Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wacom Intuos 5 touch

Wacom has released today a new version of the Intous 5 tablet series. This new family adds some interesting features to the previous generation of tablet. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to use the Intuos 5 Small in the last days. This article doesn’t pretend to be a full review of the product; I will just talk about the good and bad points that impressed me.

Design and multi-touch

First of all I have to say that I really do like the design and the ergonomics of this new product: comfortable and, in the same time, very solid. It really seems designed for professional photographers and artist in mind. Why? Check, for example, how the buttons works and you will find the answer. They are both capacitive and click sensitive. So you can scroll between them without clicking to have a preview on what function they have and then click (having both a tactile and audible confirmation of the input that you gave). This allows you to stay with your eyes (and mind) focused on the screen. No interruption of your workflow, no need to look the tablet.

The first “real” new feature that I noticed is about the multi-touch functionality.  Basically you now get both the high precision that only the Wacom pen technology can give you with the benefits that a multi touch tablet can offer.

You can have an idea of what the touch and pen combo features offer watching the following video.

Essentially I am drawing with the pen and using a 2-finger input to zoom and rotate the canvas in Photoshop. Unfortunately multi touch technology is not deeply implemented in modern software, but I am sure that in the feature we will see huge improvements.  Wacom multi touch is very advanced (supports more than 10 points at the same time) and the good news is that the driver offers a very nice panel to personalize your shortcuts. You can see my setting in the following screen.

Basically you can personalize in a different way each program and get very impressive results. You can choose to assign a different shortcut for each gesture. Just watch the following video to see how I work in Photoshop while using the Pen and the touch in the same workflow.

I really think that the touch feature offers a nice improvement in the way you can approach the software.

The drawbacks of the multi-touch are essentially related to the behavior of the tablet when you approach it with your hands when you want to use the pen. Basically when the pen is close enough to the tablet surface the touch function is disabled. This systems works fine if you get close to the tablet with the pen pointing on it but, if the pen is too far from the surface when you put your hand down, the driver could recognize unwanted inputs. Not a big problem, it’s just a matter of habit. 
Anyway as you may have notice in the video sometime the multi-touch doesn’t react as expected. I have to get confident with this technology but I think that it has great potential.

Another feature that I really like is the extended surface area. You’ll not get your pen nib stuck with the borders of the tablet any more. This was a problem for many users. While drawing on the borders of the area you could get the pen nib in the “duct” on the side of the active area. This again confirms that these products are made with the users in mind.

Other features

Same pressure levels and pens. Wacom found that 2048 levels of pressure are enough and this is why the new generation of Intuos tablet is not offering any improvement in this sense. I have to say that I noticed the improvements from 1024 to 2048 but they where maybe a little bit small and this is why many users are still using (and happy with) the Intuos 3. I agree with Wacom. Regarding the pen I don’t see any possible improvements from the Intuos 4 technology and Wacom engineers must had the same awareness.

Personally I am very enthusiast about the new multi-touch feature but if you don’t want it you can get the new 5 Medium sized tablet for a reduced price (lower than the previous generation of Intuos 4 tablets).

Wacom didn’t change the material that is used for the tablet surface.  This material was made after years of studies and research. What Wacom engineer wanted was a material that, used in combination with the different nibs, can give the best possible drawing experience. I like the material but I don’t like how fast the nib run out when you use it. I have to say that the nib wearing will be much more slow after the few weeks of use. You have to “run in” the tablet. Personally I prefer the feeling of the 24HD surface, but this is really a matter of personal taste. I think that I'll soon make a new post on the blog with more details regarding the nib wearing.

What is new for Intuos users is the wireless module. No longer based on bluetooth technology but on a more efficient one, you just have to plug in the dongle and the software will do the rest. I have been told that with the small sized tablet you should be able to work for 16  hours continuously. This wireless module is exactly the same we have seen on the Bamboo series.

Basically what we have is the same, excellent, Intuos 4 Pen technology with some smart design improvements and the multi-touch. I think Wacom has done a good job.