I recently bought myself a brand new Wacom Cintiq 24HD tablet. Here are all my first impressions, opinions, reviews, photos, and video of my new toy. And if you don't have time to read it, here's a summary: This thing is SWEET!
When reading this review, keep in mind that I've never owned or used a Cintiq before, so I can't compare it to the previous models. My first tablets were the Graphire and the Intuos. For the past few years, my main workhorse has been the Modbook, a tablet computer made from an Apple Macbook. (You can read my previous reviews about it here on the blog.)
First impression – the box was huge! And heavy (around 85 pounds). It took over the entirety of my tiny living room.
Inside, there was the tablet on its stand, cables (the power cable, a USB cord, DVI cord, and a DVI-to-VGA adapter cord), an instruction booklet, software/driver disks, a pen, and a pen stand (which also contained extra nibs).
Did I mention that the Cintiq 24HD is massive? To set it up, get a helper because I doubt anyone can get this thing out of the box and onto a desk by themselves. In physical size, the Cintiq is slightly larger than the 27" iMac that I already had sitting on my desk. Needless to say, my work area is crowded.
All of the wiring on the tablet is routed through the arms of the stand, keeping it pretty clean. Three different cords stick out of a hole in the back. The power cable connects to a power brick that's about the size of, well, a brick, which in turn gets plugged into your outlet. A USB cable plugs into your computer. The video cable goes to a DVI or VGA port. If you are on a Mac, keep in mind that you plug this into the mini displayport or thunderbolt port and you need to buy the DVI-to-MiniDisplayPort adapter from Apple separately. There's a door you can open to access your cable connections on the tablet itself, but you probably won't need to worry about that.
Next, I installed the driver. When you first install it and turn your tablet on, probably the first thing you need to do is calibrate the pen. Just hit the calibrate button in the driver preferences and follow the instructions (it involves tapping targets in the corner of the screen to help align the pen with the cursor).
After that, I had to change the monitor color. The screen on the Cintiq was really different than my iMac screen – a lot duller and yellower. You can fix this by changing the color profile. On Macs, this is in the Display preferences under the color section. I changed the Cintiq to use the iMac profile just like my main computer. After that, the color on the two monitors was virtually the same.
The Cintiq works just like any other computer monitor. If you don’t already have a monitor, you won’t need to get one because the Cintiq is sufficient all on its own.
If you already have a monitor, or you have one built into a laptop or iMac, you need to decide if the Cintiq will act as a primary or secondary monitor. My initial reaction upon setting it up was that I would set up the Cintiq as the secondary monitor. However, I realized quickly that it wouldn’t work that way. While you’re drawing in Photoshop or other program, you need access to your app and system menus.
As a result, whenever I am working on the Cintiq, I switch the primary monitor to the Cintiq. When I’m done drawing, I switch it back so I can use my iMac normally again. This was a bit inconvenient to me at first, but I got used to switching back and forth and it’s not a big deal.
The stand is both solid and flexible. Most of the heaviness can be attributed to the base, which requires a lot of weight to keep the tablet balanced, and not falling off your desk. It is very well-made, and I never feel like the tablet is unbalanced or in danger of falling.
There are two main levers – the sides which control the screen tilt and a latch on the center of the base which releases the arms. These give you a wide range of positions to work from. You can have it perfectly vertical to use as a monitor, or you can lay it almost flat. Because the stand is so heavy, you can hang it off the edge of your desk, almost like putting it on your lap. The stand is incredibly easy to use and adjust. It cannot rotate from side to side like the 21UX stand can, but it's so flexible otherwise and the tablet is so massive that I don't really care about that.
Keep in mind that the arm only "locks" in the complete vertical position. However, it doesn't really hinder the number of positions you can use because the bottom of the tablet rests on your desk when not vertical. You can work at virtually any angle.
The Cintiq has five buttons and a scroll wheel on each side of the tablet. The scroll wheel can do up to three different things at a time, and you can select which task using the three buttons beside the wheel.
I haven't gotten terribly used to using the custom buttons just yet. I found that even though there are two sets of buttons, I really only use one (the left side, because my right hand is usually busy drawing).
