Wacom Intuos4: First Impressions

Started Apr 5, 2009 | Discussions
JayMitch Senior Member • Posts: 1,515
Wacom Intuos4: First Impressions

Just spent the last couple of hours setting up and playing with the new Wacom Intuos4 tablet (medium size, with an 8.8" x 5.5" active surface). Thought I would offer my initial impressions for those who may be interested. Last summer I purchased the Special Edition Intuos3 6x8 and love it. But there were two aspects that continued to frustrate me:

1. I always forgot the settings on the express keys and, as such, rarely used them
2. I tended to struggle with the feel of the pressure sensitivity

The Intuos4 completely addresses #1 and more. Initial thoughts are #2 as well. Some bullet points:

  • The look and feel of the tablet are fantastic. The SE Intuos3 was really nice but this really steps it up. In particular I like the feel of the matte finish compared to the gloss of the "3".

  • Active area maintains the same proportions of current widescreen displays which is cool.

  • Function keys are now constrained to one side so they're more accessible. Just flip the unit around for right or left handed use. There are two USB inputs (only one is used) to facilitate this. When you indicate the table is in left handed mode the LED labels will automatically invert.

  • The removable USB offers a secondary advantage: I can run the cable out of sight and just connect the tablet when I need to use it. My desk space pulls double duty as my office so I don't need it there all the time.

  • Cool little addition: the pen base doubles as a nib and tweezer holder. Nice.

  • Now for the good stuff: the new express keys. As before they are infinitely programmable. The difference is that the function now appears in a little LED panel beside each button. The labels change as you program them with the software and are application dependent. No more forgetting WTF a button does. Brilliantly executed. You can even set the brightness of the labels, although even at max they're not overbearing.

  • If the key labels weren't enough, you can assign any button to pop up an overlay onscreen to show each function. Redundant for the medium size on up, but for the small (where you give up the LED labels) it's a great solution.

  • There is a new scroll wheel replacing the strips on the previous generation. It works just like an iPod. You can customize the function (again, application specific) and can even program 4 different modes that you switch with the center button. Works very well for scrolling, zooming, changing brush size/feather, etc. Whatever you want.

  • There is a new Radial Menu that is brilliant. You can configure any of the buttons on the tablet, mouse, and/or pen to activate a popup menu that shows onscreen. It looks like a compass with 8 sections, each of which can be programmed for a different function (keystroke, application launch, whatever) or even as a submenu under which further functions lie. You can go as deep as you want with the submenus. Right now I have the middle button of the mouse programmed to launch the radial. In Lightroom, for example, I have one submenu for Targeted Adjustment Tools, and within I have immediate access to tone, hue, sat, luminance, grayscale, and turning the TAT off. It works so well I can't believe it. Another slice of the radial is a submenu for develop adjustments (crop, white balance, adjustment brush, gradient, spot removal). Another slice is for labels (which I customize but always forget the number shortcut). My head might explode when I start programming for Photoshop.

These organizational innovations are almost worth the price of the upgrade alone. The feel and functionality of the tablet are consistent with the legacy of Intuos. But with a couple of changes that make the pressure sensitivity work a little better for me (YMMV).

First, there is not a minimum threshold of pressure in order to activate the pen unlike the Intuos3. So you don't have to press at all to start moving. Secondly, the pen and tablet are now twice as sensitive to pressure so it feels much more natural. I'll need more time to really play with this but a first blush it seems to be a bit more balanced.

The pen looks and feels much the same as before but inside has the increased sensitivity. If you have a stash of nibs that you've accumulated over the years they still fit. The new pen is a little shorter which I prefer. Still has the spring loaded "eraser" at the opposite end and two programmable function buttons.

The mouse is excellent. Feels great using on the tablet, is very programmable and very responsive. Much better than the Apple wireless mouse, although I miss the 360 degree scrolling that the little Apple track ball allowed. As before the mouse does not require batteries to operate, but you must use it on the tablet. The software automatically recognizes when you switch from mouse to pen and back.

So, for anyone who has been considering the new Wacom Intuos4 it is definitely worth a look. Great functionality and ergonomics. Pricey, but you get what you pay for. Size aside the only other thing you give up on the small version is the labelled express keys - but that's offset by the screen overlay that you can program. So as a starter tablet the small is a great alternative to the more basic Graphire.

