Wacom : Widescreen Tablet Review
Having recently upgraded (or sidegraded maybe) from a laptop to a desktop based system, I was looking for something other than a mouse/trackpad for ergonomic reasons.
My Powerbook had been a trusty companion on the road for 18 months clocking up 63,000km of use in hostels, river valleys and airport terminals. One thing that you do arguably sacrifice with a laptop is good posture. Laptops are balanced on knees, bent over in connecting lounges and typed on at awkward angles. A mouse was only occasionally used in these scenarios as large flat surfaces were in short supply. However after a period of use, necks will start to ache and prolonged trackpad usage will be detrimental to your wrist. So to avoid this discomfort with a desktop, I decided to start using a tablet, more specifically the Wacom Intous3 A5 Widescreen Tablet. How does it stack up against a trackpad or mouse?
The Wacom Tablet
The tablet itself is quite large as there is a large lip surrounding the A5 pen area. The pen doesn't actually need to be touching the surface to be active. (even up to 1cm above the tablet) This can be a bit disconcerting at first but it makes sense for wear and tear on the surface. The Intous package included the tablet, the pen, spare pen nibs and Painter Essentials as well as the tablet drivers. Once installed the tablet gives you any amount of options for customizing the sensitivity of the pen and tablet. One handy option is the ability to map a portion of the tablet to the whole screen. This is very useful as in reality, I rest my forearm on part of the tablet area so only 5/8 of the area is quickly accessible at any time.
The pen has a good weight and the modifier keys on the side means I don’t have to give up my right click action. The amount of "give" in the pen nib means that it feels like a sturdy fountain pen in the hand.
There is also the ability to use the Express Keys which are a set of 4 buttons on either side of the tablet. These can be configured for any keystroke or macro. I decided to map Expose actions to the right hand side as I can then use the pen freely in my left hand and rest my right hand on the buttons. There is a Touchstrip which works in the same manner as a trackpad. If you want to zoom in or out in Photoshop or increase/decrease text size, you can simply run your finger or pen along the strip.
- The tablet is highly configurable from button shortcuts to sensitivity.
- Repsonsive to subtle movements and detailed Photoshop retouching and adjustment.
- There is a good user community for questions and tips.
- The ability to jump to a position on the screen by pressing in a corner of the tablet.
- For widescreen monitors, it is a good fit for aspect ratio.
- ExpressKeys are a great timesaver for instant access to shortcuts.
- The Touch Strips are slightly jerky in usage and can be accidentally triggered.
- There is a small interruption to your workflow as you get used to using a pen but looking elsewhere to see the results.
- The size of the tablet means the keyboard can only be placed practically behind the tablet.
I'm finding after using the trackpad for a month that my productivity has increased. I would not say the tablet is for everyone as some tasks, especially gaming, are more suited to mouse use. But for those looking for a more natural input device for detailed graphic work, it comes highly recommended.