Ambidextrous Wacom Intuos 4 Review

Once upon of time the Intuos line of drawing tablets from Wacom were designed for creative professionals but with the Intuos 4 line, I would go out on a limb and say it’s inclusive of everyone’s needs. Traditional artists who complained of pressure sensitivity (or lack there-of) will be happy to know it’s twice as sensitive so all the nuances from hand to paper (figuratively) are far more accurate and in real time.

Kudos to Wacom for the beautiful packaging. They probably wouldn’t admit it since there’s no loyalty to any particular platform but the boxing screams, “Apple influenced me.” Everything is so thoughtfully laid out in a very slim box containing the tablet, mouse, pen, pen holder, USB cable, manuals, and software.

I have to give Wacom daps and a huge pat on the back for re-engineering every facet of the tablet. Ergonomics took a huge step forward with 4 sizes to choose from. It’s sleeker and looks far more sexier. They ExpressKeys are now grouped to one side which makes much more sense than the split layout of the Intuos 3. They’re also highlighted with OLED labels that rotate 180º automatically for ambidextrous use. The center ring, a.k.a Touch Ring, lets you zoom in/out of your canvas and change brush sizes with ease.

I received the medium sized tablet which has a 8.8″ x 10.0″ active area. The new designation maps better to widescreen displays and seems to be covered in a scratch resistant material. Installation was a breeze as with all Wacom products. You can even customize the Touch Ring and ExpressKeys. The cool thing is each tablet comes with a huge software bundle; Photoshop Elements, Sketchbook Express, Corel Painter Sketch Pad, and Color Efex Pro – an amazing Photoshop plugin for photographers. Trying purchasing those things separately and you’re looking at over $900+.

The pen, probably my most hated component from the Intuos 3 is so significantly improved, it’s difficult to know where to begin. It no longer feels like a cheap piece of plastic. It’s nicely weighted with a rubberized grip. There are multiple nibs to choose from conveniently stored inside the weighted pen holder. The pen feels great in my hand, coupled with the greater tablet sensitivity – drawing and photo editing feel much more natural. If you’ve used Intuos tablets before, pen functionality is still the same in regard to right/left clicks, contextual menus, click+drag, etc… and of course all customizable.

I’ve never been one to use the mouse which is great for 3D and CAD artists. The fit and finish are exceptional matching the pen. It still feels a bit too clicky for my liking but that’s subjective.

What it all comes down to is price and what you can get from another company. In recent years a number of manufactures have produced their own tablets at competitive price points. Unfortunately the Intuos 4 leaps frog them in terms of technical specs and price when you consider the bundled software. What Wacom has done is create a product for every price point. At the bottom end you have the Bamboo tablet which retails under $100. Is the mid-range you have the Intuos line which ranges from $230 – $790. The top tier is inhabited by the Cintiq line which pushes the $1k mark. With Wacom’s unparalleled support by Adobe, Autodesk, and Corel – it doesn’t make sense to buy anything but Wacom.

What we liked:

  • Improved ergonomics, fit and finish
  • Increased pen sensitivity (2,048 levels up from 1,024)
  • ExpressKeys now all on one side
  • Works for both right and left handed users
  • ExpressKey buttons are soft but tactile
  • Touch Ring makes scrolling long documents a breeze
  • Pen actually feels like a durable product, weighted nicely
  • Nifty pen holder keeps extra nibs neatly tucked away
  • Priced nicely at $349 for the medium size

What could be improved:

  • Touch Ring should click when spun

Company: Wacom [ Buy it Here ]

24 Comments

  • Wes Store says:

    Nice review! I have one a medium Intuos4 and it is a really a good quality tablet.Might take some time for some people to get used too but its certainly a must buy for graphic designers :)

  • MadCow says:

    Hey Long Tran, i am curious to what kind of camera you use to take those pictures, the look pretty sweet.

