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Wacom Intuos4 review

Whilst I have been a user of the Wacom Cintiq 21UX for many years now, it has actually been a long time since I have actually tried any of the other tablets in Wacom`s range. Specifically it has been a good few years since I have moved from drawing on a table based tablet, such as the Intuos, to drawing directly on the screen. Recently however Wacom invited me to try out the Intuos4 and it is so far proving a pleasure to use. Having had the tablet for a few weeks now these are some of my thoughts.

The Intuos4 is the latest professional pen tablet from Wacom, and with it has come a range of improvements over the previous models. The most immediately visible of these are the illuminated OLED displays on the tablet. Besides looking rather cool, the purpose of the displays are to remind you of exactly how you have set up the ExpressKey functions on the tablet. Those familiar with Wacom tablets will know that with the ExpressKeys it is possible to set up your own preferred shortcut keys. With the OLED displays you can now see at a glance what each key is set to do. To be fair, whilst I personally rarely use the ExpressKey functions (perhaps I am just too set in my ways using the keyboard) I know of many other designers who do, and the OLED display should prove useful. If you are like me however, you may still find the displays useful. Each one can be set to display anything you wish... opening up a number of ways to personalise your tablet with amusing messages!

Not so immediately visible, but perhaps more important, is the upgraded performance of the drawing tablet itself. A drawing tablet is ultimately judged by how well it can replicate the feeling and subtlety of drawing on paper with a pen or a pencil. With this in mind Wacom have increased the sensitivity of the tablet, which now features 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity steps, versus the 1024 of the previous model. For those familiar with using a drawing tablet, this difference is immediately noticeable, with even the lightest of touches registered. The Intuos4 will in fact sense a mere one gram of pressure on the pen tip.

So, what is the Intuos4 tablet actually like to use in practice?

Having had a few weeks to try it out, the tablet has performed well. Perhaps the best compliment is that it has just quietly done what it is supposed to, which is to be natural and non intrusive interface with a computer.

The medium sized version (223.5 x 139.7 mm (8.8 x 5.5 in)) I have is light and thin, so doesn't take up a lot of space, and sits comfortably under your drawing hand. Given that the previous Intuos I used before upgrading to a Cintiq was a full sized A3 version, I was actually rather surprised at how well this relatively small version coped. Whilst for many the extra size of the larger tablets will be a necessity, the medium version offers a very good compromise. There is enough space to draw freely and the tablet can easily be packed with your laptop on your travels as well.

The pen itself is a good weight (although perhaps I would personally prefer it to be a little heavier), and with its rubberised surface feels good in the hand. The drawing feel is also good, with the drawing surface not feeling too shiny. With a range of nibs available, including 5 standard nibs, 1 stroke nib, 1 flex nib and 3 felt nibs, it is possible to tailor the drawing feeling to your own tastes. The soft felt is my own personal favourite, helping bring a more grainy feeling under your hand. You should be aware however that these nibs do wear out fast with heavy use.

Indeed, even the plastic nib I have been using has shown wear after a couple of weeks. Whilst each tablet ships with a full selection of nibs including 10 spare ones it should be considered that replacements will be required over time. In fairness the nib contributes heavily to the feel of the drawing surface and whilst a harder nib may last longer it might not feel so natural.

In conclusion, I was generally impressed with the Intuos4. The tablet looks good and the improved touch sensitivity was a noticeable improvement over the previous generation. In my short time with the tablet it has worked flawlessly and nib wear aside gives every impression that it will continue to do so for a long time.

As already mentioned though, the most impressive aspect is the fact that it just quietly does what it is supposed to do. Once installed, which itself is quick and simple, the tablet is uncomplicated and allows you to interact with your computer in a far more intuitive way than with a mouse. Clearly, if your goal is digital sketching or rendering then a tablet is essential, and the Intuos4 is certainly one you should consider.

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page last updated; 2014-06-15
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