I got lucky yesterday.
I spent the entire day with a Wacom Cintiq 24HD touch courtesy of Great Eastern Technology. GET delivered the tablet to us for a week to kick its tires. I connected my MacBook Pro (retina) to it and spent most of the day working between Adobe Photoshop, Flash and OS X.
Huge thumbs up! Seriously, this is the Shangri-La of graphics tablets folks. It’s simply huge and and seriously well-engineered. I think if the Earth exploded, this Cintiq would spend the rest of its life floating around space fully intact. The construction just feels solid. The entire time I was drawing and designing on it I couldn’t help but mutter words like “Whoa!” and “Dammmn!”. Even checking email and Facebook was like a whole new experience.
I’m not totally green when it comes to using a Cintiq either. For the past few years I have been using an older 21UX that I bought used from a random facebook user. The 21UX is a great tablet and works flawlessly after several years of service. But this week I’ve been able to compare it to its much bigger and better looking 24HD brother and the differences are noticeable.
Bigger really is better
It’s called the 24HD but in terms of its active area we’re really talking about 20.4″ x 12.8″ (518.4 x 324mm). But don’t let that sway you – the 24HD’s screen size and aspect ratio will surely satisfy your design appetite with room for dessert. The size of the Cintiq also fills the majority of your peripheral field of view, a side effect that tends to draw you in to your work (pun intended if you’re counting).
One feature my older 21UX has that the new 24HD does not is the ability to rotate the tablet on it’s mount. I honestly thought I’d miss having this ability but after a full day of using the HD24, I never thought about it. Maybe I never really used the ability to rotate the tablet with my older 21UX and liked the idea of it more than anything. After all, you can rotate the canvas inside Photoshop and many other applications anyway.
Throughout the day I was constantly interrupted by fellow employees who couldn’t help but notice the new toy I was using. Even the non-designers were incredibly impressed with my 2 minute walk-through of some of the Cintiq’s main features.
The Cintiq 24HD connects via a DVI output which requires an adapter. For the MacBook I needed my trusty DVI to Thunderbolt adapter which I always have in the bowels of my laptop bag for just such an occasion as this or when speaking at conferences and the like. What surprised me however was the lack of HDMI-to-HDMI connectivity from the Cintiq to support the newer Retina MacBooks. I would think HDMI would be a no-brainer but for now the DVI-Thunderbolt works fine and supports older, non-retina display MacBooks.
The Cintiq I’m testing is on loan as I previously mentioned and therefore came pretty much fully assembled. It weighs in at just over 60lbs and I quickly realized that sharing across the creative team would be problematic if we had to constantly move it from cubicle to cubicle every day. So I found an empty office for the Cintiq to stake its squatting rights in. As a creative team we all use MacBook Pros, so we can easily just bring our computers to the Cintiq and connect them via the Thunderbolt port.
The Cintiq 24HD display can be adjusted by height and incline. The angle of the display itself is adjusted by grasping the levers on both sides and squeezing to release the clutch mechanism. As you squeeze the levers, tilt the display to the desired angle and then release the levers to engage the clutch to lock the display in place. I had a lot of fun angling the display because of Wacom’s solid build quality. Serious tolerance levels achieved here guys as you can feel the subtle resistance in the hinging joints that connect the display to the support arms. It’s like opening the hood of a high end luxury car while still on the showroom floor kind-of-feel. Adjusting the Cintiq quickly becomes more about how good it feels than achieving the desired position angle.
The support arms lock when in vertical position and unlocked by accessing the release latch which is located at the very back of Cintiq’s base. When unlocked, you can lower the entire display to achieve a flatter angle. Just make sure you have one hand supporting the display when you release the support arms to avoid damage to the display or worse, your hand.
Whoa what’s this?
The Cintiq has 3 buttons along the top of its bezel; Information, Keyboard and touch toggle on/off. The info button displays an overlay that simply indicates what are the various express keys and various menu items across the entire display. The touch toggle button turns on and off the touch feature. But it was the keyboard button that caught me off guard in the best possible way. With the tap of my itty-bitty finger, a software keyboard appeared! Suddenly I was able to work entirely within the display area and not have to extend my left arm out to my MacBook to access any keyboard shortcuts! I could even create a text field in my graphics editor and use the software keyboard for entering text.
The keyboard can be resized and positioned anywhere on the screen. Toggle it off and then back on again and it will remember its last size and position. The keyboard feature was my big “Aha!” moment with the Cintiq and if I was only partially impressed by the tablet’s features up to this point, the keyboard would have put my confidence level well past the approval mark.
Your first born might be cheaper.
The ultimate, top-of-the-line 24HD touch model is listed on Wacom’s site at $3,699.00 US. Ok seriously, they’re a dollar away from making it a solid $3,700 so let’s just say THIRTY SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS. If you can afford it, God love ya. Especially if you are one of the many independent digital artists out there hustling the grind each and every day. If you are lucky enough to work for a company that can buy you one, then you are a god among men (and women). If you fall into neither category, then I’m surprised you read this far and I apologize for wasting your time. Go make a baby and leave it on Wacom’s front steps and see what happens*. These tablets are amazing but not exactly cheap. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for and I can assure you, the Cintiq is an amazing piece of hardware that is worth every penny.
For smaller wallets there are other Cintiq models to choose from:
*Actually this is a very bad idea and no reason to have a child. I take no responsibility for any children that end up at Wacom’s front door. On 2nd thought, if Wacom takes the child in, think of how awesome he or she will be at using these tablets in a few years!