(May 24, 2019) Update: I have updated this review with the new Drawing Tests section I have recently started doing in my reviews.
The conclusion of this review is unchanged. I still would not recommend this tablet.
Update: If you buy the tablet off Amazon, you are now able to download all 3 of the advertised bundled programs no matter which version you buy. However, the official product page for the Intuos on Wacom’s website still says you get different programs based on the model you buy…
I guess all I can say is, read the product description to see what programs you’ll be getting?
The Wacom Intuos 2018 (CTL4100 series) is the newest refresh of Wacom’s low-end Intuos tablets. It has the exact same price points as the previous version Intuos (CTL-490 series), but is different in a few aspects.
You might know that I don’t endorse the CTL-490 series Intuos tablets because the pen quality is subpar and can easily be beat in quality by Wacom alternatives of the same price, but the newest CTL4100 series appears to be a bit more decent so I bought it for review to see how worthwhile it actually is.
There are a few versions for the new Intuos 2018. They are:
-CTL4100 – Small, without Bluetooth, 80 USD. Colour options: Black.
-CTL4100WL – Small, with Bluetooth, 100 USD. Colour options: Black or pistachio.
-CTL6100WL – Medium, with Bluetooth, 200 USD. Colour options: Black or pistachio.
I got the CTL4100 version, so this isn’t a review of the Bluetooth feature.
I will be making a few comparisons to the previous CTL-490 Intuos throughout this review, so you may want to read my Wacom Intuos Draw Review to understand the comparisons I make. These comparisons are important to show whether this new Intuos is an upgrade or downgrade from the previous version.
So anyways, onto the review.
-I am not a Mac or Linux user!! I only tested this tablet on Windows 8 and Windows 10.
-Prices may have changed since I wrote this review.
-Check when a review was written. Some aspects may improve or change over time, so it is in your best interest to concentrate on reviews which are less than 1 year old.
Table of Contents
- How good is this tablet?
- Specifications at a glance
- Bundled Programs
- What’s in the box?
- Tablet drivers
- Drawing tests
- The drawing experience!
- Places to buy the tablet
How good is this tablet?
Design choices: Fairly good!
-Nitpicks: Button placement
Hardware quality: Feels solid!
-Nitpicks: Pen quality
Tablet drivers: Fully featured!
-Nitpicks: No custom pressure curve
Drawing test results: Mostly good!
-Nitpicks: Very hard to draw thinnest lines
Actual drawing experience: Pretty decent.
-Nitpicks: Flat pen nib
Overall: At best, a decent tablet for 80 USD.
-If you are considering this as your first tablet, it’s probably only worth it if you are looking to get the bundled programs (more on that in the Bundled Programs section) or the Wacom brand name.
However, if you do not need the bundled programs, I would not recommend it at all. The nib wear speed is too ridiculous to overlook, the size is super small for the price, and it’s quite hard to draw low pen pressures.
-If you are experienced with tablets, you probably only want to buy the Wacom Intuos 2018 if it’s the size you’re used to and you can’t find a better alternative.
Specifications at a glance
Price: 79.95 USD (when this review was written) Amazon.com
Active Area: 6.0 x 3.7 inches
Pen Type: Battery-free
Pen Buttons: 2 side buttons, no eraser
Pen Pressure: 4096
Pen Tilt Sensitivity: None
Expresskeys: 4 buttons
As you may already know, the Intuos this time comes with three creative software downloads that you can choose from. What you probably don’t know is that the choices are limited or different based on the version of Intuos you get!
So this time, Wacom decided to include Corel Painter Essentials 6, Corel Aftershot 3, and *Clip Studio Paint Pro 2-year license as the options. However, here are what you can actually get with the different versions:
Wacom Intuos 2018 small without Bluetooth (CTL4100) 80 USD
You can pick 1 of 2 included softwares, either Corel Painter Essentials 6 or Corel Aftershot 3.
