When a new Wacom tablet model comes out, it always raises the same questions from both new and old users: Do I need the newest tablet? Which size should I get? How much better is it than the previous one? Will it make me a better designer? Will it make me coffee?
While I can t speak to what it will do for you as a designer, I can address some of these other burning questions some users have. There will always be people that will try to sell you a tablet on the fantasy that it will automatically make you a better designer. This is like saying that buying the best DSLR camera will make you a better photographer. It just won t happen. So don t go and buy the biggest, flashiest tablet available. Be smart about it. This is a device you re going to interact with every day, so you want to be sure you re getting the one that will be the most comfortable both mentally and physically.
My first tablet was an Intuos3 4x5, which I bought almost ten years ago. My decision to get a tablet stemmed from my art school background. Having learned with traditional tools, such as colored pencils and paintbrushes, I felt incredibly limited in Photoshop using just a mouse. I needed more control. I discovered that not only did the Wacom tablet allow me the feel of a traditional handheld tool, but it also responded to how hard I pressed the pen to the tablet. This was huge! I was hooked.
But it didn t stop with Photoshop. Since then, I have been using a tablet instead of a mouse for everything: Web browsing, email, media control, and social networking. All of these things can be done with your tablet and pen, and now with the new Intuos5 line having integrated touch features, it s that much easier.
The first thing is size. I can only tell you why I like the size I use and then leave it to you to decide. Consider where you re going to use your tablet. Is it going to be a permanent fixture on your desk at work or at home, or will you be mobile with it? I use the small tablet for the ease of mobility. I travel some, so I often use a laptop, and the small Wacom tablet is easy to use with the laptop. Another thing to consider is how much desk real estate you have. We tend to let our work areas get pretty cluttered, which sometimes doesn t leave room for anything very large.
The next thing to consider is how you work. I like the small tablet because I don t like to use big arm gestures when I m working. The small tablet allows me to pivot on my wrist and cover the entire screen with small movements. If you find that you like a larger tablet area, then I would suggest the medium. The large model is pretty big, so I would only use that one if you have a permanent place to put it. Traveling around with that thing could be a nightmare!
Beyond size, the core features are all the same for all sizes: pressure-sensitivity, touch, ExpressKeys, Touch Ring, and wireless capability. A quick word on wireless: All three sizes of the Intuos5 line are wireless capable. The wireless kit is available as a separate purchase for around $40. This is a really handy feature if you re mobile a lot but not necessary if your tablet is always at your workstation where you can just plug it in.