Review: Wacom Intuos 4 Tablet and Saitek Eclipse II Keyboard

 

Here is a bad photo of my Intuos 4 tablet with Saitek Eclipse II keyboard and Microsoft trackball

Wacom Intuos 4 Tablet:

Wacom has the only product on the market when it comes to tablets.  I have had 2 of the Intuos3 9×12 tablets for a few years and needed third one.  The shape of the Intuos4 is a wider format which corresponds with the unfortunate trend of most displays which are increasingly 16:9 instead of 4:3 (monitor trends follow TV trends). I really miss the vertical real estate on my displays, but I don’t mind the wider shape of the tablet because I map it across 2 monitors, so for me it works well.

If you are considering upgrading from a large Intuos3, I don’t think it’s worth it.  The additional stylus sensitivity is not very noticeable to me for image retouching.  Maybe it would be more noticeable if I was actually painting or illustrating with it.  I thought the OLEDs describing the custom function designated to each button would be more useful but I just don’t use the buttons because I was constantly hitting them with my arm as I used the keyboard.  It is less of a problem with the Intous3 because its buttons are more recessed.  Like the touch strip on the Intous3, the wheel on the Intous4 is super easy to hit with my arm by accident.  I have to disable both of them too. There is nothing more confusing/annoying than zooming in and out of your file when you’re not expecting it or, even worse, unwittingly switching layers in a photoshop file in the middle of brushing on it. In fact, I have disabled the buttons and the wheel completely because I was constantly hitting them on accident. I prefer keyboard shortcuts anyway.

In conclusion, if you think you will really make use of the buttons, the Intuos4 may be a worthwhile upgrade.  However, if you don’t really use the buttons on your old tablet, you probably wont use the buttons on this tablet and other than the buttons, nothing significant has changed on the series 4 tablets.

If you don’t have a tablet, get one! There is nothing better than pen & tablet functionality. It will change your life!  I don’t know how I ever managed without one.

Saitek Eclipse II illuminated keyboard:

Also pictured at the top of this page are my new Saitek Eclipse II illuminated keyboard and my ancient Microsoft trackball. I have been stuck on that trackball for years now and you can’t get them any more.  I like the way it fits my hand and I prefer to use a trackball to navigate 2 large displays (a photo of them would have revealed too much of my mess).

I just got the Eclipse II keyboard a couple of weeks ago.  I retouch in dim light and it was too hard to see the keys on the keyboard that came with my 2009 Mac Pro.  The Eclipse is one of the few illuminated keyboards which claims to be Mac compatible.  I don’t really think it’s any more Mac compatible than the rest.  But it’s cheap, I got mine for $45 bucks.  You can adjust the illumination’s brightness and color which is fun. But I never dim it because I don’t find it to be that bright.

PC keyboards are not so easy to get used to. The main obstacle is the fact that the Alt/Option key and the Command key have switched places. The names and symbols of those keys are different too, but that can be tolerated.  I found a great app called DoubleCommand which takes care of swapping these keys.  Then I physically swapped them by popping them out.  Luckily they are the same size so this is possible.

Another major inconvenience is that the music control keys on the keyboard do not work as designated.  I am doing a trial of Keyboard Maestro which can overcome this issue (and can do much more) but I am looking for a free solution.*  I have been a fan of a great little Itunes controller called Synergy for a few years.  Synergy allows me to program the function keys to control Itunes.

*Update 3/2/11: I purchased a pro license of a program called SizzlingKeys for $4.95.  This program is a free iTunes controller and the pro license allows you to assign a hot key to control the system volume.  It does pretty much everything I use Synergy for.  It seems to be working well and is much cheaper than Keyboard Maestro.  Since I am only looking for one small function, I prefer to go with the cheapest solution.  I was able to assign the NumLock key to perform the Volume Up function in Keyboard Maestro but SizzlingKeys does not recognize the NumLock key.  So I have assigned F3 & F4 to raise and lower the system volume.  I am pretty much tapped out of function keys.  I am wondering when I will run into a conflict where I need access to my function keys for other programs.  The only keys that aren’t being used by SizzlingKeys or Synergy are F1, F2 & F12 (F12 works by default as the eject key for the optical drive so I have to leave that unassigned).  I know I at least need the F2 key for the rename function in Lightroom.

What is that key to the left of the control key?

There are also a lot of weird keys that I will never use, such as PRT SCRN, Insert, Scroll Lock, Pause Break and some strange key to the left of the right control key.  I’m sure there are a lot of people who find these keys useful. Some of them are vaguely familiar to me from 20 years ago when I used PCs for work.  Unfortunately, they do not appear to be assignable by Synergy, SizzlingKeys or Keyboard Maestro.

Why is that + key so big?

Also, I am constantly getting tripped up by the + key being oversized.  When entering phone numbers, I am constantly hitting the + key instead of the – key.  I hope I can get used to it.  That is something I don’t think I can fix or modify. Also missing is the Eject key.  Fortunately, F12 performs this function by default.  The Backspace key works as the delete key and the delete key works as a forward delete key.

The Eclipse’s keys are pretty high, like an older Apple keyboard.  I don’t mind that too much but I guess I prefer the lower, more modern, Apple keyboards.  I primarily use it for accessing keyboard shortcuts and web browsing.  I rarely do extensive typing, like this, so the illumination is more important than the action of the keyboard.

All in all, I am pleased with the keyboard. It is not ideal, but after a few tweaks, I am totally comfortable using it and it is much easier to see in the dark. I wish apple would make a desktop keyboard like my Macbook Pro’s keyboard.  I should mention that I was specifically avoiding a Blue Tooth keyboard.  I find there are too many issues with input delays and why do I need a bluetooth keyboard for a desk top (or even a laptop really, what’s the point)?

  One Response to “Review: Wacom Intuos 4 Tablet and Saitek Eclipse II Keyboard”

  1. I am thrilled with my digital pen, it has made working with my art tablet extremely easy and I find that I can get my artwork done quicker using it. Before I ordered the pen, I did read a review saying that they also liked their pen, but warned that the pen itself felt ‘cheap’. That I would have to agree with, for what one pays for it, the feel of it is, disappointingly, like a dime-store quality toy. However, I can and do overlook that fact since I love the outcome of my work. The pen that came with my art tablet has a nicer feel in my hand but I don’t like to use it, it is harder for me to work with. If you can overlook the cheap plastic feel of the product and focus on the things you can do with it, then this is a good investment.