Wacom has been steadily increasing the accessibility of their high quality drawing tablets. In 2019, they introduced the Cintiq 16, a lower-priced take on their powerful line of Cintiq display tablets intended for a more entry level audience. At CES in January 2020, they lowered the cost of entry even more with the launch of the Wacom One.
An entry-level display tablet from the graphics tablet powerhouse that is Wacom? I was eager to get my hands on it and see if it could stand up reasonably well to the reputation of Wacom’s other equipment.
Note that the Wacom One is not the same as the One by Wacom, which is a small pen tablet that does not feature a display. The Wacom One allows users to draw directly on the screen and see what they’re doing in the same place. There is some trade-off made between display tablets and regular graphics tablets. With those, you’re sketching on an inert-looking surface and watching your progress on your computer monitor. A tablet with a screen requires more power, may lack the color precision of a computer monitor, and can create parallax between the pen tip and the actual line.
That said, drawing where you’re looking just feels so much more natural, especially for beginning artists or people who are just transitioning from analog to digital. The learning curve between drawing in one place and looking at another can be frustrating. If a graphics tablet with a screen fits into your budget and workspace, there’s almost no reason not to focus your search on those models.
First impressions of the Wacom One
The Wacom One arrives in a good looking, professional box. It’s white with a bit of color, and doesn’t give off the impression that it could contain a cheap office printer. The first thing in the box is the download instructions, printed on top of a flap protecting the tech inside. A light, protective material sleeves the tablet and pen. You can save this sleeve to gently clean your screen in the future. Everything is packed in an orderly and secure fashion. This is the kind of box I feel compelled to hang on to. It would be such a protective way to pack my equipment if I ever needed to move or store it.
Right out of the box, the Wacom One is solid, attractive, and very minimalist. It looks nice on the desk with smooth, rounded corners and a crisp, off-white back and edges. The tablet features no buttons or hotkeys — it’s just you, the matte surface, and a thick, black bezel. The ports and power button are located along the edges, and there rubberized areas on the back keep it in place on your work surface. It looks like a Wacom tablet, consistent with the design language across this company’s other products. The tablet is boxed with a pen, an AC adapter, and an X-shaped cable to connect your tablet to power and your computer or mobile device — more on that later.
Legs on the back of the device flip out to prop it up at a non-adjustable 19-degree slope. Otherwise, you can lay it flat on your work surface, as the legs fit into the sleek shape of the back. It doesn’t have any attachment points for another stand, so you’re pretty much stuck with those two angles unless you rig up a solution to prop it up on your own.
The pen feels light and agile and doesn’t need a battery or charge to work. I’m a fan of this design. It reduces hand fatigue and you never pick up your equipment only to realize it needs a charge before you can get to work, which is a huge drag.
Size, build, and features
The Wacom One is lean and light at 8.9 by 14.1 inches, just over half an inch thick, and weighing 2.2 lbs. It’s easily slipped into a laptop bag that you won’t need a pack animal to carry back and forth to school. Since it’s compatible with a selection of smartphones, the small size is ideal for mobile editors. The case is plastic, but feels solid. A small loop at the top of the tablet keeps your pen under control and at your fingertips when not in use. The power button is located on the right side of the top edge. It’s small and out of the way, and outside of the pen loop, nothing interrupts the smooth profile of the device.
One thing that may drive some users crazy is that the Wacom One has no hotkeys. If you know you need to switch often between tools or perform other tasks with a handy shortcut button, consider investing in Wacom’s Express Key Remote. That gives you 17 hotkeys to program however your heart desires. Other bluetooth keyboards or pads may also fulfill this need.
A small and lightweight display tablet
The display and drawing surface measures 13.3 inches on the diagonal and a 1920 by 1080 pixels display resolution. It also sports Wacom’s specialized, paper-like matte surface. Personally, I like the reduced glare and toothy resistance that feels more like sketching on old-fashioned paper. Some users, however, prefer the high shine and slick feel of a smoother screen. That’s up to you, but the Wacom One’s screen feels good and offers a satisfying drawing experience.
