Product Review: Page (1) of 1 - 02/16/08 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at page facebook


Tools to help a visually impaired artist By Casey Wilson
Okay, here's my little review of the 12WX I've had for a couple of weeks now. There are a few factors about my situation that make it hard to say how it would work for other people and their working modes, because I'm visually impaired and it's difficult to tell how the screen performs to a person with normal vision. What matters the most though, is what graphics card you hook it up to. First however, I'll say what I think of the tablet's functionality, then get into how it looks.

The size of the 12WX overall is great, perfect for desktop or laptop or just handheld use. It isn't really any heavier than a non-screen tablet of that size and it's balanced evenly. There is, however, one drawback that can't seem to be helped, and that's the cable coming out the top right. It's not that it's too bulky, but it is stiff and permanently attached. I wish they could have come up with a way to make it a connector and place it in the center of the top, but that would make it more pricey and less reliable. It means that when you think the tablet is free wheeling like a book, the cable is always fighting against you. On the back of the tablet there is a little plastic bump that lets you spin the tablet around on the screen center when it's on a desk, but that cord has to be arranged just right. Wacom's site really downplays the cord aspect in their limited photo galleries. But oh well, it's not like I didn't know it would be there. That said, it's just another thing you get used to and it's a small price to pay.

This one has ten ExpressKeys as opposed to eight on the Intuos. The touch strips are sloped to the sides slightly, or maybe it's just the edges are lower along the strips, which is a nice design and makes it easier to find the top and bottom of the strips without looking or actually activating the strip. I got used to them faster than with my 6x8 Intuos3. The ExpressKeys are what you'd expect and the driver is the same as the Intuos line, with all the same functions. The pen is the same as the Grip Pen, but this one is black as opposed to gray.

The cable length to the unit from the display is good, so you shouldn't have problems locating it in a tidy place. You connect it to the small video control unit, which has four buttons for the OSD. The menu system is about as confusing to navigate as these things get, but you won't need to access it very often. I find the controls quite course and the range of adjustment of things like color balance and brightness make 2/3 of the range mostly useless. Any change from the factory defaults negates the use of the monitor color profiles, which I had to do to match it closer to my desktop LCD, where all my work had been saved using that monitor's profile. Still, after playing with it for 20 minutes I was satisfied. I don't think you can count on a perfect match using a display calibrator but that would also depend on your primary display.

The screen itself is quite good and has plenty of brightness. Contrast is only a little lacking. Colors seem to depend alot on your graphics card, but for some reason the tablet only uses 24bit color, not the 32bit that all my various graphics card can be set to. Running the Cintiq at 32bit doesn't seem to be a problem, but I haven't tested it much beyond a Windows desktop. I don't really get the difference between 24 and 32 anyway, maybe someone can explain it to me? The resolution of the 12WX being 1280x800 is puzzling. While it's a decent resolution, and for my vision is actually perfect, it's the 16:10 aspect ratio that has never made sense to me. Is this some sort of compromise between 16:9 and 4:3? Why do that when it's made to be a widescreen display? All these variations from the standard aspect ratios is irritating, and I run the thing at 1280x768 as a further compromise so I don't lose too much display area and it matches my primary more closely. Then, however, the problem becomes that I can't do a dual display clone mode unless I lower the resolution of my primary to match the Cintiq. There's ways around it, but it involves more hardware and software that I don't want to get in to.

As I said earlier, the display's look will depend heavily on your graphics card. I use an Nvidia Quadro for 3D work and a Matrox Parhelia for anything else. The Matrox cards have always had the most brilliantly sharp output of any cards I've tried, and it especially shows on the 12WX screen. The Nvidia and ATI cards always appear rather blurry to me. Besides that, the Matrox cards have a full screen zoom I depend on that works flawlessly. This probably isn't important to anyone else, but it does bring up a serious issue if you plan to use any kind of zooming feature from the graphics card, which includes that feature on Macs though I've not tested it on one. The problem with it is that it throws off calibration of the cursor tracking after you go through the calibration program in the tablet driver. It becomes non-linear whether you calibrate without the zoom on or calibrate it in a zoom mode. In effect, the cursor flies away from the pen tip in the center of the screen and matches back up towards the edges. I don't think this is a Wacom problem, it's just the way these things work together. I do hope Wacom can come up with a workaround, and I'll be contacting them to see if they can help. They have fantastic customer support in my experience dealing with them during the sale and with technical questions, so don't hesitate to call them about anything.

It may sound like I'm unhappy with the 12WX for the problems I mentioned, but I'm absolutely not. I generally don't go over the praises of something when I think those are the givens. Overall it's a really great tool, and I'll be getting a lot of use out of it. Since its can act as purely a tablet as well, it's replacing my Intuos3 6x8, so that one's up for sale if anyone is interested


The 12WX is almost exactly as tall as an Intuos3 6X8, not including the cable, and about 2 inches wider than the Int3. I'm guessing the main trouble with fitting it in any case is wrapping up the cord without too much stress and protecting the tablet or anything else from being scraped by the connector or possibly the cord itself. A soft cable boot made of velvet or the like should do the trick for that. Otherwise it's only half an inch thick. You'll need some extra room for the other cables, video control unit, and yes, the AC power adapter.

There's one other thing I forgot to mention earlier. The specs for it say it has certain angles the stand will ''lock'' to, but that's not the case. There are no click stops until the stand bottoms out at its furthest angle. But the action is smooth and stiff enough for it to stand upright at almost any angle between. However, don't plan on drawing with it on a desktop like an upright 21'' Cintiq. It's too light and the tablet will shift around as you apply pressure to it. Wacom's idea here is to provide a way for displaying work on it. I don't find it any trouble, I never planned to work that way.

CASEY WILSON is a digital artist based in Los Angeles, California.  In addition designing, Casey is an active member of the PixelCorps.

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