Wacom Intuos 2018 small with Bluetooth (CTL4100WL) 100 USD
You can pick 2 of 3 included softwares, either Corel Painter Essentials 6, Corel Aftershot 3, or *Clip Studio Paint Pro 2-year license.
Wacom Intuos 2018 medium with Bluetooth (CTL6100WL) 200 USD
You can download all 3 included softwares of Corel Painter Essentials 6, Corel Aftershot 3, and *Clip Studio Paint Pro 2-year license.
*Clip Studio Paint Pro 2-year license downgrades to Clip Studio Paint Debut after the 2-year license expires. Clip Studio Paint Debut is the basic version of Clip Studio Paint. You can buy the lifetime license of Clip Studio Paint Pro for a discount price of ~33 USD using the Serial Number included with your Intuos.
Many people were excited that you could get 3 free programs with the new Intuos because Wacom made it seem like you would get all three unconditionally in the promotion video, but the reality is that you don’t get them all unless you get the medium edition. A lot of people were excited about Clip Studio Paint being included, but it’s extremely important to note that Clip Studio Paint does not come with the cheapest non-Bluetooth version of the Intuos!
Wacom also does not mention that the Clip Studio Paint license is only 2-year on the official Intuos product pages. There is absolutely no mention of it being a 2-year license anywhere on Wacom’s site.
I only found the info regarding it being a 2-year license on Amazon.com (here: Amazon.com Link) and directly on Clip Studio Paint’s site (here: Bundled Clip Studio Paint Campaign).
What’s in the box?
The tablet comes in a white box with the cartoon characters of the new Intuos and pen on the front.
The things that come in the box:
- Tablet cable (USB type-A to Micro-USB)
- Pen nib replacements x3
- User manual
The tablet has a fairly nice and simple black design. The dots on the surface show the drawing area.
The tablet feels quite durable when grabbing both sides and doing a twist test. It most likely feels much more sturdy than the previous Intuos Draw because it doesn’t have a hollow back for the wireless battery and pen nibs.
The surface of the tablet has a really rough texture which grips the pen a lot. Because it’s so rough, your pen nib will wear really quickly. My first pen nib already has a flat side just from doing my review drawing. It’s honestly pretty ridiculous.
The surface texture of the new Intuos 2018 is actually rougher than the previous Intuos Draw. I pulled out my Intuos Draw and compared the surface textures side-by-side and the Intuos 2018 is really rough in comparison.
When I reviewed the Intuos Draw, my pen nib did not wear noticeably, but with the Intuos 2018 my pen nib already has a completely noticeable flat side.
The back of the tablet has 4 rubber feet and the usual tablet information inked onto it. The rubber feet do a decent job keeping the tablet in place, but perhaps due to how smooth my table is, I found that the tablet was rotating little by little while I was drawing.
The edges of the tablet are rounded so technically they shouldn’t cut off your circulation or anything dangerous like that.
The tablet has four expresskeys along the top for shortcuts. The buttons are pretty nice to press and give good feedback, but they click so obnoxiously loud that I would never want to use them.
To be completely honest, the position of the buttons is worse than the previous generation Intuos’ because now your non-drawing hand has to rest on the tablet drawing area to use the expresskeys, whereas with the previous generation Intuos, you could access two of the expresskeys without having your hand sit on the drawing area. However, it can be assumed that most people will use the keyboard for important shortcuts instead of the expresskeys anyways, so it’s not a problem at all.
On a more positive note, the expresskeys are made so that they can be used as a pen tray!
The cable port is at the top left of the tablet. Unlike with the Intuos Draw, the Intuos 2018 has no tunnel in front of the port, so this means you can use any Micro-USB cable you have if your included one breaks. No more waiting for the always out-of-stock Wacom cable to restock!
This is the new Intuos pen for the Intuos 2018. It has a hard rubber grip which was standard for Wacom’s low-end tablets until the last generation Intuos Draw (CTL-490 series) where they decided to use a cheap plastic pen instead. However, now they’ve gone back to a hard rubber grip pen with the new Intuos 2018.
