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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Cool, ambidextrous redesign

USB options

Light up labels

Redesigned pen

Improved pen holder

Mouse

ExpressKeys

Touch Ring

Display toggle

Radial menu

Wacom's stunning redesign of its Intuos tablet is more than just a color change. With a click of a radio button in the Wacom Control Panel, the Intuos4 is ready to be flipped over for use by a lefty (or righty, if you defined left-handed as the default). This photo shows the left-handed orientation.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
In a nice touch, there are two Mini-USB connectors so that your connection is always at the top of the tablet regardless of orientation. Each has a sliding cover for when it's unused, to prevent you from thinking it's an extra USB connector and trying to hook a second device to it.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
One of the most frustrating aspects of programmable input devices isn't them, it's us; we have to remember how we set up all the buttons and dials to gain efficiencies from them. The Intuos4 places LED labels to the side of the ExpressKeys (the buttons) and the Touch Ring (the circular scroll strip). The labels update for each application-specific set as well.

The (somewhat hard to see) button in the middle of the Touch Ring toggles through four different positions, each indicated by the dot you see to its right. For each position, you can define some kind of scrolling behavior. For instance, I configured one of the slots to scroll through thumbnails in Adobe Bridge by assigning the left arrow to one scroll direction and the right arrow to the other.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The new pen is about an inch shorter than the old with a completely new sensor in the nib to make it more sensitive to lighter pressure. It's gone from 1,024 levels of sensitivity to 2,048. Like its predecessor, it can sense up to 60 degrees of tilt as well.
Caption by / Photo by Wacom Technology Corp.
Though Wacom has always supplied nib replacements and a nib puller for its pens, the company finally figured out a storage method other than rolling around in the drawer--inside the pen stand. The new stand also looks a bit less cheesy than the clear acrylic model from the previous version.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The mouse has been improved a bit as well, smaller and with an offset sensor for a more traditional feel, and definitely feels more usable than previous versions. Still, the friction of its felt bottom on the tablet doesn't feel quite as fluid as an optical mouse.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
It's pretty straightfoward to program the ExpressKeys.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET
You can program the Touch Ring for four different functions per application, and set the speed of operation for each. The ring itself has 72 steps. I generally had to set the speed to slow for most operations or I'd overshoot my target. That's especially true with zooming.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET
While this setting came in handy on the Cintiq, which is an actual monitor, I disabled it on the Intuos4. It's only really useful if you configure the tablet mapping to a single display (in a multimonitor setup) rather than to a single desktop across two displays.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET
This is an easy to configure menu that pops up underneath your cursor. Unfortunately, the command submenu isn't persistent, so if you need to do a series of copy and pastes, for example, it turns out to be far more work than using your keyboard shortcuts. I expect Wacom will refine this in subsequent releases.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET
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