Wacom Cintiq Compainion Review

Whilst travelling with the lovely Sara from www.sassiphotography.com.au through Sydney and Canberra as Photographers for the Special Childrens Christmas Party we had the loan of a Wacom Cintiq Companion 512GB Tablet.  Here are my thoughts.

Cintiq Companion in use

Up first, the basic specs. This review is from the point of view of a working photographer on the road and relates to my own workflow,  others mileage may vary.  It will be short and won’t be a full techno geek rundown, there are plenty of those elsewhere on the web if that matters to you.  The full specs are at http://cintiqcompanion.wacom.com

Intel Core I7 Processor
13.3 inch 1920×1080 Full HD display
75% Adobe RGB
512GB SSD (There is also a 256GB model available)
8GB ram
2x Superspeed USB 3.0 ports
Express Keys with On Screen Display.
Bluetooth keyboard
1.8kg

This review is on the Cintiq Companion.  There is also a Cintiq Companion Hybrid available which I haven’t used, but the gist is that it’s a Cintiq 13 with a battery and an Android Operating System.  This allows you to have a portable Cintiq and can also do some drawing and whatnot without needing a Laptop or PC connected.

Cintiq Companion review
Pulling it out of the box it looks really cool.  Easy to setup and get working.  The Windows 8.1 interface actually seems good on a tablet, even though I loathe it on a desktop.  It starts up fast and is ready to go very quickly.  The Bluetooth Keyboard is nice to use and just connects and works every time without any issues.  Working directly on the screen takes some getting used to and is a different experience from working on my Intuos 4 tablet whilst looking at a graphics display, as I do at my studio workstation.

Travelling with the Cintiq Companion is a nice experience.  Overall it’s about the size of a very slim 15” laptop.  It comes with a lovely soft pouch that holds the tablet and has pockets for the pen and the keyboard.  It also has a detachable backplate that works as a 3 position stand, so it can be setup on a desk or used at an angle, handy when sitting it on your lap.  The Wacom Grip Pen works just as it does on my Intuos 4, with 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity (a wanky geek number, sorry) it is nicely responsive and can be set up to do different functions in different applications.

The screen is also multi-touch capable and works with your fingers, though without the preciseness that comes with using the grip pen.  The screen doesn’t respond to finger touches when the grip pen is within range and I found this works near perfectly.  This allows you to choose settings etc with your finger and then quickly bring the pen into use without interference from you palm or errant fingers.

Cintiq Companion portable
In use the tablet is fast.  The combination of an I7 processor and the SSD means that it flies through the processing rather quickly.  There was little perceptible lag processing through my Nikon’s 36 megapixel raw files that come out at ~75mb each uncompressed or ~45-50mb each with lossless compression (how I use them)(sorry, more wanky geek stuff)  Even running through a large panorama stitching together 10 or so separate photographs was no trouble.  8GB of ram is enough for this type of work.

The battery life is good, with 25% still showing after a good 3-4 hours of solid use processing photographs.  It charges with the included adaptor in a couple of hours and operates as normal with the adaptor plugged in, allowing you to keep working even when topping up the battery.  It also has 2 built in cameras, one on the front and one on the back.  I assume this would be useful for something, but as a Photographer I have my Pro Nikon Cameras or I’ll use my phone for snaps.  It might be fun to skype/video call family whilst away on assignment, but I can also do that on my phone.

Wacom Companion Camera

Like all new toys, though, it wasn’t quite perfect.  The screen is small at only 13.3 inches diagonally and whilst it has a full 1920×1080 resolution it’s still small in use.  The on screen keyboard takes up half the screen, and when you rely heavily on keyboard shortcuts, as I do, this means that you need the Bluetooth Keyboard out as well.  Now once you have the keyboard out, and the pen you have a lot of clutter and loose items floating around.  On a flight or whilst travelling this is a pain, though not so much an issue sitting at a café enjoying a beverage.

It’s fitted with a Micro SD card slot.  For me, this sucks.  My cameras shoot to full size SD and CF cards, so this means carrying along a card reader everywhere I go.  The clutter is adding up, with external backup hard drives, card readers, keyboards, pens etc making the companion less and less convenient.

The two units I tested had a problem with the pen calibration.  Even after calibrating the screen multiple times, the cursor when near the edges, particularly the top left corner area, would not line up with the position of the pen on the screen.  I’m sure it’s something that you would adapt to with a little time or that will be fixed in future software updates, but my time with the Cintiq Companion was limited and I found it a pain.

Wacom Cintiq Companion

Overall this is a great little unit, and would be a great machine for the right user, unfortunately for me and my workflow it’s not quite suited.  I predominately work in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, for import, cataloguing, and raw file processing, with only approximately 25% of my work being taken over to Photoshop itself.  I rely on keyboard shortcuts and the Lightroom adjustment sliders can be easily used with a touchpad/mouse, so for this purpose I feel a regular laptop will suit my needs a little better.

For someone who travels and primarily utilises Photoshop for photograph retouching the Wacom Cintiq Companion is certainly worth a look.

Let me know your thoughts, if you’ve used one or have any queries.

Matty Haysom - Hi mate,

Just ordered one of these for the portable side of things, should arrive early next week, just reading through your blog of it and i see that the work flow between the Wacom Compainion and lightroom isn’t too good, obviously the best thing to have would be a stationary Wacom like the 24HD touch but for the $3700, do you think the price could be justified? Just curious on your thoughts and insights. Maybe I’ll end up returning the Compainion and upgrading for another grand to the 24HD touch.

Side note, saw your post through “Ask Damien”

Matty Haysom

Dan - Hi Matty,

The workflow is fine, the reason I didn’t love it is because I use keyboard shortcuts a lot, which means either needing a separate keyboard or losing half the screen with the on screen keyboard.

The companion is a different tool and designed for a different purpose than the larger stationary Wacom’s. The companion is a portable, standalone device intended to be used on the go or whilst out and about. It’s intended to replace a laptop computer, or bring the power of a laptop to a tablet device.

Thanks for the comments, though and I hope that this has clarified things a little.

Cheers
Dan.

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