Wednesday, 30 October 2013

My Experience with the Cintiq Companion

I'm experimenting with Paint Tool Sai and slowly getting a natural feel for the device.

A brief personal review of the Cintiq Companion:

Wacom, the manufacturer of top-of-the-line digital art tablet displays and styli, have released the Cintiq Companion this past month. After reading several reviews, I have decided to buy one for myself. If you are an artist contemplating on whether you should purchase one or not, let me share with you my personal experience with the Cintiq Companion 256GB Windows8 tablet so far, with a few points that some other reviews may have missed. (There also exists a Cintiq Companion Pro 512GB tablet, as well as Cintiq Companion Hybrid Android tablets, but I have not used these models).

I've had the fortune of purchasing my own Companion this past month, and have been really enjoying my new tablet so far. This is the third Wacom product I have bought for myself, having used an Intuos2 for the longest time before getting a Cintiq21ux for freelance work. My justification for buying the Companion tablet was to have a more mobile digital art setup, as my old Intuos2 finally croaked after ten years of service, and my current laptop is an unwieldy 7 kilograms. With this new tablet, I would be more ready to work remotely if need be. It would also provide an opportunity to create art away from my computer desk.

Other drawing tablets I have considered were the Surface Pro, as well as Samsung Tab and Asus Transformer. But Wacom's Cintiq Companion was made specifically for the digital artist, which is why I chose it over the alternatives.

One of the things I am really impressed with is the fine tooth of the glass on the screen, which gives a sense of friction that I don't find on my Cintiq21ux. The tooth also gives a matte finish to the glass which prevents me from seeing my own reflection or distracting light sources. I also love the high resolution of the Companion's screen, which is full HD 1920 x 1080 pixels. Drawing in detail with the Companion is just as fine as drawing on paper. It has a pixel density I am really comfortable with, much finer than on my Cintiq21ux. menu items don't appear too small, as they would appear on other smaller-sized tablets.

The battery runs for 7 hours on the lowest brightness setting. I spend most of my working day staring at a computer screen,so I like having the screen dimmer when I draw. It also attracts less attention if I'm using the Companion in a coffee shop or a pub.

Although I haven't drawn with my tablet outdoors yet, I did test out the fullest brightness setting of the screen to see if I can use it in sunlight. The screen does get very bright, and I can in fact see vibrant colours outdoors under a bright blue sky. As stated before, the matte finish of the screen prevents me from seeing the bright reflection of the sky. However, the only time I would not be able to see the screen clearly is if the sun is behind me, shining onto the screen. That is not a big issue with me really, as I could always find shade if I wanted to.

Initially I found the tablet to be quite heavy. It weighs about 2 kilograms. When I first used it, my left arm got tired in less than a minute! I'm happy to say though that my arms have adjusted to the weight, and I can easily carry the Companion gripping it with my hand, as I would have done with my old paper-and-pencil sketchbooks. 2 kilos definitely beats the weight of my old 7 kilo laptop! Quiet fans keep the tablet cool, though I haven't tried playing a video game with full graphics to see what would happen.

Still, there are a few things I wish were improved in general. There is still a wide gap between the drawing surface and the drawing itself, whereas on a Surface Pro, the screen is optically bonded, which means there is barely any gap between the pen tip and the image. I find myself calibrating the screen each time I turn it on, only because I want more accuracy with my drawing instruments. Once that is done though, the drawing experience is pretty fluid. I would just like one day for Wacom to make a display with even less distance between the pen tip and the image.

Of somewhat a lesser nuisance, the placement of the Companion's power button is a bit problematic sometimes. Occasionally I will accidentally put the tablet to sleep from placing my hand right on top of the button when I hold the Companion in a particular way. Audio is also not so great on this device, whether is is listened through the built-in speakers, or through headphones. The volume seems to go only halfway compared with other devices I use.

People have complained that the Cintiq Companion does not come with a Haswell processor, which is said to improve battery life and graphics performance. I had actually pondered whether I should wait for Wacom to release a Haswell tablet. But technology is always improving each month, and by the time a Haswell Wacom comes out (perhaps a year?), there is sure to be another new processor which promises to be even faster than Haswell. I figured why wait; my Cintiq21ux from 2009 still serves me well and has not gone into obsoletion, despite the fact more advanced Cintiq tablets exist today. I personally think this Companion will not go obsolete anytime soon.

Overall though, I really love this device! I'm glad I paid a little more for the Companion and did not settle for a cheaper, smaller Surface Pro, or other tablets. It does have Wacom's notoriously high price to pay for it as well ($1999US, or $2099CAD), but it is a very niche product not meant for everyone. If you are an artist heavily involved in the digital arts, and you're looking for a tablet computer for art creation, I would highly recommend Wacom's Cintiq Companion. If you are an amateur artist, starving student, or an artist whose medium is not primarily digital, then this tablet might be a bit overboard to spend your money on.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Adapting to new tools


Recently I've had the fortune of obtaining my own Wacom Cintiq Companion. I certainly enjoy using it a lot more than my Cintiq 21ux for the portability, high resolution and surface tooth. Perhaps I will write more of a review in the next post.

For now, I wanted to share some sketches I've done since acquiring the new tablet two weeks ago. As with any new medium, it takes time to adjust my habits to draw as I normally would. I'm slowly getting used to the weight and size of my tablet. But I also have decided to not install PhotoShop onto my tablet, and use programs geared more towards drawing and painting. The above image was made using a trial version of Paint Tool Sai. I enjoy using it so much, I plan to buy a license for it when the trial runs out.

Writing this entry from the tablet also takes some while to get used to, as I haven't connected a keyboard to the device yet. But once the experience of using a tablet becomes more natural for me, you will be seeing a lot more artwork posted on this blog