My Review of the Wacom Cintiq

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I’ve wanted a Wacom Cintiq for years but never could really justify the price point. I made do with an Intuos 3 for years and while it was adequate, there was always a disconnect since I was looking up at my computer monitor to draw and paint instead of down where my hand was. I kept researching and waiting and dreaming. When it finally became a financial possibility to buy one I did weeks worth of comparing the Cintiq to the other less expensive options like the Yiynova and while I was tempted (you can get a Yiynova MVP22U(V2) that is twice the size for about the same amount of $$ or a similar sized Yiynova for a little over half the cost), I am glad I went with the Cintiq. I’ll explain more after I go over the Cintiq’s features and my experiences with it and how it has TOTALLY changed my work flow and finished artwork for the better. If you are on the fence about it, I’ve found it’s been worth every single hard earned penny. This is a long review, but hopefully it will answer some of the questions you might have and help you with your decision.

For those of you who know nothing about it, the Cintiq is a tablet monitor. It doesn’t act independently. You have to hook it up to your computer (or laptop) just like a regular monitor and it acts as a 2nd (or 3rd or whatever) monitor that you can draw directly on. There is no software associated with it (although you do get some freebies for your computer via Wacom once you register your purchase). Any drawing you do is using your regular art programs such as Photoshop, Painter, Manga Studio and so on. The programs are loaded on your computer, NOT the Cintiq (as it’s just a monitor). And yes, it does work with Apple products. You just need an adapter. 🙂

Now on to the guts of my review for those of you who want to know all the details!

The first thing I was concerned about was the display size. At 13.3 inches, the Cintiq’s active drawing surface is very similar to a piece of notebook paper. It’s just a bit longer in length and not as wide measuring in at 6.75 by 11.75 inches (as compared to a regular piece of paper which is 8.5 by 11 inches ). The aspect ratio is 16×9, which is widescreen. I like the fact that it feels like I’m holding a sketchbook when I work with it (I like to hold it propped up in my lap while at my computer desk) instead having to lift my arm up over some big screen. I find that my arm/hand movements mimic my normal sketching. A larger tablet monitor would have possibly entailed larger arm movements as a whole which I don’t think would have suited my style of drawing as much. So, in that regard, the size and feel is perfect. As far as drawing, the size works as well BUT I do have to do a lot of zooming in and out. If I’m working at a (high) print resolution and I want to see my entire drawing, I have to zoom out and then zoom back in for the details. At first I found this a bit disconcerting as I was used to working with a HUGE monitor and seeing most of my drawing at one time. However, I got used to it quickly and it isn’t much of an issue any more. Another surprise I didn’t factor in – actually having my hand in the way of my drawing, lol. I’m so used to looking up at the unencumbered monitor that it took me about a day to get used to having my hand in the way again.

The display is full HD 1920×1080 which is both good and bad. It’s good in that the details are crisp and beautiful. It’s bad in that the icons in Photoshop and other programs are so tiny that I have to wear my glasses (which I don’t normally wear) most of the time to see them in the native resolution without eye strain. On my regular computer monitor (which is 27 inches) tool icons in Photoshop are about 4 1/2 millimeters. On the Cintiq with the 1920 by 1080 resolution they are about 2 to 2 1/2 millimeters. It doesn’t seem like too much of a difference numbers wise until you have to stare at them all day on that small screen. Think of everything shrunk down on a big screen to about half size. That’s what you have with the Cintiq. If I could have afforded a larger Cintiq, I would have probably purchased it except that I’d be giving up the comfortable sketchbook feel. There is no way I could have scrounged up the $ for the bigger size though (and we do not believe in going in debt). You can change the resolution via your graphics card control panel to make it work better for your eyesight. I changed mine to 1280 x 720 so I didn’t have to squint. 😉