  • Jason says:

    It seems that the ratio of active area to actual dimensions is worse than the intuos 3, resulting in a larger product for the same active drawing area. I would expect the active area to approach the outer limits of this thing minimizing wasted space. Even the cintiq 12wx has less wasted space on its front surface, and its a display. Ill give it to them on the styling and pen improvements, everything looks slicker. A heavier pen is better, i agree, and the scroll wheel has been a proven success for apple, and I like OLED’s, which shows that Wacom is truly a designer’s brand, up-to-date with new tech. Good post, ive been wondering about the intuos4, I cant wait for new cintiqs.

  • minhloc says:

    hi,
    nice review long tran, but i can tell you’re right-handed:
    there’s no picture of the tablet in left-hand mode…

  • J Dizzle says:

    Good post man. This settles it. I’ve really got to have one!

  • George says:

    Why does nobody notices something REALLY disturbing? Intuos 4 does not bring a serious upgrade in technology. Intuos 3 had that art marker that could be used in 6d and WAS SO HOT! I would have expected a natural upgrade to a digital brush or an improved art marker but no, Intuos 4 doas not even have an art marker. So, the only tool with 2 point touch surface has gone! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHYYYY???? Wacom it is clear that wants to make money only by increasing presure levels and adding e few leds and buttons. THIS IS NOT A DECENT UPGRADE PEOPLE! Do me a favor, do a search on youtobe using “IntuPaint” and “MoXi”

    • George says:

      Oh, yeah I forgot to mention. Please correct me if I am wrong but aside the increase in pressure sensitivity (maybe usefull for 1% of digital artists ou there) the resolution is the same as the older intuos 3: 5080 lpi, inclination sensitivity also the same +/- 60, and they say that the reading height increased from 6 mm to 10mm. But the truth is I get a reading height of more than 15mm on my intuos 3. So what is so new about Intuos 4?
      Just the pressure levels increase that nobody needs and the slick design that justifies the price. Nothing more.

  • Nemu says:

    um,..sorry to bother you..
    i want to get a tablet and very obviously there’s no better choice than from wacom. i was at first going to get an intuos3 6×8 but then the intuos4 came out. so you recommend it more than the previous?

    the price would be a different matter altogether but from where i’m at i see the medium one going for $600 nz dollars? when i scouted the intuos3 earlier too, it was only around 400 then it went up to 500 o.o

    and i dunno what george is saying about 6d brush/pens etc but if anyone does could you please explain to me?

    lastly, does the mouse come in the package? several places don’t show the mouse in the image nor does it say in the list of ‘contents inside package’..

    sorry to bother you and thank you for reading^^

    • George says:

      Nemu, You can find all you need to know about 6d pens in this review:

      http://www.letsgodigital.org/en/news/articles/story_2940.html

      About buying a tablet.. depends on your needs. What is important for you? A new polished design? Then go for intuos 4. But if best value and technical specs are important for you, then go for intuos 3. It is the best tablet out there. It`s the only one I use. Best of luck.

  • If you ever wanted to see Wacom Intuos4 drawing tablet in action, now you have a chance.
    This is a usability Video review of Wacom Intuos4 (Medium) digital drawing tablet. This is not your typical product review of its features and capabilities. Conducted over a month and a half period, this usability review portrays real user tests that tell you the truth about what they felt about this drawing tool.
    Watch it here: http://bit.ly/3EdxOJ

    Be sure to leave some comments about whether you as an artist will adopt the digital workflow using a digital drawing tablet.

    Enjoy!

  • George says:

    I`m baaaack!
    Spoiler alert for people already using wacom intuos 3 and needing a real review: NOT WORTH YOUR TIME!
    This review is only for people who have not used wacom products before or especially intuos 3.

    A real user test would be made by people already using intuos 3 and curious about intuos 4. That is the only comparing that really matters. A real usabillity review for intuos 4 should convince me to sell my intuos 3 and buy intuos 4. If this review is adressed to people using paper or other products like cintiq then maybe the usability test should be on bamboo pen and touch, wich is much newer then intuos 4 and I suspect it uses (besides multitouch) same technology as intos 3 at an affordable price ;P. Cheers!

