I’ve been using the new 2023 Wacom One M pen tablet for a few weeks now, and have collected my thoughts for you all. If you’re interested in getting into some art software on your Chromebook or just want a lightweight tablet to carry around with you, I think you’re going to want to hear what I have to say. As a disclaimer, Wacom did send me these units for my own unbiased review, but this is not a paid review whatsoever.
In fact, as a general rule of thumb, I don’t take paid reviews, because I want to give my unfiltered thoughts on things I put hands on and use in a real-world setting. Having come from not having accessories like this growing up, and desperately wanting to get into art, I want to make sure to stay in touch with the version of me that just wanted a budget-friendly drawing tool to explore my creativity in its early stages because I’m sure many of you share that sentiment if you’re reading this.
That wireless moment of wonder
With that out of the way, let’s check this thing out, shall we? The Wacom One M, which stands for medium, of course, is an evolution of the 2021 “One by Wacom”, I reviewed. At the time, that was the first fully compatible graphics tablet for Chromebooks. Fast forward to today, and the Wacom One M is Works with Chromebook (WWCB) compatible too, following up on that initiative.
Immediately upon taking it out of the box, even having the foreknowledge that it was Bluetooth instead of relying on a connection cable to my Chromebook, I was taken aback by the fact that setup no longer required a long-drawn out process. This was instantly a breath of fresh air, knowing I could literally just chuck this tablet into my laptop bag (it only weighs 0.77 LBS and has an active drawing area of 8.5″ x 5.3″), fire it up at Panera Bread or Starbucks and start drawing. The fact that I didn’t feel tethered to the cord was so liberating, and helped me overcome the usage barrier I felt with the previous model.
As a small confession, I stopped using the One by Wacom after the first few weeks because of the cable, so yes, it’s that big of a deal. In fact, setting this new one down and then searching the box for a cord only to realize that “oh yeah, there isn’t one” made me smirk to myself uncontrollably. That moment of realization and wonder is exactly what I look for in technology, and I don’t have it often anymore. While there is no cord in the box, as previously mentioned, you CAN still connect it via USB-C if you must..and you must when the battery dies. Remember, while this thing is Bluetooth capable, it still has an internal battery that needs to be charged periodically!
You may be asking how quick the response time is for your tablet to reconnect to your Chromebook’s bluetooth after falling asleep, and well, it’s not bad. It’s rather quick I suppose, but the fact that it disconnects at all caused me a bit of frustration since I went to go get some things done and came back to draw only to realize I needed to wait a few seconds to get back to my sketch. In a perfect world, it would stay connected at all times, but that wouldn’t be good for the battery, now would it? I suppose we have to have some trade-offs, right?
I freaking love this stylus
The stylus is battery free EMR technology. This means you won’t ever have to buy batteries or watch their charge just to sketch. This feels more like good ol’ paper than using my Lenovo Chromebook Duet or worse still, the Pixel Slate stylus that seemed to die once a month. The pen is also more sturdy and nicer than before. In fact, I’m not embarrassed to hold this one, whereas the previous design was just kind of hideous and weird to hold in my opinion. As you’d expect, it comes with spare nibs in case yours wears down or breaks.
There’s a well thought out two-tone design going on here, a removable back, and most importantly, a spot to tether the pen to the tablet for safekeeping. It’s not magnetic or anything, but if you unscrew the back, you’ll be able to loop a lanyard-style thread through and attach it safely to the top right side of the tablet (the pen back can also be swapped out for other colors and even a clip!). This could be especially useful in classroom settings, and while it’s not a Kensington lock-style mechanic, it’s a welcome addition, in my opinion. If you just and only want to keep your stylus from disappearing into the couch or somewhere else entirely, there is still a loop pen holder across the top center of the device.
I nearly forgot to mention that you can also use third party styli like the Staedtler Noris Digital or the Lamy Al-Star Black EMR on your tablet, the first of which looks and feels more like a traditional number 2 pencil, but I personally prefer the feeling of the pen that comes with the device. Fun fact, it’s also an ambidextrous stylus, but I’m not sure if that’s because it’s a straight body design without any ergonomic grip shape design or if you use it on Windows where the Wacom Center allows you to swap to lefty mode.
A sturdy device for the class or on the go
The tablet’s build quality, while still plastic, of course, is much better and more well-thought out than the previous model. Because of this, the Wacom One M is great for class, or artists who can’t afford or don’t want the new 13″ touch display, which I promise to review at a later date since they most certainly do work on Chromebooks!
The dotted “grid” you see on the face of this thing helps you draw or write in straight lines. Anyway, it comes in both black or white as a base, and you can choose accent colors like Pistachio, and I quite like the extra color on the back of both the tablet and the stylus. If you look on the back of it when you unbox it, you’ll see a gift QR code that you can scan to get to your free software offers.
If you want a stand for your Wacom One M or S and prefer to draw at more of a tilt, the company’s strange, new stand it made for the display tablets will actually work here, though it’s not advertised. This is because it’s just two half circle shapes that separate or twist into stands. It’s not as grippy as it would be for the display it was made for, but if you must, it does the job, even if the tablet moves around a bit. This is not included though, and will cost you $45 USD as a separate accessory on Wacom’s website.