Wacom advertises that it has 4096 pen pressure, but it feels no different from the 2048 pen pressure they advertise for the previous generation Intuos Draw.
It should also be noted that Wacom changed the pen pressure on the Intuos Draw spec sheet from 1024 to 2048 without making a single announcement, so it’s quite possible that the 4096 pen pressure is just an advertising ploy as well. Well, not that anyone can feel the difference between pen pressures above 2048 anyways.
The above photo compares the Intuos Draw pen vs the Intuos 2018 pen. Can you tell which is which?
Correct answer: The top one is the Intuos 2018 pen and the bottom one is the Intuos Draw pen.
Quite frankly, the new pen is not much of an upgrade from the previous Intuos Draw pen because it has the exact same shape, but at least it gives a tiny bit more confidence in its durability and is slightly nicer to hold due to being heavier because of the rubber grip.
However, the rubber grip is not soft so it basically just feels like grippier hard plastic. Because of that, this is one of the cheapest feeling and cheapest looking pens I have seen in this price range, and I almost feel like Wacom shouldn’t call this a Wacom because of how much it betrays their “high-quality” image.
The pen feels pretty good to hold with a bulge near the tip to catch your fingers. The pen buttons give some feedback, but they feel slightly mushy to use and don’t give as satisfying a click as expected when used.
The hard rubber grip gives you a tiny bit more confidence in the pens durability, and the slight extra weight is the only difference from the previous Intuos Draw pen when it comes to the comfort of use because it’s the exact same shape.
The top of the pen has a hole for pulling out your pen nib when you need to replace it.
A fun feature of this tablet is that the top of the pen can be unscrewed to reveal the pen nib compartment which can hold up to 3 replacement nibs. It’s quite a cool idea and I like it. The pen nib remover is also built into the top of the pen cap, so it’s very convenient that everything is on the pen and always with you on-the-go.
A feature of the Intuos tablets is the pen holding cloth attached to the top of the tablet. You just stick your pen in the cloth and you have the pen/tablet package in one set. The pen won’t fall out either because the cloth is snug and the rubber grip really grips onto the cloth when you push the pen all the way in.
Another feature is the rubber cable holder that comes on the cable. It accomplishes the same thing as those Velcro cable holders that you often find, but it’s made of rubber instead.
The Wacom Intuos 2018 uses the newest Wacom tablet drivers and they are extremely easy to install! You don’t even need to have your tablet plugged in to install them! Just go download the latest version directly from Wacom’s site and remove all other tablet drivers you have on your computer before installing it.
Once you’ve installed the drivers and restarted your computer, plug in your tablet and the tablet first-time setup screen should automatically pop up. It will automatically open the Wacom Desktop Center, and from there you can access your tablet settings.
However, once you exit that, there is no quick and simple one-click way to open the Wacom drivers again. To open them again, you will either have to 1) go to Control Panel, select View by: Small Icons, and click Wacom properties, or 2) press the Windows key and type Wacom and select the search result.
In the Tablet tab, you get to choose the functions assigned to your expresskeys. Wacom has the most functions available, so take your time to look through all of them as there are quite a few.
In the Pen tab, you get to choose the functions assigned to your pen buttons, as well as control the pen pressure firmness and double click speed.
The pen buttons have the same customization options as the expresskeys. Currently, Wacom is the only company that also lets you reassign the pen tip to other functions.
The most common advice you will hear to reduce pen nib wear on a Wacom is to set the pen pressure to “soft”, but with this tablet changing the Tip Feel to “soft” makes you unable to draw the lower pen pressures so I recommend keeping it in the middle for the best range of pressure.
Note: If changing the Tip Feel does not change anything, check each application in the Application bar along the top and change the Tip Feel in each of those. If that still does not change anything, try reinstalling the tablet drivers. This is what I had to do before my pen pressure worked properly.
