Hello folks! Time for an update.
I'm now Bachelor of Science (Architecture) and since I got such good grades, my parents gave me rather interesting Christmas present: Wacom Cintiq 13HD! I got it a bit early because they knew I would appreciate spending my holidays by drawing a lot. Thank you my parents, I truly appreciate your huge support on my hobbies and ambitions!!
I decided to write a review of it now that I have had the chance to test the Cintiq for few days already. Note, it will be a long review, since I like to write a lot haha.
Now, people may already know that I have had Wacom Intuos 4 Large for 4 years. I've been wondering whether an upgrade from Intuos to Cintiq is worth the trouble, because the tablet I got is absolutely superb in terms of durability and quality (I have only seen Intuos 5 L and tried it briefly, but I believe it offers the same trustworthy experience, given that the drivers just work). My only mishaps with it were that the original cord went bad, my pen eraser made few scratches to the drawing surface and one of the mini-usb ports broke in an accident. But I could just buy a new cord for it, apply a protective sheet on top of the surface and still use the second mini-usb port meant for lefties (that was the moment I really appreciated Wacom's decision to include two mini-usb ports!).
So in this review, I'll be comparing my experience of tablet drawing to pen display drawing. That said, if you own an regular tablet, you may find this useful if you are considering to upgrade to either Intuos or Cintiq, or whether it's worth to upgrade from Intuos to Cintiq. I'll also comment some other reviews I have read. I'll talk about the following things:
1. Hardware: the device, stand, pen, screen, connectivity
2. Software: drivers, utilities, features
3. Drawing with Cintiq: pressure sensitivity, surface feel, workflow
4. Conclusions: Intuos vs. Cintiq, Cintiq 13HD vs. Other Cintiqs
When I unpacked the device, I was amazed how small it really is. Apparently it's roughly the same size as Intuos 5 Medium, measuring only 14.8 x 9.8 x 0.6 in. It's also quite lightweight, so it's very mobile and easy to work with. Although I haven't tried the bigger Cintiqs, I believe this mobility is a great strength, as it allows easy set up and packing when not needed. It's also very easy to carry around, which I doubt isn't as feasible with the bigger Cintiqs. However, it's good to remember that Cintiq 13HD isn't fully mobile because it still needs the power cable and a host machine to run all the software. I don't find it a problem though. Wacom will be releasing independent Companion tablets, but given their price, I wonder if they really are worth the money. Cintiq 13HD is relatively cheap in relation to the other Cintiqs, costing around $999, only 1/3 of the Companion with Win 8. The price tag is still quite pricey, if you consider that you can buy Intous 5 Large Touch for ~$450 dollars. I guess it's a matter of the artist's needs though.
The connectivity of the pen display is rather clever, as only one cable is needed on Cintiq end. The cable will split into three like a hydra, with HDMI (Mac users will likely need an display port adaptor), USB and connector for the power adapter. Yes, this thing needs an external AC adapter, but it's rather small and still easy to carry around. I had read that the connectors would easily slip off if the pen display was moved around, but that's not the case at least in my unit (I don't know whether Wacom has done alterations in the model later). The connectors have a built in clips in them, effectively locking them in place. My only concern is that should I break my cable, how easy it is to get a new one. On Intuos 4, I could easily buy a regular USB cable.
The new Wacom Pro Pen looks almost identical to the Intuos Grip pen, so I had no problems to get accustomed to it. The side switch feels sturdier with a metallic rim around it, and the pen is slightly slimmer towards the eraser. The grip feels to have more friction on it, which isn't probably very notable difference, but I appreciate it a lot. It's probably a bit lighter too, but I can't really notice the difference. The benefit of Pro Pen is the fact that it can also be used on Intuos 5 and 4 tablets, so if your current pen is about to reach it's limits, you can safely upgrade to Cintiq 13HD and still use your Intuos tablet every now and then. The pen came with a pen stand and a neat case which can hold up to nine spare nibs, nib extractor and colored rings to personalize the pen. There are only standard nibs in there, because apparently other nibs would eventually tear the screen. I'm however currently using an Intuos felt nib and it looks like it glides on the surface very well. I'll be monitoring the screen wearing to see whether it's really better to use the standard nibs instead.
