Though the tablet computing space has intrigued me since Microsoft’s early Tablet PCs, I’ve never really considered them to be proper tools for me as an artist. The early tablets were never big enough or had high enough resolution for my purposes. Now that they are big enough with resolution to spare, the lack of true pressure sensitivity has always prevented me from hitting the buy button. Well it seem that Wacom is tired of hearing people like me bitch and whine about tablets and their limited art usefulness. Last week, they announced three new products that now make it impossible for me to ignore tablets as true production machines, the Intuos Creative Stylus and two flavors of the Cintiq Companion.
INTUOS CREATIVE STYLUS
The mobile stylus market is kind of saturated. It seems like everyone and their cousin’s niece has brought a stylus to market. Half the vendors at Macworld iWorld last year had styluses of various shapes and sizes. And yes, there were a handful with pressure sensitivity. Wacom also has various versions of their non-pressure sensitive Bamboo stylus. So I guess a pressure sensitive one isn’t such a big deal.
Still, it’s nice to see that Wacom has been working on something for current iPad owners who want to push their tablet work farther.
Much like the Intuos pen tablets, the Intuos Stylus boasts 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity along with palm rejection technology so you won’t get any stray marks if your palm brushes up against the surface. Shit, I need that when I’m inking with a brush! Unlike most Wacom styluses or pens, this one is powered by an AAAA battery (I didn’t know the A’s went that far up!) which they say will last you 150 over hours. It’s compatible with iPad Mini, iPad 3, iPad 4, and probably any newer versions that drop. Sorry iPad 2, you just didn’t make the cut.
Aside from that, the Intuos Stylus should be familiar to anyone who uses Wacom pens. It’s got the two-button switch which I imagine is as programmable as ever. It’s got the comfy rubber grip which lets you draw for hours without finger fatigue. It comes in a pretty slick case with a number of replacement nibs. It’s also available in two colors, black or blue. Love the shade of blue they chose.
My only complaint is that it’s got one of them poofy nibs. I’ve used a few styluses with a similar nib and it’s always a little tricky trying to figure out just where your line is. I imagine after using it for a few hours, it won’t be such a bit deal. That initially put me off. I haven’t tried one in the wild yet so their version of the poofy nib might not be as annoying.
The Intuos Stylus is up for pre-order for $99.95 and will ship October 7. So if you’ve already got an iPad of some sort and have been waiting for something like this to add to your arsenal, it seems like a no-brainer.
However, if you’re like me and have held out, Wacom has something else for you to consider.
The Companion is essentially a mobile Cintiq 13HD with more features somehow. So you’re kinda screwed if you hopped on the 13HD train early. It’s got the 2048 levels of pressured goodness, the programmable wheel, and four programmable expression keys. One of the things that really bothered me about the 13HD was that it only had the wheel and the four expression keys. I’ve got a 12WX and that mofo has ten programmable expression keys and two programmable sliders. That’s 12 things I can fiddle with compared with only five and it’s the old busted model. The Companion tablet takes that in to account with the addition of onscreen shortcuts that you can bring up and when you’re working thanks to multitouch control. FUCK. YES.
Ah, but remember, it’s a tablet so it’s got two HD cameras, speakers, wifi, bluetooth, onboard storage, USB support, and some other connections depending on the version you get. As for operating systems, the Companion comes in two flavors, the Windows 8 Companion and the Android Companion Hybrid.
Both the Companion and the Companion Hybrid can be hooked up to a laptop or a PC and used as a second monitor while you transfer files or if you just want a second monitor. Only the Hybrid can be plugged in to another machine and used as a Cintiq.
If price were no issue, the Hybrid is definitely the way to go. You get the best of both worlds. If you’re a digital artist, chances are your laptop or desktop is way more powerful than the Companion. You can take your Companion on the road for some initial sketching, maybe even some tight line drawing. Then when you need some real horsepower to do your effects or coloring or animation work, you plug that thing into your workhorse and you’ve got a Cintiq 13HD without having to buy any more gear. It’s the most bang for your buck.
If price were no issue.
The Companion line is exactly the kind of tablet I’ve been waiting for. So of course, it comes with a respectable price tag. The Windows 8 version is priced more like a laptop. The standard model comes with 256GB of storage and will set you back $1999. If you upgrade to 516GB, you’re looking at $2,499. The Hybrid is less laptoppy. The 16GB version goes for $1499 while the 32GB is $1599. For a $100 price difference, it probably makes sense to just go for the 32GB. That’s enough room for a whole mess of comic files to work on when you’re traveling. Then you can transfer them over to your workhorse when you plug back in at home.
Both are up for pre-order and ship mid-October.
The nice thing about Wacom is that they usually wait a few years between releases. They don’t update their hardware unless it’s a significant jump forward in either design or functionality. These Companions are likely to be around for a few years before they drop new ones so I don’t think you’ll have as much early adopter’s remorse as you might with some other companies. One thing to watch out for with any Cintiq is how well it tracks at the edges. Sometimes shit gets wonky as you draw towards an outer edge. But honestly, if you’ve been waiting for the perfect Cintiq, I think this is the one.
Of course, you should probably test drive the bloody thing before dropping the money. You can sign up for the mailing list for all the latest and greatest Wacom news. Hopefully they take the thing out on tour to show it off. I’ve signed up for the shit so I’ll keep an eye out to see if they are indeed taking it around for you to play with.