Flickr Page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25556585@N02/

Michael Kempf
Michael Kempf Senior Member • Posts: 1,057
Thank you for your excellent review. (nt)
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tbnj Contributing Member • Posts: 805
Thank you. (nt)
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OP JayMitch Senior Member • Posts: 1,515
Re: Thank you. (nt)

Couple of updates after more play time:

1. The new Precision Mode rocks. It's a momentary function (ie. have to keep a button held down for it to work) and it dramatically improves control over fine detail work. When activated it limits the range of movement of your cursor relative to the physical movement of the pen. So if there was a 1:1 relationship between pen vs. cursor movement, with precision mode active maybe it's 5:1 - a bigger hand movement is required to move the cursor. You can assign it to a function key or one of the switches on the pen.

2. The radial menu continues to pay dividends. With the configuration I noted above working the targeted adjustment tool through tone and HSL without ever having to go to the panels or fumbling with cryptic shortcuts is a snap.

3. The programmability is becoming a curse. Trying to figure out how to program the buttons and menus for best use will take some time.

4. I definitely prefer the overall pen feel to the Intuos3. Just a kiss on the tablet will start laying down the pixels and the extra pressure sensitivity really does feel more natural.

More to come as I get more familiar with it.

Flickr Page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25556585@N02/

radiohead Regular Member • Posts: 320
Re: Wacom Intuos4: First Impressions

thanks for the review -

i went out out to the store on Friday to get my intuos4 and today this morning i returned it for a fefund..heres why

ok its just my point of view but i thought i would share it anyway

  • The touchstip panel black section just soaks up fingerprints / marks within a few minutes of use its all smudgy - unlike the 3

  • the expresskeys need to be pressed down quite a bit harder than the 3 - and i use the ALT key for a express key so i am constantly using it for cloning / healing etc

  • also the expresskeys are smaller and a bit harder to find without looking down - so it kinda defeats the point of havving it on the same side if i am struggleing to find the key due to its size.

  • Expresskeys UNDER the ring are not in a good position for me - i would have liked them a bit more to the right as my left hand was always at a greater angle than the 3 because its all in the same vertical position.

  • i found the intuos3 xpresskeys much easier to use and as i use only 4-5 keys regurally then i dont mind to look at the other side sometimes -

  • Ring - somethimes i could not hear the click so i did not know if i was in postion 1 or 2 - so again i had to look down. as wacom say all those 8 keys and ring are on one side to minimise the need to look down all the time.

  • tablet surface sadly i did not like at all when used with the pen. i tried all pen nibs on it and it just seemed to slow me down too much. and it was like a pencil on paper feel rather than as i like a pen on paper smoother feel like the 3. now thats purely personall to my workflow as i find the smoother 3 i can really pick up some speed but the 4 was like a harder feel to it.

  • intuos4 pen picks up dust on the grip very easilly unlike my 3 - maybe due to the fact that its black - i dont know..

  • pen holder is very nice i will try and buy a seperate one for my 3 very nice.

  • size of the M tablet is very nice - i have a 6x11 intuos3 and prefered the M size but small advantage to me.

  • uncabled usb is also very good as my 3 cable is on the wrong side for my table but i can live with that

  • pressure sensitivity - now i really cant say that i noticed a huge leap in the amount of sensivivity - yes its more but i did mumerous shading tests and i could get the same results with the 3 as the 4.. but i do believe the 4 is more sensitive

so my ultimate advise is the definatelly go and try it before you buy as you may not like a certain aspect of this tablet. it does have very good features on paper but unfortunatey did not make my experience comfortable and i dont have large hands - infact my hands are average and very nimble with good agility.

i tried very hard to like it and used it for 3 and half days solidly to really try and get with the fell but in the end i just could not get the same speed feel as my 3 so i will keep that for now.. just my experiences of the 4 which i really looked forward to owning but alas i will hold onto my 3 for now...

OP JayMitch Senior Member • Posts: 1,515
Re: Wacom Intuos4: First Impressions

Good counterpoint...

  • The touchstip panel black section just soaks up fingerprints /

marks within a few minutes of use its all smudgy - unlike the 3

Agreed. Although my Intuos3 Special Edition is ALL glossy so the 4 is a big improvement for me. Hate the fingerprints.

