Thursday, January 26, 2012

One “THING” to rule them all… Cintiq 21UX Review


Hey ARTfans.


I have something a little different today. I thought I’d try my hand at a review (of sorts) of the newest addition to my workflow. Last week, I ordered a Cintiq 21UX. For anyone not familiar with the Cintiq, it’s a high-end additon to Wacom’s already extensive lineup of drawing tablets (not to be confused with android tablet, or iPad, type devices, that were all the rage last year.) No… this tablet serves a higher calling. The Cintiq 21UX is an ARTist’s Tablet!


And it’s Large!!! (that’s what she said!)





OVERVIEW:Wacom’s Cintiq 21UX features an expansive 21.3” LCD screen (4:3 aspect ratio), with ‘industry-leading’ pen input capabilities. (i.e. YOU CAN DRAW RIGHT ON THE SCREEN!) And with 2048 levels of pressure, you have unprecedented sensitivity, allowing you to control the digital ‘brush’ with a much more natural feel. With it you can control a number of different pressure-sensitive pen effects, such as line weights, and opacity, and exposure. Obviously, Adobe Photoshop is one of a host of programs that will truly take advantage of what the Cintiq has to offer.


PRICETAG:
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ASTONISHING / OUTRAGEOUS / OVER-THE-TOP / JAW-DROPPING $1,999.00 price tag. Yes, 2 grand. Two Thhhhhhhousand Dollars. Obviously this price makes this cost-prohibitive to all but the professionals (or those of us who like to pretend that we are). And that’s a shame. My hope is that, over the next couple of years, and with the release of Windows 8 later this year, people will start to interact with their computers in whole new ways. Touch based computing is the future, and the technology is similar enough, that I’m hoping we start seeing more affordable Cintiq type capabilities on the next generation of ‘standard’ monitors for your average home PC.



UNBOXING / SETUP:
Well, I got this box home last night, and was very anxious to open ‘er up, and get this thing up and running. Pretty standard packaging, and it seemed to do a good job protecting the precious cargo inside.





That's the base right on top. "All your base are belong to us."
Box of yummy bits!
Ah... finally getting to the gooey center!


Ack! What's this? Instructions... We don't need no stinkin'... oh wait... I spent 2 grand on this... I prolly should at least take a peak.
Laying down flat-ish.
3 plugs. DVI, USB, and power (attached to power brick)
Ok, three easy connections. a DVI (video), USB, and power. Looks to be a proprietary power connection... which goes to a power brick. I shut down my computer, and hooked up all the cables. And got ready to fire up my PC again. Push.... That.... BUTTON!!!


Yes... Load that operating system...
Right away, it was recognized as a monitor. I had to do an 'auto-adjust' (menu buttons for the Cintiq are on the back of the panel), to get it to properly display across the full screen, but once I did that, it looked fantastic. I did notice something right away. I had been running twin 21" widescreen monitors, (That's a combined screen resolution of 3360 x 1050 pixels), I had created a series of 'spacescape backgrounds' that stretched across both monitors, and that was a cool effect (at least I thought so), I had to take out one of my 21" monitors in order to put the Cintiq in, and since the Cintiq runs at 1600 x 1200, my wallpapers went a little 'screwy'. That is by NO MEANS a knock on the Cintiq, just something I noticed that will need to be addressed.


Once Windows was up, I loaded the drivers off the CD. (I know... I know, I'll go download the newest drivers tonight, I was just in a hurry to get it up and running). Driver install was as painless as could be. After installing the drivers, the pen was recognized, and I went ahead and registered with Wacom.


The 2nd CD, has a few free applications - Corel Sketchpad or something like that, and some free Photoshop Brushes. I'll check those out later.


