Ever wondered what it would be like to combine the power of your laptop with the functionality of your graphics tablet? With the Cintiq Companion and Cintiq Companion Hybrid, Wacom have aimed to do just that. I’ve had the chance to use each for a while now, and here’s my initial Cintiq Companion review.
Released last year, both the Wacom Cintiq Companion and Cintiq Companion Hybrid are tablets for businesses and creative teams who want creativity on the move, and are firmly pitched as all-in-one laptop replacements for creative users. The idea of having a professional grade tablet that can then be taken out and about is a fantastic prospect for commuters who want to flesh out an idea with a client or just work while on the move and then, once stationary, pick up where they left off and work on it in more depth.
What’s the difference between the Cintiq Companion and Cintiq Companion Hybrid?
For a start, there’s a bit of a price difference between the two models, available from £833.33 (£1000 inc VAT) for the Companion Hybrid and £1374.99 (£1649.99 inc VAT) for the Companion. While both have the same processing power, built-in Wacom technology and pressure sensitivity, size and appearance, the two models differ in their operating system and their storage capacity – the Hybrid runs on Android OS, while the Companion uses the full-featured Windows 8 operating system.
Wacom Cintiq Companion. So with the Companion, you get the chance to use full versions of applications such as Adobe Creative Cloud directly on the device just as you would on a Windows-based laptop. The lack of support for Mac OS X has been a contentious subject online but we have to say, whether you love or hate the new Windows, once you’re in your app the difference is far less noticeable. As for storage, the Companion comes in either a 256GB or a 512GB configuration, making it comparable to entry-level laptops rather than tablet devices.
Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid. The Wacom Companion Hybrid is the Android-based version, so feels more like a professional, fully-featured tablet than a laptop alternative. While it cannot run full software applications, specific Android tools from the likes of Adobe and Autodesk are available for doing creative work on the move. The Hybrid option comes as either a 16GB model or a 32GB model.
Pen and touch responsiveness
Whenever we get to test out and review a graphics tablet or display, one of the first things we put through its paces is the pen input. As expected, the Cintiq Companion includes the same pressure sensitivity (2048 levels) and range of inputs as the standard Cintiq 13HD, which puts this up there with the best of them.
Unlike the 13HD, the Companion also includes touch input. If you’re familiar with the most recent round of Intuos tablets and larger Cintiq models, this works in much the same way, adding multitouch functionality (the same kind as you get on standard tablets) to navigate around the user interface as well as creative work.
For the most part, the touch input works a treat. It’s incredibly responsive and lacks the lag that you often get with some touchscreen devices. Both pen and finger input is an (almost) realtime experience so you can use them as fluidly as you’d expect to on a tablet. The only problem we encountered was switching from pen to touch input, but generally the Companion will recognise whether you’re using your hand or pen to draw.
After trying both, there does seem to be a slight delay on the Hybrid version between making the pen input and registration of this on the screen e.g. a fast signature will appear milliseconds behind the pen tip after scrawling on the screen.
The ‘standard’ Cintiq Companion, the Windows 8 version, is slick and fast – nothing short of what I’d expect from a Wacom graphics tablet. The only thing to note is that it appears this model cannot be used as a dedicated graphics tablet for another machine.
It can, by all means, have a second monitor and peripherals attached to make it feel more like a ‘desktop’ machine – but it should be seen more as a dedicated Wacom tablet rather than a Cintiq display with an alternate OS. As a Mac user, I think I prefer using OS X with the Cintiq Companion as a external graphic tablet and then, if I need to work on the move, use Windows mode away from the desk.
In comparison, the Hybrid version of the Companion (which runs Android) can be used as a graphic tablet with its display as a second monitor over HDMI on another Windows or Mac machine. The Hybrid is essentially a graphics tablet display first and foremost, with the ability to have it as a fully functional, independent, content-creating device second.