    • George,

      I know why you defend Intuos3 so much and are so biased about it… Are you ready? You are just angry that the Intuos4 came out and now you’re stuck with Intuos3 – no longer being the “latest” product. If you are so convinced that Intuos3 is so much better that Intuos4 then why don’t you make a review about it? I would love to see the art you created using this tablet, can you back your words now?

      • George says:

        Mr. Zarbailov I sincerely do not understand where these ideas about me come from. All my statements about wacom products come from direct experience and are backed by very clear technical arguments wich I invite anybody to prove that they are wrong. I am a senior graphic designer with 3 years of experience working on intuos 3. I have triyed out many other tablets like trust, wacom cintiq, bamboo, wacom graphire. Can you please back your words revealing what experience using graphic tablets do you have?

        • George says:

          I am not angry just that the new intuos 4 came out. I am angry, true, but about something entirely different. I am angry that everybody praises the intuos4 without any technical backing. And that in all the reviews nobody dares to compare it to intuos3. It`s like, instead of comparing the iPhone 3G with it`s predecessor 2G everybody compares it with having a ground line, a fix line.. Wich is just absurd.

          • George says:

            And about being stuck with something, that is just not the case. I recently sold my intuos3 A4 tablet and bought a smaller intuos3 A6 tablet. In my country an intuos 4 small is cheaper than intuos 3 a6 so nobody is stuck with anything, that is just hilarious! Hahhaahahah!
            It seems that you are the biased one here. I wonder why… Do you work for Wacom by any chance? Are you on their payroll?

  • Jason says:

    It’s hilarious how obvious it is that George has no clue what he is talking about.

    • George says:

      Care to back that up, Jason? With anything. One shred of evidence? I agree with you on the absurd difference on the active area versus the physical dimensions. We seem to be on the same page here so where exactly was I showing that I haven`t got a clue in all that I said? Be more specific? What I said about ACTUAL technical details was wrong? About resolution? Pressure sensitivity, inclination, reading height?

  • George says:

    Mr. Zarbailov I sincerely do not understand where these ideas about me come from. All my statements about wacom products come from direct experience and are backed by very clear technical arguments wich I invite anybody to proove that they are wrong. I am a senior graphic designer with 3 years of experience working on intuos 3. I have tried out many other tablets like trust, wacom cintiq, bamboo, wacom graphire. Can you please back your words revealing what experience using graphic tablets do you have?

    I am not angry just that the new intuos 4 came out. I am angry, true, but about something entirely different. I am angry that everybody praises the intuos4 without any technical backing. And that in all the reviews nobody dares to compare it to intuos3. It`s like, instead of comparing the iPhone 3G with it`s predecessor 2G everybody compares it with having a ground line, a fix line.. Wich is just absurd. And about being stuck with something, that is just not the case. I recently sold my intuos3 A4 tablet and bought a smaller intuos3 A6 tablet. In my country an intuos 4 small is cheaper than intuos 3 a6 so nobody is stuck with anything, that is just hilarious! Hahhaahahah!
    It seems that you are the biased one here. I wonder why… Do you work for Wacom by any chance? Are you on their payroll?
    About making a review about intuos 3.. hm, mabye that`s a good ideea. But I`ll do that if I have the time. Not in the near future anyway. And just to be fair, I`ll do it after I try intos 4 and “intuos pen and touch”.
    About backing my words showing some digital work I can`t see the point in that. But just to humor you, ok. Here goes.

  • Diane says:

    I do wish that more drawing tablet reviews of the Intuos 4 would point out how much quicker the nibs wear down due to the rougher screen. I actually wish the Intuos4 had a slick screen like the Intuos3 did. A lot of people didn't like it but I had no problem whatsoever with it plus buying those nibs aren't exactly cheap. It would be nice if they gave the buyer a choice in what type of writing surface they wanted.

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