The Wacom Cintiq 13HD is intuitive and fun, but it isn’t quite perfect. Is it worth the price? We reveal the pros and cons of this tablet in our full review below.
When we turn on the Wacom Cintiq 13HD Interactive Pen Display (DTK1300), we’re greeted by a crisp, clear 1080p LED screen that is capable of reproducing 16.7 million colors. Since it is an IPS screen, the viewing angle is nearly 180 degrees (178 to be exact) so colors are displayed accurately even when viewed from the side.
The drawing surface has a nice texture that simulates drawing on paper. It’s smooth, but not slick, and has a slightly matte finish that has the added benefit of reducing glare, reflections and fingerprints. Pen strokes are fluid without any lag, even at the edges of the screen. The pressure varies smoothly and there is no noticeable parallax (the distortion effect that makes it feel like the pen tip is offset from the image due to the thickness of the glass).
The smooth silicone finish of the Pro Pen feels good and well-balanced. The stylus tip can recognize 2048 levels of pressure and has tilt-sensitivity that can be customized to taste. The little color rings can be used to personalize the pen so it can be identified quickly, which is useful in a multi-user studio. We also find that the rings come in handy when using two pens each with a different nib — for example, one regular and one flex — to easily distinguish between the two without having to look at the tip.
Besides the usual pen holder, the Cintiq also comes with a surprisingly nice pen case to carry the Pro Pen and other included goodies — colored rings, nib extraction tool and and nine spare nibs. The fact that the pen box is not included with the larger Cintiqs shows that Wacom is emphasizing the portability factor of the 13HD.
Unlike the Cintiq 12WX which had a set of buttons on both sides of the tablet, the 13HD only has one set of controls, but the entire tablet can be flipped around for right or left-handed users. The four ExpressKeys and Rocker Ring come conveniently pre-configured, but they can easily be customized to perform practically any shortcut or keystroke. The buttons have a satisfying click to them and also have raised tactile bumps to make them easier to find by feel.
The Rocker Ring is a large 4-way switch with an additional button in the center and each direction (up, down, left, right) can be programmed individually. As long-time Wacom users, we have mixed reactions about this feature. Frankly, some of us prefer the Touch Ring on the Intuos Pro or even the Touch Strip from the Cintiq 12WX, where the “sliding” control makes it easier to zoom in and out or change brush sizes in Photoshop. Although the Rocker Ring can still perform these functions, it takes a few more clicks to achieve what can be done with a slide of the thumb on the Intuos Pro. It’s not a dealbreaker for us, but it does take some adjustment. Wacom also chose not to include multi-touch, which might have been a useful feature considering the lower-priced Intuos Pro and even the entry-level Intuos Pen & Touch both offer that capability.
Setup and Portability
The new 3-way cable makes setup pretty straighforward and simple. On one end there’s a plug that goes directly into the tablet, and on the other end there are three connectors: HDMI and USB plugs go to the laptop or computer and the power line gets connected to the “wall-wart” style power adapter. The Cintiq is compatible with both Mac and PC, but it’s important to install the correct driver for the pen to interact properly with the screen.
We like the way the stand can be adjusted to four different positions — flat, 22°, 35° or 50° — so it’s easy to find the angle that’s most comfortable. The small rubber feet on the bottom of the stand keep it from sliding around on the desk, or the entire stand can be detached if you prefer to hold it or use it on your lap. If you do use it on your lap, we have to warn you that the Cintiq 13HD will get warm after prolonged use, but not uncomfortably so, and not nearly as warm as the Cintiq 12WX.
As we mentioned earlier, Wacom seems to be emphasizing that the Cintiq 13HD is portable. For the most part we agree, especially compared to the Cintiq 24HD, which weighs over 60 lbs. Even the old 12WX weighed 4 lbs plus required a large power brick, a separate video converter box & a tangle of cables. By comparison, the 13HD weighs only 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg) and although it’s not something we’d want to carry around all day, the pen case and 3-way cable do make it easier to pack up the tablet when necessary.
The long-awaited Cintiq 13HD has met or exceeded our expectations in nearly every way. Technology-wise it is certainly miles ahead of the aging and outdated 12WX (which was excellent back when it was first released, but that was several years ago). The screen is sharp and clear, and the whole tablet is sturdy and well-designed. It’s compact and light enough to be portable (or at least semi-portable). Most importantly, the pen-on-screen functionality performs beautifully. Drawing directly on the screen feels completely natural, compared to the extra eye-hand coordination that a regular graphics tablet requires. For beginners and casual users, the price tag of the Cintiq may be a barrier, but serious artists and creative professionals will immediately recognize the benefits in both workflow and productivity. All in all, highly recommended.
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