…it was as if millions of artist’s wallets cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

Cintiq Companion

Six days ago Wacom announced to the world it’s first truly mobile graphics tablet. I doubt there was anyone who expected them not to announce a Cintiq branded device for Windows 8 and Android, as the promo ‘sleuthing reporter’ cartoon strip showed two boxes, one with a blue square and one with the Android robot on it. Some seem a bit peeved by the fact there is no version for iOS, why I have no idea as we all know what a walled garden Apple prefer and they will never allow their OS anywhere near a machine which isn’t tailor-made for Apple. Why? Because if they did, they might have to make it work with more than a handful of devices.

“APPLE HATER!” I hear you cry. Quite the opposite, actually. We own a Macbook Pro, two iPods, two iPads, and a (particularly frustrating) Mac Mini Server. I will confess to loathing any Apple produced mouse though. I dislike gimmicky tech and the Mighty/Magic Mouse strikes me as just that. However, I digress. This isn’t an Apple post.

Wacom are releasing two flavours of this mobile tablet. The Cintiq Companion (£1,375 plus VAT for the 256GB version and £1,670 for the 512GB version), which runs on Windows 8 and the Cintiq Companion Hybrid (£1,000 for the 16GB version and and £1,083 for the 32GB version), which runs on Android. The former comes with a choice of Windows 8 and a 256GB SSD or Windows 8 Pro and a 512GB SSD. The latter is a hybrid device, which can act as a portable tablet used in conjunction with a laptop or desktop or as a standalone Android device, using only the apps available for the Android OS.

Cintiq Companion Features Image

I’m a little late with this post, as the news has been out for a while now.. but what’s my personal view on it? Firstly, I have to say I’m somewhat baffled by the reactions of people who are decrying it for being too expensive.. what did they expect? The prices are pretty much inline with devices that Wacom already sell, and these tablets are packing a lot more tech than a standard Cintiq. They’re essentially tablet computers, with all that that entails – CPU, hard disc, etc. The new Cintiqs are not consumer devices, they’re for professional creatives who want to be able to work on the move. Wacom are not in the business of software; as should be evident to anyone who’s had to deal with their godawful driver releases for the Cintiq range over the years, so it was bound to be a device that used an existing OS.

Secondly, the Companion Hybrid. I can’t see a great deal of point in this device. To use it with software such as Painter, Manga Studio or Photoshop it will have to be used in conjunction with a full-fat PC, either laptop or desktop. Switching to standalone, we’re left with Android… which is not renowned for it’s wealth of quality graphic apps. I’ve been an Android user since not long after the first handsets that were worth a damn (such as the HTC Hero) were on the market, and the only app that I’ve ever found any use for is Autodesk Sketchbook Mobile (Sketchbook Pro for tablets). Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a regular cheerleader for the app but the fact is I cannot see any major benefit to switching from the Galaxy Note 10.1, which uses a Wacom engineered pressure sensitive stylus to a Cintiq Companion Hybrid which costs almost twice as much. Also, I find that the ability to stow the small S-Pen inside the device is a godsend, I wouldn’t really fancy carting around a full-size wacom pen in a case along with all the other gubbins I regularly stash in my bag – camera, purse, tablet, Android phone, bits of paper, old receipts, etc.

Wacom pen case image

Nope, can’t see me wanting to lug this about.

I’ve been using a Cintiq 24HD for almost two years now and as I’ve mentioned before, the pixel density is not good. Both the Companion and the Hybrid are sporting 1920х1080 on a 13.3 inch screen, which is a similar resolution to the 24HD. So I would expect to see a marked improvement in pixel density for these smaller devices. This isn’t as high as the iPad (2560×1556 if I recall correctly) but let’s be honest, what the hell is the point in a screen resolution so high it outstrips what the human eye can see by a fair margin? There is also the question of battery life. How long does it last? If an artist is out in the field (so to say), will they need a spare and how much will that cost? How heavy does it make the whole shebang?

And no artist will take something like the Cintiqs out into the wild without good protection. Cases and sleeves tend to be expensive. The cost of owning a Cintiq Companion or Hybrid may already be beginning to rise above the starting “ouch” position.

Let’s have a look at the Tech Specs.

Cintiq Companion

  • Display Size
: 13.3 inch
  • Resolution
: Full HD 1920 х 1080
  • Advanced control: 
2048 levels pen pressure, natural feel and multi-touch
  • Productivity boosters: 
ExpressKeys, Rocker Ring, Home Button, on-screen controls
  • Ergonomics
: Adjustable stand
  • Compatibility: 
Windows 8
  • Processor
: Intel Core i7
  • Storage
: 256 or 512 GB Solid State Drive (SSD)
  • Size: 
375 х 248 x 17 mm/14.8 х 9.8 х 0.7 in
  • Weight: 
1.8 kg/3.9 lbs

Cintiq Companion Hybrid

  • Display Size
: 13.3 inch
  • Resolution
: Full HD 1920 х 1080
  • Advanced control: 
2048 levels pen pressure, natural feel and multi-touch
  • Productivity boosters: 
ExpressKeys, Rocker Ring, Home Button,
On-Screen Controls
  • Ergonomics: 
Adjustable stand
  • Compatibility: 
Windows, Mac
  • Processor: 
Nvidia Tegra 4
  • Storage
: 16 or 32 GB
  • Size: 375 x 248 x 16 mm/14.8 х 9.8 х 0.6 in
  • Weight
: 1.7 or 1.8 kg/3.6 or 3.9 lbs

As you can see, the physical device is almost the same. Under the hood it’s a different matter. The Hybrid sports a different processor and a pretty paltry 16/32GB storage. Ultimately though, storage shouldn’t be an issue as you can always plug an external drive in via USB if you get desperate.

Dual screen Mobile setup image

Having fun with a dual screen setup using Galaxy Note 10.1

I guess the question is – would I buy one? If I had the money just sloshing around then I’d probably go for the Win 8 Companion. But I can already use my Galaxy Note 10.1 as a second screen (albeit somewhat clunkily) and the S-Pen in tandem with Sketchbook Pro is already a pretty mighty device, so from a budget point of view I would say no; not right now. I’d also want to see other user reviews from the tablet battlefield that have tested it to destruction before forking out.

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