Review: Wacom Cintiq 24HD
Cintiqs were introduced in the United States in 2001 with the release of the Cintiq 15SX. While the basic Cintiq design has steadily improved over the years the overall concept has remained much the same. The release of the Cintiq 24HD represents a significant shift in Cintiq design, which previously mimicked a sketchpad or canvas. The larger 24HD is more like a drawing table or workbench than a sketchpad.
In sharp contrast to other Cintiqs the 24HD is composed of a vast display and bezel work area and an immense stand. The display and bezel measure 30.29 inches wide by 18.26 inches high (upright) and the stand 25 inches wide by 15 inches deep. Together, they weigh just under 64 pounds, almost twice as much as the 21UX. For all practical purposes, the 24HD really is a digital workbench.
Beyond physical differences the 24HD has a high-definition display not available in any other Cintiq. The 24.1 inch display has 1920 x 1200 native pixel resolution and 5080 lpi resolution. A troublesome issue with older Cintiqs was that the display appeared muddy and dim. However, the display in the 24HD is bright, has better contrast, and covers more of the Adobe RGB color gamut. This means sharper and truer color representations illustrations, photographs, and video.
Stand Positions and Controls
For years Cintiqs have been popular because of their rotating display, which allowed artists to rotate the drawing surface much as they would when drawing on paper. In a bold move Wacom designed the 24HD without a rotating display. Instead the stand design of the new display mirrors that of a drawing table. Composed of two large hinged arms and sizable counterweight the 24HD stand makes it possible to position the drawing surface perfectly upright, flat on the desk, angled, or on the artist’s lap—positions not possible with the 21UX. The lower hinges rotate on a 75° arc and the upper on a 163° arc, letting you position the display at any drawing angle. While it may take those switching from the 21UX to the 24HD some time to adjust, the 24HD’s large size and flexible stand make it easy to find a comfortable working position.
All Wacom tablets have programmable controls that provide fast access to common keyboard shortcuts. In this area the 24HD has two Touch Rings with three presets each and ten Express Keys. The Touch Rings and Express Keys can be customized to invoke many common keyboard functions. Like other Wacom tablets the 24HD features an on-screen Radial menu that can be programmed with common menu functions. To complement the Radial menu the 24HD also has an on-screen keyboard. With all these customizable onboard options there really isn’t any reason to constantly reach for the keyboard. However, if a keyboard is necessary the display has collapsible supports that, when extended, create a space just high enough to fit a keyboard.
While earlier Cintiqs featured 1080 levels of pressure sensitivity, current Cintiqs, including the 24HD, are based on Intuos 4 technology. That means 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and 60° of tilt range. The pen that ships with the 24HD is the same as Intuos 4 tablets and other current Cintiqs. One of the hallmarks of Wacom technology is the cordless pen that doesn't require a battery. That makes the pen much lighter, better balanced, and easier to handle. Further, every aspect of the pen is customizable, including removing the two-button toggle.
Dealing with Lag and Calibration
Wacom products are always top-notch in quality and performance, but top-notch does not mean perfect. A persistent problem with Cintqs (some might argue with Intuos tablets as well) is lag. Lag occurs when the stroke being drawn lags behind the pen tip. This usually happens when working with very large files or complex brushes. Unlike a mouse the pen is transmitting vast amounts of data in real time to the processors. When the data transmitted exceeds the processor’s capability, lag occurs. Lag can be reduced or avoided by increasing RAM and working with a good graphics card.
While lag is a processing issue, having to calibrate for viewing angle and parallax are physical issues. Because the display on Cintiqs can be positioned at varying angles, the viewing perspective changes, resulting in the illusion that the pen tip does not match the on-screen cursor. On the other hand, parallax is caused by the physical distance (a few millimeters) between the display and the pen tip that results from the glass screen between them. To correct for viewing angle and parallax, it's essential to calibrate the Cintiq as needed. Though this many seem like a chore, you can take of it easily and quickly with the Wacom tablet utility.
Traditional artists often categorize drawing surfaces by the amount of tooth or roughness. For example, cold press board is rougher than hot press board, so different media are applicable. In either case, tooth gives the drawing surface necessary resistance to control the strokes being laid down. Cintiqs reproduce tooth through an anti-glare coating that also roughens the drawing surface. However, the 24HD tested for this review seemed to have a much slicker feel than other Cintiqs.
The Cintiq price range starts at $999 for the 12WX, $1,999 for the 21UX, and $2599 for the 24HD. Cost is obviously an important factor when thinking about buying a Cintiq. Most justify making the leap to a Cintiq because Cintiqs offer a more natural drawing experience than Wacom's Intuos tablets. But what would justify buying the top-of-the-line 24HD? It could be argued that its large display and work area are reasons to upgrade. Maybe the novel stand design intriques you. For professional CG artists, 24HD’s bright, high-contrast, high-definition, 16:10 aspect ratio display should be reason enough to seriously consider upgrading.
Looking for a less expensive pen tablet? Read our review of Wacom's Intuos5 here.