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Wacom Intuos Small Bluetooth Creative Pen Tablet Review

Wacom’s tablets have been a staple for creatives of all breeds. Photographers and artists alike have embraced digital tablet inputs, which was more intuitive and precise than using the mouse, and more seamless than manually drawing and scanning artwork. The new Intuos lineup from Wacom brings built-in Bluetooth connectivity in an ultra-portable package, meaning minimal desk clutter and the possibility of creativity on the move.

Wacom Singapore was kind enough to send us at VR Zone a unit of the latest Wacom Intuos Bluetooth Small for review.

Unboxing and First Impressions

It’s a small tablet, and the packaging reflects its size. We always appreciate it when manufacturers choose to minimise one-use plastics from their packaging. It was also nice to see Wacom’s e-waste management strategies on their site.

A pretty, compact package. Dell XPS13 for scale. Image: Ian Ling 

The Wacom Intuos Bluetooth comes in a simple, attractive packaging. It features colourful artwork by featured artist Hattie Steward. the box opens at the side to reveal a pull-out tray, which contains the tablet itself, the stylus pen, manual and charging/connection (USB A to Micro USB) cable.

The Wacom Intuos Small in Berry. The five buttons on the tablet form a light divot that helps prevent the pen from rolling. Image: Ian Ling

Our unit came in Berry (pastel pink, model CTL4100WLP), which is a colour only offered in limited regions. The Wacom Intuos is also available in Black and Pistachio (a pleasing pastel green).

Right out of the box, the Intuos’s light weight and solid build were apparent. With a footprint (200 x 160 x 8.8mm/7.9 x 6.3 x 0.4in) just slightly wider than that of the iPad Mini, the Intuos Small weighs in much lighter at 250g / 8.8oz (compared to ~300g).

I don’t think the device was designed to be portable since Wacom does not include a carrying case, but its compact form would lend itself very well for the travelling artist (even if it were just to the local Starbucks). The odd Wacom fabric label at the top of the device actually doubles up as a pen carrier.

Five buttons line the top of its face: four customisable, application-specific ExpressKeys and a power/pairing button in the centre. The buttons form a neat divot that acts as a pen tray, particularly useful since the pen is almost perfectly round and has a proclivity for nib-first floor impacts (it happened once). I would have preferred a deeper pen holder but this would be the best compromise between pen security and button pressability.

The Wacom Intuos Small with Dell XPS 13 for scale. Portability? Check. Image: Ian Ling

Sleek and light, the battery-less pen is ergonomic. I’ve got small hands and it felt balanced. If you’ve got larger hands, it would fit with plenty of room to spare.

The Wacom Intuos features a new pen that operates without a battery. Three spare nibs are included in the pen itself. Image: Ian Ling

I would have prefered if the stylus sported a clip like on some Adonit styluses which prevents catastrophic pen rolls, but the superb weight in the hand more than made up for it.

The tablet itself was sufficiently heavy and rigid, and sports four grippy rubber feet to keep the surface perfectly level. Firm palm pressure could not induce flex and my erratic hand movements on my work surface did not send the tablet flying.

None of the cheap sticker business. The underside of the Wacom Intuos, showing the four rubber feet and engraved Wacom branding. Image: Ian Ling.

Set-up

Setting up the Wacom Intuos was a breeze. After connecting the tablet to our Macbook with the included USB A to Micro USB cable we installed the drivers available on the Wacom site. We then disconnected the tablet and pressed the middle power/pairing button until it blinked and paired with the laptop.

Charging and initial set-up of the tablet is done through the Micro USB port on the right side. If desired, you can thread a cord through the two holes on the left to secure your device. And yes, the Wacom Intuos as thick as most smartphones. Image: Ian Ling

The Wacom Intuos comes with a choice of two out of three software applications for the Small, and all three for the Medium. For illustrators, Corel Painter Essentials 6 (MSRP ~USD49.99). For photographers, Corel AfterShot 3 (MSRP ~USD35). For comic and manga artists, a limited-time subscription to Clip Studio Paint Pro or UDM Paint Pro (MSRP ~USD49.99).

The four ExpressKeys were fully customisable in the Wacom Tablet driver interface, along with the two buttons on the pen.

Operation

I’m no artist, but I do take photos regularly. I used it mostly for photo editing on Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

The Wacom Intuos Radial Menu at work. Menu options are entirely customisable in the Wacom Driver interface. Image: Ian Ling

It comes with a significant learning curve, especially since I have used both programmes for years with nothing but mouse clicks, keyboard shortcuts, plenty of pluck, and an endless stream of YouTube tutorials. However, the tablet comes with plenty of options for interaction that helps wean the most hardcore mouse-and-keyboard users off our button-infested workspaces. I quickly set the secondary (higher) button as the Radial Menu, and the primary (lower) one as the option to grab and move the canvas around.

