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Wacom Intuos5 review: Two input methods, one graphics tablet

Wacom Intuos 5

"Hello, beautiful."

I try to avoid talking to my gadgets, but something about the Wacom Intuos5 made me want to shower it with praise as soon as I removed it from its box several weeks ago. It was slender, felt reassuringly solid and it would accept input from a stylus as well as from my own fingers. Beauty and brains.

The Intuos5 is a graphics tablet, an input device which allows you to use a pen-like stylus to draw and write as you would on paper. It is smackdab in the center of Wacom's product offerings: More capable than the entry-level Bamboo line, but significantly simpler (and lower priced) than the Cintiq 24HD.

The Intuos5 uses Wacom's proprietary digital pen technology. Because of this technology, the included stylus registers 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and up to 60 degrees of pen tilt— which means that the tablet will be able to detect even the slightest changes in pen angle and pressure. Unlike prior Intuos models, the Intuos5 also offers multi-touch support, meaning that you can use your good ol' fingers and all sorts of customizable gestures to zoom, scroll, pan, or rotate content — or to match certain operating system or application shortcuts.

There are also customizable ExpressKeys and a Touch Ring on the Intuos5. These features will allow you to program shortcuts and speed up your workflow. You won't ever need to actually look down at the tablet to see which of these special keys you're touching though, because a new heads-up display feature makes the layout flash across the screen if you rest your finger on a key.

Here's how that looks in action:

Now that the features and specifications are out of the way, let's get to the real issue though: How does the Intuos5 fare in the real world?

From my experience, quite well.

While I'm most definitely not a skilled artist of any sort — unless stick figures count — I have handled so many stylus and multi-touch based devices that I've come to understand what works and what doesn't. And the Intuos5 works. It's responsive, accurate and intuitive. (I did experience some jitteriness with the multi-touch gestures initially, but a reinstall of Wacom's drivers fixed those issues.)

Multi-touch gestures are assigned using Wacom's software, so you don't have to wait around for a developer to bring the functionality to your favorite application. The same applies to the heads-up display and pen settings as well.

The Intuos5 does what it's made to do — nothing more and nothing less — but it does it well. The only pesky thing about the device is its propensity to attract dust bunnies as if it is an electronic carrot of some sort. That's one of the downfalls of the (rather comfortable) matte rubber coating which has replaced the glossy finish found on prior Intuos models.

If you're looking to pick up a graphics tablet, the Intuos5 would serve you well. It is pricier than the devices in the Bamboo line, but it also offers more control and precision. And if its lifespan is anything like that of prior Intuos models, you'll get plenty of use out of it. (I own an Intuos3 which is as great now as it was when I first purchased it half a decade ago.)

The Intuos5 is available in three sizes — small, medium and large — and they are priced at $230, $350 and $470, respectively. An optional accessory kit which will allow you to covert the device into a wireless tablet is also available. It is priced at $40 and includes a rechargeable battery, a module that fits inside the tablet and a USB receiver. All of these products can be ordered through Wacom's website.

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