Wacom Intuos 3 test and review

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Wacom Intuos 3

Wacom's graphics tablets have found a home in many video editors toolkits since they started coming available so cheaply, but do higher-spec'd models merit attention? The Intuos 3 range boasts increased sensitivity and a programmable keyset. We take a look at the A4 version

The appeal of graphics pads that enable direct input with a stylus is clear when they cost less than £50 - as was the case with the Volito when we looked at the A6 version. The last Wacom package to grab our attention was the A5-sized Graphire 3 Studio XL - which was made even more attractive by the inclusion of Pinnacle's Studio editing program and Adobe's Photoshop Elements image manipulation software, although it carried a weightier price-tag of £180. The Intuos 3 range is equipped with new features in the shape of ExpressKeys and Touch Strips, and comes bundled with Corel Painter Essentials 2, but the price for the A4 version we're looking at here is significantly higher, at £345.
The problem with Wacom's lower-priced pads is that they're small - the Volito had an active area of just 127mm x 101mm. To get the most out of the stylus way of working requires something more like the size of the screen you're working on, and if that happens to be anything larger than a 17in screen, it comes at a price.
Another problem with graphics pads is that they don't replace a mouse and keyboard - you still need keystrokes for typing in text, and normal pointing and clicking is best served with a mouse. Wacom had previously worked out how to get round one of these issues by designing a mouse that works on the pad in much the same way as the pen, but the addition of ExpressKeys and Touch Strips to the Intuos range is meant to help reduce the reliance on a keyboard when working with media applications.
To find out how useful the new set-up would be to a video editor, we decided to test this working environment in four media applications we think video editors are likely to want to use with the pad - Adobe Premiere, Adobe Photoshop, Steinberg WaveLab and Ulead Cool 3D Studio.

For many programs, Wacom's inclusion of ExpressKeys and Touch Strips makes a huge improvement on past functionality, and increases the range of applications that a pad might be useful for. The ability to generate hand-drawn imagery on-screen without the need of a scanner is a major attraction for graphic artists and illustrators, but for video editors, the Intuos 3 range offers much more than previous and lower-priced ranges such as the Graphire models, though the asking price for the A4 version is steep.
There is an A6 version in the Intuos 3 range available for around £153 inc VAT, and an A5 version for £235, so perhaps one of these would be more appropriate for those intending using a pad less frequently. There's also the issue of desk space to consider, as most workstations with hefty CRT displays or dual monitor set-ups may already be short of spare surfaces.

Hugo Frazer

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Reviewed in this issue:

Panasonic NV-GS400B
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Pinnacle Liquid Edition 6 Pro
Windows analogue and digital video editing software, £600

Pinnacle Studio Plus 9
DV editing software for Windows, £60

Sony DCR-HC1000
Three-CCD consumer camcorder, £989

Wacom Intuos 3
A4 graphic input device with pen and mouse, £345

In February's news:

HD-compatible Canopus Edius Pro 3;
Ulead cut-price DVD Workshop options;
Acronis Windows disk imaging software, True Image 8;
Mediachance's no-nonsense DVD authoring with DVD-lab Pro;
Cut-price HD-compatible hardware/software Edius bundle from Canopus;
Apple Motion training with Motion PowerStart;
Video Forum 2005 preview; multi-format optical disc recorder with 160GByte HDD from LiteOn;
V7 of 3ds max from Discreet; enhanced video editing, authoring, streaming and digital imaging with Nero Reloaded

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