If you are involved in various stages of creative production, you can choose a separate set of commands for your image editing, manipulation and drawing programmes under “Application” at the top of the interface. Image: Ian Ling

On-screen controls like the Radial Menu allow users to access a wide variety of settings without having to use the keyboard. If drawing is more your cup of tea, the Brush Tools or Photoshop Drawing on-screen control set allows you to quickly access related settings without having to take your eyes off the screen. Simply push the button on the pen you can seamlessly change brush thickness, flow, opacity and colour. You could set the primary button on the pen to alter the thickness of the brush, too.

I set the Wacom Intuos to Pen mode, which means each point on the screen is mapped to an exact point on the tablet. Mouse mode maps stylus movements to cursor location instead. You could set the tablet to only operate within the application you are running. Image: Ian Ling

With 4096 levels of pressure, the Wacom Intuos utilises a patented electromagnetic resonance technology to keep the pen battery and cord-free. I’m not an artist so I didn’t manage to experience the effect of this on brushes, but its sensitivity was appreciated when I applied brushes on some of my images.

The Pen tab on the Wacom Driver interface shows options for customisation. Image: Ian Ling

My left hand felt odd for quite a while, and I kept it on my wireless keyboard to select brushes and access shortcuts. The ExpressKeys on the Wacom Intuos tablet actually allowed me to access my most commonly used shortcuts, keeping my workspace largely empty. However, its small size meant I could keep my keyboard and mousepad adjacent for easy access.

I usually multitask with YouTube and Telegram in the background, so having a keyboard can be very helpful.

A plethora of options to customise each interface of your device. Image: Ian Ling

I tried out drawing on the bundled Corel Painter Essentials 6, but there’s a double learning curve there: I’m as unartistic as a brick, and I’ve no sense for what the different drawing tools mean.

For image editing and manipulation, however, the Wacom Intuos Bluetooth showed its true potential. A project I did that required some precision to select the model was done in record time – it was as easy as tracing around dotted lines. With minimal latency, it was easy to respond to the micro-movements I observed on the screen. Buttons on the tablet and pen were large and unmistakable and did not require me to take off my eyes from the screen at all.

With such ease in applying brushes, I felt more encouraged than ever to make finer touches to each of my images. With the ability to alter brush characteristics at my fingertips, I added more and more layers of filters to address increasingly minute issues. That’s an obsession I now hope is healthy.

Battery life is a truly astounding 15 hours. I had no way to test this as I don’t sit at my workstation for remotely as long as that length of time, and it was all-too-easy to plug it in before I left. Advertised charging time is up to 3.5 hours.

Concluding Thoughts

The Wacom Intuos Small Bluetooth (SGD155) was the perfect tool for my needs.

I’m a multitasker, which means I need to use the keyboard ever so often. As a photographer, it also means that I do not require as large and precise a surface as some of Wacom’s higher-tier products.

Its simple and very easy-to-use interface means as gentle a learning curve as possible, allowing me to easily switch settings around to find out what fits best for me. It took me about three assignments before I was comfortable with most of my basic settings. If you create on a daily basis, this is the same process as setting up your mouse as a gamer – you practice the games you usually play and you set up different profiles for each.

The build on the device surprised me. With impressive specifications for the price, such as 4,000 levels of sensitivity and 15 hours of continuous run-time, I had expected the company to hold back on the build quality. It was compact, with a good heft, little flex, and no rattling – just perfect for the mad artist. For added peace of mind, Wacom Intuos comes with a year of limited warranty in Japan, Southeast Asia, India and China/Hong Kong.

I’ve grown very accustomed to my 24-inch monitor in my workspace, but I’ve been tempted to bring the Wacom Intuos Small Bluetooth along just in case I have time to touch up some of my images.

But that’s for me. If you are a seasoned creator, who perhaps needs precision and a larger canvas to visualise your art, or perhaps are more focused than I am, the Wacom Intuos Medium might be for you (SGD299 with Bluetooth).

The Wacom Intuos Small without Bluetooth comes in at SGD110 and represents the perfect price point if you’re just starting out. However, tools are as important as the act of creation: thousand-dollar Leicas are sold on nothing more than sleek design and simplicity. If you appreciate a clean workspace, or work between different devices, or need to go mobile, the small premium is more than justified.

My short time with the Wacom Intuos tablet has been a convincing introduction to the build quality and resounding user-friendliness of their devices: the Intuos is a small investment to help make the most of your creative life. With the included software bundles, my SGD155 Wacom Intuos Small Bluetooth came with my choice of Corel Painter Essentials 6 (at an MSRP of about USD49.99/SGD67), and Corel AfterShot 3 (at an MSRP USD35/SGD47).

Ian Ling
http://uncommontragedy.com
Ian is the resident Tech Monkey and Head of Content at VR Zone. His training in Economics and Political Science is at the basis of his love for journalism and storytelling. A photographer by passion, and an audiophile by obsession, Ian is captivated by all forms of tech that makes enthusiasts tick.

One thought on “Wacom Intuos Small Bluetooth Creative Pen Tablet Review

  1. Red Dot

    Nice to read something like this. Any chance for a comparison between those touch screen laptops using a stylus vs using the Wacom? Thx.

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