Every now and then, a product comes into the MacFormat offices that is so all-round wonderful that we will try anything to avoid handing it back, and Wacom’s latest graphics-tablet-with-built-in-screen affair certainly falls into this category. Its big brother, the 21UX, was superb, but it had two problems. It was utterly enormous, and you couldn’t, without buying another graphics tablet, use it to control anything on a second monitor.
The 12WX solves both these problems, and does so with élan. First, ergonomics and size. The display at the heart of the 12WX is a 12.1-inch LCD running at 1,280x800 pixels. It’s only 17mm thick and weighs 2kg – you really can use this on your lap perfectly comfortably.
There’s a rubber nipple on the underside that provides a handy pivot point for the tablet, and a collapsible stand can be used both to make it angle up from the desk or stand vertically (for watching TV!). An ugly tangle of cables plugs into a breakout box, but only a slim cable provides video, USB and power.
Like the Intuos range from which the 12WX is derived, the stylus is batteryless, the tablet provides 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, and you get two sets of ExpressKeys and two Touch Strips, all of which can be configured with the driver software.
Go between the tablet or a screen
By default, the topmost ExpressKey acts as a toggle to tell the stylus whether to control the cursor on the tablet’s screen or on another display hooked up to the Mac. This is hugely significant; not only can you quickly tap the button to switch between scribbling directly on the tablet or controlling what’s on the other screen – effectively turning the 12WX into a very expensive regular graphics tablet – but you can use this button to drag windows between screens. Simply grab a window, press the button, and it jumps to the other screen. You use OS X’s own display management to define which of your screens acts as the primary display.
This makes the 12WX a joy to use for photographic and retouching work. Display your image on the main monitor, then use the 12WX and its ExpressKeys and Touch Strips to touch up the details, while keeping an eye on what effect your changes are having on the overall image.
The 12WX’s screen isn’t perfect (it’s a little cramped, and brightness andcontrast is lacking slightly; the sensitivity drops off alarmingly at the edges, too), but this is still a sensational device. What’s that? It costs over eight hundred quid? Bugger.