Wacom CintiQ 21UX

Wacom CintiQ 21UX

If you already peeped my Wacom Graphire article, you’d know that my main problem with graphics tablets was trying to coordinate my hand to draw while looking at a screen instead of the drawing surface. The other problem was the driver for the Graphire didn’t help me work on a multi-monitor set up.

After being disappointed with drawing tablets, I kinda gave up. I knew that Wacom had displays you could draw directly on, but they were ridiculously expensive. I had forgotten all about these screens until I started my current job. They had a Wacom CintiQ 21UX sitting on the desk next to me with no one using it. Eventually my coworker convinced the company to replace it’s missing stylus and 3 weeks later, it was back in business. When I first got to use the CintiQ, it was magical. It was like that same “a ha!” moment the first time I tried an iPad. But unlike an iPad or Android tablet, this has a pixel-precise stylus.

Now, this isn’t really a touch-screen despite the similarities. First, it doesn’t respond to finger inputs at all, you must use the stylus to interact with the display. Wacom does have touch based CintiQ’s, but the one I’m reviewing (21UX) does not. I prefer it this way. While touch input is common these days, I already have a couple tablets and enjoy browsing the internet with them. But for a drawing tablet, I really don’t want my hands, arms, or fingers interfering with the display while I’m trying to draw. Also I don’t need another touch screen device.

But back to the magic. Being able to draw inside Photoshop like with pen and paper made me giddy. The fact that the stylus is incredibly accurate is wonderful, you can place your strokes exactly where you want them, not approximately.

The device also comes with a really nice driver. It has 16 macro buttons, and with the driver you can assign them more than just hot-keys, but entire combinations of keystrokes. Because the device is a monitor itself, the pen is always calibrated to be 1:1 with the pixels on the screen. No monkey business with a multi-monitor set up.

Although the screen is said to be matte, it’s still slightly glossy compared to my other monitor. But that’s to be expected: it has glass overlay to prevent you from putting pressure directly on the LCD panel. Despite the slight gloss, it’s still significantly more matte than a typical glossy display.

I do have a couple complaints though, which affect me to various degrees. First, the stand that comes with the CintiQ doesn’t adjust to perfect vertical. The screen is pretty heavy so I can see why Wacom did this. If it was perfect vertical it would be significantly more difficult to design a stand to prevent it from falling forward and destroying you / itself. But when I’m not using it for drawing I would prefer it to be vertical. This isn’t too big of a problem for me because at work I’m always only using it for drawing, and at home I replaced it’s stand with a heavy duty mechanical arm. But, if you don’t want to replace it’s stand (which is slightly difficult), then you’ll never have a perfectly vertical display.

The other issue isn’t too big, but bugs me from a design point-of-view. The monitor has a cable that’s permanently built into it. It has a DVI-I/A adapter, a power cable, and a USB cable all crammed inside one monster cable that’s fixed to the back of the display. I feel this is a bit unnecessary. While it does prevent cord clutter to a degree, it means that the entire monitor is useless if any of those three wires get’s a short. Since you can’t replace the video cable, the USB cable, or the power cable it’s tripping the odds you’ll have broken equipment in the future. I would strongly prefer it to use a regular A-to-B USB cable for the input, and have a DVI/VGA display port on the back so I can use any cable I like. The monitor also uses an external laptop style power supply, so it doesn’t use a regular IEC cable either. Now so far this hasn’t been a problem and I don’t plan on moving my PC a bunch, so I think I’ll be fine for years. But it bothers me that it was designed like this.

Although those issues bother me, so far they haven’t been too bad for me.

In regards to Software Support, the monitor works very very well with Photoshop. As soon as I opened Photoshop CS5 it was detecting the pen (stylus) tilt and pressure with no setup required. I know Photoshop very well so I was able to map the pen pressure to various attributes easily. The monitor has two track-pads on it’s back edges (left and right) which work with Photoshop out of the box. You can program the track pads to do things like Zoom or Rotate the canvas in Photoshop. Though I still prefer using keyboard short cuts. Although the monitor works really well with Photoshop, you will still need to be good at Photoshop first. This wont teach you Photoshop, but it will allow a PS expert to kick total ass.

But Photoshop isn’t required. Since the Wacom also acts as a mouse / cursor, you could use it with any drawing program. Even MS-Paint! Though, the drawing program will have to support pen-pressure which it may or may not to various degrees. If the drawing program doesn’t support pen pressure it will still work though.

Besides 2D work, I look forward to using this device with 3D modeling software like Z-Brush. Maybe I’ll even develop an application for it one day!

Over all the device does what it claims with excellence. This is the only way people should be drawing with computers. Unfortunately the price is steep and limiting for casual users. Wacom also has a smaller 13″ tablet version (CintiQ Companion) which costs significantly less. I was thinking of picking up one of these tablets for myself, but then I found a 21UX on craigslist for a reasonable price. Now I have one at work and at home!

If you can afford it, or you can find a good deal I strongly recommend you to pick one up. If you do, you might want to consider upgrading the stand it came with so it can be perfectly vertical when you’re not drawing. Check back here or on gmiller.net/art for some of my work as I spend some time with this device. Unfortunately I can’t share anything I do at work =P.


July 5, 2014 at 9:57 pm | Technology Reviews


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