NEW Wacom Intuos Review (2018)
© 2018 Aaron Rutten. All Rights Reserved.
Aaron Rutten, Digital Artist
Author: Aaron Rutten - Published March 21, 2018 | Watch my Review Video
What is the Intuos?
The Wacom Intuos is a tablet that plugs into your computer and allows you to control art and design software with a pen. You can use the Intuos to create drawings, paintings, 3D sculpting, note taking, graphic design and more. The new Intuos was released in March 2018, and there are a few different options available.
There are three options available: Small (no Bluetooth), Small (with Bluetooth) and Medium (with Bluetooth). This is definitely a lot less confusing than the previous model, where they had the Intuos Comic, Draw, Art, Photo and 3D. That was just too many versions. The model I am reviewing is the Medium version with Bluetooth.
The new Intuos is compatible with Mac, and PC or Windows. The minimum operating system is Windows 7, and Mac OSX 10.11. It cannot be paired via Bluetooth to an iPad or Android tablet.
The Intuos tablet connects via USB to your computer. It does not have a built in screen that shows you what you're drawing, you'll have to draw on the tablet and then look up at a separate monitor. It sounds difficult, but it's really not that hard. Just in case you're wondering, the connection used is your standard USB type A. It's not USB-C.
The new Intuos is very easy to install, all you have to do is just plug it into your computer, go to Wacom's website and download the driver, install it, and then your tablet should be working. In order to be able to create with the tablet, you'll also need some software. If your tablet is not working and you need help, check out my Intuos FAQ video, or contact Wacom for tech support.
What's Different from Previous Generations?
Now let's dive a little bit deeper and let's talk about what's new with this tablet compared to previous generations.
The first thing you might notice are the color options. I have the black version, but that's not new, because the previous generation Intuos Art also had a black version. But there is also a Pistachio green version, and a Berry colored version.
The pen has been improved on the new Intuos. There is now over 4,000 levels of pen pressure, which means that you can get really nice, smooth transitions between opacity and line width, and it feels a lot more natural to draw. In previous models, you only had 2,000 pressure levels, and if you go back to the generation before that, it was only around 1,000 levels. And just to put things in context, the more professional models only go up to around 8,000 pressure levels.
Bluetooth is available on the "Small Bluetooth" and Medium models only. Bluetooth is a wireless technology, so you can simply unplug the tablet from USB and you can use it wirelessly. You can be sitting across the room while making artwork instead of tethered to a computer.
There is a button at the top-center of the Intuos which you can use to pair the Bluetooth to your computer. According to Wacom's website, the Intuos will work wirelessly for a minimum of 15 hours, and it takes about 3 1/2 hours to charge. When you have it plugged in through USB, you don't have to worry about charging it, the USB connection powers the tablet.
Another difference is the bundled software that comes with the Intuos. You have a few different options depending on the model that you get. Since I have the medium size, I can download three different pieces of software. I can get ClipStudio Paint Pro, Corel Aftershot 3 and Corel Painter Essentials 6.
The software is available for Mac or Windows, but you can only choose one operating system. Choose wisely because once you make a choice, you are stuck with it.
Another difference is that there's a pen tray integrated with the Express Keys. So for example, you can set the pen in the tray and it won't roll away, unless of course the tablet is tilted. The pen can fall out of the tray, but for the most part, the tray will hold it in place. A more secure option would be to slide the pen into the sleeve that is attached to the top of the Intuos.
Another difference is the thickness of the tablet. It's now much thinner, it's around 8.8 millimeters, which is about a similar thickness to a modern smartphone. The new Intuos is also much lighter than previous versions, but it's still very durable. The weight of the Small Intuos is 230 grams, the Small tablet with Bluetooth is 250 grams. The weight of the Medium tablet is 410 grams.