  • the expresskeys need to be pressed down quite a bit harder than the

3 - and i use the ALT key for a express key so i am constantly using
it for cloning / healing etc

Tried them both and also agree. The 4 buttons are more spongy.

  • tablet surface sadly i did not like at all when used with the pen.

i tried all pen nibs on it and it just seemed to slow me down too
much. and it was like a pencil on paper feel rather than as i like a
pen on paper smoother feel like the 3. now thats purely personall to
my workflow as i find the smoother 3 i can really pick up some speed
but the 4 was like a harder feel to it.

I hadn't paid attention to this but tried both and agree - the 3 has a smoother active surface than the 4. After rubbing nibs on each for a couple of minutes I would say the smoother feel of the 3 is preferable. That's probably going to start standing out for me! But I also tended to use the felt tip so maybe a switch to the springy one would change things up a bit.

Flickr Page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25556585@N02/

Plothole Contributing Member • Posts: 800
Is the Intuos 4 Backwards compatible with " 3 pens?

My worry is whether I can use my airbrush.

OP JayMitch Senior Member • Posts: 1,515
Re: Is the Intuos 4 Backwards compatible with " 3 pens?

I believe I read somewhere that the Intuos3 pens do NOT work with the Intuos4 because of the new technology. There are new Intuos4 accessories.
Flickr Page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25556585@N02/

Toermalijn
Toermalijn Forum Pro • Posts: 15,242
Re: Is the Intuos 4 Backwards compatible with " 3 pens?

JayMitch wrote:

I believe I read somewhere that the Intuos3 pens do NOT work with the
Intuos4 because of the new technology. There are new Intuos4
accessories.
Flickr Page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25556585@N02/

it has always been this way! No newer technologie supports older pens!

Droppingin Senior Member • Posts: 1,344
Well, One Good Review and One Negative Review

After reading the first review it sounded like a winner, then the second sounded a little picky and personal.

After that, number one responds with agreement to number two; oh no, conflict, what do I do.

Yep, will have to find a way to test drive a new device before purchase. I am using an Intuos3 6X4 but practically never use the keys. Although yesterday I updated the drivers and programmed a couple of keys and am forcing the issue.

One thing I did observe: The Intuos4 introduction on their website is poorly done. It told one very little about the new features or their capabilities. The data seen thus far are the reviews above.

Thanks to both of you.

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OP JayMitch Senior Member • Posts: 1,515
Re: Well, One Good Review and One Negative Review

I still think it's a winner and have no regrets. Those were valid points that come down to personal preference. For me it doesn't take away from the value of the new tablet. I do in hindsite wish the writing surface was a bit smoother like the Intuos3 but without the benefit of an immediate comparison I don't notice it.

Droppingin wrote:

After reading the first review it sounded like a winner, then the
second sounded a little picky and personal.

After that, number one responds with agreement to number two; oh no,
conflict, what do I do.

Flickr Page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25556585@N02/

OP JayMitch Senior Member • Posts: 1,515
Re: Well, One Good Review and One Negative Review

Strange - no "edit" option available for my last post so I have to add a new one.

In response to Wacom's website information, I actually didn't get the upgrade bug from there. It was watching Corey Barker's "setting up your Intuos4" video tutorial on Kelby Training that got me. Over the course of 45 minutes or so he goes through every nuance of the tablet including programming the keys and radial menu and overall setup. It's a membership only video, though. For those who are remotely interested about learning photoshop, lightroom, and a whole lot more the $20 or so a month for subscription (less for NAPP members) is well worth it.

Flickr Page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25556585@N02/

Vladyslav Kosulin Senior Member • Posts: 1,931
Re: Wacom Intuos4: First Impressions

Great review.
And here are my 2 cents:

I bought Intuos3 (4x6) ten days before Intuos4 became available, bought the Medium one from Amazon March 24, got it delivered March 25, and returned Intuos3 to B&H.

So far, Intuos4 has only one drawback: keys are less responsive (and harder to press). And there is one advantage which requires some time to get used to: the pen becomes active at bigger distance from surface which makes it easier to move cursor around, but when you press with it, you have to adjust the trajectory slightly differently from Intuos3 to prevent the touch from moving below your intended place (this happens because when you move the pen, the native trajectory is not the straight, but the round one if your hand rests on desk).

