Hump Day Hardware: Wacom Intuos4 Tablets

April 1, 2009

Regular readers will know that I am a huge believer in using Wacom tablets with your graphics software. I’ve been using tablets since 1993 and Wacom tablets since 1996. Wacom just introduced the Intuos4 line of tablets and you definitely need to take a look at them. If you are already using a tablet, you might find it is time to upgrade. If you’ve never looked at a tablet, don’t wait any longer.

Previous models were sized by a fixed measurement and that differed based on the measurement system used in the part of the world where it was being sold. Now the sizes look more like shirt sizes. You have your choice of Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large. Prices range from around $199 for the Small up to around $700 for the Extra Large. Now you might feel it is too expensive. Keep in mind that a good tablet will outlast 2-3 computers. I am still using a tablet over ten years old on my desktop so I’m definitely considering upgrading to one of the new models. While you have to spend the money on the tablet now, you won’t have to spend again for a long time. The pen is batteryless and cordless. The tablets have a lifetime warranty. So unless you lose or break the pen, you won’t have to spend anything more.

Before I get into all the specifications, let’s talk about some of the really important benefits of using a tablet. Do you have wrist pain from using a mouse? I know of users who have had serious pain from mousing all day long. Those users switched to a tablet and the pain was completely gone within days. Whether you have pain now or not, consider a tablet as a way to avoid that pain. After a couple of days of adjusting to using a pen, you’ll find it is far more accurate than using a mouse. Have you ever tried to sign your name in a graphics program with a mouse? It will be a complete mess. I won’t say that writing it using a pen on a tablet will be perfect, but it should look very similar to what you would get signing on paper. When you learned to draw as a kid, were you handed a bar of soap or a crayon? Most of us got the crayon first and maybe the bar of soap later if we mouthed off or colored on the wall. In short, the pen is a much more natural way of interfacing with your computer.

You don’t have to give up your mouse. It can be plugged in and functional at the same time as the tablet. Similarly, the touchpad on your laptop will still work just fine. The key is that you can’t attempt to use both at exactly the same time. Often I’ll use the tablet to point when on my laptop and then use the buttons below the touchpad to click. Personally my mouse is a desktop decoration. I might use it once a week. I use the tablet 99.9% of the time and I use it in all software. If you feel the mouse is better for Web surfing or word processing, not a problem. Just pick it up and use it.

Now that I’ve covered the basics of tablets, let’s focus on Wacom tablets. They are the best, bar none. If you buy another brand to save money, you are cheating yourself. Sorry, I’ve tried the rest and they just aren’t as good. I’ve also seen users complain about problems with the other brands. So please don’t consider buying a lesser tablet to “try it out”. You will be sorry.

OK, so what about the Intuos4? I’m right-handed so the older models were just fine with me. But they weren’t always so great for lefties. The Intuos4 line was designed to be flipped so that it works for anyone, no matter which hand they favor. There is only one cord, the USB cord. The pen does not require batteries and comes with a variety of nibs. You get 6 standard nibs, 3 felt-tip nibs, 1 spring-loaded nib and 1 flex nib. In addition to the pen, there is a mouse-like device which also requires no batteries or cords.

The new pen responds to a lighter touch than the old models. To be exact, it requires 1 gram of pressure versus 10 grams in previous models. The number of pressure levels has been increased to 2048 levels from the previous 1024. These improvement should also double the lifespan of the components. Consider my old model is still working well after ten years, I can’t imagine being able to wear out the new model.

Along the side of the tablet are eight buttons and a touch ring. The buttons can be programmed to do many things and the touch ring also performs multiple functions.

If you are working with graphics all day, you need a tablet. And if you have an old tablet that just won’t die, it might just be time to get a newer more powerful model. A complete list of all of Wacom’s tablets can be found on our site so you can compare models and prices.

Post Discussion

1 Comment

  1. Jeff Harrison

    I’ll admit it took awhile to get used to, but now I can’t go back to a mouse.

    I had a Graphire but lost the white pen in a snow bank. Now I have a Bamboo, and it’s an improvement over the Graphire.

    The new pen works with old Graphire tablet, so I take the old base with me when I go freelance.

    The old base had a very slick surface compared to the Bamboo… the new unit has some resistance to feel more like paper perhaps.

    To smooth it about 50%, I put sign makers’ vinyl on the surface and now the pen glides better, and I suspect the nib will last longer with less friction.

    Most important! People think of tablets for doing artwork. That’s fine, but for me the real prize is ease of basic Windows navigation.


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