Another key difference is the location of the nibs. On previous models, there was a little panel on the back that you could slide off and the nibs were hiding in a tray. However, on the new model of the Intuos, you just unscrew the pen, and then the nibs are hiding inside of there. It comes with three standard replacement nibs, and of course there's one included in the pen when you get it so you have a total of four nibs. You also have the option of getting Felt and Flex nibs. Flex nibs are a little bit flexible, and then Felt nibs feel like a felt pen. These alternative nibs can be useful for changing the amount of friction that you get on the tablet if you wanted to have more tooth or grain to it so it feels more like paper. There's also a nib remover on the backside of the pen where the eraser would be.
Security Tether Slot
And the last key difference is the tether slot. You can attach a security tether to the side of the Intuos to prevent theft of your tablet.
What's the Same Compared to Previous Generations?
You'll notice that there are four Express Keys just like on previous models, and you can program these Express Keys to do just about anything. For example, you can undo or redo; you could zoom in or zoom out; you could select a specific brush; or you could use a specific command in your application.
You can program these commands per application. So you could have the functions work globally across all of your applications, or you can have separate commands for each individual app.
There are also two buttons on the pen that you can program to invoke shortcuts as well. And if that wasn't enough, there are also on-screen radial menus that can pop up which hold even more commands.
Active Drawing Area
The active drawing area, or the area that you can actually draw on on the surface of the tablet is the same as the previous generation model. More than 75% of the tablet's surface is active drawing area. The active drawing area on the Small is 6 by 3.7 inches, and on the Medium it is 8.5 by 5.3 inches, which is pretty close to the size of a small sketchbook. The resolution of the tablet is the same as the previous generation as well. It's 2,540 LPI, or around 100 lines per millimeter. The report rate of the pen, or the speed, is 133 PPS.
USB Cable Length
The length of the USB cable is great, it's 4.9 feet long so it'll reach pretty far. But if you have the Bluetooth version and you prefer to use Bluetooth, then the cable length isn't really much of a concern. The end of the cable that connects to the tablet is just your standard micro USB, so you can connect a longer cable if you want.
What's Missing Compared to Previous Generations?
You may notice that there is no eraser on the end of the pen, but if you go back one more generation, to the Wacom Intuos Pen & Touch, that one did have an eraser.
Another feature that's missing from the newer generation of the Intuos is a multi-touch. In the previous generation, and the generation before that, you could use multi-touch to navigate, which means you could zoom in or zoom out or rotate your canvas, and use your finger just like it's a track pad on a mouse. Unfortunately, they've removed that from the newer model, but they've replaced it with Bluetooth, so it's kind of a bit of a trade off.
Intuos Questions & Answers
Now I want to move on to addressing some of the questions and concerns about the Wacom Intuos that were sent to me on YouTube.
Express Key Placement
First we'll talk about the Express Key placement. It's centered on the top of the tablet. Some folks have complained that the Express Keys can get covered by your hand while you are drawing with the pen. This is true, but if the Express Keys were on one side, then the tablet would not be as ambidextrous. To be fair to both left-handed and right-handed users, centered is the best Express Key placement that Wacom could achieve for the 2018 Intuos. It's not perfect, but it's acceptable in my opinion. Plus the Express Keys also integrate really well with the pen tray. I do like the new placement a lot better than having the two Express Keys at a diagonal in each corner as they were on the previous generation Intuos.
Missing VS New Features
Next we'll go back a bit to the features that are missing. Obviously there is no eraser on the pen, and the touch feature is missing. If that's a concern to you, you can always get one of the previous generation models that has those features. Or you can upgrade to a more professional version, such as the Intuos Pro, which has those features. You have to decide whether more pressure levels, Bluetooth and current bundled software are more important to you than an eraser or multi-touch.
How Many Pen Pressure Levels Do I Need?
In regards to the pen pressure levels, you might be wondering how many pressure levels do you need to be able to make art? Well the short answer is, probably 1,000 or more, because once you start to get under that, the transitions between line size and line opacity tend to get a little bit choppy or a little bit jagged. So the more pressure levels you have, the smoother those transitions are going to be, and the more natural it's going to feel.
Some people can tell the difference between 1,000 levels, 2,000 levels, and 4,000 levels, and some people cannot. It really depends on the kind of artwork that you create, and how much experience you have drawing on a tablet.