Everything else (all buttons on the same side, detachable USB cable, LEDs, 4 switchable modes, scroll touch wheel with button, new stand for pen) is just great. Regarding surface smoothness, I have no problem with it, and I would say, it delivers better feedback when painting, but this is pretty subjective.
--
Vlad

Droppingin Senior Member • Posts: 1,344
I Am Still Interested

I checked out B&H prices and was surprised. However, the one that I would most likely use is the most affordable, the small one at $200 and is about an inch larger than the Intuos 3. It would drive me crazy knowing that the buttons have labels in the next size up and I do not. Yep, I realize the labels are a click away on-screen but you know what that is like.

The next step up is about $470 if my memory serves me well, which does not happen much these days. That is a big number. My current Intuos 3 is 4X6 and of course, it has become quite comfortable. Big when considering that is around half the cost of a decent L lens.

It has now occurred to me that Wacom could have their products demos set-up in stores or some method that allows customers to test drive different sizes or type products. I know, I know, that would be expensive and time consuming to administer.

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OP JayMitch Senior Member • Posts: 1,515
Re: I Am Still Interested

US retail price of the small is $229, and the medium is $349.

http://www.wacom.com/intuos/small.php

http://www.wacom.com/intuos/medium.php

So an extra $120 for more real estate and the button labels. $470 gets you into the large which has an 8x12 workspace. Huge.

You're absolutely right that Wacom would be well served to have demo kiosks at their retailers. Feeling is believing.

Droppingin wrote:

I checked out B&H prices and was surprised. However, the one that I
would most likely use is the most affordable, the small one at $200
and is about an inch larger than the Intuos 3. It would drive me
crazy knowing that the buttons have labels in the next size up and I
do not. Yep, I realize the labels are a click away on-screen but you
know what that is like.

The next step up is about $470 if my memory serves me well, which
does not happen much these days. That is a big number. My current
Intuos 3 is 4X6 and of course, it has become quite comfortable. Big
when considering that is around half the cost of a decent L lens.

It has now occurred to me that Wacom could have their products demos
set-up in stores or some method that allows customers to test drive
different sizes or type products. I know, I know, that would be
expensive and time consuming to administer.

-- hide signature --

Its easy to be a holy man on a mountain top.

-- hide signature --
Vladyslav Kosulin Senior Member • Posts: 1,931
Re: I Am Still Interested

I went the route from intuos3 4x6 to Intuos4 Medium, and find the new size pretty comfortable if you have enough real estate on your desk. I fired away my mouse with pad, and new Intuos uses not much more space.
--
Vlad

OP JayMitch Senior Member • Posts: 1,515
Re: I Am Still Interested

For those keeping track, the medium Intuos4 is almost identical depth compared to the Intuos3 6x8 but an inch or so wider.

Vladyslav Kosulin wrote:

I went the route from intuos3 4x6 to Intuos4 Medium, and find the new
size pretty comfortable if you have enough real estate on your desk.
I fired away my mouse with pad, and new Intuos uses not much more
space.
--
Vlad

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Ray Rosewall Regular Member • Posts: 157
Re: I Am Still Interested

Just ordered the Intuos4 Large for $459 (free Std UPS shipping) from Amazon.
--
Ray R

William Faulkner Senior Member • Posts: 1,653
Re: Wacom Intuos4: First Impressions

JM,

You've had over two weeks with the Intuos4, any followup to your initial impressions?

Has going from the -3 to the -4 improved your workflow any - timewise?

I just ordered the Large sized Intuos4 from Dell of all places. There was a 25% off coupon I persuaded them to apply which brought the price to just under $400 shipped.

Bill F

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Toermalijn
Toermalijn Forum Pro • Posts: 15,242
Re: Wacom Intuos4: First Impressions

William Faulkner wrote:

JM,
You've had over two weeks with the Intuos4, any followup to your
initial impressions?

Has going from the -3 to the -4 improved your workflow any - timewise?

I just ordered the Large sized Intuos4 from Dell of all places. There
was a 25% off coupon I persuaded them to apply which brought the
price to just under $400 shipped.

Bill F

http://picasaweb.google.com/faulknerstudios

Nice price for the a4 sized intuos 4...

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