Wacom's Intuos3 4x5 tablet features a digital pen, a mouse, and a tablet designed for artists and graphic designers who need a degree of control unattainable with a standard mouse. Regular computer users who suffer from repetitive stress in their wrists or anyone who wants a more intuitive means to work on their desktops will also appreciate its ease of use, though a street price of $220 may be a reason to shop for the consumer-level Wacom Graphire3 tablet released last year.
The Intuos3 tablet connects to your PC via USB (the old Intuos2 had only a serial connector) and includes an RF receiver for both the wireless mouse and the pen. Each component has customizable buttons, including a rocker switch on the pen, five buttons on the mouse, as well as a four-button keypad and a slide bar on the tablet. The Intuos3 comes bundled with the necessary software drivers on CD, as well as applications including Corel Painter Essentials 2.0 and Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0.
When you use the pen, the active area defaults to Pen mode (absolute positioning), which means it maps directly to the screen. In other words, if you rest the tip of the pen on the bottom-right corner of the active area, the cursor will point to the same place on the screen. The pen also features 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity (twice that of the Graphire3), letting you switch between different brushes and pinpoint precise areas onscreen. The pen is a bit thicker than a standard ballpoint pen, but the weight is similar. The gray-rubber grip feels comfortable, and the convenient rocker switch is easily accessible with thumb or forefinger. The pen comes with three nibs for a variety of feels; an eraser on the end makes it easy to clean up errors.
A smooth material covers the bottom of the ball-free and optics-free mouse (it works by touch), allowing the mouse to glide easily on the tablet's active area. When you use the mouse, the tablet switches to relative positioning, which treats the cursor like any other mouse would. If you imagine yourself using the mouse a lot, we'd recommend one of the larger models. On the 4x5 model, the mouse takes up half of the active area.