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December 2014
Issue: July 1, 2014

Review: Wacom's Cintiq Companion

By: Brady Betzel
MANUFACTURER: Wacom 

PRODUCT: Cintiq Companion

PRICE: $2,299/512GB

WEBSITE: www.wacom.com

- Retains the quality that Wacom is known for
- Incredibly powerful Intel i7 processor inside the slim casing
- Makes working with professional apps on the go a breeze

In June of 2012, I reviewed my first Wacom product, the Intuos 5 medium-sized pen tablet. Once I got over the initial despair of ditching my mouse for a pen, I found myself experiencing a whole new level of creativity and a very-welcomed loss of wrist pain. More recently, I was looking on the company’s Website and found the Cintiq Companion and Cintiq Hybrid tablet PCs. I’ve always wanted to try a Cintiq product, but they weren’t quite what a video editor or motion graphics designer like me really needed; until I saw the Companion. 

COMPANION AND HYBRID

There are two versions within the Cintiq Companion family: the Companion and the Companion Hybrid. The Cintiq Companion is the version I used for this review; it’s a full-fledged Intel i7 beast with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity and Windows 8 pre-installed.



The Companion Hybrid is an Android Jelly Bean-powered sketchpad for someone on the go. The Hybrid model contains many of the same technical features of the Companion, such as 2,048 levels of pen pressure sensitivity, express keys and even an added battery life. It also contains some very polarizing distinctions such as the Nvidia Tegra 4 processor, 16- or 32GBs of storage, and the ability to connect to your base station Mac or PC and be used like the standard Intuos tablet in “Desktop Mode.” The non-hybrid model does not have a “Desktop Mode.” The Hybrid is for the professional who likes to have the ability to take their work with them around the office, do some touch ups or address some notes on the go and sync with their base station; while the Cintiq Companion has been made to be its own system with no need to connect to a base station (although it can connect to an external monitor for viewing). 

There are two models of the Companion, one with a 256GB solid state hard drive (Windows 8) and the other with a 512GB SSD drive (Windows 8 Pro). There are no other differences. The first time I turned on the tablet, it blew my mind! It fully powered on in :05 . This was a tiny trick from Wacom as they had shipped it in sleep mode, but it was still incredible. I immediately shut it down and rebooted to really see what I was working with. It took all of :20 to fully power up.

Once powered, I logged in and began swiping around the screen. Right off the bat I opened up Photoshop to see how it worked with the stylus. Like all of Wacom’s pen tablet products, the pressure sensitivity and tilt recognition are amazing. Even if you aren’t an illustrator, you will really get into how Photoshop and many other programs, such as SketchBook Pro, SketchUp, or even Blender, are compatible with Wacom products. Just paint a little bit and you will start to understand just how accurate and versatile the Companion is. There are also easy access buttons along the edge of the display, also known as the ExpressKeys, Rocker Ring, and Windows button. The Rocker Ring, unfortunately, is not like the Touch Ring I am used to on the Intuos 5. It is a circle that can be pushed in one of four directions, almost like four independent keys situated to form a ring shape.

TESTING THE SOFTWARE

During the day I am a video editor. With this review, I wanted to test the editing and motion graphics side of the tablet. When I was done trolling around Photoshop, I downloaded and installed Premiere, AE and Avid Media Composer. 

Right off the bat I noticed it’s a little tough using the stylus inside of the video apps. At the moment, they really aren’t made for touch or stylus use. But don’t get me wrong; it works, it just takes a second to get used to. You may have to slow your mouse speed down a little (or lay off the coffee). Technically, the Cintiq Companion runs every app like any laptop running a 1.9GHz Intel i7 processor, 8GB DDR3 RAM, and Intel HD Graphics 4000 would. While the processor is a little slower than most we are used to seeing, it is a tablet after all and the fine balance of power and a four-to-eight hour battery life is worth it. I was able to edit a simple 1080p sequence in both Media Composer and Premiere with little slowdown. I even added a few slates, dissolves, and very simple realtime effects with no problems.   



The Companion is 3.9lbs, which is heavier then most tablets we see these days. But this one has a lot more processing power. It has a full HD 1920x1080 resolution a-Si Active Matrix TFT LCD (IPS), 25ms response time, 75 percent Adobe RGB color gamut, 6500 degrees K white point by default, Micro SD slot, mini display port, headphone jack, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 b/g/n for wireless connectivity, 2 HD cameras (front and back), and two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports.

The Cintiq Companion comes with the stylus, extra nibs, a super soft case and a three-angle stand. While the stand is very solid, it is also a little clunky. Realistically, you are going to get four or less hours out of a single charge if you're using it with the powerhouse apps it’s built for. It comes with a power connection that isn’t the most graceful, but it gets the job done and isn’t a deal breaker. 

CONCLUSION

Overall, I love this tablet. If you understand that what you're getting is a highly-mobile and professional extension of your workstation and not a complete workstation replacement, you will be happy with it as well. It has a beautiful screen, amazing responsiveness, and an incredible synergy with most pro apps.

Brady Betzel is an Editor at Bunim/Murray Productions in Van Nuys, CA. He can be reached at: bradybetzel@gmail.com.