The Intuos takes the next step up from the Graphire range, and adds sometimes subtle, but mainly bold, improvements to an already excellent format.
The included mouse, for example, is suggestively wireless but not battery powered, taking full advantage of the technology behind the tablet. For this reason alone the size of the Intuos - which is near enough twice A4 all considered - makes it a realistic option even if you're scared of shedding that rodent.
That is if you have room for it, of course. Aimed more at a professional level, the Intuos3 A4 eats up a huge amount of valuable desk space. This makes it tricky for home use and, especially, portability, though office professionals should easily incorporate it without too much fuss. It's your choice, though; A6, A5 and A3 versions are available in the range.
Starting where the Graphire left off, the Intuos3 offers totally customisable buttons either side of the tablet suitable for left- or right hand use, and the mouse is similarly ambidextrous in its perfectly symmetrical way. That said, remembering so many combinations for each and every application becomes a tiresome task.
The pen and mouse are recognised as separate entities, and you're given the option of redefining them for particular programs while switching back to standard operation when finished. We found this handy for alternating through the set of programs in Adobe Creative Suite.
You can start to see the reason for the difference in price between the Intuos3 and all its preceding ranges. There are more options: from simple things like different nibs for varied design work to the pen stand - which acts exactly like an old ink-well - the value for money keeps increasing. If you have the cash to splash, the artistic improvement is well worth it.
The problems that exist with the Intuos3 are not necessarily connected to any of its functions, but to the physical nature of the device. An A4 model can feel too big and is awkward to handle well on your lap, whereas the A6 version of the Intuos3 doesn't do the feature-set enough justice, nor include a mouse. The Intuos3, however, is definitely worth considering for any professional designer or artist, and a feature-set like this is only bettered by the higher-end Cintiq range, with its integrated LCD screen.