The screen has stunning 1920x1080 pixel resolution despite its small size. After using the Cintiq for a while, my slightly larger laptop screen looks like poo in comparison. That said, I really enjoy they accuracy of the screen. My only concern is that since the DPI of the screen isn't standard 72, I'm not sure how can I tell whether my drawings has good resolution and sharpness or not on regular screens. The screen makes things look smoother than they would look on regular screen. It also feels that when I zoom in, the pixels aren't rendered with full pixels but rather get some anti-aliasing instead, resulting rather blurry look. I guess it's matter of getting used to it, but I find this probably the most annoying thing when drawing (I never liked the weird zoom levels in Photoshop, such as 109,3% because some pixels would either disappear or duplicate, sort of). The screen should have scratch resistant coating in it, but I'm not sure how good it actually is. Having read some reviews, I have my doubts of it's durability. Apparently there aren't any official screen protectors either, at least not by Wacom. In terms of durability, I trust Intuos 4 and its protective sheet more (note, Intuos 5 has no protective sheets either).
I downloaded the latest drivers from Wacom site and they seem to work like they should. Positive thing is that I can still use my Intuos 4 tablet. At first I had problems with pressure sensitivity in Paint Tool SAI, but apparently it's the SAI that has the issue, not the drivers. I read that SAI has troubles to recognize more than one input device, so apparently it thought my Cintiq was Intuos tablet. However, there is luckily an easy fix for that. All you have to do is to unplug the USB, open SAI and plug the USB back in. The pressure will work after this again.
After first launch, the driver utility prompts to calibrate the screen. This is pretty quick thing to do, but I ended up using the calibration quite many times to get the best results (I'll talk about calibration more in Drawing section). Configuring the settings of the tablet, such as remapping the express keys and setting application dependent configurations is very easy with the Tablet Properties Utility. The possibility to customize the pen pressure curvature is a great addition, which I believe was previously possible only by some sort of hack.
Currently, my only problem is that I'm unable to adjust the pen display screen settings. The driver comes with "Display Settings Utility", but when ever I try to launch it, I just get an error: No supported pen display connected. This software is not required by or does not work on all Wacom tablets. Well, Cintiq 13HD IS supporter, but for some reason the utility doesn't recognize the pen display. That's a bit saddening, though the initial settings of the screen are fine already. Re-installing the drivers didn't seem to help and the tablet and pen display themselves work just fine. My Intel Graphics settings allows me to do adjustments on the screen, but these software based adjustments are a little controversial. Like, if I increase the brightness, it wont really increase the brightness of the screen lights. I don't know whether Wacom's Display Settings Utility makes the adjustments on Cintiq pen display hardware or trough the graphics card though. If there are anyone familiar with this problem, I'm happy to hear solutions.
3. Drawing with Cintiq:
Yielding the pressure sensitivity of 2084 levels, the pen is very responsive and lovely to use, just like Intuos Grip pen. In fact, I found the pen so super responsive, that I had to set the initial pressure sensitivity very firm. Luckily the curvature tool allowed nice tweak so that after initial pressure, it gets easier to apply more pressure. The pen really registers even the slightest touch on the surface, at least when using Paint Tool SAI. I'm not sure whether Intuos 4 Grip pen was this accurate, or has my trustworthy pen just gotten a little dull after these years. Regardless, both pens are really great and I definitely like the weight and design.
The drawing feel is totally different on Cintiq that it's on Intuos 4. I really had to draw on it like I would draw on paper. I noticed that holding the pen like normal pencil gave me some troubles, as I'm so accustomed to hold the Intuos Grip pen in rather vertical position. This means that I will need to use the muscles in my hand slightly differently than I'm used to, giving some extra difficulty. In fact, although I like drawing on real paper, my hand is more reliable on Intuos 4. What comes to the drawing surface, it feels a bit too slippery to my liking. That's the reason I had to change the nib to felt nib regardless the possibility of damaging the screen. Even then, the surface doesn't offer nearly as much friction as Intuos 4 or real paper does. Some people argue that the friction on Intuos 4 is excessive and the nibs wear too quickly. I disagree with that. I love the friction and I even use felt nibs for some additional friction. They sure wear quite a lot, but I noticed that it's actually possible to use both ends of the felt nib before needing to change a new nib. On Cintiq, the friction is so low that it takes a bit more effort to lay the stroke accurately. The screen doesn't heat up much at all, expect on the bottom right quarter. Sadly, as I'm right-handed, my hand is right on top the only part that ever heat ups. I'm yet to experience screen smudging, but if that will happen, I will probably need to buy a smudge guard for my hand.