The screen itself is great. I’ve read reviews complaining that it’s a little dim and also bemoaning the fact that you can’t adjust it but there are actually 2 ways to do this. If you have a graphics card that isn’t integrated (NVIDEA or Radeon, etc.), you can make adjustments from your graphics card control panel. I have a Radeon graphics card and I can adjust the color, brightness and other settings that way. The other option is to use the settings that are made available when you install the Wacom software and drivers. Just go into your program menu and access them via the Wacom folder under “Wacom Display Settings”. I recommend you set it to “aspect” display scaling which is available via the advanced button. That makes it so that there is no distortion. I personally didn’t really see a problem with the color even before my tiny adjustments and only hiked up the contrast & brightness by the tiniest bit. Because the Cintiq is a 3rd monitor, I can pull all of my artwork onto my other monitors and look at it there to make sure the color is how I want it (as I’ve adjusted the color on those monitors via a Datacolor Spyder4Pro Display Calibrator). Anyway, it’s really just stunning and beautiful.

It’s also very sensitive. It comes with the “pro pen” (which is slightly smaller than the old pen) and has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity. It registers the tiniest brushstroke and offers very precise control. I found that the pressure curve was further enhanced when I added a POSRUS Antiglare Touch Screen Protector for Wacom Cintiq 13HD. I’d read the review over at Frenden’s site (popular artist who sells amazing brushes for art programs and reviews all sorts of digital art hardware) where he complained about the Cintiq’s pressure curve. I just do not experience any sort of problem with that, but of course I don’t have his experience using other brands of tablet monitors either. I found that using the screen protector oddly enough enhanced the pressure curve to where it was even more sensitive. I have no idea why that is, but that’s my experience. You can go into the control panel and mess around with the settings so that it suits you personally. Many programs, like Photoshop, also have settings where you can adjust this to your preference. At any rate, I found the Cintiq to be super sensitive, even without the screen protector and a huge step up from the old Intuos I was using (which wasn’t bad itself!). By the way, if you have read about and are worried about the “pressure bug” some have complained about, it’s my understanding that this is NO LONGER AN ISSUE. I have never experienced it even once. Just make sure you have the most recent driver installed straight from the Wacom website.

Cintiq pen

You can purchase different pens that will work with it as well as different nibs. You cannot use an older Intuos pen with it though. The pen itself is very comfortable to hold and has a rocker button for mouse clicks as well as colored plastic rings to customize your pen. It has a rubberized grip and is just the right weight. The pen stand opens up and has an area where you can store extra nibs (by pushing each one into a small hole – so the nib sits upright). It’s also designed so that you can either lay your pen across it or stand it up. The pen comes with a really nice case that features 9 extra nibs (black plastic), a nib changer and the color customization rings. The case has a magnetic latch.

The design of the Cintiq has some good and bad points. The good is what I’ve already mentioned – all of the technical aspects, the comfort factor and even the looks. It has a black bezel that is slightly curved as well as customization buttons you can program. It also features a radial menu you can access by the push of a button that can be totally customized with shortcuts that can be nested for nearly unlimited shortcut possibilities. I wish they had kept the zoom strips from the Intuos, but the buttons are functional, conveniently placed for the most part and you can set them up to be used on the right or the left depending on your preference. You can go into your control panel and customize all of the buttons and express keys. You can even program them to do different things in different programs. You have the ability to save and backup your settings as well. I like to work with the Cintiq in my lap and my keyboard to the left of me on a wooden T.V. tray table available for most of my shortcuts. I do make use of some of the buttons on the Cintiq for frequently used shortcuts.

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One of the button options makes it so you can toggle between working directly on the Cintiq and working on another screen (like you would with an Intuos). I LOVE this feature and use it all of the time. There are some things I want to do directly with the Cintiq (like drawing and painting) and other things I want to do on my bigger screen (Photoshop style tasks). One push of the button and I can make it so that when I touch the pen to the Cintiq I’m actually drawing and/or working on my bigger screen and it’s functioning just like an Intuos. The one thing the Cintiq does NOT do that some of the Intuos tablets do is that it does NOT respond to touch. While I think I would have found it convenient to pinch and pull for zooming and adjusting my canvas, in some ways it’s beneficial that the only thing causing an action is the pen touching the screen and not my hand.

More about the design – Two of the negatives of the Cintiq are the finicky cord and the stupid stand. I like that the cord is a “3-in-one” cord. There is ONE cord going out the side of the Cintiq (which detaches when you push two buttons on the sides of the head of the cord) and later on down the cord it splits so you can plug it into a USB port, a graphics card HDMI port and power.