Anyone who’s used the Cintiq range before will be on familiar ground with the Cintiq Companion’s screen. A 13.3″ TFT LCD (IPS) panel with 1920×1080 resolution, the Companion’s display gives the same full HD and colour accuracy as the Cintiq 13HD, 22HD touch and 24HD touch, handling 75% of Adobe’s RGB gamut while serving up a 700:1 contrast ratio. The matte finish is great for lengthy work sessions, but isn’t as sharp as the Retina display on Apple’s iPad Air, for example, so isn’t best suited for HD video playback, if that’s what you need.
Build quality and battery
The build quality of the Wacom Cintiq Companion and Cintiq Companion Hybrid is fantastic. Both tablets feel about the same weight and, while a tad heavy for me to be used as a tablet in itself, it doesn’t reduce the portability, especially when you’ll most likely be using it on a hard surface anyway. This isn’t something you’d expect to hold in one hand and operate with the other.
One thing that is completely new with the Wacom Cintiq Companion, compared to the Cintiq 13HD, is the addition of an 8MP rear-facing camera. This gives it a lot more tablet functionality and, while it’s unlikely you’re going to be snapping pictures to actually use for professional work, it means you can now easily share concepts via email and social media, or build up quick mood boards. The image quality is surprisingly decent too – compared to most tablet cameras, the Companion’s images are above average, with just some noise when shooting in low-light conditions. Check out this effort with the Hybrid version below.
Cintiq Companion accessories
The Companion comes complete with Wacom’s latest pen model, the sleek-looking, sensitive Pro Pen. This comes armed with plenty of nibs, a choice of coloured rings for the grip and a lovely sturdy case (which has a very satisfying magnetic clasp), all of which adds to the quality feel of the product.
The pen case also fits very snugly into the included Cintiq Companion travel case. This neoprene protective cover has a furry blue inside to protect your Companion, and is favoured throughout the marketing department for its resemblance to a wet suit and (as has been perhaps spuriously claimed in our unboxing video above) an uncanny smell of dolphin.
You’re also provided with a power cable and the removable kickstand, which attaches via two small grooves on the back of the device. The base of the kickstand angles into place in one groove and then one of three different flaps (of alternate length for different angling of the device) slot into the other. For left or right handed users wishing to have the buttons on the left or right, you can merely swap which groove the base fits into.
So should you go for the Cintiq Companion? If you’re an existing Wacom user – especially if you’re currently using an Intuos model – and you need the freedom to do creative work on the move then this is a great alternative to using a laptop and a Wacom model. By having everything in a single device, it’s a far more intuitive experience, as well as being much lighter.
The Hybrid version is something you can use at home or in the office with your Mac as a professional grade graphics tablet and then simply unplug, boot it into Android and use Photoshop Touch or Adobe Ideas to sketch out some ideas, and then use Adobe Creative Cloud to pick these up later. A freelancer, say, could work with great precision in and out of the office, committing a concept to Companion whenever an idea strikes. I can also see its uses within an agency environment where you can take the Companion out to clients, or even work in front of clients, Dropbox-ing files back to the office.
The Windows version lets you do all that in one tablet, without even having to switch to your workstation to handle the more processor-intensive heavy lifting. You can work directly in Adobe Creative Cloud on your tablet, which is a first in graphics tablets, and makes for a very real prospect when considering your design setup. The Cintiq Companion isn’t a replacement for your iPad or tablet – it’s a bit too big for that – but the all-in-one nature means it’s an ideal replacement for your laptop if you spend the majority of your time designing, or are a business user who wants both a tablet and laptop in one.
Cintiq Companion review summary
– The Cintiq Companion is the Windows-based all-in-one version able to run Adobe Creative Cloud, while the Hybrid version runs on Android.
– Pen and touch responsiveness is very good, and overall performance is slick and fast.
– Screen quality is HD, and as good as the Cintiq 13HD.
– Build quality is excellent, as with other Wacom devices.
– We like the camera, and accessories such as the case very much.
– The Companion is a great device for working on the go, and an ideal replacement for your laptop.
Want to know more about the Wacom Cintiq Companion or any part of this Cintiq Companion review? Call us on 03332 409 344 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com to find out more about the different models from Wacom available or the best graphics tablet for your creative workflow.
By Ade Leader