More Pressure Levels Can Be Useful:
Surface Texture & Nib Wear
The surface is kind of smooth compared to some of the other Wacom tablets. If I draw on it, there is a little bit of tooth, and I can hear a little bit of a scratchy sound. But I don't feel like it's going to wear down the nibs excessively fast.
Now I do want to talk a little bit about why the nibs wear down. Nibs wear down because of friction, just like when you use a pencil and you draw on a piece of paper, the pencil lead wears down and you have to sharpen the pencil. Obviously you can't sharpen your Wacom pen, otherwise you'd probably destroy it. So the only thing that you can do is replace the nibs.
Some tablets have surfaces that wear down nibs faster than others. That's because surface grain or the tooth or the texture, is a feature that some people like, and some people do not. Most professionals would agree that drawing on something that has a little bit of tooth or grain feels more natural because it provides some stability to your marks, and adds a little bit of friction, which just feels more natural, it feels like how it would feel to draw on paper, or to paint on canvas. So there's a reason why the Intuos Pro has a much more coarse surface, and there's a reason why the Intuos Pro nibs wear down a little bit faster.
You can easily prevent nib wear by drawing with a much lighter touch. And you can actually calibrate the Intuos pen in the Wacom Tablet properties for a lighter touch so you don't have to press down so hard. You also don't want to be scribbling back and forth in one place over and over and over again when you're shading because there are more effective ways to get a similar result without wearing down your nib. For example, you could use an airbrush or a blender to get a nice color or value transition. If you're scrubbing back and forth in the same place over and over and over again, that's going to start to build up heat, and the more heat that you build up, the faster your nib is going to wear down.
It doesn't matter what tablet you buy or which company you buy it from, the nibs are still going to wear down. You're still going to have to replace them, and so that's just something that you're going to have to get used to if you're going to be a digital artist. I have quite a few videos you can watch with some other tips that you can use to help prevent nib wear that you can check out.
The surface on the Wacom Intuos is not interchangeable like it is on the newer Intuos Pro. On the newer Intuos Pro, you can get a different, smoother surface if you prefer that. You can, however, replace the standard nibs and you could get the flex nibs or the felt nibs which will give you more friction.
Does The Intuos Scratch Easily?
The next concern is something that I hear about a lot. Some folks claim that their tablet gets scratched up within the first day or two of using it. Those are not scratches. When your nib wears down, it leaves a little bit of the nib residue on the surface of your tablet, just like a pencil would leave pencil lead on paper. All you need to do is take a dry, clean microfiber cloth, like the kind you'd use to clean a lens, or your glasses, and just wipe down your tablet surface, and all of those things that look like scratches will magically go away.
Is The Intuos Good For ___________?
Another question that I get about the Intuos tablets is, "Is this tablet good for animation, is it good for 3D modeling, is it good for drawing, is it good for painting, is it good for note taking?" Yes, it's good for everything.
A Medium size is obviously going to be the best for drawing and painting because you have the most surface area to draw on. The Small size is probably, in my opinion, only going to be good for photo retouching, or for people who just want to try out digital art. If you're really really serious about drawing and painting, you're going to want the biggest tablet possible.
If you're a professional, you might want something that's a bit bigger than this such as the Intuos Pro Large, or maybe one of the Cintiq Pros, such as the 13 or the 16. Those will give you a lot more area to draw on.
Will The Intuos Work With __________?
Another question that I get a lot is does the Intuos work with this app or that app, does it work with Photoshop, does it work with Medibang, does it work with Adobe Illustrator? The Intuos is going to work with any application that supports pen pressure, if you want to be able to use pen pressure to control your opacity or your line width. So most art applications will be compatible.
However, the Intuos will still work with applications that use only a mouse. If you wanted to use this for PowerPoint, Excel or browsing the web, you could certainly do that. The Intuos pen is basically a replacement for your mouse. Keep in mind, if you're using it in an application that does not support pen pressure, then you're of course not going to get pen pressure in that application.
