My first hand experiences with the Wacom Intuos Photo Tablet, CTH-490 is the basis for this review of the all new Wacom Intuos Creative Pen and Touch Tablet line which also include the Wacom Intuos Art, Intuos Draw, and Intuos Comic.
Wacom is the market leader in professional and entry level grade pen tablets and in my opinion the company is creating the best graphics tablets around.
Table of Contents
Impressions of the Wacom Intuos Photo Creative Pen Tablet
The new Wacom Intuos Creative Pen Tablet line is extremely practical. It is a highly portable drawing tablet and it will fit nicely into any, or at least, most laptop bags. It is even smaller than the previous Intuos Pen and Touch model.
The compact size makes it easy to use next to your laptop or keyboard and especially if you are using the tablet instead of a mouse.
The new tablet has changed surprisingly much. It is a total rebuild and has little in common with the previous Intuos Pen and Touch line.
In some areas I think the product has improved and in others not so much.
So, let´s take a closer look at the Wacom Intuos Photo Creative Pen and Touch tablet.
- The Intuos Photo tablet – CTH490
- The Wacom stylus
- 3 extra pen nibs
- USB cable
- Driver CD
- Quick start guide
Model overview and differences
At first this new Intuos Creative Pen Tablet series was quite confusing. The models are presented in a way that makes you think they are technically different from each other which is not the case, except for the following two exceptions.
- The Intuos Draw tablet is not touch capable
- The Intuos Art tablet is also available in the larger, medium version
The only difference is the color of the tablet frame and the accompanying software offerings!
The new Wacom Intuos Creative Pen Tablet product line consists of the following categories:
- Intuos Draw – CTL490
- Intuos Art – CTH490
- Intuos Photo – CTH490
- Intuos Comic – CTH490
Difficult software choice
I actually found the software choice rather difficult. Most often you end up not using the accompanying software of this kind of gadget, but in this case all the software packages are quite compelling and useful and you can´t help but want it all.
The software offerings are mostly entry level editions but very useful nonetheless.
Personally, I was seriously torn between the Intous Art and the Intuos Photo tablets, but ended up choosing the Wacom Intuos Photo tablet because I think it offers the best software deal.
Imaginary (suggested) product scenario
Due to the fact that the tablets are technically identical I think that everyone, Wacom included, would be better off with one single product available in small/medium and perhaps in 1-2 colors and then include a larger software package.
I would imagine that the saved cost from marketing one instead of four product categories would cover the cost of the extra software licenses. In my opinion this would present a stronger product.
Overview of accompanying software
ArtRage Lite: https://www.artrage.com/artrage-lite/
Corel Painter Essentials: http://www.painterartist.com/us/product/photo-effects/
PaintShop Pro X8: http://www.paintshoppro.com/en/products/paintshop-pro/standard/
Corel Aftershot Pro 2: http://www.aftershotpro.com/en/products/aftershot-pro/
Clip Studio Paint Pro: http://www.clipstudio.net/en
Smith Micro Anime Studio: http://my.smithmicro.com/anime-studio-2D-animation-software.html
The first thing to catch my attention was that the pen felt smaller and as it turns out it is indeed thinner than the previous Intuos Pen and Touch Stylus.
Another difference is the missing eraser tip on the rear end of the stylus.
Perhaps the missing eraser tip was a victim of cost optimization or perhaps it is a result of customer feedback. I have used Wacom pens for more than a decade and I can honestly say that, except for trying it out, I have no recollection of ever using this feature even once.
It is so much faster to just assign the eraser function to a hotkey and avoid having to flip the pen like in the old days of wooden eraser pencils.
Material and feel
The tablet pen is made entirely of hard plastic which feels a little cheap. But as it turns out the pen feels very good in my hand and is actually less slippery than the previous Intuos Pen and Touch pen.
The pen seems sturdy and is easy to clean due to the firm surface.
While I prefer the thicker and rubber padded tablet pens of the Intuos Pro series, this new pen is satisfactory.
▼ Comparison of Wacom pens. From the top: Intuos Pro, previous Intuos Pen and Touch, new Intuos Photo Pen and touch.
