By October 19, 2008

Wacom Cintiq 12WX Review

What do you get if you cross a graphics tablet with an LCD monitor? The answer is the Wacom Cintiq range.

In this particular case the Cintiq 12WX a 12″ widescreen monitor blended with a Wacom graphics tablet.

So after the Bamboo Fun review the other week, how is this one going to fair.

Wacom Cintiq 12WX

The Wacom Cintiq 12WX

 

What’s in the box?

  • Cintiq 12WX Pen Display
  • Video Control Unit
  • Grip Pen
  • Pen Stand
  • Replacement Pen Nibs
  • DVI, VGA, USB, and Power Cables
  • Power Adapter
  • User Manual
  • Installation CD
  • Adobe® Photoshop® Elements (6.0 WIN / 4.0 MAC) for editing, retouching, enhancing, organizing, and sharing digital photos
  • Corel® Painter™ Essentials 4.0 for creating natural media art and turning photos into paintings

 

General

Wacom are well known and well respected in the field of graphics tablets. They have, relatively recently, started doing a range called Cintiq where a LCD and a graphics tablet are combined into a single object. The obvious upside of this is that you are literally drawing onto the screen just like painting or drawing with a brush or pencil onto paper. This means there is much less technology between you and your work.

The first thing that struck me with the box is that it was larger than I thought it would be, especially as some people were talking about using this as a portable unit to go with their laptop.

But anyway, let’s unpack it all.

First off you come across the Cintiq display itself, very pretty :D . It’s immediately obvious that the Cintiq is an extension of the Intuos 3 range, the casing is very similar to the A5 Intuos 3. The big difference is the LCD that is laid into the middle of the unit.

As you can see from the full specs below, that screen is 10.3″x6.4″, 1280×800 pixels and supports 24bit colour depth.

As you can see there are a group of 5 buttons to both the left and the right of the LCD. The large ‘bar’ on the outside of these buttons is actually a slider sensor, which is very useful for scrolling or zooming your images. All of these buttons can be reconfigured to commonly used ‘modifier’ keys that you are likely to want to use whilst you are in your programs.

Underneath the display there is a fold out stand that will hold the Cintiq at a more comfortable working angle, but if you prefer to use the unit flat or in your lap, then just fold it back in, it tucks away very neatly.

Wacom Cintiq 12WX

Cintiq Stand

 

The only connection on display is at the back/top and this goes to the Video Control Unit. Basically the power and the computer video signals coming to the display go into this box as does the USB connection and then a single cable runs to the display. I think they’ve done this to try and minimise the amount of cables you are dragging around if you are moving the display whilst working. The buttons on the Video Control Unit allow you to change the settings on the monitor just as you would on any display, things like contrast, brightness, colour temperature – all the normal controls.

Mac users should be aware that if they have the mini-dvi connector then they will need to get an adaptor to use this product as the included cables will only connect to either VGA or DVI-I.

cintiq_box_top

cintiq_box_back cintiq_box_front

Cintiq Video Control unit

 

The pen has a little stand and some replacement nibs for when you wear the one in the pen down :D . Like most tablet pens it has a nib and an eraser – in this case both have 1024 pressure sensitivity levels.

cintiq_pen

Centiq tablet pen

There are also a couple of pieces of art software included – Adobe Photoshop Elements 5 and Corel Painter Essentials 4.0

 

Wacom Cintiq 12WX Specification:

GENERAL

  • Overall dimensions: 16″ wide x 10.5″ high x .67″ depth
  • Weight: 4.4 lbs. with video control unit
  • Data port: USB
  • Graphics input: Analog RGB (HD 15pin) or digital DVI (29 pin)
  • Display connector: Proprietary DFP – DVI-I on video control box
  • Display adapters included: DVI-I to VGA, DVI-I to DVI-D
  • Stand adjustability: Flat on desktop, 25°to 60°
  • Rotation: 360° flat position on pivot
  • Mounting hole pattern: VESA 75mm
  • Power supply input: 100-240 VAC 50-60 Hz
  • Power supply output: 12 VDC 3.3A
  • Warranty: 2 years

 

DISPLAY

  • Aspect Ratio: 16:10
  • Screen size: 12.1″ diagonal
  • Display area: 10.3″ wide x 6.4″ high
  • Native resolution: WXGA (1280×800)
  • Total pixels: 1,024,000
  • Number of colours: 16.7 million
  • Pixel pitch: 0.204mm x 0.204mm
  • Brightness: 180 cd/m2
  • Contrast ratio: 600:1
  • Viewing angle: 85°/85° H, 85°/85° V
  • Color management: ICC profile, 6500° K whitepoint default
  • Color management control: DDC/CI

 

INTERACTIVE FEATURES

  • Technology: Patented electromagnetic resonance method
  • Resolution: 5080 lines per inch
  • ExpressKeys: 10 user-assignable
  • Touch Strips: 2 finger-sensitive, front mounted

 

PEN

  • Type: Pressure-sensitive, cordless, battery-free
  • Switches: Tip switch, 2 side switches, eraser
  • Pressure levels: 1,024
  • Tilt range: +/- 60°
  • Grip: Latex-free silicone rubber
  • Model: ZP-501ESE
  • Nibs included: 3 standard, 1 stroke, 1 felt
  • Optional pens: 6D Art Pen, Airbrush, Classic

 

REVIEW

Having had a play with the Bamboo Fun before this I was looking forward to seeing one of Wacom’s more professionally targeted devices to see how they compare.