The fact that it's possible to see direct feedback on screen as I draw is pretty marvelous, but not that essential. For a beginner, I believe it's easier and quicker to learn drawing with Cintiq, but since I have spent 4 years on Intuos 4 tablet, I have become highly accustomed to it and I can lay the strokes fairly accurately. Also, the nib and the pen are rather bulky in comparison to a technical pen, so it's a bit harder to see where I'm actually laying the stroke. With tablet, the pen or hand is never obstructing the view, which is why I find that I may prefer regular tablet more. On top of that, the pen nib and the actual position of the cursor is slightly off due to the thickness of the glass between. This is why re-calibrating the pen display took quite a while. Even though it's easy to physically turn the Cintiq 13HD around, the calibration makes it a bit cumbersome to use in any other orientation without recalibration. Since I haven't been drawing a lot with the Cintiq yet, I can't tell for sure whether it will enhance my accuracy or not, so I need to give it some more time for a fair judgement.
Having used a large A4 sized tablet for years, I had my doubts whether Cintiq 13HD would provide enough drawing area. However, the size doesn't appear to be an issue here. That's because regardless the size, the drawing experience is always 1:1. Of course the small screen size doesn't give much room for full hand movement, but on regular tablets, small size gives problems because the ratio between the active drawing area and the external screen is rarely 1:1. That makes smaller tablets very inaccurate on large screens (e.g .ratio 1:2), while a large tablet and small screen yields enhanced accuracy (e.g. ratio 0.5:1) at the cost of making the pen feel rather sluggish (I actually like the latter, which is why I like my laptop/intuos 4 L combo a lot). I also was afraid of upgrading to Cintiq as I thought the screen would hurt my eyes with it close proximity and brightness. This doesn't appear to be the case though, it's almost like looking at real paper. I wonder if the color profile shows the colors accurately since the screen has quite warm color temperature, but I'll need to do some experimenting regarding that. If it allows less eye strain, I can accept that. edit: I just noticed that I had Flux program controlling the color temperature. Having to need to restart my laptop after driver installation, I had no idea it was turned on, and as it gets dark very early, the screen has adjusted to the lighting conditions. The screen is vivid and has very good color accuracy.
The pen display comes with a attachable stand with choice of 4 different angle positions: 0, 22, 35 and 55 degrees. I had read that the stand was flimsy and cheap for such high end tablet, but I find it gets the job done. It's also light, so it's easy to carry with the tablet. After trying drawing in different angles, I felt that I couldn't support my elbow properly on anything, so it end up just hindering the workflow on angled positions. I added some thick books under the stand in order to raise the screen higher and it worked pretty well then, but still it wasn't very satisfying. Also, having the stand under the tablet while setting it flat on the table wasn't very comfortable due to the height difference between the screen and the table (I have never liked drawing on sketchbooks solely for this reason). So I noticed that I could the best positioning by taking the stand out and placing the pen case under the Cintiq to get very slight angled position. This way I could still support my elbow on the table and the height difference was unnoticeable (this is actually how i set up my Intuos 4 L) and it also allows the usage of express keys with thumb. The stand is nice while the Cintiq is used just as an external screen though.
There are four express keys and a rocker ring with five buttons. I found it rather disappointing that the Intuos intuitive zoom ring was missing, given that I had become highly accustomed to it after only using Intuos 4 for few minutes. Intuos 4 also has 8 express keys (I had super efficient express keys on Intuos 4 for Paint Tool SAI, which allowed four buttons to perform 7 functions without compromising ergonomics). I also miss the fact that there aren't cool tool displays next to the buttons like there is in Intuos 4 (Intuos 5 doesn't have them either). However, it's only matter of adapting into a new work style. After drawing quite some time, I have adjusted the express keys to meet my needs pretty well by now (I actually could fit 7 functions in only 3 buttons, but it was getting a bit tricky already). With exception of the zoom ring, I can actually utilize the Cintiqs express keys and features slightly more efficiently if compared to Intuos 4, since the buttons are a bit more compactly positioned and the rocker ring allows most crucial functions to be controlled with only the thumb. I also learned to utilize the radial menu, which I set in my pen's side switch. Radial menu allows 8 additional functions, and you can also had sub-menus, greatly increasing the amount of shortcuts at your disposal. I have no idea why I didn't utilize the radial menu on Intuos 4. I'm sure I will be expanding the radial menu with sub-menus later as I keep experimenting the possibilities. I don't know if it's really bad drawback, but the pen display doesn't have touch gesture capabilities. As I don't have smart phone or tablet PC with touch screen, I can live with that, though I noticed I would occasionally reach some on screen buttons with my fingers.
