Wacom Cintiq 13HD Review

I've been dabbling in tablets since 2005, when I bought my first one (a very cheap Aiptek tablet). They've proven themselves essential for digital art, and around 2007, I ditched the Aiptek for a Wacom Bamboo Fun, mostly because it was compact and served my needs, and because it was at a good price point. I had this particular tablet for almost ten years, but in late 2016 I decided it was time to take the plunge into a pen display.

How I have my desk currently set up. It's not perfect, I'd love a larger desk (one day) but for now, it works.

How I have my desk currently set up. It's not perfect, I'd love a larger desk (one day) but for now, it works.

 

I did a lot of research into tablets and displays alike, trying to determine which would best suit my needs. The use of Photoshop was my primary concern. Portability and OS compatibility were further down my list, since I didn't foresee carrying a tablet around with me all the time, and I have both a Apple and Windows based computers. I looked into the Surface Pro, iPad, and Wacom and ultimately went with a Cintiq 13HD. I won't go into pros and cons of other options here, but having used the Cintiq for a few months now, there are definitely things I like and dislike about it.

 

Likes

• It's got a small footprint. I don't have a lot of desk space as it is, so when it's out, I can still set my keyboard up in front of it with no problems. I can also easily fold the built-in stand back to flatten the display and slide it under my monitor riser for storage (it's also a little safer under there).

• The stylus is responsive and comfortable to hold. It's about as thick as the Bamboo Fun stylus. No word on if it's as durable, though. Part of what sold me on another Wacom was the time my Bamboo stylus took a swim in the toilet (gross, I know) thanks to my son. I was able to air-dry the inner components, put it all back together, Lysol wiped it down, and it still worked fine until I retired it. The Cintiq stylus doesn't have a battery, so no recharging needed, comes with extra nibs, and a slick storage case. Not super important, but a nice touch. There are also additional types of nibs available for the stylus (calligraphy ones, for example), if the standard ones aren't to your taste.

Dislikes

• The Wacom tablet preference software acts a bit buggy from time to time. When you open your settings panel, you have options for assigning different tasks to buttons on the side bar and rocker ring. I've noticed occasionally, these buttons won't preform functions assigned to them. I have specific settings in Photoshop that differ from settings in Illustrator or for other programs, and have had buttons that should zoom in and out activate Precision Mode, instead.

• Sometimes, the stylus calibration will be off. This normally happens when my cursor is on my main display (the desktop) and I touch the stylus to the Cintiq. It'll be off from the tip of the stylus by at least an inch. That's frustrating! I used to go back into the settings panel to recalibrate, but I've found turning off the Cintiq and turning it back on again fixes this problem.

• It may just be because I'm on a Mac, but sometimes the desktop dock jumps over onto the Cintiq screen. I've noticed this happening if I drift too far south on the display and inadvertently drag the dock onto the Cintiq. Moving my cursor back up to my main monitor, and letting it hover where the dock should be makes the dock jump back into position. Another annoyance, but still an easy fix.

 

Overall, I've been satisfied with the Cintiq. One of my biggest hang-ups when approaching digital art was the disconnect between my hand and what my eyes saw when drawing on a traditional tablet. Being about to see what my hand is doing feels so much more natural, and despite my dislikes of the Cintiq, it's been a game changer for me. It's improved my speed and workflow, and I definitely feel more efficient as a digital artist and graphic designer now.