Straight out of the box this is a much slicker looking unit (as it should be for the price difference). It’s immediately obvious that the Cintiq 12WX has benefited from Wacom’s experience with their Intuos range of products. The buttons placed on either side mean that the device is equally suitable for left or right handed users, the stand allows people that want to have a tilted display to work that way without having to find something on the desk to rest it on, and the single cable at the top of the unit means that you can turn and twist the display to a position that is best for you whilst you work, without having to worry about yanking lots of cables around the desk. You won’t believe how thin the display is until you have it in your hands either :D

The unit is straight forward to setup – you connect the Video Control Unit (VCU) to the PC with either a VGA or DVI-I connection and a USB cable, you then plug the power into the VCU – then finally the display connects on other side of the VCU with a single custom cable. Drivers are included on the CD, though the first thing I always do with this sort of thing is download new drivers.

The display can be set as primary monitor or as a secondary monitor (or third or fourth I suppose for those with multi card setups) – personally I connected it to the DVI-I output of my graphics card and set it up as a secondary monitor, extending the desktop.

The first thing to do is to go into the driver setup and realign the pen – this asks you to click on some crosses on the screen so that it can check the pen alignment with the screen position (more on this later). All nicely lined up, let’s get going.

I booted up my favourite art package, created a new document and started doodling. Instantly this was a different experience to the Bamboo of the other week or my other cheap tablet. The most obvious point is that because the monitor is part of the display you feel that you are interacting directly with the screen, it is suddenly just like normal drawing or painting as the pen appears to lay ‘ink’ into the screen. The pen moves smoothly over the display without much resistance, but enough to let you sense the resistance to your pen pressure – very nice.

Wacom Cintiq WX12 quick demo video

The real difference for me was the way the pen performed – it was doing exactly what I wanted it to. This seems like an obvious thing to say really, but it makes all the difference for art work. With other tablets I’ve used the sensitivity of the pen just hasn’t been high enough to sense subtle differences in the pressure that I applied, meaning that whilst the location was usually fine I couldn’t predict the weight of the line I was drawing. With the Cintiq 12WX it claims 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, and whilst I can’t exactly check that, I can confirm that it is a completely different quality to anything I’ve used before.

The tablet underneath the screen has a rating of 5080 lines per inch, so accuracy of the position of the pen is never going to be a problem either.

The ExpressKey buttons on each side of the display can be reassigned to various functions – the neatest of which, I found, was flipping between monitors so that the pen was now controlling my primary display. This meant that I could put all my pen tools on one screen and just the drawing area on the Cintiq.

The screen of the 12WX is 1200×800 pixels, which some people may think is too small but personally I found it fine once I’d pushed my tools onto the primary display area. The slider control then let me zoom in and out of the images, whilst a quick press of an ExpressKey let me drag the image about. The screen being the size it is means that the sensor is about an A5 size, which I found very comfortable to work with, things were never that far away so at no point was I having to make huge hand movements.

All of which made for a very pleasant experience.

Like most graphics tablet pens the 12WX pen has a nib and an eraser, which in actual fact are just detected as 2 different pens within most packages so you can make the eraser function as something else if you prefer. A quick flip of the pen and you can rub out your mistakes – or being on a computer just a quick CTRL-Z :D

I really enjoyed using the Cintiq 12WX, but I did run into a one small hiccup whilst using the display.

When you realign the pen you are realigning it based on your drawing position at the time of clicking on the little crosses. If you move your position or the tablet then you are no longer aligned up quite the same way – this is because of the plastic surface between the pen nib and the LCD surface. It’s there for the protection of the LCD surface, but that thickness means that the pen nib is never quite ‘touching’ the LCD display, so as you manoeuvre the tablet around or you shift in your chair you are changing the angle you are looking at the screen through this plastic, which changes the perceived alignment slightly.

It’s only a few millimetres of plastic but it does affect the viewing angle slightly. It means that every time you (or anyone else for that matter) sit down to use the tablet your position will be slightly different to last time, so you will need to realign the pen again, and if you do end up twisting the display  to get a better drawing angle, then you will likely need to realign again.

For me this became a frustration.

This may be just me though, as I’ve seen lots of online videos of people very happily drawing away with their Cintiq’s (and with far more skill than me I should add).

Matt also had a chance to play with the Cintiq for a little while. Matt had a chance to use the tablet to do some photo editing for touching up and background removal. He found that using a tablet drastically reduced the amount of time that these tasks take and made many of the edits he was making much easier to achieve than using a mouse.

Matt also decided to use his creative flair and although, by his own admission, he is no artist managed to achieve some great results as you can see from the painting he did below.

Walt1

Matt’s painting of Walt Disney

 

Highlights

  • viewing angle of the monitor is excellent
  • pen sensitivity is excellent

 

Lowlights

  • alignment became frustrating for me personally

 

Conclusion

I really do like the 12WX, but my frustration with the alignment led to me try using the display as a traditional tablet to draw on my primary monitor. I was much happier working this way as I wasn’t visually expecting the pen and the display to be aligned, I just watched the cursor position. So personally, I think I’d get an Intuos 3 – but I can certainly understand the appeal of the Cintiq 12WX, and if you are getting a tablet then I would certainly recommend trying the Cintiq 12WX to see what you think.

 

Review by: Iain

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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