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Yet Another Cintiq Companion Review

By now, most digital artists have heard of the Wacom Cintiq Companion and what it does, so I’m not going to bore everyone reviewing the basic specs. In fact, Norm wrote a nice review awhile back covering just that- LINK. I wanted to give my personal take on the machine as an illustrator and as a user who has put the Companion through it’s paces for the last 8 months or so.

cintiq

The Good

  • Natural Drawing: Before I purchased the Cintiq Companion, my digital illustrations were created using Wacom tablets. The main reason I made the switch was because I wanted something that could mimic the more natural feel of drawing and painting traditional. As good as tablets are, you can’t recreate the same direct relationship between your hand and eyes while you are drawing. This is where the Companion has me sold; and even after years of working on tablets, it only took several hours for me to feel comfortable making marks on the Companion.
  • Portability: Another big reason I decided to go with the Companion and not one of the larger-screened Cintiqs out on the market was that this had a built in computer. This made working on the go a true possibility. In fact I’ve spent hours at a time working in my car, with a battery life of about 3 hours, I’ve found a real use for my Companion outside of my studio. The only caveat I have working outside when it’s bright outside can be a bit difficult.
  • Performance: I’m really impressed by the processing power of the Companion. In Photoshop, my files can be as big as 150mb yet there is no noticeable lag.
  • Customization: Wacom has really done a good job making this product user-friendly. Being a Photoshop-user who relies on a lot of keyboard shortcuts, I was concerned about compromising my workflow on the occasions where I didn’t have access to a keyboard. To my surprise however, with the abundance of customizable shortcut keys (express keys on the side of the Companion as well as the onscreen shortcuts), really once you have everything customized to your liking, I found I could work easily without the keyboard. Right now, I mainly decide whether to use a keyboard based more on screen space rather than efficiency.

 

screen

A screen shot of my Companion. Along with the express keys that are off screen (mainly for brush and erase tools), you can see that you have a lot of flexibility, plus I still have room for more if I need them.

The Bad

  • The Stand: Compared to the quality of the Companion itself, the stand almost feels like an afterthought. Though it does a reasonable job while the device is firmly resting on a hard, flat surface, such as a desk; if I decide to move it around, there’s a good chance it’ll slip off it’s notch and collapse down. This is especially true when I have it resting on the most vertical setting. To me, it makes a lot more sense for the stand to be permanently attached. Since it has the ability to fold flat anyway, I haven’t found a reason to not have it attached…and it’s not like it adding a lot of extra weight.
  • Scratches: Within a week or two after I started using my Companion, I noticed I had a scratch on the screen. The thought of my beautiful new machine covered with scratches put me in a panic, so I quickly ordered a screen protector. After about 4 months with the screen protector on I’m still noticing an increasing number of scratches. These are minute scratches mind you- that you only really notice when you have blank white areas on the screen. Personally, I don’t think I’m heavy-handed when I draw, and my nibs don’t really show signs of wear, so I’m left wondering if this is just a common thing for Cintiqs. All I know is that replacing screen protectors will be part of my routine.
  • The hiccups: When my Companion is running well, it’s a great tool to work on, however I have noticed more instability issues with Photoshop than normal.  These crashes were not caused by me overworking the processor, so my guess is that it may be Windows 8 related. Also there has been a tendency for my onscreen shortcuts to malfunction or my stylus or onscreen keyboard to not respond. This tends to happen if I accidentally hit too many shortcuts at the same time or too quickly. Other issues happen when I have my Companion coming out of sleep mode or screensaver. I tend to point my finger at Windows 8 and Wacom compatibility issues.

 

The Ugly

  • No Charge: About a couple months into using my Companion, the battery inexplicably decided not to recharge when it was plugged in. This became really frustrating because I would be working and my machine would just shut down on me without any warning and all the work that wasn’t saved would be lost. The first couple times this happened, my Companion was able to hold a charge partially if I played with the connections. But in a matter of a week or so, it recharged for the last time and was basically dead. Fortunately, by then I had prepared for this and backed up all my files, but it was of little comfort. After contacting Wacom, I was left with sending my Companion back for repairs. Three weeks later, I received a package from Wacom and to my surprise, rather than fixing my Companion, they ended up sending me a new one. And the new Companion is charging like it should…for now.

 

Seeing double...after returning my broken device back to Wacom, they decided to send me a new one rather than repair it. So now I have two nice boxes for my trouble.

Seeing double…after returning my broken device back to Wacom, they decided to send me a new one rather than repair it. So now I have two nice boxes for my trouble.

Despite having it’s fair share or glitches and imperfections, the Cintiq Companion is still a great tool and the best portable drawing device I’ve ever worked with. With it, I have been able to produce my illustrations without sacrificing any quality or efficiency… if anything, it has improved it. A lot of the issues I have with the Companion, I chalk up to Wacom venturing into new territory. I can only imagine if they do decide to come out with a second generation model, it would simply be great.

About the author

  • Donald WuDONALD WUContributor

    Born in Hong Kong, Donald grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area after moving there as a child. Years of drawing doodles in school along with a love of comic books led him to study illustration at the California College of the Arts. While at school, Donald was introduced to many different mediums ranging from watercolors to acrylics. Although Donald started his career using traditional mediums, Donald has since made the transition to digital medium. Donald continues to reside and "doodle" in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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1 Comment

  1. Norm

    Great review Donald. Being a Companion user myself I agree with everything that you talked about. Besides from the battery issue. Haven’t had that problem yet, fingers crossed.

    Reply

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