In a call I had with them, they said they mostly find people draw flat instead of tilted, but I must be living under a rock since I’ve always done the opposite. Still, it feels strange to see them remove the stand from the back of their 13″ display Wacom One tablet that used to be built in and nickel and dime you for it. Again, that’s not a concern here for these smaller non-screen displays I’m reviewing today, but still, it’s interesting to say the least. I get the thinking here, I just don’t like it.
Free stuff to kickstart your art journey
Speaking of free stuff, there are 16 software offers available, not all of which can be used on your Chromebook, though some are web and Android-based. Still, there are some great Chromebook-centric apps for drawing that you can use the Wacom One M with, like Sketchbook Pro, Artflow Studio and the Concepts app, which I’ve all but entirely fallen in love with this year.
If I’m entirely honest, Chromebook drawing apps still kind of suck on a deeper level compared to using Photoshop on Windows, especially since those that do offer layers and pressure sensitivity often don’t have any keyboard shortcuts or anything to make it feel like a full suite, but you could try Krita. That being said, I’m not discounting those aforementioned since they still provide the best drawing experience despite these shortcomings.
There are also 70 tutorials in 12 languages on Wacom’s learning center that are sure to help you get up and running and make the most out of your new tablet.If you’re new to digital art and pen tablets, I highly recommend you check these out and binge them religiously!
While there is a new Wacom Center app to tweak shortcuts, and more for the stylus (there are no express keys on this unit), this won’t work on Chromebooks, but who knows if the company will create something specific to ChromeOS in the future. If not Wacom, then perhaps Google, since there was talk about a pen-tablet center being baked into the settings menu or shelf, which has me beyond excited!
The rising cost of introductory art devices
The Wacom One M 2023 pen tablet will run you $149.99 USD. That’s $50 USD more expensive than the previous generation tablet at the same size once you include the pen, which is separate. Otherwise, it costs $109.95 USD. The previous models all included a pen! It also has 4K pressure sensitivity and tilt support and is meant for entry-level artists or those who prefer to not draw directly on a screen. As mentioned, the company’s new Wacom One touch displays offer this, but that’s a conversation for another day.
In fact, some people, professionals even, swear by these little guys and say it’s the better route to go. I think it’s all about preference, and Wacom is offering enough here for both types of artists to feel comfortable and make a choice. I think that the type of buyer who snags a Chromebook may be more inclined to get this accessory over the larger display drawing tablets on offer due to their size and portability as well as their easy onboarding process, but you’ll have to let me know in the comments if that fits a description of you!
More sustainable and environmentally friendly
Wacom says that this One lineup is the most sustainable it’s ever produced. From the tablets to the packaging, It’s made up of 30-65% postconsumer recycled plastics in an effort to help reduce e-waste. Additionally, you could technically just buy the ”eStore” version of the tablet on the site which ditches the extras if you already have cords and styli. I really wish I had more to say here on sustainability. I’m a big advocate for companies leaning into this, but I have to admit it’s not my field of expertise. I just like the idea of not dumping crap in landfills. Still, Wacom seems to be much more true to their mission than corporations that claim to go sustainable and it’s just a front for their marketing and consumer trust building efforts.
Wacom One is getting confusing
There have been some reports of some pressure sensitivity issues with these new tablets, which will hopefully be resolved with an upcoming patch to the software, but I didn’t experience these problems during my time using the Wacom One M. My only complaint, which I’m not even considering a complaint for this review is that the company’s nomenclature is getting super confusing. They had the One by Wacom, and are now reusing the Wacom One naming for all of their new tablets, display or pen. Clearly, this is in an effort to make things easier, but I think it’s just going to be more confusing for a year or two while we all adapt.
Oh, and if you want something a bit smaller, they also have the Wacom One S (for “Small”, of course!) and that will run you $99.99 USD ($50 more than the last generation’s cost of the same size if you include the pen, otherwise it costs $59.95 USD) and comes with an active drawing area of 6 x 3.7 inches, but it’s too small to feel comfortable compared to the Medium sized one, even for Chromebook usage! Add to that the fact that there’s an eStore version like I said before, and the pricing and offerings are all over the place. The naming and the pricing, and the bundling options are so a la carte that it’s hard to keep up if you’re a regular consumer!
The Wacom One M is great for aspiring artists
At the end of the day, I absolutely love the Wacom One M, and have been using it on my Chromebook for a few weeks now. It’s not perfect, but as someone who’s accustomed to drawing directly on my Chromebook screen and gets frustrated at the crappy palm rejection support on most hardware, Samsung aside, having a little pen tablet in my laptop bag with an updated design, better stylus, and most importantly, Bluetooth and no cable management on the go feels almost like a necessity for me now.
In my talks with Wacom before they sent these units out to me for review, I made it clear that I wanted to pitch this as a device for artists, not just students taking notes in class which is how the One by Wacom was positioned. They said that this is absolutely something for Chromebook users looking to create digital art on their laptops, and that they’re now in a more confident place to pitch it that way. This is likely thanks in large part to Google’s efforts to reposition ChromeOS as multi-purpose and not solely web browsers over the past few years, which I think it’s doing an excellent job at.. Let me know in the comments if you’re going to pick this up or if you’re going to draw right on your Chromebook screen instead!