The responsiveness when using the pen in drawing and painting applications is mostly fine. However, I am experiencing some inconsistency ranging from perfect responsiveness to periodic lag.
Tablet size and resolution
As mentioned, the size of this tablet makes it extremely practical and portable. The tradeoff is that the tablet frame is too narrow for your hand to rest comfortably on the tablet itself at full resolution.
However, this issue is slightly less pronounced on this tablet because the edge is now rounder than on the previous model and you can move your hand on and off the tablet with less resistance.
Another way to fix this issue is to scale down the active tablet area which can be done very easily in the driver interface. As you can see on the image below this produces more space for your hand to rest on the tablet.
Obviously this has an impact on the resolution of the tablet, but I feel that the tablet resolution is high enough to sacrifice some of it for a more comfortable use of the tablet.
The image below is an example of resizing and repositioning of the active area▼
Pen/tablet contact resistance
The pen/tablet contact is very good indeed. In my opinion the level of resistance is perfect on my Intuos Photo tablet.
In recent years Wacom has moved towards creating a level of resistance that is supposed to simulate the sensation of pencil on paper.
Whether artists and painters have liked this direction, I can´t say. But as someone who mainly uses the Wacom as a mouse replacement and the occasional drawing and painting tasks, I am not too crazy about the increased level of pen resistance.
Also, a high resistance level wears down the pen nibs incredibly fast. Using my Intuos Pro 4 and Intuos 2 tablets as an example the Intuos 4 tablet was the first model to use this new level of resistance and I can tell the wear on a new pen nib after even a few hours use.
With my older Intuos 2 tablet I swear I can´t tell that the nib has been used after using the tablet on and off for several years.
Pen distance tolerance
This is the distance that you can lift the pen from the tablet surface before it loses the connection and this distance has decreased on this new model.
If you are new to using a pen tablet you are probably wondering why that would be important. This is in fact an extremely important aspect for the following reasons:
- You don´t want to have to be mindful about losing pen contact when you move the pen around quickly.
- In many applications you can perform certain functions by using the mouse combined with the press of a button. When using a pen tablet this is achieved by lifting the pen from the surface while pressing the pen buttons. If the pen distance tolerance is too small you will constantly loose connection to the tablet.
While my Intuos Photo tablet offers an acceptable freedom of pen movement, I wonder why Wacom has chosen to turn the distance tolerance down that much.
As you can see below the difference is significant and quite noticeable. (Approximate measurements).
- Intuos Pen and Touch tablet 18 mm
- Intuos Creative Pen and Touch tablet 12 mm
As mentioned, not much from the predecessor has made its way into the new Intuos Creative Pen Tablet line and the tablet buttons are no exception.
The tablet buttons are programmable and can be assigned with frequently used operating system or application functions.
Personally I never use the buttons but they work well and they are extremely easy to set up in the tablet driver.
The buttons are lowered slightly into the tablet frame and positioned at a 45 degree angle towards your free hand which is great from an ergonomic point of view.
However, the buttons are not as easy to find without looking down as on the previous Intous Pen and Touch tablet where the buttons had a small hard tip in the plastic that worked much like the dent on the f and j keys on computer keyboards.
While I suppose this could be an issue with my particular tablet, the touch function does not work as well as on the previous Intous Pen and Touch tablet. I am experiencing a small amount of lag when I move my finger in another direction. I have tried the latest and older drivers but the issue remains.
The touch feature works well with broad moves, pinch zoom and two fingers scrolling, but when you need more precise control the lag becomes an issue.
This issue is rather odd since the tablet is perfectly responsive when I use the pen and on the predecessor the touch feature works perfectly.
I hope Wacom will be able to fix this in the driver.
Some tablets tend to scratch more easily than others and quickly end up looking worn and dirty. I am experiencing this to a certain degree on the previous silver colored Intuos Pen and Touch tablet, but this new black surface feels much more durable and I imagine it will look nice and clean for a long time.
All the Intuos Creative Pen and Touch models can be expanded to include Wi-Fi and wireless operation and the expansion pack costs $39,95 (At the time of writing).
The expansion includes:
- Wireless module
- Wireless receiver
The wireless module and the battery of course, go into the tablet. The Wireless receiver goes into your computer. When the latter is not in use it can be stored in a small compartment, conveniently integrated in the rear edge of the tablet.
