Pros: Smooth interface; Excellent handwriting recognition; Programmable tablet buttons; Wireless mouse
Cons: User-defined pop-up menu could use better layout
Verdict: Smooth performance, excellent controls, and a natural feel make the Wacom Intuos3 a must-have accessory for editing photos and other graphics work.
Wacom's Penabled technology lets you use the digital pen and tablet as you would use paper and a traditional ink pen. The tablet has several buttons built into it that can be programmed to act as mouse buttons or behave as hot keys to launch programs. Although the default writing area is a bit on the small side, we liked the ability to expand the space by dragging one of its edges, thereby giving us greater corresponding real estate to work with on the tablet.
The Intuos3 has excellent handwriting recognition, enabling it to recognize both our print and cursive writing (which, after years of keyboard typing, isn't the best). Fortunately, it's a cinch to dispose of typos; you can circle words to delete them or flip the digital pen upside down and use the tip as an eraser. The pen also comes with three different nibs, which, combined with the 1,024 levels of sensitivity, help users achieve the perfect feel.
Windows Vista users will experience advanced functionality beyond the smooth handwriting recognition; you can use the pen to make sketches or take quick notes in Microsoft Journal, and best of all, it recognizes gestures. If you want to delete text, for example, simply execute a scratching motion. We found that the Intuos3 occasionally didn't recognize a gesture, but for the most part, the function aided in re-creating the paper-and-pen experience. Users can even add their John Hancocks to e-mails or other documents for a personal touch.
We found that navigating Web pages, along with opening and closing documents and windows, was completely natural. MacBook users take note: The Intuos3's mouse even allows you to right-click. If the pop-up menu that appears when you push a button had a better layout (it's limited to a single column of commands), it would eliminate the need for a keyboard.
In addition to basic mouse functions, the Intuos3 pen tablet offers added functionality when editing pictures. For instance, Adobe Photoshop can recognize how much pressure you're applying to both the pen and the eraser. It can also tell if you're tilting the pen for a wider stroke and can adjust the results accordingly. In Photoshop, you can use the stylus to airbrush and even set hot keys for specific tools.
Different programs offer varying degrees of stylus flexibility, but almost all are pressure-sensitive, with the major exceptions being Acrobat Professional, Internet Explorer, and Windows Explorer. And most programs let you use the stylus as an eraser. To test out all of these features, we handed the Intuos3 to our art department. They loved the pressure sensitivity when airbrushing, as well as the customizable hot keys.
Creative types looking for a silky-smooth way to manipulate photos or create new works of art will find a lot to like in the Intuos3. It has enough functionality to please both the professional and the amateur, without overwhelming one or underperforming for the other.
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