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Wacom Intuos 5 – Pen, Tablet Surface, ExpressKeys

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers



  • Editors choice
Wacom Intuos 5


Our Score:



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.

Wacom Intuos 5

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.

Wacom Intuos 5

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.

Wacom Intuos 5

Only the driver has seen a welcome enhancement with an actual adjustable curve for pressure sensitivity, which previously required a third-party hack.

Tablet Surface

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.

Wacom Intuos 5 5

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.

Wacom Intuos 5 6

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.

Wacom Intuos 5

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.

Flicky Licky

December 11, 2012, 5:05 am

A quick visit to the Wacom forums will enlighten you as to what a miserable product this is. For years Wacom have supplied defective drivers, and this new offering takes the biscuit in that respect. There are dozens and dozens of complaints about the drivers not installing. After 8 days I've given up and am returning the tablet. On plug in the only thing that works is touch. ITS TERRIBLE. It has nowhere near the sensitivity of even the worst laptop pad and is at best frustrating. For many people it is a £250 mouse mat. Be careful.


March 26, 2013, 6:54 pm

Good product, terrible customer service. They overcharge for 2 day delivery and then don't even offer to refund that fee if your order gets held up while they take their sweet time placing it. The customer service representative hung up on me before I could even inquire about that. Now I know why he hung up so fast - because they know they're doing something unethical.


June 30, 2013, 4:45 pm

Yet another useless review. Unless you spend considerable time with a Wacom tablet, there is obviously no point in reviewing this. I just ordered the large version and right off the bat I noticed some flaws. Firstly, I would have accepted if the active area was only .25 inches off the edge on all sides. Instead, we get more than an inch off the right that is completely useless.

The surface on the Intuos5 has changed considerably from the Intuos2 I have owned for over 10 years and I immediately hated it. It's primary function is to burn through nibs so if you paint for over 6 hours a day, you'll find yourself replacing them within the second day. Whoever decided that professional illustrators needed to have the surface feel like paper seriously needs to ask all the thousand of professionals who actually use this day by day before mandating such change with no option to replace or customize. Wacom's argument could be 'touch feel' and nib plastic needing to wear off more than usual so surface texture lasts longer. I'd accept this design flaw if nibs weren't so expensive but that's another topic I rather not get into. Wacom relying on nib sales sounds retarded right? And illustrators aren't (damn sure) buying this for touch.

Kay Weist

August 10, 2013, 12:56 am

Hmmm you must have had a defective tablet, I know 5 to 6 people who have this tablet and only have the most minor of issues with the drivers. They are also on three different OS platforms, (all windows tho) Vista, windows 7 and my computer is windows 8. So far only issue I have had is with the adaptor I bought separately - other then that I've found it to be a fine tablet, as I use it quite often for my commission/client artwork


September 25, 2013, 9:36 am

Nop, it's a recurrent problem from years ago with all Wacom tablets. It has nothing to do with defective tablet, just defective drivers. And Wacom never tried to fix those... instead they continue to charge a lot of money to their customers.


October 23, 2013, 7:31 pm

This Product is amazing. I bought mine a few months ago, and It is just amazing. It also must be built for rough conditions, because I have spilled my soda on it I don't know how many times.

I rate 5 stars and would definitely recommend to anyone who is looking for a good graphics tablet.

Evan Lieberman

April 26, 2014, 8:08 pm

I purchased one of these when I purchased a new laptop. It didn't connect wirelessly from the get-go. So I returned it. The AppleStore swapped it out right there. Got home and now unit #2 won't connect. Now back to the apple store again. At the AppleStore they did diagnosis on the new laptop and it was fine, so they swapped out a 3rd model. 2 days later, intermit signal loss again. I called Wacom, and they tell me to wiggle the wireless dongle. That was there advice on a 250$ pice of equipment. Wiggle it. When that scientific advice failed to work they took a week to send me a replacement wireless kit. Now the replacement kit still has the same problem. I have bin with Wacom a user since '94. this is the worst thing they have ever made. As well as horrible customer service. I recommend avoiding at all costs.


April 5, 2016, 12:54 am

I bought a Wacom tablet today to use on a Mac. The DVD that are with the tablet is out of date - I et the error message "Platform not supported." The US website is down. Customer support says grab the software from Europe. I have been downloading for 4 hours. So far 10% is downloaded. I called support in Manila again, got lots of apologies. Eventually, the support person agreed to email me the software be said there will be a delay in getting emails out. Could not say how long the delay will be. The supervisor apologies to me again, and I said I need help not more apologies. So he hung up on me.

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