Wacom Cintiq 13HD is indeed very powerful pen display. The features it offers are really good and useful. I really like it's compact size and the ability to move it away when I need the table for something else. With combined with my laptop, I get the most mobile dual screen setup ever. But if you already have an Intuos tablet, a large one, is it really worth upgrading?
Both regular tablets and pen displays have their own merits and everyone have their own preferences, so it's hard to say which one really is superior input device. I still believe Intuos offers more for it's price. For people with tight budget, I don't know if it's worth saving the money when the Intuos tablets offer very professional high end user experience with half the price. If you are a beginner, I would still recommend going for Intuos instead of Cintiq, even though it may be easier to get started with Cintiq. Having used Intuos 4 for so long, I can trust in its durability. These devices will work for years, so you may not even have to consider upgrading from Intuos ever. I have been thinking of upgrading to Cintiq for some time, but since my Intuos 4 still works so well, I didn't have the courage to spend so much money just to test out one. If it weren't my parents, I wouldn't have upgraded to Cintiq just yet. I'm grateful to my parents for their supportive nature.
However, what comes to Cintiq 13HD versus Cintiq 22HD, 24HD or the Companion, I can only offer my assumptions and opinions. I, for one, wouldn't consider upgrading from Cintiq 13HD to any other Cintiq, unless my unit broke down and my Intuos 4 wasn't working either. The price tag on those things are just so astronomical. The more expensive Cintiqs are probably good for professional artists that do art for living, but a hobbyist such as myself, Intuos series and Cintiq 13HD is more than enough. Besides, when I draw on paper, I draw small, so Cintiq 13HD offers a perfect active drawing area for me. While the Companion offers added mobility and touch screen, I'm afraid it's not really worth the money when considering that Cintiq 13HD has the same display specs with exclusion of touch. With the larger models, you will have rather static workstation, so you need to have the space for it.
That said, I can recommend Wacom Cintiq 13HD, if you can afford spending some extra money on it. It doesn't have any real drawbacks in my opinion, with the exception of missing touch ring and slightly more slippery drawing surface. I though believe that Cintiq 13HD offers very high quality drawing experience if you give it some time to adjust your workflow. I will probably use Cintiq 13HD for coloring, while drawing the lines on Intuos 4 L, but we shall see how things will turn out in future. If you don't have any tablet experience, I really recommend trying to test run Intuos and Cintiq prior deciding which to buy if possible. I can though assure you, that you wont regret it if you invest on Intuos L.
+Offers the same features as the larger Cintiq models at the fraction of the price
+Very compact, lightweight and mobile
+Easy and quick setup and configuration
+Great screen accuracy, high resolution
+Superb pressure sensitivity
+Pro Pen is compatible with Intuos 4 and 5 tablets.
-Still rather pricey for many. Intuos 4(5) offers the same specs (5 also offers touch enabled commands).
-No touch ring or touch enabled commands
-Screen surface is rather slippery
-Calibration can make it hard to work accurately.
-Bulky pen and nib can obstruct the view occasionally
-Fear of damaging the screen
Does Nsio approve?
Wacom Cintiq 13HD has my approval.
Is it worth the money?
Definitely, you will get what you pay for, given that you can afford it.
I'm just starting drawing, should I get Wacom Cintiq 13HD?
No, unless you have someone to fund it to you. Besides, if you are just starting, you should draw on paper instead and then move on to digital.
I'm afraid I will break the thing, is it durable?
I'm also afraid of that. For now, I'm living in assumption that it's not durable and I use it accordingly and I suggest you do the same.
Intuos 4(5) L or Cintiq 13HD?
Intuos 4, for now.
Cintiq 13HD or larger models or Companion?
Cintiq 13HD, unless you are professional artist and doing art for living or you truly need true mobile freedom.