On first hearing about the launch of the new Cintiq HD Interactive Pen Display range there was a chance, just a small one, I could get my hands on one to review. I’ve always admired these displays from afar, never having the guts to try one in case I totally fell in love with it: well these über cool gadgets are not exactly for the faint of wallet. So this week it arrived and even before it was out of the box it made my jaw drop. It’s huge! So is it worth the £££s and will I want to give it back?
I have used Graphics Tablets since about 2006, concentrating on the mid-to-professional range brand from Wacom called Intuos. If these gadgets are new to you: read my top tips on selecting and using a Graphics Tablet here and if you’re fully briefed on the delights of these then I also recommend a read of the Intuos 5 review. A lot of functionality of the Intuos 5 is transcribed into the Cintiq Display, with reference to ExpressKeys and Control strips, so it is worth a read for those unfamiliar with Wacom as a brand. As I am already a dab hand with the stalwart of a Wacom Graphics Tablet - the Grip Pen and majority of Express Keys and Control Strips - I am looking forward to getting this beauty of a device hooked up and running.
A* for product design
The overall look and feel is very slick and modern out of the box, the same nods to the Intuos range are here with ExpressKeys to the left and right of the active area, or in this case the display area. There are three buttons to the top edge too, indicating menus, settings and preferences shortcuts. To the back are two Control Strips which can hold a maximum of 4 user assigned functions. At the top back edge is an on/off switch. There is a difference in quantity of ExpressKeys between versions of the Cintiq (see table below), less being available on the ‘Touch’ model, however, touch gestures and the touch rings can be used to increase the amount of shortcuts you can assign on that model – so all is not lost.
The Tablet itself is fairly slim at 55mm, not much deeper than my Flatscreen TV at home, there is an option to use it without the stand but with the cabling at the back I think I would find this a slightly uncomfortable option. The edges are ergonomically shaped and there are plenty of vents at the back to help keep the device cool to the touch.
Next up is the Stand; apart from looking like a Star Trek version of a boomerang it does have a satisfying weight and sturdiness to the build. It is reassuring to note there are no flimsy components as the display is a very precious item indeed and not something that you’d want to become unhooked from the stand too easily. Cintiq 21UX users will recognise this type of design and won’t have any issues during install and getting settled with the rotation/positioning. Although this shouldn’t worry any newbies either as the monitor is simply slipped onto the stand, and with a steady hand to glide it onto the stopper on the back of the tablet, it is locked in. The quick guide manual does note to leave the stand collapsed, or in a flat position, until the driver is installed and then finding a suitable tilt for the screen can be done at your leisure.
Using the two levers in tandem on either side of the stand produces a gratifyingly smooth up or down movement of the screen. A few minutes of fiddling later and I am happy with the set up, but found with differing applications I was altering the tilt. For instance with Photoshop I wanted to angle the screen a little flatter but for working through typed documents I found that I tilted the screen more vertically, it is down to personal preference and I was glad of how easy the stand is to manoeuvre with no loss of friction or notions that the stand may become slack over time. With this stand and set up the monitor is free to move 180 degrees. I didn’t really need to use this function for the purpose of the review, but did find the action was smooth and not in any way likely to move by itself nor when you apply your pen to the tablet with a little more pressure than usual.
Hooking up the monitor at the back of the Mac Pro was very straightforward; Plug the cable into the VGA port and the other cable connects to a spare USB port. The AC Adaptor plugs directly into a power source and you are ready to go. As with the Intuos 5 the driver set up was extremely simple too; download driver from disc or the Wacom website and follow the on screen prompts. Once that is done an easy-to-follow calibration tool is presented, this doesn’t calibrate the colour setting on the Cintiq display but calibrates the Pen and Cintiq Display together. Note if you do move the display a great deal for various applications you might find the need to recalibrate the pen and display to suit. I did wonder how easy it would be to colour calibrate the display and I am reliably informed that you can use software from third parties eg: Spyder Pro from Datacolor. Also note the 24HD version does include Colour Calibration Software. One other thing to note though is the colour gamut is 72% of Adobe RGB compared with the 24HD at 92%. So if colour gamut is a dealbreaker for you then go for the 24HD. The display itself is an easy on the eyes 1920 x 1080 resolution with a 600:1 contrast ratio, so I am not as concerned about eye strain working with the screen for this period of time. I would recommend taking regular eye breaks though to give your peepers time to readjust.
[Note: Latest version iMac users will need to invest in a Mini Display-to-DVI cable (if you don’t have one already) to be able to use the Cintiq 22HD.]
Total time out of box to plug in and go was about 10-15 minutes including the software install. For this article I was using an Intel based Mac Pro tower running 10.6.8. As my computer already has a 30” inch monitor I am used to a larger screen size already and note that with two DVI connections on the Mac I can run both the monitor and the Cintiq together, which would make for speedier workflow between keyboard work and more detailed pen use. For this review I turned off the monitor I have and just used the Cintiq on its own. With the set up this way I did find using a keyboard felt a little disjointed, so I would recommend running both your monitor and the Cintiq together† if you’re a heavy keyboard user (†provided you have enough room on your desk!)
There’s no difference in the resolution – 5080 lpi, nor with the pen pressure level of 2048, versus the Intuos 5 Tablet - so drawing and masking is a relatively natural experience. I noticed there is a very small distance (parallax) between initial touch of the screen and the strokes it produces on the display but it’s not too intrusive and after a short time I adapted to it by recalibrating the pen and ensuring I was set for right-handed use with the display via the Wacom Preferences Settings.
