great way to personalise your workflow. When combined with the Express Keys, Touch Ring and Radial Function Wheel (which has remained from the Intuos4) it means you can have every feasible shortcut available from your tablet, helping you to focus on your artwork.


Above: The Wireless kit bumps up the price by £35, but install it and you'll soon be able to paint more intuitively away from your computer.


The process of properly setting up all these presets can be time consuming. Yet it’ll be worth it as you’ll soon reap the benefits of being able to maximise your drawing and painting time, rather than fussing around with keyboard shortcuts and menu placements.

To further assist your keyboard-free working you can buy a Wacom wireless kit for £35, which is another extra that’ll work across the whole Wacom range – albeit one that increases the already substantial price tag. However, it’s a must-have purchase because it enhances the Intuos5 experience by enabling you to sit back and work as if using a sketchbook or canvas, rather than a tablet. As such, you soon forget about the restrictions of being sat at a workstation.


  • New heads-up display enables you toto view express keys
  • Up to 16 points of multi-touch gesturing for collaborative working
  • Custom gestures and Express Keys can be set to be different specific apps
  • Pressure curve enables you to change sensitivity of stylus for different roles
  • Stylus and accessories are now compatible across the entire Wacom range
  • Wireless kit uses radio frequency rather than Bluetooth, so it won’t conflict with other devices on your desktop and has a greater range
  • Each Intuos tabletcomes bundled withyour choice from Painter Sketchpad, Elements 10 or Autodesk Sketchbook Express 2011

ImagineFX rating: 5/5


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