When I was given the opportunity to review the new Wacom One creative pen display tablet (not to be confused with the earlier One by Wacom, which has no display), I was intrigued. The Wacom One is a tablet with a 13.3” display and it has most of the pen input functions you would expect from a Wacom device, just slimmed down so as not to compete with their higher-end products.
I have used both the Wacom Cintiq and Intuos in the past. In my experience, the Intuos has an inherent learning or adjustment curve because the point where you control the cursor is detached from the screen. While we are all used to doing this with a mouse, somehow it takes some getting used to on a tablet. Conversely, on the Cintiq, you don’t have that learning curve because the cursor follows the stylus on the screen. So, I have always preferred the Cintiq, but the cost has been prohibitive unless it is something you use daily in your profession. The One, however, is somewhat of a hybrid. It comes in at a price point not much higher than an Intuos but includes a screen. Obviously, there are some compromises. The screen isn’t super bright and only has a 1080p resolution. Additionally, there is no touch or gesture control, and the stylus has only one button.
I’ll be honest that at first glance, I was a bit disappointed with the screen and thought the lack of touch or gesture control was a mistake. I also didn’t like the look of the color on the monitor, with the yellows going really green and the reds subdued. But having bought an X-Rite (now Calibrite) i1Display Pro calibration tool to match my monitors, I thought that this was a perfect use case. After running the calibration, I found the display to be passable. I talked to Wacom about this and even sent them my calibrated profiles. With the most recent upgrade, they seem to have taken this concern to heart, and not only fixed the colors but added additional adjustment controls for different preferences or lighting situations. I appreciate Wacom’s willingness to take feedback and improve their product. At this point, the screen color is no longer an issue.
In order to get around the lack of gesture control, which I needed for orienting the canvas to my changing needs, as well as add the shortcut functionality I am used to on my Intuos, I asked Wacom to send me the ExpressKey Remote. This added even more assignable button controls and rotation options than are built into the Intuos tablet, plus the advantage of being wireless.
The reason these control buttons are essential is that often you use the tablet in place of a keyboard, so you need to be able to do things like change brush size or rotate the canvas. Some of these actions would be possible with gesture and pinch controls, but since this tablet doesn’t have those controls, any serious artistic work would likely necessitate the ExpressKey Remote.
I have used the Wacom One for a variety of applications in addition to its intended purpose. I have primarily used it is a second portable monitor for my Surface Book, and I have also used it as a discrete monitor lying flat on my desk while filming videos. When used as a secondary monitor, it needs to be propped upright, so I designed and 3D printed a stand that works great for that application.
If you have ever used a Cintiq, it works just the same. While you are limited by the single button, this can be supplemented by hotkeys on the remote. Importantly, the price is very affordable. It plugs in using a USB-C cable that breaks out to an HDMI and two USB plugs, one for power and one for data. You can plug both off of a computer if it provides enough power via USB. With desktops this isn’t usually a problem, but if running off of a notebook computer you may need to power from the included power adapter or a power bank.
It is also possible to use the One with some Android devices, which I would have tested, but I did not have a compatible device.
In actual practice, I like the feel of the Wacom One. It is lightweight, ergonomic, and the stylus has enough drag across the matte screen that it has some of the sense of drawing on paper. The one-inch bevels on the sides with slightly more on the bottom make it very easy to do detailed work on the edges of the screen, which is nice. There is also a built-in cloth loop for holding the stylus, so it doesn’t get lost.
The Wacom One is definitely something I use on a daily basis, and I could use another on my main editing machine. The time it has saved me drawing masks has made it very valuable, and I have found myself in situations where I was kicking myself for not bringing it with me when traveling. I now consider it an essential tool in my arsenal.
Since you can now get the Wacom One with ExpressKey Remote for under $500, it’s definitely something to consider. Any tool that can significantly speed up your productivity and potentially preserve your sanity when doing time-consuming tasks, like drawing masks or rotoscoping, can pay for itself in time saved in one or two projects.
With the caveats of the just “okay” screen and the need for the ExpressKey Remote to really make it functional, the Wacom One is an affordable and functional introduction to a drawing tablet from the most respected drawing tablet manufacturer.