Shaky start for the architects' newest tool
To begin the review on the Wacom Inkling I will start with the physical product itself, what you receive is a stylish, robust and innovative piece of design. The entire product, once removed from the packaging, stores in a compact carry case, ideal for using on the move. Every component required to use the Inkling has its own carefully designed slot in the case, with the pen and the receiver having the capability to be charged simultaneously once stored within the protective hard case. Although made from plastic it does not feel cheap and presents itself as well built and elegant.
Setting up the pen is a simple procedure; the quick guide provided explains it well enough to only need to read it once, although after several days use and several reads through the user manual I am still a little perplexed as to how the pen itself turns on. With the first couple of test drawings I had to be careful to watch my hands as I tend to lean on the page I draw on, and this caused lines to not be registered. This is a slight personal annoyance as it can interrupt your drawing style, but the instructions do point out that if the receiver is blocked then the drawings may be effected.
In reviewing the products capabilities I tried to test the pen in ways I would usually draw. The test aimed to try out sketching with a variety of strokes; quick lines, shading and testing the ability to draw with various line weights as the pen provided is a standard 1.0 ballpoint. The test was undertaken on an A3 layout pad on the premise that the box states ‘on any paper’ (this turns out to be a problem later on.) Using the pen is, overall, a pretty decent experience as the pen is nicely weighted and fits the hand comfortably, however I did find the ball point to feel relatively cheap, with other biros feeling more responsive and flowing than this. Once the initial problems were ironed out and I got the hang of using the pen it was nice to draw with and I felt positive about the outcome, as the receiver’s LED consistently flashed indicating it was registering the lines, in my mind meaning I would have the same outcome digitally as on paper.
Where I started to have problems with the Inkling is after the drawing stage. There is no instant feedback of information (you cannot see the digital drawing in progress until you upload it to the computer) so it was then incredibly frustrating to have spent 20 minutes or so using the pen to find the drawing did not turn out as desired. Lines I had drawn carefully and neatly were nothing more than wiggled mess on the screen or displaced by some margin. Another issue I found is that all lines appear with the same weight, removing the delicacy of shading and not allowing gentle soft lines in a drawing. Some tweaking in the software did improve this slightly, but not to the level I had hoped. One area that impressed me was when I wrote with the pen, I write very quickly (and rather un-neatly) yet the pen recorded everything perfectly, the one part I thought it would not do very well in.
The paper size itself was not the issue, it is the software provided. On the preview screen it shows the entire drawing, however the programme will not allow you work with anything bigger than A4 resulting in half the drawing being lost. The software is an incredibly frustrating programme to use; I could not work out how to edit the drawing in order to move the layers into a permitted page format and it is awkward to navigate. Exporting to Photoshop and Illustrator was easy but would only export to A4 format, again resulting in half the drawing being lost. The software will only really allow you to view what you’ve drawn and then export it to a programme that allows you to edit it, rendering it slightly useless and an annoying middle stage.
Overall I was slightly underwhelmed by the Inkling. The product itself is a great bit of kit and has clearly had a lot of thought put into it. The idea behind the product is also fantastic, and the technology has the potential to develop into something very desirable among design professions. When it is working it is pleasurable to use however the tool suffers from the inability of the user to determine what it is recording and what you are producing digitally. The software really lets the Inkling down and leaves a lot to be desired and left me frustrated with the whole product as I was not able to obtain a decent result from it. I like the idea behind the Inkling and hope these setbacks are addressed as I the potential application of this product could really change the way we design. Request information on the Inkling here.