Cintiq 3-in-one cord

The power cord has a rotating plug so you can nestle it in with all your other computer goodies plugged into the power strip without hogging any space but you have the option to plug it in in whatever way works for you. Anyway, the cord is touchy. If you bump it right where it plugs into the side of the Cintiq just so, the Cintiq goes black and you hear the “doo-doot” sound of hardware being unplugged from your computer. I don’t have too much trouble with this happening but it does every once and awhile and it’s just so irritating and unnecessary. They should have made it clip in better. The cord isn’t super long (you can’t go and work on this at your couch), but it’s long enough that it reaches to the back of my computer and over my desk (which is rather large) with still enough give to move it around comfortably). Since I mentioned the Yiynova previously – one of the factors in my decision to NOT get it is that the Cintiq is an HDMI cord while the Yiynova is an old style VGA. I was told in a response to an email inquiry that Yiynova plans on changing the cord sometime in late 2014, but as I didn’t want to wait, I went with the Cintiq (for that and other reasons).

The stand is just a travesty of design. It’s detachable and attaches to the Cintiq by sticking a rubberized tab into a “sort of” slot. It comes out if you pick it up and move it around without support and is anything but sturdy. There are little indentations in the back of the Cintiq and 3 levels built into the stand so you can prop it up at whatever level you need to work. Since I hold it in my lap, I often use the stand, but not fitted into any of the slots. It’s just helping me prop the thing up where I want it. I would have liked something you can click into place and actually TRUST. I’ve had the stand fall out numerous times just because I want to move the Cintiq. I like that it’s detachable but UGH it’s not the least bit dependable. With a thousand dollar investment at stake, I expect a lot more.

Cintiq stand

The Cintiq itself doesn’t become hot. It can register just the barest trace of warmth if you’ve been using it for hours, but nothing that is in the slightest bit uncomfortable. Its fairly light for what it is, but substantial enough to not feel cheap and to sit in your lap (or on your desk) nicely.

As for durability, it’s my understanding that the screen can scratch more easily than I’d like it to (but not super easily so you don’t have to be too paranoid). I wasn’t going to take any chances and got a POSRUS screen protector right away. If you don’t get one, I’d recommend forgoing the felt nibs as I’ve read they can trap dust and cause minor scratches. I’ve had nothing but great experiences with Wacom products and one thing they are known for is the longevity of their tablets. That’s one of the reason why I went with the Cintiq instead of the Yiynova I previously mentioned. The Cintiq has a 2 year warranty while the Yiynova has a 1 year warranty. Update: The new Yiynova has a 2 year warranty now! The Yiynova does have a reputation of having some issues directly out of the box. The distributor told me that he didn’t know if it was due to shipping issues or not. I just couldn’t see spending SO much money and then being out of luck if I ran into any problems down the road. In addition to the Cintiq’s 2 year warranty, I purchased an additional 2 year warranty here on Amazon for more peace of mind since I don’t have a thousand dollars laying around to replace it should something go wrong. I also purchased the Cintiq instead of doodling away on an iPad or other type of tablet because of the pressure sensitivity, accuracy, etc. that just cannot be duplicated in another device at this time.

Another reason I went with the Cintiq instead of another brand of tablet monitor because I KNOW they work and they work WELL. Wacom is currently the top of the line and for good reason, in my opinion. There may be other options that are working their way up the monitor tablet food chain, but there is no doubt in most people’s minds that Wacom is at the top, not just for functionality, but also for quality and reliability reasons.