It took me a minute to get the screens configured, and since my regular 21" monitor is up and to the right, I tried to arrange them in Windows to sort of follow the same direction (I may have to tweak this later as well - but I'll get into that in a minute). I also noticed that the Cintiq will rotate 180 degrees on the base. You can (rotate) swivel it to whatever angle you want or that is comfortable. The base also will lift the screen up to a 65 degree angle, or down to almost flat at 10 degrees. I had my concerns about the base, but am happy to report that it is sturdy and does not feel at all like it cannot handle the screen. Also, as I have this on my drawing table, which is already at an incline, I was a little nervous about having this up on the table, but the feet on the bottom of the base do a really good job at gripping the surface of my art table, and it didn't really move around at all, unless I wanted it to. (Note: despite being impressed with the base, I am still thinking about mounting this eventually to a swing arm - I like the idea of having it down where I want it when I'm using it, but swinging it up and out of the way when I'm not at my table - and also not enticing 'small fingers' to want to touch/play on it)


Awww... they're gonna be best friends!!!


INITIAL THOUGHTS:
WOW!


Beautiful display... and I haven't even looked at adjusting the colors or anything yet. And I was already impressed just sitting in front of it. I pulled up Photoshop, and tweaked a brush to recognize the pressure sensitivity, and right away noticed a difference between what I was doing on my Lenovo X61 Tablet. It's not a HUGE difference, but it was noticeable. The real difference is the size. The available real-estate on this screen is tremendous! It felt like moving from an old 21" Tube television set, into a brand new 55" LCD TV! (That's probably a little bit of an exaggeration, but I want to really stress how much more open the screen feels. My image was not 40% hidden behind toolbars and settings. In fact, my whole image was visible, and I just felt ready to work! Anxious to get going and give it the ol' college try!


After moving things around, and getting comfortable, I pulled up the inks for Geela Dom that I had done Tuesday night, and get ready to get after it.






Look at all that space!!!
 I'm still using my keyboard, on the left. I know the Cintiq has a slew (16 total) user-assignable "Express keys" (there are 8 on each side, 4 above, and 4 below the round "Touch Strip Toggle Buttons"). I will be researching how to configure these over the next couple of days... but I did discover a couple of neat features (yes... I'm the type that just fires something up and start using it... I didn't look at a manual or anything like that - I click buttons, and figure stuff out). If you click on the "Touch Strip Toggle Buttons, the screen displays 4 options for rotating/zooming the screen, moving between layers, adjusting brush size, and scrolling, these can be then adjusted with the two (one on the left, and one on the right) Touch Strips hidden conveniently behind the display. I haven't had a chance to check this, but I imagine these are somewhat context sensitive (depending on the application being used). The bottom four Express Buttons on the left are shortcuts for ALT, CTRL, and SHIFT keys, allowing you to modify your tools function without the need for the keyboard. I'll have to see about mapping one to CTRL-Z (undo) for sure.


I worked for about 4 hours last night, and did notice that the screen began to get warm around the edges - It so happens that I seem to rest my arm right over one of the lamps. It was just a little annoying at first, but over the course of the night, it really became almost unbearable. I grabbed an old sock, and MacGuyver'd it into a sleeve that rolled up over my forearm to give me some buffer over the heat. Problem solved. I'll see about getting something a little more 'permanent' and less 'ghetto' in the future.


The one other thing that did concern me. The nibs for the pen, occasionally seemed to grab the screen, and if I continued pressuring them, I feared it might scratch into it. It seems pretty sturdy, so I'm not really concerned about that, but I did catch it doing that a handful of times. They're brand new nibs, so as I use them, I figure they'll get worn down, and this will become less of an issue.


IN CONCLUSION:

Pros:
•Gorgeous display
•Excellent size (lots of real-estate, room to work)
•Easy/painless install
•Sensitivity is second to none.

•Excellent Design - Handy shortcut keys that can be programmed to do what you want.
•Sturdy Construction (This is professional level stuff folks!)
•The base is sturdy, and tilts between 10 degrees and 65 degrees. And rotates 180 degrees.
•It's a Wacom!

Cons:
•Heavy (Yer' probably not going to want this on your lap)
•It gets kinda warm/hot above the lamps... annoying at first, but eventually its not comfortable.
•Expensive - at 2 grand, it's outside most peoples reach.

Well, that's about it. I'm sure I'll have some additional thoughts as I continue to use it.

Any questions?

Thanks for reading...

Till next time,

-Nebbish!

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