Shiny New Tablet

You know it is the holiday when large tablets of awesomeness abound. I am a total sucker for new technology and the new Intuos 4 is no exception.

The first thing that one notices about the Intuos 4 is the widescreen format and the new express keys and speed ring. The cool thing about the Intuos 4 is its ambidextrous design. In the control panel you can set the tablet to either right handed or left handed. There are two usb ports that you can choose from depending on which one better suits your taste. Yes, this tablet finally allows you to disconnect the cord, now all they need is a wireless tablet.


Another feature that I was really excited about was the fact that they doubled the number of pressure levels from 1024 to 2048. The Intuos 3 required 10 grams of pressure before the tablet could sense the stylus while the Intuos 4 only requires 1 gram. In the end you will notice a smoother, steadier transition with each stroke. You will probably need to mess around with the pressure sensitivity in the control panel in order to take full advantage of the larger range of pressure levels.

Aesthetic awesomeness

After rummaging through all the goodies in the box I came across some different colored rings. I realized that these rings go between the grip and the tip of the stylus. I know they are a complete gimmick and serve no real purpose other than aesthetics, but it made me very happy to be able to put a red ring on my black pen. What can I say, I am easily amused.

I also really like the matte finish and the sloped edges. The thing I didn’t like about the Intuos 3 was the clear trim around the edges. Dirt and dust would get lodged in there and it was a pain to try and clean out. The trim also tended to get damaged fairly easily.


The eight express keys have a nifty illuminated display next to each button so you can see which button is which in the dark. The speed ring has a button in the center that allows you to switch between four different presets.

It seems really cool at first, but trying to change brush size with one preset, then clicking the button to make it switch to zoom, then having to cycle back through to change your brush size again takes too much time. Now I don’t really bother changing to the different presets, I just keep it on brush size. Trying to retrain my brain to remember the new button layout is taking longer than I expected. Recently I have just been using my Nostromo since I am used to using it all the time at work.

The removal of the touch strips on either side of the Intuos 3 is a good and bad thing. On one hand I had to disable the touch strips outside of Photoshop because I would accidentally brush

against them. On the other hand I felt using the touch strip to change brush size was faster.

The other problem I encountered with the Intuos 3 touch strip was the fact that whenever I zoomed in or out, Photoshop would close. This may sound crazy, but it happened…all the time.

The reason is because I had the right touch strip set to zoom. When I moved my pen hand over to use the touch strip my cursor would go to the top right corner of Photoshop, right where the close button is. For some reason when I touched the touch strip it would think I was clicking, so my cursor would click the close button. Obviously this problem was only limited to my PC.

You are probably thinking “but if you clicked the close button it would ask if you wanted to save your image first, and you could just click cancel to avoid having the program close.” Yes and no. No because I work extremely fast, so when it thought I was clicking close instead of just zooming in/out, it would also go ahead and click “don’t save.” I probably run into this problem at least once a day.


Once you start painting you will notice that the texture of the surface is very different from that of the Intuos 3. The Intuos 3 was as smooth as butter, but the Intuos 4 has a textured feel to it. In some ways this is cool because it starts to blur the lines between traditional media and digital media. You start to forget that you are painting on a smooth, digital surface and begin to think you are drawing on paper, or some other traditional surface.

The major drawback I found was that this new textured surface wears down the stylus tip extremely quickly. After only one week of painting (yes, one week…crazy I know) the tip has been worn down to almost nothing. With my Intuos 3 I only changed the nib once or twice in the past 30 months. Now I know why the Intuos 4 came with so many replacement nibs. Maybe it is all part of their evil plan to make more money, I don’t know.

You will also notice that the Intuos 4 stylus is quite a bit smaller than the Intuos 3 stylus in terms of length. This doesn’t bother me since the length doesn’t really affect my ability to paint. The grip part is also flush to the rest of the pen, which I actually prefer.

Other nifty features

All I have to say is Radial Menu. This thing is awesome. You can set one of your express keys to open the radial menu. Each pie section is completely customizable through the Wacom control panel. Below is an example of what I have mine set to. When you click “command” it opens the second radial menu, packed with the essential commands such as copy/paste and distort/warp. I almost never have to lean forward to use my keyboard, which saves a lot of time.

The pen stand houses a secret stash of extra pen nibs: five default nibs, one spring nib, one felt nib, three pencil-like nibs, and a tool to remove the nib.


The Intuos 4 is definitely an upgrade from any of the previous Wacom tablets and is well worth the money. Go buy it!

13 Replies to “Shiny New Tablet”
  1. The coloured rings are in case you buy an additional pen. Software like Painter remembers what tool or brush your were using with each pen independently. Coloured rings would help you tell two identical looking pens apart.

    Cool new site BTW

  2. I think the nib wears down faster because on the old versions you could go through the drawing board it self. I have been drawing on an intuos1 for years, and there is actually worn down area in the center, that influenced all my lines.

  3. Stephan – Oohh, that makes much more sense. I guess I never thought about it that way because I have been using the same Intuos 3 for 2.5 years and I haven’t had a problem with it. Maybe the Intuos 1 has more problems than the 2?

  4. Hey… about the surface and nib wear, you can buy sheets of perspex from ebay very cheap, get a 2-3mm thickness sheet, they will usually cut it to size for you also. I wrapped a protective sheet around the tablet you get on monitor screens when you buy them new.. though anything with some a little grip would work, just keeps the perspex from slipping around…
    I’ve had 0 nib wear since, and it works just the same, as a Wacom rep said on the wacom forums, that as long as your drawing within 2 inches or so it’s fine.

    Hope this helps you, and anyone else reading this with nib problems! 🙂

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  8. Off-topic question. Do you usually work on a laptop? Just curious if so, what size tablet you have. I’ve recently bought a MBP and in the market for a newer tablet more than likely an Intuos 4 but since I’m finding myself on my MBP more often now and if the large size is a bit too large for laptop work, or if the medium in your opinion fits better. My MBP is a 15.3.


  9. Greg – Oh cool, thanks for the info. I’ll have to check that out.

    Mike D – I used to work on a desktop, but I have switched to a MacBook Pro. When I am at home I use my large Intuos 4 with the laptop, but when I am outside I use my Fujitsu ST5112. If you plan on using a tablet with a laptop and you are outside, I would go with a smaller sized tablet.

  10. Hello,
    I have my intuos 4L since a year and I have put a polycarbonate sheet on it because of nibs eaten….
    I contacted wacom, the technician said that a new surface overlay is coming, I buy it twice and It’s exactly the same, I lost money with nibs, with new surface sheets and for nothing.
    Wacom didn’t admitted this fact and doesn’t want to pay for shipping cost for return of their shitty sheets.
    Wacom is composed of thieves, they steal clients. SHAME ON THEM

    Ten year with a wacom digitizer II (serial port) and that’s finish

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