Those 13 inches don’t offer a huge canvas to spread out on, but at nearly a letter-sized space, it didn’t feel extremely restrictive to me, either. And since you’re drawing directly on the surface, there’s no need to worry about how the size of the tablet translates to the size of your monitor. A poor match between a monitor and standard drawing tablet can make for very uncomfortable drawing, especially during longer work sessions. I really don’t like getting into the groove and then being interrupted by fatigue or discomfort caused by a poor design decision on the company’s part. It’s essential that your tools stay out of your way.
Because the Wacom One does not have a laminated screen, it demonstrates a small amount of parallax. That is, the mark made by your pen appears a couple of millimeters away from the actual tip of the pen because of the glass between you and the actual display. It’s really only visible when you’re down at a very low angle with your drawing surface, however, and I didn’t find it disruptive to drawing.
There is no touch capability, meaning you don’t have to worry about palm exclusion, but also that you can’t interact with the screen with your fingers at all. This is an area where the Wacom One’s features feel a little sparse alongside the lack of hotkeys. You’re limited to clicking around the functions in your program with the tip of your pen, or reaching over to the computer keyboard if you need to do something else. In a small workspace, even if the tablet doesn’t have a huge footprint, this can get awkward fast.
Powered on, the tablet comes pre-calibrated for colors and at a fixed brightness level. With a color gamut of NTSC 72%, it doesn’t make it into the highest ranks of color precision. You can get a lot done on this display, but it’s not a good choice for doing work like image proofing where an extremely high level of color accuracy is necessary. This color gamut isn’t going to hack it for professionals designing for print or high-res digital displays. However, holding that against the Wacom One feels a little like comparing the horsepower of your Toyota Prius to a Ferrari. Slightly unfair because it wasn’t really designed for that.
Use a pen of your choice — mostly
The included pen is light and a nice size in the hand and has one programmable button and no “eraser” on the backside. This might have been my biggest disappointment with the Wacom One, because flipping your pen around to erase a stray mark is basically second nature. You can program the button under your thumb to trigger your eraser, which is slightly less intuitive, but also less of a hassle than changing your tool in your drawing program every time you want to make a correction. The Wacom One pen has 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity, supports tilt, and the pressure response on the tablet works very smoothly.
What’s really special about the Wacom One’s pen situation is that it’s compatible with several third-party ERC pens. The current list of compatible devices includes the Staedtler Noris Digital, the Lamy AL-Star Black EMR, and even the Samsung Galaxy and Note Tab S styli, plus a few others with a note that more will be added in the future. Unfortunately, it’s not compatible with any other Wacom styli, so you can’t upgrade to a higher-end pick like the Wacom Pro Pen.
Compatibility and connectivity
You can connect the Wacom One to any computer running Windows 7 or later, or Mac OS 10.13 or later. Setup is as straightforward as an easy driver download, and you can customize aspects of your tablet’s behaviour with an installed utility that will be familiar to any previous Wacom users.
The X-Shape cable can feel a little fussy, but that’s one of the big trades from a standard drawing tablet to a graphics tablet with a screen. They just take more power and data transfer to operate. The Wacom One conducts business with an HDMI plug connected to your computer for video, a USB-A plug connected to your computer for data transfer, a USB-C plug into your tablet, and a final USB-A plug either connected to the included AC adapter or a second USB port on your computer for power. That’s a lot, especially in a world of ultra-slim laptops with dwindling port availability. If you don’t have an HDMI connection and USB-A ports to spare, you’ll need a USB hub with an HDMI port.
A drawing tablet with a screen for mobile artists
The third prong of the Wacom One’s device compatibility is really exciting, though. It can connect to a selection of Android smartphones. Current versions of the Intuos can connect to some Android phones, but only a limited part of the drawing surface is active and you only have your phone screen as a display. Instead of just mirroring the phone screen, this setup gives you more of a tablet computer experience. The tablet displays a desktop-like layout where you can use the software of your choice and draw over the entire surface.
This is a powerful drawing station in a super light format: full-size desktop drawing with just your phone and a power source, either a wall outlet or battery bank. This functionality feels well thought-out and executed, without a lot of lag or conflicts between your phone and the tablet. Mobile drawing responds to pressure and tilt in applications that support those features. It’s easy to work between a phone and computer by exporting to a format that your desktop software can read and saving to the cloud.