You may want to get used to using the custom buttons because one trouble I am having is finding a place for my keyboard. The Cintiq is so massive that I have to reach pretty far if I set it off to the side. You can place it in front of the tablet or underneath on the stand base, but I often have the tablet positioned flat so I can't do that all the time.
There are three handy buttons at the top right of the tablet. These let you access info (explaining all your button and controls), an on-screen keyboard (for quick typing needs), and settings (opens the Wacom software driver/preferences).
Besides the enormous color difference when I first set the Cintiq up (which was fixed when I changed the display color profile), I have had no problems or complaints about quality and color of the monitor. It's got a good range and looks beautiful.
The biggest adjustment for me is the SIZE. It is quite something to go from a 12"-13" screen to a 24" one. My eyes feel a whole lot more relaxed, and no more constant zooming!
Compared to my iMac, I would say the Cintiq screen is maybe slightly less bright. However, that is kinda fortunate and maybe on purpose on Wacom's part because it is easier on the eyes. The resolution is also smaller than on my iMac – the maximum on the Cintiq is only 1920×1200 vs. my iMac’s 2560×1440.
Drawing on a Cintiq is probably the most natural experience you'll find on a digital device. One minor quibble I have is that the glass screen is really slick – the Modbook I previously worked on had an etched surface that was slightly more paper-like. The experience may be much better with different kinds of pen nibs, but I have yet to try them.
Like with any tablet, there is a slight gap between your cursor and where your pen actually touches down. That can take some getting used to if you've never used a Cintiq or tablet computer before (though it's definitely much better than trying to figure out the hand-eye disconnect of a standard Wacom tablet). I like to tell beginning digital painters to get used to watching the cursor, not the end of your pen. If you can make that small mental adjustment, the experience becomes a lot more natural.
There are 2048 levels of pen pressure. The device I was working with before had only 512. I'd say it feels more sensitive, but I can't say I've been overwhelmed by the difference. I've never been too picky about levels of pressure when it comes to tablets. There are a lot. That's nice.
I gave a small tour of my Cintiq on Ustream when I first got it. You can find that here (there's also a little more at the end of this video, because the first video got cut off). I show how the stand works, what it looks like on my desk next to my iMac, and do a little sketching.
How does the Cintiq 24HD compare to other tablets and regular drawing?
Like I mentioned at the beginning, I've never used a Cintiq before, so I can't really speak to previous models. However, compared to standard tablets like the Intuos, the drawing experience is really night and day. It's a lot easier and more natural. That being said, having drawn on standard tablets before has helped me get used to the Cintiq more easily, because there's still a bit of adjustment from regular pencil and paper. There is a slight disconnect with the pen and cursor, and the pressure and slickness of the pen takes getting used to.
Compared to my previous workstation – the Modbook – the main difference is the size. Other little differences include a smaller parallax between the pen and screen, better driver and software controls, and better construction. But of course, the Cintiq is not very portable. I'll still keep my Modbook around for traveling or sketching in the living room.
What position do you use it in?
The stand is so easy to adjust, that I honestly move it around all the time depending on my needs. Though my two most often used positions are probably almost-vertical and almost-flat.
In previous Cintiq models, I've heard that it is a bit awkward to use them in a flat position. That's not true of the 24HD. Because the tablet can lean off your desk a bit, it feels more like a regular drawing desk.
How do you color-calibrate it?
I am not too well-versed in the technicalities of color quality and monitor calibration. I just used the Display preferences to change the color profile of the Cintiq to the same as my iMac profile, and the two screens almost match each other perfectly.
Could it use more buttons?
So far, I do not need any more buttons that what is provided on the Cintiq. I kinda like the simplicity. It's fortunate that I've worked on a tablet computer for a few years, because I've been adjusting to using Photoshop without a keyboard.
If you're a keyboard shortcut junkie, then you might be wanting a bit more. Like I mentioned earlier, using your actual keyboard can be a bit awkward, so it's nice to have the buttons.
Luxury or Necessity?
I wouldn't say you NEED a Cintiq to be a digital painter, but I wouldn't call it a luxury per se because it wouldn't be money extravagantly wasted. It is worth every single penny. My general advice is that beginners should get the cheapest tablet and learn the basics of digital painting before getting the larger equipment. However if you are a working pro who would use this every day, and you can afford it or have the means to save up for one, GET IT.
10 out of 10