Wacom Intuos4 Medium USB Tablet with Pen and Mouse PTK640
I usually refrain from beginning any review like this, but I can’t help but love Wacom’s Intuos’ line of graphic tablets, and that love extends to their medium-sized Intuos4 Tablet. We recently had the chance to evaluate the PTK-640 ‘Medium’ model, but this review could easily apply for the Small, Large, Extra Large (XL), and […]
I usually refrain from beginning any review like this, but I can’t help but love Wacom’s Intuos’ line of graphic tablets, and that love extends to their medium-sized Intuos4 Tablet. We recently had the chance to evaluate the PTK-640 ‘Medium’ model, but this review could easily apply for the Small, Large, Extra Large (XL), and Bluetooth Wireless models that are also available. Each unit is identical or at least very similar in general specifications aside from size, these minor differences will be pointed out for this review.
For those that don’t know, the previous generation of the Intuos3 was a good tablet for the majority of graphic designers or enthusiastic would-be artists clamoring for it, and in that respect the Intuos4 feels like a continued leap in the right direction. The minimalist design portrays a well-made tablet with a smooth matte surface and gloss on the side without a hint of cheapness, on its relatively thin (.5″) side a lone USB port (two on each side on the Small and USB charging for the lithium-ion battery on the wireless) completes its sleek look. Setup or putting it away when done is hardly a hassle since the tablet only weighs in about 2.2 lbs. overall.
Like its predecessor there’s still a working area (8.8”x5.5” on medium) and user-definable buttons called ExpressKeys (6 for small tablet, 8 for the others) on the top and bottom sides for the non-dominant hand to breeze through. Each button is labeled (except on the small) on a clear illuminated display that shows what each button does as long as the tablet is being used. Any of these keys and other abilities mentioned soon after can be reassigned to your ever-changing preferences through Wacom’s own control panel, which is required.
A intuitive Touch Ring sits on the mid-side for program-specific functions. Essentially, it’s a circular trackpad with a middle button that allows you four different, and adjustable actions like auto Zoom/Scroll, cycling between layers, Brush sizes, and Canvas rotation – with each task by performed by moving your finger in either direction (ex: zoom-in with one motion, zoom out with the other). If you want to switch between functions pressing the button in the middle does just that with a transparent dialog box shown on the monitor to remind you, promptly fading out after you’ve picked what shortcut you currently need.
Finally we have the inclusion of the radial menu – another helpful pop-up for more user-defined flexibility as long as you have this feature assigned to an ExpressKey. If anything those who need a total of eight additional quick commands will find plenty to like about this carryover from the high-end Cintiq display tablets, and hopefully shouldn’t run out of extra shortcuts when enabled.
When used the first thing we did is change the orientation of this tablet since the Intuos4 is truly ambidextrous and can be flipped 180° for either left- or right-handed designers; this small feature alone makes this tablet one of the most versatile offerings in any situation, especially for lefties like myself.
After quickly getting acquainted and finally putting the device through its rounds we found the performance was noticeably improved over its predecessor. The benefits come from a patented cordless and battery-free EMR (electro magnetic resonance) pen technology and the mind-boggling 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity (double the amount found on the Intuos3), and that’s good if you’re an avid painter as only a single 1 gram of pressure is needed to virtually paint on canvas versus the previous 10 grams. This type of sensor refinement makes fine-tuning less of an issue, and a smooth experience wasn’t limited to how rapid and deliberate movements were with the stylus either – no matter how hard we tried.
Making vivid works or doing clean retouching with the opposite eraser was excellent, too, as it calculates not only strength but accuracy (±0.01 in) and stroke angle (± 60°). However you plan on using the stylus Wacom was nice enough to include 10 extra pointer tips that each provide a unique feel and are housed within the holder stand itself.
The included Wacom mouse (not included with the Bluetooth Wireless model) is a thoughtful addition that sports five customizable buttons, and works much like your standard mouse, except it operates directly on the tablet. Unless you plan on regularly alternating between tools you probably won’t find much use for the mouse (we didn’t), since the already robust pen/tablet configuration and was just fine and was quickly stuck to being a novelty during our tests.
Unfortunately, backwards compatibility isn’t a strong suit of the Intuos4, as leftover accessories from the Intuos3 (or other Wacom tablets) aren’t compatible with this tablet’s updated tech. Likewise, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the latest and most updated design software, too, as many of the most popular ‘older’ programs (such as Photoshop CS3) were not able to take full advantage of the Intuos4’s vastly improved sensitivity. Those rocking newer versions of Adobe’s popular programs or Suites should have no such problems, as we found CS5 programs like Photoshop and Illustrator exponentially improved using this tablet.
Most serious graphic designers and artists that use Wacom’s tablets I regularly speak to are usually of the same mind when asked about their preferred digital tool: “It’s a joy to use”. The same can definitely be said of the latest models in the popular Intuos lineup, including the vastly improved Intuos4 Medium Tablet, which doubles its predecessors levels of pressure sensitivity (2048) for unparalleled support for the latest graphic design programs. Likewise, its weight, layout, and precision is almost perfect and for both PC and Mac computers. None of this should be that surprising, but its always nice to see hardware evolve alongside the programs that power them.