It should be noted that the Wacom Intuos is, oddly enough, the only Wacom product which lacks the ability to directly customize the pressure curve in its drivers. Every other Wacom product (Intuos Pro, Cintiq, etc) allows you to directly customize the pressure curve.
I feel that Wacom should include the custom pressure curve feature with the Intuos because they already charge a pretty high price for the Intuos, so it should have the Wacom quality that everyone expects from a Wacom product.
In the Mapping tab, you get to choose the monitor your tablet is mapped to, the active area ratio, and whether you want Windows Ink on or off.
Make sure you use the “Force Proportions” checkbox to make your drawing area the same proportions as your screen. That way, when you move your hand in a circle, the cursor will move in a circle as well rather than an oval.
The Windows Ink option is usually best turned off, but in certain programs such as Adobe Photoshop, you will need it turned on for the pen pressure to work.
In the On-Screen Controls tab, you can edit the radial menu and toolbars for shortcuts. To use them, you just assign the On-Screen Controls function to an expresskey or pen button.
Along the top of the drivers, you can create application specific programs which will only be active when the application you chose is currently open. A useful feature for people who use different programs which have completely different shortcuts.
The Wacom Desktop Center is your go to for everything related to your Wacom tablet. To open it, press the Windows key and search Wacom. It should be one of the search results.
In the My Devices section, you have the options to edit your tablet settings, find tutorials and help for the tablet, and a link to redeem the art softwares that come bundled.
In the Backup Settings section, you have the option to save all your Wacom settings either on your computer, or on the Wacom cloud. If you made a lot of changes to the default settings, you will most likely want to backup your settings.
In the Updates section, the Wacom Desktop Center will automatically check for driver updates, or firmware updates for your tablet(s). Automatic update checking is a feature that no tablet company aside from Wacom has, and it is very nice that you do not need to manually check the Wacom site for driver updates.
Aside from those main sections, the Marketplace button opens a website for buying drawing applications, the Store button opens the Wacom store website, and the Support button opens the Wacom Customer Support page.
Overall, the Wacom drivers are the most customizable and user-friendly drivers I have seen. Everything is quite high quality as expected from their higher price point.
These pen tests are all done with the same settings for both the canvas and the pens. These tests are only done in Clip Studio Paint as that is the only program where I totally understand how to remove all unwanted variables.
If you are worried about whether this tablet will work with your art program, don’t be afraid to contact support to ask them directly.
-The canvas will always be a 3000x3000px 300dpi page (the above test page is a 3000x6000px 300dpi page, so just two pages stuck together).
-The test pens are mostly all 100px linear pressure curve pens. Pen pressure for size and/or opacity is enabled based on the test.
-The slow ruler line test uses a 10px no pen pressure pen to clearly show wobble and jitter. I also use a 50px pen pressure enabled pen to see the visibility of wobble/jitter with pen pressure is enabled.
-The IAF (Initial Activation Force) test uses a 300px linear pressure pen to show the thinnest lines possible, as well as demonstrate the IAF of the tablet.
1) Scribble Test – Grade: Pass-ish
Test pen 1 – 100px – pen pressure: size
Test pen 2 – 100px – pen pressure: size+opacity
For my pen tests, I always start out with a few pen pressure scribbles to see if I can do some nice squiggly lines with increasing pen pressure. I also do some back and forth shading and some spirals with increasing pen pressure.
With the Wacom Intuos, I had troubles consistently getting thin lines at the start of each of my scribbles. It was hard to get my strokes to always start with a very thin line, and as you can see, my strokes often started quite thick.
This is something which I continually noticed while drawing with the Wacom Intuos, that my lines always come out quite thick and I struggled to draw my favourite super thin lines.
You can also see that the lines sometimes do start with a thin line though, so I give this tablet a pass-ish grade here.
2) Slow Ruler Line Test – Grade: Pass
Test pen 1 – 10px – pen pressure: none
Test pen 2 – 50px – pen pressure: size
The slow ruler line tests done with a no pen pressure pen were almost completely perfect on this tablet. However, with the pen tilted over all the way, it started exhibiting a large amount of wobble.
