Sunday, December 16, 2007

Wacom Cintiq 12XW Review

I was stoked to find out that NetDevil’s Art Director had ordered one of Wacom’s new Cintiq 12WX screen tablets when they where released to the states a couple of weeks ago. We received the art toy last week, and I was lucky enough to be able to take it home for the weekend and play around with it.

I was a little nervous about hooking it up to my home machine because I had discovered twice at the studio that the new Cintiq required some cumbersome set-up and installation. In fact, Peter had some troubles getting it set up to his lap top at first. He then passed it off to Jerry who promptly hooked it up to his work station and it caused some issues with his machine that where, as of Friday afternoon, still being resolved by NetDevil IT.

That being said, I guess I can start off by talking about my biggest gripe with the new Cintiq – that being set up. Now, because of what happened with Jerry’s machine at work, I was sure to set this thing up following the instructions carefully. I made my first attempt Friday evening when I got home. This night I was not able to get my computer to recognize the Cintiq as a second monitor. Therefore, I could not even get the monitors set-up. I gave up for the evening and decided to try again Saturday.

The next day when I tried to install I ran into the same problem. After running some steps which were not outlined in the instruction manual I was finally able to get the Cintiq’s drivers loaded and get to drawing. One last frustration, though, came in not being able to set the Cintiq up as the true secondary monitor – meaning that the whole time I had it hooked up to my machine, the Cintiq showed all of my desktop icons and start-bar, rendering my regular monitor pretty much useless for the two days I was using the new Cintiq. Now, I don’t know if this is the way it is with the new Cintiq or if my limited tech knowledge kept me from knowing how to properly finish the set-up to the degree I would have liked.

The bottom line is that I feel the set-up is a little too daunting. As an artist I consider myself to have a mid-level knowledge of the tech side of our digital world, perhaps slightly higher with the particular art tools such as the products from Wacom. I had considerable hurdles in set-up with the Cintiq 12XW which would almost make me question the purchase of one. I would hope that Wacom could make the set-up a bit simpler, keeping us art savvy/less technical folks in mind…

Once I had the Cintiq up and all of my stylus and button settings ready to go, however, I was in digital art heaven. The new Cintiq performs just as one who is familiar with the quality of other Wacom products would expect. I continued to be amazed at the crystal clean clarity of the smaller sized screen. This was proven not only by the amazing display of the drawings while I noodled in Photoshop, but since I was using the Cintiq as my main monitor, I was reading emails and the like on the smaller screen with no trouble at all.

I placed the spring-loaded nip (my nib of choice) into the stylus and took the tablet for a drive with Photoshop. The first thing, aside from the screen’s clarity, that stuck out to me was the smooth glide of the stylus on the screen. I believe the drawing feel gets better with every generation of Wacom’s tablets and the feel of this new toy surpasses the feel of my Cintiq 21UX. The next issue to address would be the smaller screen size. As first it seemed like it might be a little bit restraining. After drawing for about an hour, however, I started to realize that the smaller screen was giving me the very familiar sketchbook feel, which I really liked.

I found myself with the tablet tilted all the way down on the lean bar with my keyboard near for easy access. Even though I programmed the quick-buttons on the tablet, I still need to go back to the keyboard quite a bit as expected. For this reason it still felt a little impractical to set the Cintiq in my lap (or in more relaxed positions of the like) – however, I feel the benefit of the new smaller, lightweight design would be beneficial in a situation with a laptop on the go. All in all I feel I have not gotten to use it enough to judge this aspect conclusively yet, so stay tuned.

Another nifty feature that I didn’t really get to use because of the short time I had with the new tablet was the screen toggle button. This is the function that allows you to switch your curser – while still controlled by the stylus on the tablet – to your second monitor. I can see this becoming very useful in placing tool bars, color palettes, reference, etc. on the second monitor and utilizing the tablet’s full screen as a workspace. Again, I’d like to explore this feature more before I make a specific critique on it, but it has a lot of potential to be a very cool new feature.

When all was said and done and I was breaking down the Cintiq 12WX from my home computer, I was completely impressed with its performance and feel as an art tool. I think that the hour-or-so pain in the ass set up would be worth it for the sleek, convenient feel of a roughly Intuos sized Cintiq tablet, being that I could keep it set up for one particular machine. Bravo Wacom! ~Jim
*thank you Ray for the inspiration on the portrait drawings.


Nate said...

Awesome writeup Jim, and i love the doodles, especially the gunslangin' dragon.

My personal impression in the little bit i messed with it (i helped set it up on the aforementioned AD's computer) is that the setup wasn't too terrible. I knew about the cords, so it didn't seem any tougher or more daunting than i expected. Drawing on it definitely felt sketchbook-ey. I like it so much that I know this is going to be my next big purchase... c'mooon tax return.

Rayford said...

Also ya'll just so you know if you update to the latest driver (605-7 made back in Sept) you can program the any button on any Cintiq to Display Toggle. Thanks for the review.

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