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.
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!