Of course, this tablet does not have pen tilt, so most people will have no reason to tilt their pen over past the “normal” pen grip angle. This means that we can safely ignore the wobble in the max tilt test.
This tablet gets a pass here.
3) Quick Hatching Test – Grade: Pass
Test pen 1 – 100px – pen pressure: size
The quick hatching test is to check whether the tablet keeps up with pen inputs. Usually, the only way to fail this section is if the pen is noticeably laggy and causes unwanted inputs like fishhooks at the beginning or end of the line.
As you can see, this tablet appears to have no problems with fishhooks. I also never noticed the cursor lagging noticeably, so it gets a pass here.
4) Short Release Taper Test – Grade: Pass
Test pen 1 – 100px – pen pressure: size
This test is meant to see the smoothness of the pen pressure taper when going from max to min pressure quickly. Basically, you press your pen down hard then flick to the side to see how smoothly the stroke tapers.
With the Wacom Intuos, the tapers look very nice and appear to have no problems with jaggedness. This tablet gets a full pass here.
5) Pen Pressure Control/Transition Test – Grade: Pass
Test pen 1 – 100px – pen pressure: size+opacity
This section is to test the smoothness of the transitions in pen pressure.
-The circles at the top are one of Youtuber Brad Colbow’s tests. It is used to check if you can properly control the pen pressure all the way around a circle. If there is a pressure jump, some circles will feel impossible to control due to that jump.
-The lines at the bottom are slow strokes done with smooth increases or decreases to pen pressure in mind. The arrow points in the direction which the stroke was done, and the smoothness of the gradients show how smooth the pen pressure transitions.
In terms of the pen pressure control circles, I only had problems with the very light circles where I couldn’t properly control the thinnest lines, and it was basically impossible for me to draw any lines thinner than that.
I can give this tablet a pass here since there didn’t appear to be any really noticeable issues aside from the inability to draw super thin lines, and thin lines are mainly judged in the next section.
6) Initial Activation Force & Lightest Pen Pressure Test – Grade: Pass-ish
Test pen 1 – 300px – pen pressure: size
This test tries to demonstrate the IAF of the tablet, and also shows the lowest possible pen pressure the tablet is capable of producing consistently.
IAF is the amount of force necessary to cause the pen to output a line. Ideally, your tablet will have an extremely low IAF where the pen will output a line with the least amount of force possible.
A high IAF causes issues such as light pen taps not registering as clicks, and the inability to sketch very lightly, both of which become quite annoying the more you experience it.
For this test page, the squiggly lines should begin right on the start line.
-If the line begins right on the start line, this indicates that the IAF is extremely low (low IAF is best) and the line just appears naturally without effort.
-On the other hand, if the line does not begin on the start line and instead begins further along the stroke, this means that the IAF is high so I needed to search for the IAF by increasing my force little by little until I finally started outputting a line.
An example of the ideal test page is the Huion New 1060 Plus (2048) IAF test page which I included above for comparison. Almost all the lines begin right on the start line meaning it has extremely low IAF, and the lines are almost transparent showing that the tablet is capable of drawing extremely light pen pressures.
The Wacom Intuos has a very low IAF and I was able to get the lines to start almost right on the start line every time. The IAF was low enough that I never noticed it getting in my way when tapping options or sketching.
In terms of the lightest pen pressure, I could very rarely get really thin lines during the test, and even when I did get very thin lines, I would not be able to hold the pen pressure at that point all the way through the test.
It really annoyed me that I couldn’t get very thin lines no matter how hard I tried.
The Wacom Intuos has an amazingly low IAF, but the fact that it has basically no control over the lowest pen pressures is one of the biggest problems with this tablet. This tablet gets a pass-ish here.
