Getting back to the controls, the touch-strips of the Intuos 3 have been replaced by an iPod-like ‘wheel’ on its successor, which Wacom has named the TouchRing. Not only does the ring offer more accurate and flexible action than the strip did, but the common (and extremely annoying) problem on the Intuos 3 where users would inadvertently activate the touch-strips by brushing against them has also been eliminated. It’s good to see Wacom not just adding new features, but listening to user feedback and rectifying the problems older models have revealed too.
At the centre of the ring is a round toggle button which can switch the ring between up to five functions, including scroll/zoom, adjusting brush size and rotating your canvas. Sensitivity can be adjusted individually for each separate function using Wacom’s excellent software driver.
At this stage those of you who are left-handed (like myself) may be wondering how a single control strip, compared to one on each side for the Intuos 3, accommodates south paws. Again, Wacom has implemented a superior solution to before. The fixed USB data cable which was a weakness of the older model (since if the cable was damaged the tablet became effectively useless) has been replaced with a pair of mini-USB ports at the top and bottom of the Intuos 4.
When you want to change your handedness, simply flip the tablet over, insert the USB cable into the appropriate slot and tell the software about the new orientation, after which it will rotate the OLED symbols and tablet sensitivities accordingly (though it shouldn’t be required, in our testing we found a few instances where the new orientation wouldn’t take effect without a reset – but then it’s not something you’re likely to want to change often). In yet another of those touches that show Wacom’s designers deserve every one of their pay-checks, if you open the ‘door’ for one USB port it automatically closes off the other port, preventing dust and grit from getting in.
Even the drawing surface of the tablet has had an upgrade, and thanks to a softer texture and the pen’s slightly softer nibs it now feels more like drawing on real paper than ever. Nibs might need to be replaced more frequently, but it’s inexpensive to do so and a small price to pay for the tactile improvement. The only real complaint here is that if you have a particularly heavy hand it’s easier to permanently mark the tablet’s surface than on the Intuos 3.