Wacom Intuos4 L
Magic OLEDs and 2K sensitivity
All eight ExpressKeys are identical in shape and orientation, unlike those in the Intuos3. To assist tactile recognition of the key positions, they have been set at angles to allow you to feel the edges between them. At first, we didn’t think this would be good enough to identify the keys without looking, but we were wrong: it works fine.
Keyboard shortcuts: the transparent Radial Menu overlay allows setups using the pen
The aforementioned Touch Ring, a device copied from Wacom’s Bamboo range but akin to an iPod’s clickwheel, separates the ExpressKeys two sets of four. In a word processor, dragging a finger around the wheel scrolls the text up or down. In Photoshop CS4, it zooms in and out, or if you hold down modifier keys - or, indeed, ExpressKeys - it resizes brushes, rotates the canvas and so on.
One of the ExpressKeys calls up a Radial Menu. This is a customisable pie-chart of program menus and commands that pops up on-screen as a transparent overlay. Normally we hate this kind of thing: why would you want to press a button and click through a series of on-screen menus rather than use a keyboard shortcut? However, Wacom has made a decent job of ensuring the feature is swift and easily accessible, so perhaps you’ll find a use for it after all.
Before you ask, the Intuos4 supports left-handers. Turn the tablet all the way around and there's a second, appropriately positioned input socket for the USB cable. Being fully removable, the cable can be replaced. However, the input plug the cable attaches to, sticks out of the side of the tablet – presumably for easy gripping. It therefore occupies extra width on your desk and could get damaged if the plug is repeatedly knocked by accident. For what it’s worth, the Intuos4 USB cable is also thinner and weedier than the Intuos3 one.
Intuos4’s Grip Pen (bottom) is notably shorter than the Intuos3 version (top)
Try not to get carried away by the natty OLED displays: they might look sci-fi but they're just labels, after all. Instead, consider the doubling in stylus sensitivity, the adoption of the Bamboo’s Touch Ring and some fine Control Panel ExpressKey customisation. Best of all, Wacom builds its graphics tablets to last, so if you’re in two minds about the steep price for what is essentially just an input gadget, rest assured that the Intuos4 will still continue to withstand daily use long after the Intuos5 makes its appearance – four and a half years from now. ®
Sponsored: Flash storage buyer's guide