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As a long-term Wacom graphics tablet user, who’s always found the pen mightier than the mouse even for general computer usage, I was more than a bit keen to see just how the company could improve the technology with its latest range. Wacom’s new Intuos2 range – which replaces the existing Intuos system – consists of five tablets in sizes from A6 (4-x-5 inch) to A3 (12-x-18 inch) with a revised colour scheme and improved technology coupled with a set of eight ergonomically-designed input devices. I looked at two USB models – the A4 regular and the A3. The former offers an active area of 12.9-x-9.62 inches and the latter a whopping 18.28-x-12.67 inches. Both come with the new Intuos2 4D Mouse and Intuos2 Grip Pen; the A3 model is also available in a CAD configuration, which features an Intuos Lens Cursor. I loved the Intuos2’s new look with its purply-blue – Wacom calls it Midnite (sic) – colour. Far better than the old pale grey look, the new colour scheme gives the Intuos2 a more professional, expensive look, which if you have to have a big slab of plastic on your desk, is definitely the look to go for. Get a grip The Intuos2 Grip Pen has also seen a redesign with a wider rubberized grip area and optimized weighting. These changes, claim Wacom, reduce hand tension by relieving strain. As with previous models, it features a fully programmable double-side switch, a tip that offers 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, and an eraser. Despite my general aversion to mice, I found the new Intuos2 4D Mouse a joy to use. Cordless and battery-free, it sits comfortably in the hand with your thumb and little finger resting on the sculptured rubberized indents on either side. Like Torvill and Dean on ice, it glides with ease across the surface of the tablet. A resolution of 2,540dpi gives a high degree of accuracy. A programmable, self-centring finger wheel lets you scroll through documents and in some applications you can use the finger wheel for zooming, navigation in 3D and audio or video jogging. In total, the Intuos2 4D Mouse has five programmable buttons that can be assigned to any keyboard shortcut. It also provides 360-degree axial rotation in supporting applications. Two of many The 4D Mouse and Grip Pen are just two of eight input devices available for the Intuos2 range. Wacom has taken the approach that for professional users, no single device will suitable in all applications. CAD users will, therefore, appreciate the Intuos2 Lens Cursor with its positioning accuracy of +/- 0.15mm; digital artists and images retouchers will find the Airbrush a must-have tool, and be amazed at the sensitivity of the Stroke pen with its soft-feel pen tip that accurately captures every nuance of your brushstrokes. The Intuos2 Ink Pen, a ballpoint pen with replaceable black refills is great for signatures and tracing artwork. A 2D mouse and Classic Pen complete the tools line up. You can even use two devices at once such as rotating a 3D model while you paint a texture onto it – thanks to Wacom’s DualTrack feature. Even better, each input device’s setting can be customized and, because each has a unique Tool ID number, the tablet will automatically recognize the correct settings when the device is in use. As with pressure, Intuos2 tablets can recognize when you tilt your pen or airbrush. In certain packages, adjusting the angle of the tilt will result in a thicker or thinner stroke; in others you can adjust tilt to define brush characteristics such as width, colour and opacity. The only internal change between the original Intuos range and the new tablets is a higher sample frequency that apparently helps avoid interference from other electronic device – not something I’ve ever encountered – and improved tracking of input devices. So the big question remains: should you upgrade from your old Intuos? If money is no object, then answer is obviously yes as all new technology is better. Yet stylish new looks and cool technology do come at a price, and it’s one that’s a lot higher in real terms than the original Intuos range. That said – while the differences between the two ranges aren’t huge – the advanced feature set, range of input devices, new 4D Mouse will make most professionals – be they digital artists, video compositors, CAD or 3D model creators – to work faster and more creatively.