Is The Intuos Bundled Software Any Good?
Yes, ClipStudio paint is considered to be one of the best digital art applications to use for making comic books, manga and animations.
Corel Painter Essentials 6 is the light version of Corel Painter 2018, and that is an excellent digital painting and drawing application. You can create fine art, illustration, cloning (photo painting) and more. Personally, Corel Painter is my favorite art application overall, so you can't go wrong with that.
Aftershot 3 is Corel's version of a Photoshop-Lightroom hybrid. You can use it to do a lot of stuff that you'd be able to do in Photoshop, such as edit photos and process them in different ways.
Can The Bundled Software Be Upgraded?
Yes, you can upgrade all of the bundled software to a more professional version that will unlock more features. And best of all, you'll get a special upgrade price that is cheaper than if you had bought that software without getting the bundle.
What Size Intuos Is Best For My Screen?
Another commonly asked question is, "What is the best size Intuos to get for a laptop, or a desktop, or a big monitor or a small monitor?" Really any size tablet is going to work on any size screen. What matters the most is if your tablet is very small, then it's going to feel a little bit weird to try to draw on a really big screen. So you want to try to have your tablet match your screen size as best you can.
Now obviously, the Intuos is much smaller than most screens, so it's probably going to feel fine to draw on a laptop screen or a monitor. But if you were drawing on a TV or something really big, it might start to feel a little weird. You can customize the active drawing area to some degree to help it better match your screen in the Wacom Tablet properties.
Next, we'll talk about the pen quality compared to previous generations. The newer pen is not that much different from the older pen. They're about the same thickness and about the same length. The newer pen feels a bit lighter than this older pen, but they have more or less the same grip and everything else to them. So not really a whole lot different. The difference is a little bit more noticeable if we were to compare the new Intuos pen to one of the professional pens such as the Pro Pen. The Pro Pen is much thicker, the grip is a little bit softer and more rubbery. And it just feels a little bit better the way it's weighted. The Pro pen is definitely a bit heavier, while the Intuos pen is a bit lighter. It really comes down to your preference, but both pens are going to work great for drawing.
I've heard some people say that the Intuos pen feels cheap. I don't agree with that, it feels very well-built, it doesn't feel like it's going to break. It's a simple pen, it doesn't look as fancy as some of the Pro pens out there. But it's definitely a good quality pen and it doesn't need to be fancy.
Is The USB Connector Easily Damaged?
Another concern that was expressed in the comments related to the USB connection port on the tablet. The Intuos uses USB mini, and somebody said that there's a worry that the pins could break off because it's not as strong as USB-C. That's probably a fair complaint, but for the most part, if you're going to keep the tablet plugged in, then it's probably going to stay on your desk and you're probably not going to move it around a whole lot.
Of course, you want to be careful with it. Don't yank on the cord because if you do then there's a chance that you may damage the USB cable, which is replaceable, or you might damage the port, meaning you wouldn't be able to plug it in anymore. However, if you have the Bluetooth model like I do, then you don't even need to use the cable to begin with, you can just draw with it in Bluetooth mode and then the cable is not a big deal.
Is It Overpriced?
One of the comments that I've seen the most deals with cost, some people think that the Wacom Intuos is expensive or overpriced. And for some people, maybe it is. Maybe it exceeds your budget. However, I do have to point out that compared to some of the Wacom alternatives, the Intuos is a quality tablet. It's built very well with custom parts rather than generic parts that are slapped together.
Unlike the Wacom alternatives, this tablet also comes with valuable bundled software, so that's something to keep in mind as well. You're not just getting a tablet, you're getting bundled software, reliable tech support and resources that will help you use your tablet, such as tutorials and guides.
More Affordable Options
If you're looking for a more affordable option, there are a couple that I would recommend. You could go back to the previous generation Intuos Art, that'll work well. Or you could go back one more generation to the Intuos Pen & Touch, that's also a great tablet.
That's my review of the new Wacom Intuos Creative Tablet. It's a great tablet for beginners and creative folks who are on a tight budget.
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