In-depth review of the Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch small tablet – Model CTH-480/S

Being a long time user of Wacom tablets, I have been curious to experience the Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch Tablet CTH-480 in action for a long time.

My immediate impression of the Intuos Pen and Touch small tablet is that we are dealing with yet another well build Wacom product. It looks great and it certainly feels like a high quality product despite the reasonable price tag. The mat silver and black finish will fit into any office environment.

Wacom is the undisputed marked leader on the pen tablet marked and even more so in the graphics industry where the name Wacom is synonymous with a pen tablet.

The new naming strategy from Wacom is somewhat confusing though. To me, as someone who has used the Intuos series for 12 years both professionally and personally, the Intuos brand used to be reserved for the professional grade Wacom tablet series.

The product space that the Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch series now occupy, used to be called Wacom Bamboo which is now the name for the smaller navigation segment series.

Related Article: Wacom Intuos Photo Creative Pen Tablet Review

Main Features

The Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch Tablet series offers an impressive collection of features:

  • Wireless capable (extra)
  • Touch function
  • Pressure sensitivity
  • Customizable stylus and tablet buttons

What’s in the box

  • Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch tablet
  • Pen/stylus
  • Usb cable
  • Black set of pen strap and rubber ring
  • Quick start guide
  • Driver cd (get the latest version online)

What is in the box

Connectivity

The Wacom tablet connects with a USB Micro-B cable connection or wirelessly (extra). The cable port sits in a rather deep socket (8.5mm) which prevents the USB port from getting wobbly with time by supporting the connector.

USB cable

The cable is of a somewhat inferior quality. The cable is thin, quite stiff and only 98 cm long. The tablet end of the cable is bend at 90 degrees and points to the left. This is very practical if you use the tablet in front of your laptop or keyboard.

If you use it to the right of the keyboard it does get in the way a little, but you can easily replace the cable with a type that fits your needs. I tested two different Micro-B cables and they fit into the deep socket quite snugly.

The Intuos Pen and Touch tablet itself

Wacom Intuos Pen & Touch Presentation

Materials

  • The back and main frame is brushed aluminum painted lookalike.
  • So is the active pen area. I wonder how much this mat silvery surface will scratch over time.
  • All black parts are plastic as well.
  • 4 rubber feet ensures a good grip on the table.

Functions

  • 4 customizable tablet buttons
  • Touch function on/off slider button
  • Pen nib exchange tool embedded in the nib holder compartment

Tablet size considerations

First of all, the size of this tablet is extremely practical and finding a spot for it on you desk is pretty easy. Also, if you are a tablet user and you travel a lot, there is no beating this tablet.

Hand rest

Nevertheless, the convenient size of the Intuos Pen and Touch Small is also the Achilles heel of this otherwise cool tablet.

As such, if you have hands that are larger than average, using the whole active area is tricky. Luckily the Wacom driver is customizable and you can give your hand some extra resting space by reducing the active area and move it around.

In my case, the frame is just too narrow at full resolution and my hand keeps slipping over the edge.

Below you can see how I have re-arranged the active area layout to give myself more space on the frame to rest my hand.

Adjustment of active area

Active area adjustment

Large hands = Small resolution

The reduction and relocation of the active pen area certainly helps. However, the tradeoff is that I need to reduce the size of the active area to 60% of the full size. That is borderline too much tablet space to give up.

While the tablet still works well, the result is that you need to cover more monitor distance with smaller pen movements.

  1. From the artists point of view this will reduce the range of movement when drawing and painting.
  2. From an ergonomic point of view this can lead to a more tense grip and the risk of hand and shoulder strain.

Tablet compartments

As the photo below shows you, the tablet has four compartments on the back of the tablet.

Compartments for wireless and battery

From image left:

  1. Battery compartment.
  2. Nib holder with three extra pen nibs. Nib exchange tool and the fixture of the replaceable pen strap.
  3. Bluetooth/wireless transmitter
  4. Storage compartment for the wireless receiver (How clever is that!?)

Wacom pen/stylus

The pen feels like good quality and it functions perfectly. However, I am experiencing a couple of issues:

  1. As someone with hand size plus, the pen does feel a bit thin. This may be due to my extensive experience with the Intuos Pro class pens that are significantly beefier.
  2. My hand tends to slide towards the tip of the pen and I find myself adjusting my grip quite frequently. The reason is that the front part of the pen is hard plastic with a mat surface and not rubber like on the Intuos Pro pens.

The pen is equipped with an eraser in the other end.

Touch

Touch can be turned on and off in the driver settings or with the small slider button on the back of the tablet frame.

Touch on/off switch

At first the touch feature felt a little gimmicky to me and I asked myself why and whether I would ever use this feature. But as it turns out, I am loving it.

I am all for variation in the battle against RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome. Using a pen tablet is a great mouse replacement even without the touch function and with the touch feature you are adding yet another, rather relaxing, variation to your workflow.

Touch interaction

Pinch zoom

The pinch zoom does not work well with all tested programs, but when it does, it works well. For instance, it works brilliantly with web browsers and Microsoft Office products.

Two finger scroll

The equivalent to the mouse wheel is holding down two fingers while moving them up and down. This is incredibly comfortable.

