Released into a world where touchscreen PCs and PCs bundled with styluses are the norm. Is there still a place for old school graphics tablets? Does the improvements made to the new Intuos Pro with Pro Pen 2 warrant an upgrade?
I have mixed feelings about the new packaging.
It is significantly smaller than the box my Intuos 5 came in (rough guess, around half the size). In fact, when I went to pick up the Intuos Pro Medium with Pro Pen 2, I had to double check the packaging to ensure I was not given the ‘small’ model by mistake.
Besides the size shrink, the other change I noticed is the removal of the carry handle.
Sure. With the size shrink, a fully grown person can carry it under their arms. But it is much more comfortable to carry around using the handles.
Like most premium tech products nowadays, there are no ‘additional’ accessories bundled with them.
Inside the box, one will find the Intuos Pro Medium graphics tablet. And underneath the Intuos Pro tablet are the charging cable (USB-C to USB-A), Pro Pen 2 pen holder (with the other pen nibs inside it), Pro Pen 2, and usual documentation.
It is great to see Wacom move to use USB-C as the connector on the Intuos Pro with Pro Pen 2 – the only connector found on the MacBook/2016 MacBook Pro ranges of devices. However, it is a bit of a shame that Wacom only included a USB-A to USB-C cable.
Therefore, anyone who owns a MacBook/MacBook Pro/laptop/PC with only USB-C ports will be unable to use the Intuos Pro tablet out-of-the-box. They would need use another device’s USB-C to USB-C cable or fork out for one (so factor this into the cost, if you need one).
As a fanatic of simplistic design. Undeniably the main draw card for this impulsive purchase is the new, even slicker, design.
The Intuos 5 was a very sleek looking graphics tablet, But there was this one aspect of the Intuos 5 I did not like – it was the overuse of rubber.
Apart from the active tablet surface, the rest of the Intuos 5 was practically covered in rubber. In theory, rubbing one’s palm against a rubber surface is nicer. But in practice, the rubber produced a bit of a drag, like a car with its breaks resting on the wheel (not applied, just resting on the wheel).
The Intuos Pro with Pro Pen 2 has reverted this course and gone back to using hard plastic with a light layer, if you can call it that, of rubber on top to provide a bit of grip. But not enough to produce the friction/drag that was present in the Intuos 5.
Wacom has also increased the size of the surface area (not active surface area), again, to enable a smoother movement of the palm across the surface of the Intuos Pro tablet.
Probably the biggest change for the new line-up is the integration of Bluetooth into the tablet itself.
The Intuos 5 (a.k.a. the Intuos Pro) had the Bluetooth functionality separate from the tablet itself. With the Bluetooth functionality integrated into the tablet itself, this meant the new tablet looks even slicker – a single unibody design. But this comes with a couple of compromises:
- Tablet is slightly heavier (for those that do not use the Bluetooth functionality).
- One no longer can replace the battery or Bluetooth module itself.
The other significant change is the Pro Pen 2, the naming differentiator from the previous Intuos Pro.
Looking at the pen, I see little to no changes. However, it is a completely different case for the pen holder. The pen holder has undergone a significant change.
The pen holder now resembles a traditional pen holder. The base is now made of solid metal, a welcomed change, as I used to constantly knock over the old pen holder.
The general usability of the new pen holder is a lot better than the old one. I find it a lot easier to rest the Pro Pen 2 in the holder.
A nib removal tool is no longer included, instead, you use a hole found on the bottom of the pen holder to grip onto the nib and remove the nib from the Pro Pen 2. A nifty bit of innovation.
Like the saying – having a top performing car is not enough, you also need a great driver to complement it.
Wacom has definitely learned from past experiences. A gripe I had with the Intuos 5 was the state of the drivers available for it. They felt like ‘Beta’ software rather than consumer-ready ‘Final’ versions.
With the Intuos Pro with Pro Pen 2, I have not experienced any driver crashes or ‘unexpected’ oddities caused by drivers or configuration software so far.
In contrast, it took about 3 goes before I got the drivers for the Intuos 5 to install properly and the drivers kept crashing. It took Wacom about a month to release new drivers that addressed the crashing issue.
In wired mode, the tablet works great. I feel/see no lag.
In Bluetooth mode, I experienced a little bit of lag. It’s not the jittery lag where it jumps about. It is a slow lag. The same kind of lag as having a slow machine where it takes a few milliseconds to move from A to B.
The little bit of lag can get annoying if you are used to the response speed found in the wired mode. However, all that said, it is still totally usable in Bluetooth mode.
Tip: When you have Bluetooth already turned on, when the device goes to sleep, to wake it up, an alternative is to press the button in the rotating ring.
The Argument for a Graphics Tablet
In a world where PCs with a touchscreen and devices that bundle with a stylus are the norm. Is there still a place for the good old graphics tablet? Put simply – yes.
Though a graphics tablet is predominately used as a drawing pad for graphics artists, it can also be used as a great alternative to the indispensable mouse to reduce RSI.
Below are a few reasons I prefer having a separate graphics tablet over a touchscreen PC or device bundled with a stylus:
- Performance (wired mode). No other stylus comes close to the responsiveness of the Wacom graphics tablets. Closest is the Surface Pro 4, which performs a similar speed as the Intuos Pro in Bluetooth mode – coincidentally the Surface Pro 4 stylus also connects to the Surface Pro 4 via Bluetooth.
- Accuracy. One of the biggest issues I experience with the Surface Pro 4 stylus is accurately placing the stylus’ point. 99% of the time it’s one or two pixel off.
- Visibility. No palm/hand blocking the view.
- Fingerprints. I am sure we all are hygienic and have clean hands. There is nothing more annoying than seeing fingerprints on the screen as you are trying to create this pixel-perfect masterpiece.
- Ergonomics. I like to keep a certain distance from the monitor (approx. half a meter, as recommended by health specialists). Only a separate tablet can enable this.
Aesthetics aside, is the new Intuos Pro with Pro Pen 2 a great graphics tablet? Is it a worthwhile upgrade for existing Intuos owners?
Hands down, the Intuos Pro with Pro Pen 2 is the top dog of all graphics tablets currently on the market. And if you’re in the market for a new graphics tablet and price is not an issue – by all means, get the Intuos Pro with Pro Pen 2.
If you are set on the Intuos Pro line-up and are budget conscious, you may still be able to pick up a previous gen Intuos Pro Medium for around the same price as the small model (only applies to Medium and Large, the small model has not been included in the Pro Pen 2 refresh).
For owners of the Intuos 5 or Intuos Pro, there is little to gain in upgrading to the Intuos Pro with Pro Pen 2. But if you had the choice to upgrade, why not?
For owners of earlier Intuos models, the only benefit I can see from upgrading is the ability to work wirelessly via Bluetooth.
For those who are using other branded or the consumer line(s) of Wacom graphics tablets. If you have grown out of your existing graphics tablet, the Intuos Pro with Pro Pen 2 will be a nice step up you will not look back on.
Finally, for anyone who has never used a graphics tablet before and thinking of getting one. My recommendation is to ask around and see if anyone you know has a graphics tablet you could borrow for a week (ideally a couple of weeks). You will find your answer at the end of the loan period.
If no one is willing to loan you a graphics tablet, my recommendation is to try out the different Wacom tablets at a local retailer. Then purchase a Intuos Pro Small (if you only have one monitor), Medium (if you have more than one monitor), and large if you want a bigger size!
Like cameras, it is better to invest in a good solid model that would last you years rather than an entry-level model, which you will outgrow in no time.