Wacom’s Intuos4

I know I’ve said this many times before, but seriously, folks: I love my Wacom. For what I do in the visual effects world, I get to rely on my Wacom tablet a lot. My productivity drops down to that of a drunk newborn chimpanzee with arthritis if I have to use a mouse. I’ve have my tablet since about 1997-ish and never felt a reason to upgrade. It provided all the necessary tools for me to do what I needed to do.

I’ve reviewed the Cintiq and the Bamboo’both beautiful pieces of hardware, but I don’t illustrate enough to justify the cost of the Cintiq and the Bamboo is too small for my personal needs. But when Wacom got in touch with me to take a look at the new Intuos4, I had to check it out. When it arrived I slid the tablet out of the box and immediately fell in love. The drawing surface is smooth, but toothy. The look is thin, sleek and black matte. The penholder (also black) doubles as a nib container, holding the pen nibs like a speed-loader for a .44. The look of it alone drew out the covetous nature of the digital artists around me, all wanting to know what I was using. Since I was lucky enough to use it a month before official release, my colleagues didn’t know much about it, so they were all intrigued!

One thing for sure: The tablet doesn’t get by on looks alone! First of all, it’s ambidextrous. All you have to do if you’re a southpaw is simply flip it around. There are two USB ports so the cord can be at the top side of the tablet whether on the left or right. And, the LED readouts for the customizable function buttons will flip to correct orientation as well. Wacom swapped out the slider pads that were used for panning and zooming, and replaced them with a dial (somewhat reminiscent of the pre-iTouch iPod pad). I found this to be a wise move because on earlier tablets I would find myself accidentally dragging my hand across the slider and changing the orientation of the piece I was working on’which was quite irritating!

The tactile quality of the drawing surface is less slick than earlier models, which I enjoy. In fact, I would like to see the ability to change the ‘teeth’ on the surface. For those of us who draw a lot, there is a definite change in sensation when the texture of the paper changes. The sensation is sometimes so subtle that you don’t notice until you change it. This is what happened after using the Intuos4 for a while and then had to go back to my prehistoric Intuos (so old it doesn’t even have a number). The feeling was definitely different’yes, the new model had spoiled me!

The main thing I would like to see in later models is a detachable keypad. I know that many tablet users hold the tablet right in front of them while they work. I take a wide stance, with my tablet to the right and keyboard to the left. When I try to use the function keys on the tablet I feel like I’m in a straightjacket with my arms strapped to my side. If I could unsnap the function pad and move it to my left, while keeping the tablet to the right, then all my dreams would be realized.

I’m using the large Intuos4 model, which retails for close to 500 smacks. That may be a little heavy for a hobbyist, but a necessity for the professional. There is also an extra large model, but larger isn’t always the answer in my book. I want to create art, not elevate my heart rate. Two smaller sizes are also available, with the price dropping down to $229 for the smallest. That’s much more reasonable for those who don’t have paying clients and don’t need to drop down to a Bamboo.

Website: www.wacom.com

Price: $229 (small), $349 (medium), $469 (large), $789 (extra large)