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Tablets are often thought to be just for graphic designers who’ve eschewed the mouse for something “more organic.” They wave their hands over the magical device and create art out of nothing. What most Mac people don’t realize is that the tablet isn’t just a designer’s tool. It’s useful for nearly anyone who puts in serious time in front of a computer. With its wealth of customization options, Wacom’s Intuos4 becomes a useful input device for a variety of applications, and its sensitivity makes it a great tablet for the traditional audience of graphics pros. Wacom’s new line of Intuos4 tablets has raised the bar in the tablet game. The three largest versions feature a small OLED display that you can program to reflect your settings, and the new tablet ships with a robust System Preferences pane to control and easily access your customizations. While the most compact version lacks the OLED display, a button comes preprogrammed to display your configured commands on your Mac’s screen. All of the buttons and the new Radial Menu are customizable globally or on a per-app basis. With eight buttons (six on the Small), a scrollwheel with four settings, the Radial Menu, and the two buttons on the pen at your fingertips, you need never reach for the keyboard in many applications.
And while we love editing video with the Intuos4, it really shines in design programs—specifically Painter, Photoshop, and Illustrator. The new Intuos4 pen registers 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, all the way down to a single gram of force. That gave us the ability to create everything from very soft painting effects to heavy, dark lines. The tablet will also register the orientation of the pen as you draw. This is extremely helpful when “painting,” as the Wacom easily mimics the effect of strokes with angled brushes. Couple that with a wide plethora of nibs available for the Intuos4 pen, and trained artists will get a feeling similar to when they are sketching in their life-drawing class—but without all the nakedness. As we tested the Intuos, we realized that we kept lifting the pen from the tablet slightly while drawing arcs, resulting in incomplete lines. Thankfully, we could easily adjust the pen’s sensitivity in System Preferences to make up for our shoddy drawing technique.
The ergonomic design of the pen fit nicely in our hands. The rubber grip added the necessary traction without impeding the ability to move our fingers to the two buttons on the pen, which are positioned to be easy to hit with your thumb. After using the input device exclusively for over a month, we didn’t experience any hand strain. The Intuos4 also ships with colored sleeves for the pen, which come in handy if you regularly switch between extra pens outfitted with different nibs—or if you work with other tablet users who have a tendency to wander off with your pen. The weighted pen stand contains slots to hold 10 pen nibs and a nib remover.
The tablet is ambidextrous; left-handed users can flip it over, plug into a second USB port, and the OLED display will reorient itself. Multimonitor users can set the tablet to recognize both monitors or switch from one to another via one of the buttons on the tablet. For those times when you just have to have a mouse, the Intuos4 ships with a matching one, but we only needed to use it a few times.Anyone who draws, edits, or just wants healthy wrists should check out the Intuos4.