Pen accuracy and sensitivity feels identical to the Intuos 4 - as it should, since the pen is physically unaltered. While this may annoy some, it’s actually a smart decision: with 2048 pressure levels, 60 degrees of tilt sensitivity and a nib that registers a single gram of pressure, the Intuos 4 was arguably already as good as it needed to be in the technical department.
It’s still sublime in every other, sporting an ergonomic shape with rubberised grip and just the right amount of weight. From the fine nib to the pressure-sensitive eraser at the top and responsive rocker switch on its body, the battery-free pen is a beautiful piece of design.
Keeping the same pen also means that all the extra ones you may have bought for the previous Intuos graphics tablet will work on the new model, saving both money and hassle. With the new Cintiqs now using the same tech, pens are interoperable across Wacom’s entire professional range.
The Intuos 5 pen also includes the same stand as before, which twists open to reveal ten ‘spare’ nibs (standard, flex, felt and stroke) and a nib remover. Extra nibs can be bought from Wacom along with specialised pens like the Art Pen which adds rotation sensitivity.
Only the driver has seen a welcome enhancement with an actual adjustable curve for pressure sensitivity, which previously required a third-party hack.
What has altered is the tablet’s surface, and this gives the pen a different feel which we think hits the happy medium between the smoother Intuos 3 and rougher, more paper-like Intuos 4 (also eliminating excessive nib-wear which appeared to be an issue for some with the 4). Of course, on most of the Intuos 5 models you can no longer replace the surface sheet, because of the touch elements – but we’ll get to those in a bit.
This aside, the drawing area – and indeed overall size of the tablet – is virtually identical. However, Wacom has made yet another improvement in extending the surface beyond the active (i.e. pen-sensing) area. This means you can start and end strokes beyond the border, instead of getting the tip caught in a frame transition. The active area is demarked by four subtle white-LED-backlit corners, which looks pretty cool.
ExpressKeys and TouchRing
Found on the left or right of the Intuos 5 (depending on which hand you position the tablet for) are eight ExpressKeys. Essentially a set of programmable/customisable shortcut keys along with an intuitive scroll wheel, these are essential for frequent functions such as changing brushes, undo, copying/pasting, and all the other bits where you might normally use mouse or keyboard commands.
The ExpressKeys is the only area where it could be argued that Wacom has taken a small step back from the previous Intuos, since you no longer get the nifty little OLED displays telling you what each key did. Instead, theIntuos 5’s buttons are now capacitive, so they can ‘sense’ your finger. Hover over a button for a while, and it brings up an orange on-screen HUD (Heads Up Display), that shows what it does.
It’s an ingenious system which Wacom claims allows for a less interrupted work-flow, but on occasion we did still miss those miniature OLED displays that were such a great innovation on the Intuos 4 – and not just for how awesome they looked. However, while it would have been nice if these could have been maintained, if we had to choose between the two, we would go for capacitive plus HUD every time.
Our other niggle concerns the physical buttons themselves. Recessed and covered by a single layer of rubber that’s seamless from the rest of the tablet’s frame, the ‘buttons’ are now harder to find and more difficult to press – though at least on the Intuos 5 you’ll never have issues with dust and dirt getting in between the buttons’ edges.
The TouchRing is identical to the Intuos 4’s implementation, except again the soft finish makes it just a tad less smooth to run your finger along. However, in this case that’s not necessarily a negative, as it allows more controlled movement.