So all in all, the drawing test results are:
1) Scribble Test – Pass-ish
2) Slow Ruler Line Test – Pass
3) Quick Hatching Test – Pass
4) Short Release Taper Test – Pass
5) Pen Pressure Control/Transition Test – Pass
6) Initial Activation Force & Lightest Pen Pressure Test – Pass-ish
Ideally, all the above tests should have at least a “Pass-ish” for their grades because the most vital function of a drawing tablet is to draw properly and predictably. Failing any of these tests means that it doesn’t do that.
The drawing experience!
My actual drawing experience with the Wacom Intuos was fairly good. It wasn’t particularly enjoyable compared to other tablets in its price range, but if it isn’t compared to other tablets, it was a decent drawing experience. It felt decently good to use despite having the roughest texture I have ever felt, and the drivers offer very good control of your lines by reducing line wobble and never lagging.
(This is the pen nib over one day of use. The rough tablet surface did not wear at all, but the pen nib sure did.)
The Wacom Intuos 2018 has a decent drawing experience overall, but the surface texture is a bit too rough and grippy and sometimes feels weirdly rubbery as a result.
I watched the few Intuos 2018 reviews there were on Youtube and they all said the texture felt great, and I can agree with them to a certain point. The Intuos 2018 texture is fairly nice for lighter strokes, but it starts feeling like drawing on really hard rubber when you press harder.
I drew on a piece of paper with an HB pencil for comparison as well, and the paper doesn’t grip in the rubbery way that the Intuos 2018 texture does.
And in addition to that, once your pen nib starts to have a flat side from wearing out, it has a bigger surface area of contact against the surface and starts gripping even more until you replace the nib.
Before I received the tablet, I thought that the biggest improvement would be the quality of the pen, but now that I’ve actually experienced it, it’s not much of an improvement at all. It feels the same as the previous Intuos Draw pen, even though it’s slightly heavier due to the hard rubber grip which makes it feel a bit nicer to hold.
The rubber grip certainly inspires slightly more confidence in the pens durability, but it’s basically the same thing as the last generation plastic pen aside from that and the pen nib holder being included in the pen.
The biggest improvement from the previous Intuos CTL-490 series is probably the lack of line wobble when doing slow diagonal lines. It only has the slightest wobble which is completely unnoticeable without a ruler. This is a clear improvement from the previous generation Intuos.
However, despite those improvements, the fact that it’s very hard to draw very thin lines makes this tablet quite unappealing.
Where is the “Wacom magic” which you are supposed to be getting for paying Wacom’s higher prices? The pen pressure here is clearly worse than that of Wacom’s own high-end Intuos Pro line, and many alternative tablets offer much better pen pressure nowadays.
At this point, I’m almost convinced Wacom is holding back on the quality of the low-end Intuos, just so they can make the high-end Intuos Pro feel like an actual upgrade.
Overall, the Wacom Intuos 2018 is use-able and you probably won’t have too many problems making art with it, but the amount of pen nib wear is fairly high, the tablet itself is small for its price, and it’s also really hard to draw thin lines, so I hesitate to recommend it.
I was always doubtful about the usual complaints of pen nib wear being ridiculous with Wacom because I had no problems with pen nib wear on my previous Wacom tablets, but this tablet noticeably flattened my nib in a single day so I really have no choice but to admit that the Wacom Intuos 2018 certainly has the pen nib wear problem.
However, if the tablet surface texture can get rubbed off like on the previous Intuos and Intuos Pro, then it is possible that the nib wear will stop occurring at this alarming speed after enough use.
But like I noted, there is absolutely no wear on the texture from my usage as far as I can see, so it’ll probably take way longer for the texture to wear out compared to previous generations.
From my experience, I would honestly recommend against this tablet unless you really want one of those bundled programs. What you get for the relatively high price just isn’t worth it.
Places to buy the tablet
Wacom Store | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca
People living in other regions should check their regions Amazon or contact Wacom directly to see if they will ship to them.
If you have any questions about the tablet, feel free to ask me!