This article first appeared in HWM June 2012.
Compared to the Intuos4, the Intuos5 is a stealthier-looking machine. Gone are the hard-edged side buttons and their labels. In their place, you have soft contoured buttons, forming an uninterrupted surface with the top of the tablet. Gone also are the button labels, making the entire Intuos5 a minimalist, unmarked slab. With its matte rubber-coated finish, the entire package looks clean and is more comfortable to touch than its plastic predecessor.
If you’re worried that Wacom has sacrificed usability for looks by removing the buttons’ labels, fret not – we’d argue that the Intuos5 is even more easy to use than the Intuos4. With a single touch, an overlay screen appears on your PC which shows you what each button does. This means you don’t have to take your eyes off the screen whenever you want to look-up a button’s function. The middle two buttons in each of the top and bottom rows in-between the Touch Ring are marked with a raised dot and bar, helping you to recognize buttons by touch alone.
The Intuos5 introduces a brand new feature to the Intuos family: multi-touch. While the Intuos tablets have always allowed a certain degree of touch control, the Intuos5’s ability to recognize multiple fingers also means it recognizes gestures. Installing the Intuos5 on a Mac running Lion, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the tablet can be used almost like a Magic Trackpad. The tablet maps standard gestures like single tap for double-click; two finger swipes to scroll up and down web pages, and four finger swipes for Mission Control.
We say almost though, because we found that gestures have to be more precise than on a more forgiving Magic Trackpad, and some operations are just more difficult to execute, like dragging and dropping. Still, we love multi-touch and gestures on the Intuos5; the ability to interact with your PC using either the pen or your fingers makes working so much smoother.
About the pen, nothing much of note has changed. If you enjoyed using the pen on your Intuos4, you’ll enjoy the one on the Intuos5, as it’s basically the same: A well-designed, comfortable and responsive pen with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity.
Wireless on the Intuos5 comes as an optional USB accessory and not through Bluetooth like on the Intuos4. The battery is rated good for only nine hours on the medium-sized tablet, which means that you’ll be charging every day (unless you work more than nine hours, in which case you’d probably be better off not paying extra for the wireless kit).
The one gripe we have with the design of the Intuos5 lies in the Sleep/Wake Power button to the side of the tablet. The tablet will go to sleep if unused for a certain period of time to conserve power, but for some reason the first side-button – which maps to On/Off by default – doesn’t wake the tablet from sleep. Instead, you have to press the Power button by the right side, along the wireless accessory port, which is small and lies flush with the side of the device, making it difficult to detect by feel alone.
In conclusion though, the smoother and more comfortable surface, as well as the added convenience of multi-touch, makes the Intuos5 a real winner for us. Even though the Intuos5 also comes with non-touch, more affordable models, we’d say it’s well worth it to spring a little extra and add multi-touch to your life.