Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, July 2006
Manufactured by: Wacom Europe, Wacom USA
Requires: For PC—Windows 98SE/ME/2000 and XP; for Apple—MacOS X 10.2.6 or later; all platforms require a CD-ROM drive and available active USB port
MSRP: US$369.95, UK £297.00, EUR429,00
(Ed. Note: Digital Imaging & Graphics Products Editor Mario Georgiou is based in London, England, so from time to time we review the UK/European versions of some products. This Wacom tablet is marketed in North America as the Intuos3 6x11 model).
For many designers and artists, the advent of the graphics tablet provided an almost natural way for them to work with computers. Tablets were wonderful until recently, when wide aspect/wide screen monitors came along. Using a wide screen monitors with any of the standard tablets has proven to be a real pain and seeing that more and more designers are using wide aspect monitors or even multiple monitors for work, it seems that it would be only natural for someone to address the problem.
Along comes Wacom, who have been in the graphics tablet business for a long time, and who are wonderfully innovative in their product design. The announcement of the Intuos A5 Wide met with a lot of interest amongst my creative colleagues. I heard "Wow", "Cool" and "It's about time" repeated quite often. Before I tell you about my experiences, let me first state that I've never really been comfortable with graphics tablets. I'm still not entirely convinced that they're as intuitive as drawing on paper. The basic idea of looking at a vertically oriented monitor and drawing on a separate horizontally oriented graphics tablet surface annoys me (although not as much as trying to do the same thing with a mouse).
So how does the Intuos3 A5 Wide stack up? First, it is big—about twice the size I expected—so having one of those wide aspect monitors with space under it is going to be a necessity. Next, it's really well designed and put together. I love the new stylus design too. Last but not least, it’s really easy to set up and use. My installation took less than a couple of minutes as all the drivers were provided on CD and the USB interface made it a painless exercise.
The Intuos3 A5 Wide is bundled with Corel Painter Essentials, which is a super-light version of Painter. I didn't bother installing it as I have Photoshop CS2 and Painter IX.5 which both work extremely well with the unit.
It took a few sessions to get to grips with the tablet and familiar with its usage and learning how to work with the Custom ExpressKeys and Touch Strip. I decided that using the tablet would have been even better had I also received the excellent Intuos3 Mouse for review. The mouse is in fact included with the standard A5 model and I strongly suggest to Wacom that future A5 Wide packages should also include a mouse.
The working area of the tablet is approximately 6" x 11" (15cm x 28cm), which makes it the perfect size for drawing and mousing around. The whole experience of using this tablet and the pen is something that any creative will appreciate. It is as close as you can get to a natural interface without spending thousands on one of its bigger brothers such as a Cintiq. Support for this excellent product is also good, with updated drivers, FAQs and help available via phone, email and online forums.
The Use It section on the Wacom web site features some great online demos, tips, techniques (which are well worth investigating) and downloads which cover usage and ergonomics. Apropos of nothing at all, I wonder if Wacom is going to partner its technology with one of the Tablet PC makers?
In the UK and the rest of Europe, Wacom has doubled the product support period via the commercial Intuos3 CarePack. This means you can obtain a total of four years of support and warranty coverage if you purchase the Intuos3 CarePack. The additional two years of coverage costs a total of UK£64.99/€499,99 and it's well worth the investment if you are a professional user. Unfortunately, the CarePack does not appear to be available in North America.
Cons: Still not as natural as using a sketchbook. No mouse provided.
Pros: Easy to set up and use. Excellent Custom ExpressKeys feature. Support for multiple operating systems. Superb design and finish. As any good creative will tell you, the tool is only as good as the talent. This tablet more than fills a hole in the market which needed to be addressed. The attention to detail which Wacom has put into this product is evident in every part and in the smooth and effortless functionality. I really enjoyed using the A5 Wide. Experiencing the Intuos3 A5 Wide has been exciting and now I can't wait to get my hands on a Wacom Cintiq interactive pen display for review. I highly recommend the Wacom Intuos3 6x11/A5 Wide for any creative who prefers a pen to a mouse.
This review has been reproduced in its entirety from Kickstartnews.com