The Wacom Cintiq companion hybrid
I’ve been using Wacom products for a long time. I got my first tablet back in 1998. It was small and hooked to my computer via serial port. Over the years I upgraded as new products came out. I got my first Cintiq in 2006. It was the end of my analog drawing days. I could now do everything I needed to do directly on the digital canvas. I loved it but what I really wanted to do was to be able to go anywhere and have all my digital art tools come with me. I got my hands on a Cintiq 12WX and a laptop which made me portable but I still had to lug around a laptop and a Cintiq and a hundred cords. It was portable but just barely.
Then I got an iPad
I thought this might be the solution to out of the office sketching but the iPad lacked the pressure sensitivity of a Cintiq and had a stylus with an end the size of a baby’s finger. Drawing on it was difficult and unnatural due to the fact I had to wear gloves or hold my hand in a weird way so it didn’t make contact with the screen. What I REALLY wanted was a Cintiq that was self-contained, had an OS and some decent sketch software so all I had to do was carry one thing around and be able to draw on it with a stylus that was not a baby finger.
Wacom finally announced they were releasing 2 of them. One is a hybrid that runs Android and the other is a full on Windows 8 PC. Today I got to play with the Companion Hybrid. Let me jump right into it.
The screen is much larger than the iPads and slightly larger than the 12WX. It weighs just slightly more than 3 lbs. It feels good to hold and after using for a couple hours it DIDN’T heat up like a Panini press. The battery life seems pretty good. I had it up to 100% charge and after a few hours of sketching I’m still at 85% or so. The stylus is very much like the stylus I use at work with my other Cintiq no fat tips! Set up was simple. There was some up front Android OS settings to get through then Wacom drivers and calibration. Wacom included some software on board so you could start sketching right away. I tried the Wacom Manga Canvas and the Wacom Creative Canvas. There’s also a 3rd Wacom Infinite Canvas that is a vector art based program but I haven’t’ opened it yet. Being a Manga fan I opened Manga Canvas first. This is a great program for doing storyboards or rough sketches. It’s not meant to be a high resolution art program. Its UI was laid out in an intuitive manner that let me jump right in and figure out what I was doing without having to read a manual. The other program, the Creative Canvas, is meant to be more of the painting type program. This I didn’t like so much. I played with it for a few minutes and wasn’t really digging the pencil tool or its paint functions. It could be that if I played with some settings I could get it to do more of what I wanted but I really wanted to try to use the companion with something I had used before and liked so I went to the google store and downloaded SketchBook pro.
The pencil was silky smooth. The multi touch interactions made it so I didn’t miss having a keyboard to zoom, scroll and select. It was every bit as responsive and comfortable as using my 24HD at work…maybe more so because I was at home on my couch. I could rotate the Cintiq into any orientation and the canvas stays locked to its original placement. I did notice that if I rotated a lot that I could lose calibration somewhat so I’d go back into the driver and recalibrate. I don’t know if this is Wacom’s issue or Autodesk’s. Either way it was minor and easy to fix.
My initial hesitation at the idea of the companion hybrid was the Android OS. I’m a photoshop/painter jockey and I wouldn’t want to plunk down this kind of money on something that wouldn’t run photoshop. Fortunately, that’s not an issue…well sort of. It turns out you CAN attach this companion to your PC (or Mac) and it becomes just like a Cintiq 13HD allowing you to use it with all your favorite desktop software AND with way less cords than the 12WX. I plugged the companion into my laptop and launched Photoshop. Works great! The brushes are responsive. I didn’t notice any lag or jitter. Pressure sensitivity was exactly what I’m used to from a Wacom product.
My favorite thing about this Cintiq is how it frees me from the office. I spend all day sitting in an office at work tied to my desktop so when I get home and the opportunity to do some personal sketching comes up I most often pass on it because it means going into my home office and doing the same thing I did at work all day. I NEED VARIETY! The ability to sit in any room of my house or even go out someplace brings so much fun and freedom back to personal art. It’s back to being like when you were a kid and you’d hole up in the corner of your couch or on your bed with a sketchbook and go nuts. I even took it outside to the hammock in my backyard and sketched a bit. It was an overcast day so no direct sunlight but I could see the display just fine.
So if you’ve been wanting one of these and you’re on a budget or don’t already have a tablet this is a fantastic piece of hardware. The onboard memory is limited but there’s a USB port for external storage or you can use a cloud service like Skydrive, Dropbox or Pogoplug. The companion hybrid is about $500 more than the 13HD but you are basically getting a 13HD you can take anywhere.
If you absolutely have to have Photoshop and Windows apps on the go then you’ll need the other companion but it’s considerably more expensive as it’s a full blown tablet PC. I’ve messed with other tablet PC’s with pressure sensitivity but nothing beats Cintiq.