Pens from the Intuos 3 won’t work with the newer tablet, but rather than a way of making you pay all over again for the large variety of pens the company offers (including Grip, Airbrush, Inking and Art models), it’s because they have received a genuine hardware upgrade inside too, doubling the Intuos 3 pen’s 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity to a heady 2,048. The nib now only requires a single gram of pressure to register an action compared to the previous pen’s 10, so an even finer touch than before is possible. Also, both the nibs and the eraser at the pen’s top now feel softer, giving better resistance and making them feel more like the real thing.
Wacom has cleverly designed the stand to be more than just a pen-holder like it was for the Intuos 3. It’s taller and heavier than before, and its glossy base unscrews from the hollow top section to reveal a foam holding area for all your nibs and a compact metal nib-extractor. Storing the nibs in the pen-base is an inspired idea, one of the many incidental touches that elevate the Intuos 4 above its predecessor. Ten nibs are included, which with the one pre-installed in the pen makes for a total of eleven. These all give a different feel to writing or drawing, and include pen, stroke, hard felt and flex nib varieties.
Naturally the biggest changes concern the tablet itself. Compared to the Intuos 3, the surround of the actual tablet area has now been changed to a matte rather than glossy finish, which not only means less maintenance but also gives your palms a securer resting area.
Indeed the only glossy section is a piano-black strip on the side, which contains the updated controls and, in what is one of the most dramatic upgrades since the beginning of the Intuos line, two monochrome organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays. This advanced display technology doesn’t need a backlight, meaning they require less energy, are never tiring on the eyes and look really cool too, with the white symbols on a perfectly black background really adding a lot of visual appeal.
Their practical purpose though is to tell you the functions of each of the eight fully programmable matte buttons (called ExpressKeys) the strip houses. You might think it’s easy enough to remember what eight buttons do, but taking into consideration that you may want to have different configurations for different software packages, or even switch between various configs within a single piece of software depending on the task, you’ll soon wonder how you ever managed without them.
It’s worth noting that the smallest Intuos 4 – of the four sizes available, which like T-shirts include small, medium, large and x-large – doesn’t come with the OLED displays and only has six buttons, so if you’re not severely constrained by either space or budget it’s well worth making the medium tablet your minimum starting point.