My day job concerns imagery manipulation to some degree, applying cut outs and masks so the first job I tackled was a basic lasso tool around an area of an image using Photoshop. I then applied a light brush colour to the area that was masked off and found the brush strokes were smooth and responsive. I did find that I reset the pen calibration once to make sure I was as accurate as possible. This was only while I was shifting to find a comfortable in-use position. Immediate benefits of working directly on screen is that accuracy level of the cut out is increased, making the process far speedier than when using my trusty Intuos Graphics Tablet.
I have been intrigued by iPad artistry and the amount of likeness to art materials that can be achieved using a stylus, multiple layers and imaging software. So I tried to draw a clam style shell (albeit quite a crude one). Very quickly I found myself absorbed in building up the colour by pressure applied to the display via the pen and changing tools, opacity and technique as I went. Assigning layers to each style (background wash, softer lines, harsh lines, etc). I was flicking these on and off to suit my thought process and managed to lose myself for a good ten minutes. The benefits here are the ability to erase elements of what I didn’t like (‘apple undo’ is a godsend!) and from using watercolour paint and paper in a distant-past art exam I can vouch that it’s far harder to undo a rogue spec of black paint in a beautiful blue sky wash than it was to decide to remove it from the digitally created shell above.
Next I tried a Keith Haring-esque approach with a press image shot of the new Canon EOS M. Using the camera as a background layer and applying broad white strokes to the top image, again I indulged in some very quick artwork…(Canon please forgive me). Using layers again here gave me the ability to try washes and turn them off if I didn’t like the result. Thinking back on it, I should have used Adobe Illustrator, then saved as a vector based artwork so that I can scale the finished piece to my hearts content.
None of these efforts are Summer Exhibition or Turner Prize worthy, and to be honest I’m slightly embarrassed by them, but as a test I felt they were necessary and actually they were a lot of fun to do ;)
The Cintiq range is available in 4 options:
So you may have already decided to buy, but which one is for you? Several factors can influence your choice, the main areas to consider if it were for myself are: available desk space and cost. But it would depend on your intended use. I can imagine serious artists and games designers would most definitely want the 24HD Touch – purely to enable touch gestures and the super screen resolution/large colour gamut range, but I would be happy with a 12WX at home say and use a 22HD at my workplace as a colour critical display isn’t as stricter a requirement for me personally.
Model Comparison Table - all models come with 3 year warranty
|Cintiq 12WX||NEW! Cintiq 22HD†||NEW! Cintiq 24HD Touch|
|Display||12.1" Diagonal||21.5" Diagonal||24.1" Diagonal|
|Display Area (w x d)||261 x 162mm||475 x 267mm||518 x 324mm|
|Dimensions (w x d x h)||406 x 266 x 17mm||650 x 400 x 55mm||769 x 463 x 64mm|
|Colour Depth||16.7 Million Colours||16.7 Million Colours||1.07 Billion Colours*|
|Stand||Incline 25-60?||Incline 10-65?||Flexible positioning|
|360? on pivot||Rotation up to 180?|
|Touch Strips/Rings||2 Touch Rings, front||2 Touch Strips, rear||2 Touch Rings, front|
|Touch Gesture Function||No||No||Yes|
|Express Keys||10 (5 each side)||16 (8 each side)||10 (5 each side)|
|System Requirements||Windows 2000/XP, Vista||Windows 7, Vista, XP||Windows 7, 8|
|Mac OSX 10.3.9 or later||Mac OSX 10.4 or later||Mac OSX 10.5.8 or later|
|Power Input||100-240V AC Power||100-240V AC Power||100-240V AC Power|
†Also available in 24HD
*1.07 Billion Colours (DisplayPort) or 16.7 Million Colours (with DVI or VGA)
**Prices correct as at 13th August 2012
Just a monitor for your lap?
For those who are thinking it’s just a monitor for your lap; well yes and no, mainly no – it’s everything that I love about Graphics Tablets and the ability to close that gap between accuracy and more intuitive workflow. By that I mean the Graphics Tablet is a fantastic tool that can give you the accuracy you need for image cut outs or masks, intricate drawings and so on. But you are doing these actions whilst looking at your monitor and your pen is resting on a tablet a good few inches away – hand-eye coordination does take some getting used to. The Cintiq Interactive Pen Display, as you’d expect from the name, takes away that additional step. Holding the pen directly onto the display it then becomes a giant art pad that even the cool art materials manufacturers Daler or Rowney might be jealous of. I can see Tablet Computer users nodding and saying ‘we have that already, just buy a stylus!’ but imagine that screen is a whopping 21.5” wide that you can hook up to your PC Tower or Intel Mac. The added boon here is once installed you do have full access to your full suite of imaging software and not (although handy) app sized versions of them. This is the wow factor of the Cintiq HD or ‘the (high-performance) monitor in your lap’ and one which I would think that most Graphic Designers, Animators, Illustrators and Photographers would love to own regardless of it’s initial price – myself included!
You can view the trailer for the Wacom Cintiq 22HD below:
Want to see the Cintiq or Intuos Range in action? Wacom have a wonderful range of webinars aimed at all disciplines from Artists to Designers, available to view here.
An exciting wow factor gadget that will please the serious Artistes – giving them greater control of their ‘brush strokes’ and bringing the whole experience a step closer to real life ‘paintbrush and canvas’ artwork.
Initial cost, but that is far outweighed by how much use it would get (for me at least!) and time saved in workflow.