Rotate

Hold down two fingers and rotate.

Touch interaction gestures

Image borrowed from the Wacom website

Drawing

While this is not a professional grade tablet, it surely has big brother envy and it does a remarkable job of pretending to be a high end product that will satisfy any aspiring artist.

Resolution and pressure sensitivity

My drawing and painting tests worked out very well. With a full size active area the resolution is more than adequate and even with my active area reduced to 60% horizontally, I feel no need for more room to make larger strokes.

The pressure sensitivity works like a charm and can be adjusted in the driver.

“Draw on paper” simulating friction

In recent years Wacom has changed the pen/tablet friction in order to simulate drawing or painting on paper. I like the contact feel that the Intuos Pen and Touch tablet offers. You get some resistance, but not too much. I actually prefer this to the Pro series that have become bit too coarse in my opinion. I would like to see a product that mixes the active area resistance from the Wacom Intuos 3 with the frame of the Wacom Intuos 4 and up. (Just a small request to Wacom).

Freedom of movement

I have tried other products where you are very restricted when it comes to how much you can lift the pen from the tablet, which is amazingly annoying when you try to work fast.

With the Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch you can lift the pen 15 millimeters before the contact is lost. This is plenty in order to move the pointer comfortably without loosing pen/tablet connection until you are done working.

I have tried competing products where this distance was something like 5-7 millimeters and the connection was lost all the time when it was not supposed to.

Software included

The Wacom tablet driver is included in the package on CD-Rom, but since bundled drivers are mostly too old you should go get the latest driver on the Wacom website. Windows 7 or 8 will probably even get the driver for you when you connect the Wacom tablet.

The driver is very easy to use and setup. It´s too much to cover its features in this article but below you can have a quick look at what awaits you.

Wacom tablet driver screenshot

Once you register your new tablet the included download code gives you access to:

These programs are available with a EU purchase. My research tells me that the selection of bundled software may vary depending on your location.

Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch Small as mouse replacement

If you are interested, I recently wrote a full article on this topic:

Drawing Tablet – A Perfect Ergonomic Mouse Alternative?

As a new way to incorporate tool variation as RSI prevention, the Intuos Pen and Touch small tablet is close to perfect despite the mentioned shortcomings.

Having a touch gadget connected to my workstation is new for me and it is simply amazingly comfortable to be able to just throw your hand onto the tablet without having to grab any tools when you quickly need to point or scroll while writing.

Main specs

  • Resolution – 2540 lpi
  • Active area 152 x 95 mm
    6 x 3.7 in
  • System requirements:
    Windows 8, Windows®7 SP1 or Windows® Vista SP2
    Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later (Intel® processor)

Which size tablet to get – Small or medium?

If you decide that the Wacom Intuos Pen & Touch small CTH-480 is indeed too small, then your choice is not as straight forward as to just go out and get the Intuos Pen and Touch Medium!

Watch out for the dark horse ► Wacom Intuos Pro Small

I am not trying to get you to go over budget, but the Intuos Pen and Touch Medium and the Wacom Intuos Pro Small are simply too close from a price perspective to not consider this option.

The Wacom Intuos Pro Small also offers touch functionality and you get so much more if you decide to go pro, such as:

  • Professional grade pen tablet
  • Wireless connectivity is included
  • Unparalleled overall quality
  • Double resolution and pressure sensitivity
  • Tilt sensitivity
  • Room for you hand to rest on the frame with full resolution
  • Better pen/stylus with rubber grip
  • Stylus table stand

This is simply a full step up in class. Besides, if you know that you want wireless capability, the choice is even more straight forward as the price is now just about the same!

Related article: Detailed Wacom Intuos Pro Small Review PTH-451

The downside is that things start to get bigger and the Intuos Pro Small tablet is 45 mm longer than the Intuos Pen and Touch Medium yet slightly narrower.

In my opinion the Intous Pen & Touch Medium is just too expensive and a borderline superfluous product. Sorry Wacom!

Perhaps this comparison lineup can help you decide ▼

Wacom Intuos size comparison chart

Conclusion

I must say that I have totally embraced the use of a workstation touch device. It is a practical, convenient and ergonomically terrific addition to the every day work with computers.

If you have larger than average hands, my advice is to try the tablet before buying one, or at least make your purchase where they have a flexible return policy, such as Amazon. Children, teenagers and adults with small hands will be well served with the Intuos Pen and Touch small tablet.

I believe that you can make a good decision between the Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch Small or a larger tablet based on a consideration of your:

  • Need for portability
  • Need for more advanced drawing and painting capabilities
  • Available desk space
  • Hand size
  • Budget

Pros

  • High quality overall feel
  • Good mouse replacement
  • Great touch function
  • Wireless expansion option
  • Good pen/tablet contact resistance
  • Affordable
  • Very portable

Cons

  • Narrow frame. Difficult to rest your hand on the tablet when using full tablet resolution
  • The tablet quickly feels a little small when you reduce the active area
  • The pen could easily be a bit thicker and a rubber grip would be a great addition
  • Too short and inferior quality USB cable (98cm)
  • I have missed a pen holder like the one that comes with the pro series.