There are so many options when it comes to drawing tablets. The Apple iPad, tablet PCs like the Asus B121 Slate and different smart phones all have digital drawing apps, but for a serious graphic designer, I believe you need a tablet that has been specifically designed for artists.
Wacom has been the front runner of the tablet market for years, and for now, they are still the top player in the drawing tablet business. Wacom introduced the Intuos4 tablets as an upgrade from Bamboo tablets for professional graphic designers and artists in 2009. In early 2012, Wacom launched the Intuos5.
There are plenty of similarities between the Intuos4 and new Intuos5 tablets so I’ll focus on the differences first.
Intuos5 now offers multi-touch capability. With the older model, only the pen registered on the tablet. Now you can use multiple fingers for certain functions such as scrolling, zoom, rotation or what ever else you prefer. The customization is completely up to you! Currently, the tablet recognizes five simultaneous contact points, but is set up to recognize sixteen so using both hands and some toes will be possible in the future!
Intuos5 is available in small, medium and large. Instead of offering a fourth wireless version, Wacom has decided to sell a separate wireless kit that is compatible with all Intuos5 sizes.
Gone is the shiny side panel on the surface of the Intuos4. The frame of the Intuos5 is a rubberized matte black with sunken Express Keys that blend in with the frame. A nice touch are the small dots on four of the keys which allow you to navigate by feel so you don’t have to interrupt your workflow.
The drawing area is coated in a semi-gloss finish to make it a little more smooth than the Intuos 4. Backlit indicators show where the input area boundaries are so you know where to swipe. To further add to the stremlined appearance, Wacom did away with the OLED text next to the buttons, but don’t worry! They have created a new way to navigate easily with the on-screen heads-up display referred to as HUD.
There is a slight learning curve, but once you are accustomed to it, your life will be easier. Basically, HUD is an on-screen reference of your Express Keys and Touch Ring functions. This saves you time by giving you one less reason to look away from your screen. If you forget what an Express Key is supposed to do, simply rest your finger on that key and a reminder for all of the keys will appear on the screen.
On the right side of the tablet (when Express Keys are on the left), there is enough space for a mini USB socket and access to the wireless components and battery slots. These allow you to use the wireless kit without a cable for up to nine hours on the medium Intuos5 model. The small clip attached to the end of the included USB mini cable keeps excess cable from getting in the way.Â Another small, but nice detail by Wacom.
As I mentioned earlier, there are three sizes available. The Intuos4 is available in five sizes, small, medium, large, XL and wireless. The Sm, Med and Large of the Intuos5 are equal in size to the S, M and L of the Intuos4, but if you want/need a tablet with a drawing area larger than 12.8 x 8″, then you need to look into buying an Intuos 4 XL, a Cintiq 24HD or a Cintiq 21UX.
The Intuos5 tablets include the well-known, high quality tip sensor pens with spare nibs. Like the Intuos4 version, they have 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity (for precise pressure control), tilt recognition, accuracy and a natural feel.
All Intuos5 units include Adobe Photoshop Elements, Anime Studio Debut, Autodesk SketchBook Express and a 90-day trial of Corel Painter 12. Intuos4 tablets include similar software. If you are not a graphics pro, you might not already own Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator. I suggest buying those two or the latest full Creative Suite if you can.
I think the Intuos5 is an excellent Wacom tablet for any serious artist or professional designer.
Should I upgrade to an Intuos5 from an Intuos4, you ask? If you feel the Express View (on-screen HUD) will make a considerable impact to improving your workflow and efficiency, then I say a resounding yes!
If you are like me and using an Intuos4 without problems (and don’t have the extra money to upgrade), I don’t recommend buying the Intuos5. Maybe save up for the next iteration of the Intuos line or Cintiq 24HD. Read more about the Intuos4 here!
If you have never purchased a Wacom tablet or want to move up from your Bamboo tablet, then I highly recommend the Intuos5. I think the features make it perfect for new users.
However, if you are brand new to using any kind of input device like a Wacom tablet, I strongly recommend starting with one of the Bamboo Wacom tablets. You can read more about Bamboo tablets by clicking here!