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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wacom Intuos 4 tablet

After doing some research, I decided to purchase a Wacom Intuos 4 medium drawing tablet. A while back, I had purchased a small Wacom Bamboo drawing tablet for my wife, but one of the first things I noticed was that it was pretty small and not as responsive as I had expected. It was fine for occasional use, but I had decided that I wanted a larger drawing surface and better responsiveness.

After shopping around, I headed to Henry's in Ottawa as they were offering the best prices I had seen on Wacom products in the region and picked up the tablet. One of the first things to remark is that Wacom has taken care to produce an attractive looking and effective packaging solution.

One of the deciding factors on this specific model was the great software discounts for Adobe Photoshop CS5, almost 50% off the list price! Wacom has also included a very decent software package, which includes the following:

Nik® Color Efex Pro™ WE6
Wacom Brushes 3.0
Adobe Photoshop® Elements 8 for PC and Mac
Autodesk SketchBook Express® 2010
Corel Painter™ Sketch Pad
    I got home and unpacked everything. I wasn't exaggerating about the great packaging job that Wacom has done on this line of tablets. The box contains:

    The tablet
    The drawing stylus (or pen if you prefer)
    The mouse
    A weighted stand for the stylus
    10 extra nibs for the stylus
    A nib extractor tool
    A USB cable (standard to mini)
    A documentation package (which includes a driver CD, a quick start manual and a reference manual)
      I don't use a mouse with my Macbook Pro and I don't think this is about to change. Although the mouse is quite nicely shaped, with five fully customizable buttons, excellent resolution and battery-free operation, it's limited to the tablet surface to work and that quickly limits its use, in my opinion. I set the mouse aside and got everything else setup. I have to give some kudos to Wacom for the elegant design of the pen stand, which doubles as a storage container for both the extra nibs and the nib extractor tool.

      After installing the software (and let this be a general tip to less experienced computer users, always get the software installed and updated before plugging in the hardware; saves a ton of headaches afterwards) I plugged in the tablet. Another interesting design feature is the inclusion of two USB ports on the tablet, to allow the option of a proper cable orientation when used in right-hand or left hand mode. One of the most common complaints of Wacom's tablets was the general right-handedness of their devices. The new Intuos 4 models have resolved this issue by placing all of the tablets secondary controls on one side of the device. This allows the user to simply flip the tablet to allow both righties and lefties! The settings menu allows the user to switch modes and the tablets customizable OLED displays flip to the correct orientation.

      The displays themselves are truly useful, removing the need to memorize yet another set of custom controller parameters. The touch ring, another change to the Intuos line, has four modes, indicated by one of four small lights. This allows the ring to provide access to four linear-type functions, like zoom, brush size, canvas rotation and more.

      The tablet is incredibly responsive and a pleasure to use. The increased level of pressure sensitivity, together with very low starting weight (1 gram vs. 10 grams) really set this line apart from previous incarnations.

      If you've never tried a tablet, I highly recommend any of the models from the Intuos 4 line. If you already have a tablet, consider any of the models to be a great upgrade to the tablet you might currently be using. Really, a fantastic product!

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