So, now that I’ve shared all of that – you might be wondering was it worth it, especially if you are trying to decide between it and an Intuos because of cost issues. All I can say is that the Cintiq is everything I dreamed it would be and more. It really does make a HUGE difference in my productivity and the quality of my work. Drawing on the screen is so natural, just like “real” drawing and there is just no comparison to anything else but to really doing the artwork on a real sketchbook or canvas. I am so glad I decided to get it when I did instead of waiting for something “bigger & better” including the more expensive Cintiq Companion family of tablet monitors that can be used independently from the computer. Would I like one of them? YES! However, it just wasn’t in the budget and would have required having me wait at the very least another year if not more to save up for the higher end models. I took the plunge and got the 13 HD and haven’t looked back. My artwork is better. My productivity is enhanced. If you are a professional or you want to work like a pro or take your hobby to another level, the Cintiq is going to work its magic for your art. It’s not going to GIVE you the skills that you have to work on, but for me, it made those skills easier to attain. My drawing and painting ability improved by leaps when I started using it because it made everything so natural. Even just working in Photoshop is enhanced for specific tasks (like drawing a selection). There is no longer a disconnect my brain has to fight (even though I was good at using the Intuos). I’ve wanted a Cintiq for over 10 years and now after having one for almost 4 months, I am SO glad. I cannot imagine going back and working any other way with digital art. This is the real deal and worth every cent for me, anyway. It works SO well with all of my art programs (Photoshop, Corel Painter, Manga Studio, Sketchbook Pro, Illustrator, etc.) and is an absolute joy to use. Do yourself (and your work) a favor and get one, I don’t think you will regret it.

P.S. Just a little post script mention about Manga Studio 5. It works SO well with the Cintiq, especially the inking brushes. It’s CHEAP and if you are into illustration (as I am) pairing it with your new high-tech toy (er, work tool) is a match made in heaven. Just sayin. 😉

UPDATE March 2015: I’ve had the Cintiq almost a year now and I ended up calling customer service because, as I mentioned above, the cord is finicky and every time it was bumped, it would cause a hardware disconnect. Wacom decided this is due to it being a faulty cord connection that needs to be fixed (and not, as I thought, part of a bad design). Because I’m right in the middle of illustrating a book, they gave me an RMA# that is good for 90 days (so I could have the time to finish my project) as well as a UPS label to pay for shipping. Usually the customer is responsible for the shipping to Wacom, however, in my case, they offered me free shipping due to the inconvenience I was going to experience as my Cintiq will be away for 7-15 days for repair which seriously hampers my work schedule. I am stuck using my old Intuos during that time, which just doesn’t work as well. The technician I spoke to was very kind and super helpful in figuring out what the problem might be and didn’t waste my time trying to send me a new cord instead of fixing the cord port, which I believe is the problem (and he does too, after trouble shooting). I’m NOT please with the amount of time I’ll be without my Cintiq and do wish they would send you a loaner while they are fixing the problem, but am glad that warranty will be at least taking care of me. I could live with the plug issue, but it’s aggravating, and at this price, I expect near perfection. I will update this post again after I’ve received the Cintiq back. I was told that if they don’t have the necessary part in, that they will send me a new Cintiq. We’ll see what happens and I will let you know. So far, I’m happy enough with their customer service (except the turnaround time). This is partly why I chose the Cintiq instead of something else. I feel much better knowing that I’m covered by a good warranty and that my “baby” will be taken care of.

And oh yeah, it’s still worth every penny, even with the cord hiccup. My illustrated books are due to be published within the month on Amazon. I could NOT have created the level of illustrations I did for that project without my Cintiq!! I LOVE it!

UPDATE: April 2015
I got my Cintiq back from the warranty repair department. It took about 2 1/2 weeks from the time I sent it, to get it back. I’m happy to report I no longer have a “touchy” cord. I can jiggle it and bump it and my video stays perfect with no tablet disconnection. The repair department sent me my original Cintiq back with the faulty part replaced. Everything was very neatly packed in the box, as if it was brand new. I guess it turned out to be a cable issue after all, as that is what was replaced. There was a note that they replaced it and tested it and it tested good. I tested it myself, and yes, it’s not having an issue anymore. So, ultimately, I’m happy. I have my Cintiq back and all is well! On top of everything, the books I illustrated with it have been published now and are on Amazon!

The Science of Seasons (A Guest Hollow Guide)
and
The Science of Seasons Learn-and-Play Activities (A Guest Hollow Guide)

I could NOT have created the level of illustrations I did for that project without my Cintiq!! I LOVE it! It’s worth every penny, even with the cord hiccup.