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Wacom announces Intuos5 graphics tablets, we go hands-on !

Check out the Latest Intuos5

Intuos5

It’s a couple of months since we spotted paperwork for a mysterious “PTK-450” device at the FCC and now Wacom has finally revealed the gadget that goes with the label. The Intuos5 tablet is available to purchase immediately in Small (4 x 6 inches), Medium (6 x 8) and Large (13 x 8) sizes, priced at £200, £330 and £430 respectively. We’re still waiting on confirmation of US pricing, but it’ll no doubt be less than what a straight currency conversion suggests (i.e. somewhere below $320, $525 and $680). There’s actually a fourth variant to add to the trio, but it’s not an XL — Wacom is hoping to up-sell you to a Cintiq 21UX or Cintiq 24HD if you want something bigger. Instead, the fourth tablet is a version of the Medium that comes without touch sensitivity, bringing the price down to £270 if you’re able to live with pen-only input. Opting for this particular model will remove one of the biggest upgrades in this three-year product cycle: the ability of the Intuos5 to sense up to 16 finger-touches simultaneously, rather than just the nib of the pen. But there have been other revisions since the Intuos4 aside from touch, and you only have to read on to discover what those are.

Wacom has kept a firm grip on backwards compatibility, keeping the same 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity and allowing Intuos4 and Cintiq pens to work fine with the Intuos5. To make things simple, however, touch sensitivity is disabled when the pen comes close to the tablet, such that input is either by pen or by touch but never both at the same time.

Intuos5

When inputting with touch, the hardware is capable of registering 16 separate points, but Wacom’s software currently only recognizes up to five-finger gestures. These gestures can be assigned to keyboard functions from the Intuos settings pane, which means you won’t be dependent on Adobe or anyone else implementing multi-touch directly into their programs — and indeed, we hear that multi-touch probably isn’t coming to Photoshop any time soon. Nevertheless, when the big photo and graphics titles eventually find clever things to do with ten fingers and six toes, the Intuos5 will be good and ready.

Intuos5

It’s not clear where the OLEDs have gone from the Intuos4, but hopefully it’s somewhere nice. In their stead, Wacom has shifted almost every aspect of the tablet’s ability to display information to an on-screen “HUD,” which is designed to prevent you from ever having to look away from the screen, even for a split second, regardless of what that workspace safety adviser told you.

Intuos5

The way the HUD works is pretty intuitive. The buttons on the tablet are capacitive, and when you touch them lightly the HUD pops up on the screen and highlights the function you’re about to press. When you’re happy that you’re doing the right thing, you press down fully to click the underlying physical button on the tablet and hence make your selection. This is especially useful for the radial menu, which can have numerous functions and sub-menus assigned to different o’clocks. The HUD appears in the last position of your cursor and should stop you losing track of what you’ve assigned where.

Intuos5

In addition to the HUD, there are four LEDs beside the wheel to indicate toggle functions, as well as four LEDs to mark out the working area of the tablet. This working area has been brought in further from the edges of the tablet, compared to the Intuos4, in an effort to stop pens snagging on the border of the panel in the midst of a stroke — an issue that we’re told cropped up during Wacom’s feedback sessions.

Intuos5

The Intuos5 tablets are all compatible with Wacom’s wireless adapter, priced at £35. This kit comes with a small RF transmitter that plugs into a slot in the tablet and a receiver which connects to your computer. There’s also a lithium ion battery that goes into another slot on the underside of the tablet and provides 18, 11 and six hours of use on the Small, Medium and Large tablets.

Intuos5

One last major difference: the glossy finish of the Intuos4 has been replaced with a matte rubber coating that feels nicer to touch and also more hard-wearing — but as to whether it lives up to that promise, it’s too early to say.

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