One By Wacom
One by Wacom Review: an inexpensive tablet that delivers professional features like pressure sensitivity to computers without pen-input. A key selling point is One’s Chromebook fluency without the need for drivers. Simple, well-designed, and extremely portable. Requires only a USB connection, no batteries or drivers. At less than $60 a great investment for any pen-challenged device.
One by Wacom® Review
One by Wacom, and all the other products from Wacom, remind computer owners that not every PC or tablet supports multitouch and pen input. Far from it. Many lower-end PCs and Chromebooks remain traditional clamshell devices with only a keyboard and mouse. Many of those Chromebooks and PCs find their way into education, either as district-owned devices, or inexpensive devices owned by families. To unleash creativity on those pen-challenged PCs, the $59.95 One by Wacom offers a battery-free, 2048 pressure level sensitive stylus in a portable 8.3 x 5.7 x 0.3-inch package (the Active Area of the tablet is 6 x 3.7 inches).
What we like
Nothing could be simpler than attaching the One by Wacom to a PC or Chromebook. Plug in the USB-A connector (or USB-C with an adapter) into the PC or Chromebook and you now have a pen-enabled device. No drivers. No pairing. And unlike Apple’s Pencil, Wacom’s pen does not require charging, so no batteries. The tablet only requires power from the USB port.
The small size of the One by Wacom might put off some, but I don’t find it impedes good writing or a sketching experience. A nice grip between the pen tip and the tablet provides adequate sensory feedback, although it is different than paper and pencil. There will be some relearning to master writing fidelity with precision and with pressure. That isn’t a negative, just a reality. Unlike some more expensive tablets, One does not input touch support.
One’s small size and self-contained design make it easy to transport in a bag or backpack. A handy strap keeps the stylus snuggled against the table until needed. The full-sized stylus offers good weight and balance, unlike smaller styluses on devices like Samsung Note and the Lenenvo ThinkBook Plus Gen 2.
Wacom clearly designed the One for simplicity, and that makes for a short review of features.
Does One by Wacom do what it’s supposed to do? Absolutely. Writing, drawings, and annotations flow easily from tip of pen to digital document.
Wacom also sells a scaled-up “Medium” version of the One by Wacom for $129.95. That product offers a larger surface (and larger price tag) but retains the same features. The design suggests more stationary use cases with greater deskspace available. Computer labs in schools seem an appropriate place for the bigger version, though individuals looking for a more expansive canvas should take a look.
What could be improved
I would like to see some controls available, knowing that would mean going beyond a driverless model. My Lenovo Duet Chromebook doesn’t recognize the One by Wacom in horizontal orientation. It is usable in portrait mode but there is clearly a visual dissonance between the tablet’s horizontal screen and its vertical orientation. On a Mac Mini with a 3440 x 1440 curved display, the One has some issues mapping to the entire screen fluidly. It works fine local to the active application, but moving to a corner for a new note or to invoke the Apple menu requires multiple movements rather than a single fluid one.
On the hardware side, I would like to see Wacom include a USB-C adapter, as most modern devices, especially smaller ones, have moved to USB-C as their primary port configuration.
The three-month trials of bundled software that come with the One only teases. I would like to see at least one piece of software that can run in perpetuity given the target audience of low-end computing devices. Some tools, like Explain Everything, do offer a free, single-user option.
One by Wacom: The Bottom Line
One by Wacom brings pen-based computing to most computers. It does so with elegance, and at a price commensurate with its market.
The small size of the One by Wacom translates into it sitting on my desk, primarily attached to my Mac Mini so that I can occasionally sketch or annotate on one of the few devices in my repertoire that does not natively support a pen. I use it, for instance, to annotate PDFs in Mac version of NoteShelf.
Artists may well need the features of bigger, more sophisticated Wacom tablets. They may want the elbow room afforded by a larger virtual canvas, but for augmenting a keyboard and mouse-centered computing experience with pen input, the small One by Wacom optimally aligns with the price-functionality equation of that need.
Finally, from a marketing perspective, One by Wacom is easily confused with Wacom One, a much more expensive 13.3-inch tablet with a built-in display. Even Google has difficulty distinguishing between the products as the word “by” doesn’t do much to differentiate the products—and as a throwaway word, doesn’t bind to the name to drive search engine results. Name changes are expensive, but not as expensive as market confusion, so if Wacom updates the One by Wacom, the product would be better served with an updated name as well.
Wacom provided the On by Wacom for review. Images courtesy of Wacom.
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