Physically the pen is a tad shorter and lighter than its previous incarnation from its previous sibling, but has more similarities in terms of weight and length with its real world counterpart. The cordless pen has a nib point to function just as a real pencil would while the other end serves as the eraser. This configuration will be automatically reflected in the application that you are using, flip the pen around and it will automatically select the Eraser tool
As veteran users would remember, the pen comes with its usual arsenal of spare and specialised nibs such as the felt tip nib and its spring loaded nibs to imitate the tactile feel of various pens and brushes. While this is nothing new, the maker has improved the function of the weighted pen stand to double up as the storage for the additional nibs as well as the pen extractor tool – a subtle but useful addition – definitely gets the thumbs up. No more fumbling around searching for the elusive little packet that you threw away in storage two years ago. The pen itself is also hugely customizable. Have more than 1 pen with different nibs and application settings? Wacom got you covered with distinguishing coloured rings. Feeling irritated with the little switch button on the pen? No problem, remove the button and slip on the spare rubber grip to cover it right up.
The tablet has been given a much needed overhaul with a better layout that is better suited for normal day-to-day use. The Express Keys and Touch Ring are grouped together on one strip of the tablet positioned for the non-dominant hand. The simplicity of this solution allows flipping of the tablet to suit both left and right handed people; there are even two separate ports such that you can ensure that the USB cable will always extend from the top and not get in your way. And in case you missed it, Wacom has made the cable detachable this time round in order to fit how you place your tablet. This is a huge improvement over the Intuos3 which featured Express Keys and Touch Strips on both sides; while it worked for an ambidextrous design, the Touch Strip is proned to being brushed against while in use.
There are altogether eight Express Keys – four above and four below the touch ring – and each with their own OLED illuminated display of its configuration. The defaults command cover the basics common keys such as the spacebar or hand tool, shift, control and alt keys which can really help to speed up the workflow. Like the old Intuos customizing the control is definitely an option if you are so structure-minded. Further more, the illuminated display will reflect the changes that you have made to the Express keys so that you will no longer have to play guessing which shortcut is assigned to which key.
The Touch Ring is a vast improvement; the circular motion feels much more natural with greater control than the old touch strip. Any iPod user would probably attest to this. The actual function of the touch ring is to provide a tactile control for certain functions with a range of motion such as zooming in or out. A small motion along the touch ring would correspond to a small degree of zoom while a wide motion would have you staring at the crater sized pores of the figure that you are retouching. The touch ring is also able to toggle between four modes with the touch of the central button; switching between modes such as zoom in/out and brush sizes with ease. What would be appreciated however would be the ability to more naturally toggle modes via the touch ring; currently the button cycles through all the four modes in a linear fashion. While there is a small light up display to indicate what which of the four modes it is in, a similar OLED display such as the one for the Express keys wouldn’t hurt either.
You are also able to add further application specific shortcuts with the radial menu but these won’t be used very often. Activating the radial menu pops up a circular menu with eight segments with customizable functions such as opening your mail box or opening a sub menu for total of three layers. While it does add a lot of customizable functions, it can be easier to just use the basic onscreen interface.