Wacom Intuos4
Price S: £210; M: £320; L: £410; XL: £720 | Company Wacom | Web www.wacom.com

Wacom’s Intuos range has long been one of the mainstay products of the digital art and painting community. The challenge for Wacom now is to improve on a product that’s both commercially sought after and technically acclaimed. The Intuos4 is the company’s first graphics tablet to introduce EMR (Electro Magnetic Resonance). Wacom claims this new technology perfects the already excellent battery-free pen system, using a mix of electromagnetic wired grids and resonant circuitry.

The improvement isn’t immediately evident in use, however. Although Wacom has doubled the pressure sensitivity of the tablet to 2,048 levels, and tilt, rotate and feedback of the pen have all been refined, the general feel of the tablet differs little from that of its previous model. This isn’t a criticism. The responsiveness and comfort are far in advance of its competitors.

What has been conspicuously updated is the arrangement of shortcut keys. A system of eight OLED, application-specific ExpressKeys bring shortcuts to a single strip. Next to each ExpressKey is an OLED symbol to signal what it’s assigned to – a handy but hardly innovative update. Yes, the symbols do help you to find and select regular tools, but they still take time to learn. Once you’ve remembered what tools are found where, the OLEDs could become redundant.

To combat this, the new TouchRing extends the ExpressKeys’ range by offering four separate sets of assigned keys to each app, meaning you can toggle between editing, painting or movement tools. This works brilliantly and makes common tasks such as brush resizing more engaging than tapping keys or dragging sliders. A quick reminder is available by hitting the top ExpressKey, which brings up a map of the assigned shortcuts.

The final headline function is the new Precision Mode, which, when initiated, slows the pen’s mapping functions, steadying the tip for complex cut-outs. It works well, but has a limited range of practical uses.

To round things off, Wacom has refined the pen, its nibs and its driver software. The pen stand now includes a nib extractor, and new Art Brushes are available, mimicking the feel, poise and weight of an airbrush. The standard felt, stroke and flex nibs ship with the Intuos4 and are a superb refinement of the last Intuos3 pen. Other weights and specialities are available – including the excellent marker nib, which even emits the same Sharpie squeak.

Overall, the Intuos4 is a great enhancement of an already market-leading product. It’s sleeker and is suitable for both left- and right-handed use, and the pen feels great. Wacom had a very difficult task to improve on the Intuos3, but it has managed it here quite brilliantly. 

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Rating: 4.5/5