Users who plan to integrate their mobile device into a regular workflow should keep the lack of touch on the Wacom One in mind. Some mobile drawing programs rely on touch gestures on your phone screen, such as zoom. You’ll need to use your phone as a touch pad in these cases.
Here’s the list of Android phones compatible with the Wacom One:
- Samsung Galaxy S8
- Samsung Galaxy S10+
- Samsung Galaxy Note 8
- Samsung Galaxy Note 9
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10+
- Huawei P30
- Huawei P20 Pro
- Huawei Mate 20 Pro
- Huawei Mate 30 Pro
This is an exciting development in the world of Wacom tablets. I like Wacom’s products a lot, and they really are the top name in the industry. I love to see the company innovating in response to the accessibility of systems like the iPad and Apple Pencil. The Wacom One is clearly designed with mobile users in mind and an intention to make their products available to a much wider audience.
What’s in the bundle?
The Wacom One box unfolds a complete kit that will let you get set up and drawing in no time. The tablet ships with the tablet itself, a pen, three replacement nibs and a nib remover, the built-in fold-out legs, the X-Shape cable with USB and HDMI connections, and the AC adapter and plug head. The driver is a free download.
Additionally, the Wacom One comes bundled with some excellent software to get your drawing life fired up. Software includes:
Wacom’s Bamboo Paper with all Pro Pack features for free, enabling you to draw, write, and sketch as quickly and easily as you can in a paper notebook. Works in Windows 10.
Up to 6 months of free access to Clip Studio Paint, a full-featured drawing and painting program focused on creating digital paintings, illustrations, comics, and manga. Works for Windows and Mac.
Choose between two months of free access to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan or Adobe Premiere Rush CC, valid for Windows 10 and macOS 10.13 and later.
According to Wacom’s website, Adobe Fresco, a drawing and painting app purpose-built for stylus devices. Wacom One users will receive a notification when the program is available to download and 6 months of complimentary access.
This gives new users a good selection of programs to try out and figure out what kind of tools suits them best. In addition, Wacom’s tablets work seamlessly with a wide variety of industry-leading software and programs that are available for free. Popular programs include CorelDraw, Corel Painter, Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Autodesk SketchBook, MyPaint, and Krita. I’d strongly recommend looking for software, mobile or desktop, that works with the pressure and tilt sensitivity of the Wacom One pen so you can take full advantage of the hardware capabilities.
How does the Wacom One compare to other display tablets?
Wacom is far from the only tablet manufacturer out there. Tablets boasting similar on-paper specs exist at a vast range of prices, and some are more functional than others.
Wacom’s own Cintiq line of display tablets boast more features but also come with a much bigger price tag. The slightly larger Cintiq 16, Wacom’s first foray into a more affordable display tablet, is compatible with its full range of pens and ships with a Wacom Pro Pen, which is pretty nice. On the other hand, it’s more than half again more expensive than the Wacom One, which puts it out of “just starting out” reach for a lot of people.
I had good experiences with the Yiynova MSP19U+ and Ugee 2150, but these display tablets strike me more as Cintiq competitors. The Wacom One remains a lot more affordable than either of those models.
Ultimately, I wish the Wacom One was compatible with more of Wacom’s own pens so you could upgrade in that direction. A touch capable screen would also be a big upgrade, but as far as how much bang you get for your buck with this tablet, it’s hard to complain.
The Wacom One display tablet has an impressive array of good features for a very friendly price. While it’s a little more than someone might want to spend to try out digital drawing without knowing if they will enjoy it, it’s an awesome tool for beginning artists that reduces the learning curve often associated with these tools. The on-screen drawing experience is smooth and intuitive, and the mobile connectivity is groundbreaking for Wacom’s line.
While additional features are a little spartan, I definitely get the feeling that Wacom reduced the price of this tablet by focusing on the bare necessities instead of cutting corners on quality. The Wacom One’s value to budget ratio is impossible to overlook. It has much more than half the performance of the similarly sized Cintiq Pro 13 which comes at double the price.
- Motivated beginners
- Younger art students
- People who want an entry level tablet they won’t have to upgrade immediately
- People looking for an intuitive drawing experience
- Artists and creators drawing, editing photos, or editing video on mobile devices (Android only)