Please note the explanatory text that is molded into the plastic describing where the different parts belong under the cover. Very cleverly done!
Did I mention the dark horse?
(All prices are subject to change)
If you decide that you want to upgrade to wireless, please keep in mind that you are then shrinking the price difference to the Wacom Intuos Pro Small tablet to approx. $90!
The Intuos Pro Small is a full step up to a professional grade Wacom tablet and Wi-Fi is included in the price. By all means, this is also a larger and indeed a more expensive tablet.
This option becomes especially interesting in the case of the medium sized Intuos Art tablet which is priced at 199 dollar plus 39 dollar for the wireless kit. This combination actually costs $10 MORE than the professional grade Wacom Intuos Pro Pen and Touch Small Tablet (PTH451) where Wi-Fi is included in the price of $229!!!
Related article: Detailed Wacom Intuos Pro Small Review PTH-451
As I mentioned in my previous Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch Small Tablet Review, the Intuos Medium product fells oddly out of place and does not make much sense to me unless you choose it for the design or the fact that it is physically smaller and lighter.
The rear compartment is a little difficult to open which seems unnecessary since this worked perfectly on the previous Intuos Pen and Touch tablet. The roughly dotted fingerprint areas offered easy access and this change feels like a downgrade of the build quality of the tablet.
However, this is not a deal breaker for me since I will not be using the Wi-Fi expansion and the nibs rarely need changing. The Wi-Fi battery is charged by the USB connection while remaining in the tablet, so you will probably not need to access this after installing the pack.
As such I feel this change is an odd decision but of little importance to your daily appreciation and use of the tablet.
Rear panel features
On the rear tablet edge you have a number of functions. From the left you have:
- Anti-theft attachment.
- On/off switch for the touch feature
- Pen transportation strip
- Wireless module compartment
- Wireless receiver safekeeping compartment
- USB connection
The highly customizable tablet driver has turned into the aptly named Wacom Desktop Center. This is where you can change the settings of every single part of the tablet and stylus as well as watch tutorials and follow Wacom in other ways. The options in here can keep you entertained for hours. I am always amazed at the freedom you enjoy when customizing Wacom products.
However, the primary purpose is obviously the settings for the tablet behavior and the assignment of functions to the tablet and pen buttons.
As mentioned earlier this is where you can choose to reduce the size of the active area on the tablet and move it to the side to make more room for your hand.
Wacom creative pen tablet as a mouse replacement
On more occasions I have argued for the use of a pen tablet as a mouse replacement at work or in your home office. I will do so again and recommend that you try using a Wacom Tablet if you are struggling with RSI issues.
In my article “Drawing Tablet – a Perfect Ergonomic Mouse Replacement” I started recommending this before I had tested a touch device for my PC. Since I have experienced this feature on the Intuos Pen and Touch I have become a huge fan of having a touch input device ready on my desktop at all times.
When I feel my arm or shoulder tightening up I just let go of the mouse and use one of my Wacom tablets with the pen or the touch function to relax for a while and it works every time.
With the predecessor, Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch Small in mind, some aspects of the new Intuos Creative Pen Tablet line is a step forward but I have indicated certain areas where I think the new Intuos line has suffered to certain degree.
I was disappointed to experience a degraded touch experience but I hope that this issue is fixable by a driver update.
This new Wacom Intuos line is still a well-rounded entry-level product that deserves your attention when shopping for your first pen tablet.
If you need a pen tablet for more heavy lifting though, I recommend taking a closer look at the Wacom Intuos Pro Small despite that it´s bigger and more expensive. When I connect my Wacom Intuos Pro 4 tablet I am experiencing a whole other level of quality.
- High quality materials
- Good price/performance relationship
- Highly useful accompanying software offerings
- Perfect pen/table resistance
- Wi-Fi expandable
- Customizable tablet and pen buttons
- Very advanced and user friendly driver interface
- All USB powered. No batteries needed
- The touch feature has suffered a bit on this release
- Rear compartment is difficult to open
- Pen/tablet distance tolerance could be better
- Occational lag
- Tablet buttons could be better marked for easier use without looking down