n3wblog tech commentary and observations from the future

Wacom Intuos 3

Wacom Intuos 3

I’ve been an occasional user of Wacom’s Intuos 2 graphics tablets for a few years. I’ve always liked the idea of the tablet if not willing to commit to it for constant use. Last week, while I was visiting the left coast, I stopped into Fry’s and saw a Wacom Intuos 3 6×8″ tablet in an opened, slightly crumpled box for $30 off. This, I thought, was Just The Thing!

Since then I’ve been using it constantly as my Go-To mouse on my main machine. My troubles with various pointing devices have been well-documented over the years. If I were to describe myself based on how I think I must appear, I would probably call me “mercurial”. I am OK with this self-assessment. Others might not be so charitable.

But! I feel reasonably sure that my complaints were justified. The criticisms you level at a mouse are usually those annoyances you discover after using them for awhile. Take the Apple “Mighty” Mouse for example – its chief annoyances are: no real buttons, the “squeeze” button requires you to shift your whole hand. You can’t click and lift the mouse without a squeeze and some contortions. The ball doesn’t work with Windows… Logitech’s mice are decent but the drivers so flawed in OS X as to render them unusable. Also, after using the MX Revolution for a year plus, I began to find the huge lump quite uncomfortable for extended periods.

Enter the Wacom Intuos 3. The 5 button mouse is comfortable, light and the buttons are all well-placed. The scroll wheel only moves in one-axis, but the feeling is smooth and has a sort of rubbery quality. Most importantly, the positioning of the thing is very precise.

Now a word about using Wacoms as your standard mousing device: They take some getting used to. Not just because the mouse is different feeling, but because the tablet is the actual important device. That means the orientation of the tablet is important. If the angle’s wrong, you’ll find you’re mousing on a diagonal. I keep mine angled slightly so it’s perpendicular to the line of my arm when resting on it. Another point: if you slide off the sensor area as you are wont to do, your mouse stops working. You have to train yourself a little to use these things in an unretarded way. Do it wrong and you’ll look the fool! I’ve got the tracking speed boosted a bit from the default and acceleration turned up as well. This allows me to cover my screens in less space.

Those things aside, the thing works very neatly. The extra modifier buttons on the side of the tablet are more useful when using it as a pen device, though I do find myself using the touchstrips for scrolling from time-to-time. I wish they had a faster setting though. The drivers for the Wacoms have always been one of their strong points and they are no exception on this version. Virtually every function you can imagine can be mapped, remapped or configured. The pen is a device of alien origin sufficiently advanced to be considered magic. I don’t know how it works, and frankly, I don’t wanna know!


Man, I totally – and unknowingly – copied you.

How ’bout them bananas?

Posted by kev on 8 April 2008 @ 6pm

yeah, it’s kinda funny timing, for sure. I was pretty surprised to see your picture in your flickrstreem. :)

Posted by boolean on 8 April 2008 @ 7pm

I have been using an Intuos 3 and really enjoy it. It occasionally has a few problems with driver issues I’ve noticed, in Windows, but it’s let me draw very detailed illustrations which I could never do with the mouse, such as this: http://flickr.com/photos/crazygolucky/2694364171/

The 6×8 is a good size, although if I had the money to spend for a bigger one I’d get it. I used to sketch on paper but now just use the Wacom tablet to sketch out drawings before I ink them in Photoshop.

Posted by PaintSwatch256 on 24 July 2008 @ 3am

There are some odd driver issues in OS X as well, at least as of the last couple of OS updates (10.5.3 and 10.5.4). I’ve had the driver crash on me at startup a couple of times.

For my desk and the type of work I do with it (touch-ups in Photoshop and the odd bit of creative painting) the 6×8 is a great size. I’d be tempted to try the wide-aspect version though as it might map to my screen a bit better.

Very cool illustration you linked to. Thanks for the comment!

Posted by boolean on 24 July 2008 @ 12pm

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