The Wacom One is the latest pen display from Wacom, as the company looks towards the more affordable end of the creative market.
The pen display is primarily targeted at students and hobbyists looking to get a foothold in digital art without breaking the bank – and with a £359.99 RRP, it’s certainly an enticing option. For context, that’s £1500 to £2000 less than Wacom’s main Cintiq display line and over £2800 cheaper than the company’s priciest pen computer.
With a 13.3-inch Full HD display acting as a “paper-like canvas”, the tablet is designed for drawing, photo editing, video editing and annotating with natural friction and minimal glare. The One also comes with optional downloadable software, including Bamboo Paper, Adobe Premiere Rush and up to six months of Clip Studio Paint Pro.
But obviously, Wacom had to cut corners to hammer the price down so low. Does this pen display still boast enough quality to be a worthwhile budget buy?
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Wacom One design and setup – Slim tablet form constricted by cables
The Wacom One is a compact tablet with a spacious screen. Measuring up at 225 x 357 x 14.6mm, the device is about the width of your average laptop while the display itself is comparable to an A4 sheet of paper in size.
The tablet comes with built-in legs that enable you to prop up the display at a 19-degree angle, but they’re small and don’t make a huge difference. If you’re looking to work at a more upright angle then you’ll likely need to splash out for another stand.
The Wacom One needs to be plugged into an external device to function, but Android compatibility has been introduced so you’re not restricted to computers and laptops.
You’d assume the compact design and smartphone support would make this a good device for on-the-go work, but that portability is unfortunately limited by the chunky cables this tablet requires to run.
The One needs four connectors to hook up the tablet to both your laptop and the mains, making drawing on the go a challenge. Additionally, if you want to use the display with an Android, MacBook or another laptop lacking USB-A or HDMI ports then you’re going to need an adapter too – adding even more bulk to the setup.
I used a 2019 MacBook Pro, with two USB-C ports, and found one was taken by my USB-A adapter and the other by my HDMI adapter. This meant I was forced to take a break whenever I needed to charge my laptop. Of course, this issue is avoidable depending on your setup, but a versatile hub might be an extra cost you’ll want to consider if you’re planning on powering your display from an Android or laptop with limited ports.
The design is quite minimalist. The chunky black bezels might put the tablet just slightly out of fashion compared to the likes of an iPad, but the slim design and matte finish prevent the display from feeling overly dated.
Unfortunately, wrapped up in this minimalist style is the lack of Express Keys on the device. The Wacom One has no shortcut buttons. This is particularly frustrating when you consider how easily the spacious bezel could have housed a handful of Express Keys.
This issue also applies to the pen supplied in the box. The accessory has only one button to which you can assign an action. If you need to access more than one function, then you’ll want to keep your keyboard (or a £90 Wacom ExpressKey Remote) in one hand and the pen in another – or risk breaking out of your workflow.
One of the more unique perks of this tablet is that it’s compatible with pens from a variety of brands including Staedtler, Lamy and Samsung. The compatibility itself isn’t new, but Wacom advertising the fact is.
In any case, the battery-free pen is always a plus for Wacom, especially when compared with units that require charging – the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, for example.
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Wacom One display – Superb for drawing, but disappointing screen
The screen isn’t this tablet’s strong point, but it does the job; considering the price, it’s really difficult to complain.
The brightness and contrast are a little weak at 196.08 nits and 802:1 respectively, so colours lack vivacity and punch. However, this is a compromise often necessary to build an affordable creative display. The colour temperature strays a little towards the cooler side, too, but this is adjustable. So, if you’re happy to dive into your device’s settings, this shouldn’t pose an issue.
The main downfall I encountered when running tests was the lack of colour accuracy. The sRGB was good as 88.9% colour coverage, but Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 were lacking at 63.9% and 67.3% respectively. This means digital and animated design should be fine, but photography or videos probably won’t look as accurate as you’d like.
The screen also lacks decent screen uniformity, with the top-left corner seeing a significant degrade in quality.
This isn’t a huge surprise on a lower-end pen display marketed toward students and beginners, but it’s something to consider. If you tend to print your work, be prepared to double-check your colours on a laptop or monitor that offers better colour accuracy.
When it comes to drawing on the display, the texture is excellent. The surface strikes a perfect balance that stops the glass from feeling too much like, well, glass. Glare is minimal too, meaning no unwelcome sunlight bouncing back into your eyes.
Should you buy the Wacom One?
If you’re a student artist or a hobbyist looking to invest in your first pen display, the Wacom One is an excellent choice. This tablet is slim, portable, Android-compatible and incredibly affordable for a Wacom display.
On the other hand, if you’re a professional coming from a Cintiq or a person who relies heavily on Express Keys in their workflow, you’re likely to feel frustrated with the limitations of Wacom’s scaled-down display. Likewise, if colour accuracy is important for your work, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
One option is the iPad Pro, which boasts better colour accuracy, improved portability and can work independently with far more versatility. However, the pressure sensitivity on the Apple Pencil is likely to lack when compared with the 4096 pressure levels on the Wacom One Pen, making the Wacom One a better choice for artists and graphic designers on the hunt for precision and accuracy.
Plus, there are workarounds for Wacom One’s limitations. If you’re happy to keep your keyboard close and don’t mind double-checking your colours on a better display, you’ll find very little to complain about here. You’ll struggle to find a better pen display for under £400.