This was originally written and published for Photofocus. The article is republished here with search engines blocked and canonical set to the original published article. It is here for archival purposes and so my community can find it too.

My first reaction to the Wacom One Creative Pen Display is that it’s compact, but likely more suited for digital artists, like painters and whatnot, rather than photographers.

Its textured screen is in high definition, but a small screen could be better suited for fine details. The textured screen would make for a more natural paper feel.

In this article, and in the video included below, I want to share with you my organic reactions to using this tablet.

Before we dive in, I have to admit that the only first-hand experience I have had with Wacom products has been the Intuos tablets. I have used them for years, not only for editing but also as a mouse. I find using a pen far more natural than your typical computer mouse. So while I have tinkered with the Cintiq line of displays from Wacom, at trade shows, I’ve never owned one before.

The timing for this was perfect because my Intuos 5 Large is on its last legs, so my look at the Wacom One is from the point of view as a daily use tablet. I received the Wacom one from Wacom for review.

Some of the questions I asked myself before even opening the box are:

  • Is the screen too small?
  • Does it work well as a second or third monitor?
  • Will it slow down my computer?
  • Can it be used like an Intuos, without the screen?

Pros of the Wacom One Creative Pen Display

To kick things off with what I found really nice about the Wacom One is how small it is for something so powerful. Typically when it comes to Wacom display products, you’re looking at a large device that takes up a lot of desk real estate.

However, this one is small. The size of a compact 15-inch computer with, but with a 13-inch display. I say that because while the screen is small, there is a decent size bezel surrounding it.

The Wacom One has a built-in legs, which is amazing. They fold away to make for a flat tablet or open up for when you’re drawing directly on it.

Speaking of tablet versus display. The Wacom One has a multiple port cable system. On the computer side, it plugs in with USB 2.0 and HDMI. When HDMI is plugged in, you’re using the product as a screen. But when you only have the USB cable plugged in, you’re using the product like an Intuos tablet. That was a pleasant surprise when I discovered that feature.

When using it as just a tablet, the digital screen actually does not go on, and the device stays cool the entire time. I had it running for 72 hours straight and every time I touched it, it was cool.

Going back to the legs — I am digging how they hid the three extra nibs and the nib removal tool. It’s literally tucked behind one of the legs. So you’re never without backups!

I am digging how they hid the three extra nibs and the nib removal tool. It’s literally tucked behind one of the legs. So you’re never without backups!

Cons of the Wacom One Creative Pen Display

With anything in life, there are trade-offs. So I want to share what I think are the cons of the Wacom One. Keeping mind, that some of what you will read is my comparison to the Intuos 5 Large and previous Intuos products that I am so used to.

Although this is not a deal-breaker, I am used to the Wacom pens having two buttons, ergonomically placed for quick access. The up/down toggle has been useful for many years. I go to the extent where I program the two buttons for specific tasks in various software. That means in Photoshop the “up” would do something that would be different from in Lightroom.

The pen that comes with the Wacom One has one button, and it’s an “up” button only. I feel like it’s placed a little higher than in other Wacom pens. So it’s hard to reach naturally, without a shift up with fingers. In fact, It’s so high up I can’t use my thumb. I have to use my pointer, after adjusting my grip. I don’t mind the single button, but I wish that it was a “down” button as a single button instead. That would be more natural of a feel. Like before, though, that button can be programmed per application.

Speaking of the pen — the Wacom One did not come with a pen stand, which means that when not using the pen you either place it down on the desk or slide it into the sleeve attached to the device. Putting it the sleeve obviously holds it nicely, but it’s not as quick as a pen stand when trying to put it down then pick it up fast. I wouldn’t mind if Wacom sold a $5-$10 pen stand for the pen. But I feel like they should have thrown something into the box.

A Practical Wacom One Creative Pen Display Review

When using the Wacom One as a display, I believe it works best in mirror mode. That means that whatever is on your computer’s screen, will also be on the tablet. This makes for easier editing in my opinion. If using it as a second, or third, monitor then you’re forced to drag windows or floating elements from one screen to the other. That can get annoying fast.

As I said earlier, I have not used the Cintiq line much in the past. So I cannot compare it to that. However, I can physically see space between where the pen’s nib touches the glass and where the digital screen is. It makes for a someone awkward editing experience. But it does not ruin the experience. I think for the price point, this is an acceptable design flaw.

Speaking of the pen and display — there is also a slight lag between pen movements and cursor movements. Now, this could be because my laptop is a MacBook Pro from 2013. While it does have the top of the line processor, GPU and memory at the time, it’s outdated at this point. However, from what I have heard from others testing this product and even other newer Wacom products, this might be a driver issue or something. I can say that with the device plugged in with either just USB or with HDMI, my computer fan runs more often than with my Intuos plugged in.

The Wacom One is not wireless, but that does not bother me at all. My Intuos 5 has a wireless module that never worked. I think Wacom switched to Bluetooth after my model, but the Wacom One is still wired. I understand why — it’s a display. So I’ll just move on.

Comparing Apples to Oranges

I think I would take a moment to share the differences in specs between my Intuos 5 Large and the Wacom One. Why? Because the Wacom One is my new editing device, so I feel it’s worth sharing.

Intuos 5 Touch Large

  • Pen Active Area: 12.8 x 8.0″ (32.5 x 20.3cm)
  • Touch Active Area: 11.8 x 7.5″ (29.9 x 19.0cm)
  • Pressure Levels 2048
  • Tilt Range ±60°
  • Tablet Dimensions 19.18 x 12.51 x 0.47″ (48.7 x 31.8 x 1.2cm)
  • Weight 3.97 lb (1.8 kg)
The Intuos Pro 5, my current pen display.

Wacom One Creative Pen Display

  • Active Area 11.6 x 6.5″ / 294.64 x 165.10 mm
  • Pressure Levels 4096
  • Tilt Range ±60°
  • Dimensions (W x H x D) 8.9 x 14.1 x 0.6″ / 226.06 x 358.14 x 15.24 mm
  • Weight 2.2 lb / 1 kg

As you can see, not only is the product smaller in physical size, the screen of the Wacom One is smaller than the drawing area of the Intuos 5 Large. Additionally, the weight is almost half even with its digital screen. Finally, the pressure levels actually doubled. So while a pressure level of 2048 is more than enough to feel natural, the new device is even better. That’s impressive!

wacom one as tablet

Final thoughts

At first, I was skeptical that Wacom One would be a good daily use replacement of my Intuos 5. Mainly because it is a display tablet.

However, with my surprise that it works without the screen, as a standard Wacom tablet, I can say for sure it can be a daily use product for any photographer. That said, I cannot make the switch just yet only because of how much a resource drain it is on my machine. But I will make the switch for daily use if:

  1. Wacom gets the hefty resource usage resolved
  2. The lag delay is resolved
  3. I upgrade my computer to a newer model

Until then, I will be using this for detailed edits, using the screen.

If you’re interested in the Wacom One, it retails for $399.95.

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