Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cintiq Companion: Day 5



I've spent 5 days with my new Cintiq Companion, and I've had a gaggle of folks ask me for my thoughts on the product.  So here is a brief review of the pluses and minuses as I've found them thus far, found below the cut:





First off, stats on my device.  I bought the 512GB Cintiq Companion, so it's the most souped up model you can get (most expensive too T_T)  That's a 512GB Solid State Drive and 8GB of RAM and it comes with Windows 8 Pro.

Further stats on the device itself can be found here:  http://cintiqcompanion.wacom.com/CintiqCompanion/en/


COMPONENTS:

After a bit of unpacking I had this:



OK, first reaction:  Very light, very thin.  Much more than I expected.  It's thicker than an ipad, but still relatively thin. I doubt that I would be very comfortable holding it in one hand for very long, but I'm probably not going to be using this like a kindle or anything, so as far as the logistics of its portability, I was already happy.

The pen is a new design from the cintiq pens I'm used to, but it seems to be a facelift only and there are no added features I've noticed.  It does however come in a fancy-scmancy case with different color decoder rings, 9 extra nibs AND a little metal device for removing the nibs (did anyone else know that's what that thing is for??)



Beyond these base components you also get a stand which I was extremely wary of:


The stand has three separate 'heights' you can choose between.  I didn't have high hopes for this part of the Companion at all.  Ever since I've been looking for a portable drawing device, I would always check the stability of things like touch screen laptops.  The hinges were always loose and had too much bounce to really be effect to draw on.  The limited height options and flimsy-looking design of the Wacom stand had me feeling this was just gonna get chucked in my closet, but I'm happy to say I was pleasantly surprised with it.




Probably my pictures won't do much to allay fears, but actually this stand is SUPER sturdy.  They added rubber ends to the portions that snap into the cintiq, ensuring it will stay put on a flat surface.  My only concern is about how much those rubber pads will wear with time, but for now they are awesome and the device functions like any other cintiq when in this setup.  As a bonus the stand is really thin and snaps flat to the back of the Companion for easy transport and storage, wahoo!




Lastly, you get a carrying case.  I actually missed this in my initial unpacking, it was hidden in it's own little cardboard box I mistook for packing padding, lol.




So the case is floppy soft material that reminds me of a wet suit with a leather flap to cover the front which is magnetized.  The inside is super plushy and bright blue...which at first I just thought was silly but it's actually pretty awesome considering this is a screen you really need to maintain.  There's a pocket for the pen case and an extra pocket for the cord and any other extras you may have.  My first task was to load everything in it and see if the case closed.



Yes, but barely.  That's got the Companion, the stand, the power cable, the pen case and a little screen cleaner and it's pretty awkwardly lumpy :\  I wish there was more assigned space for all the parts (especially considering this is without the blutooth keyboard), but at least it all does fit and I don't have to carry anything separately.

Speaking of the power cord:


Argh, I'm upset it has a ground prong, but at least the box is pretty small and thin.  Also the super tiny pin input has me worried, as I lost two of those cords to my last tablet cause they snapped off :\

SO!  Overall, the Companion is nice and light, more portable than I was anticipating.  Pros include a stand that is actually useful and the means to be completely portable with all components in one case.  Cons are a case that is pretty lumpy and bulky and a power cord which I believe is certain to break at one point.

FUNCTIONALITY:

Alright, so you know what you are getting with your new Companion, but how does it work?  And how does it compare to a traditional cintiq/desktop setup?  The answer is pretty darn well.

First question I've been getting a lot:  Is the display touch screen?  Answer: YES! :D  Not only is it touch screen but it also has a little button to switch off touch quickly when you are drawing (anyone who's had to navigate doing that on another slate device knows what a royal pain it is).  Also the palm rejection technology is pretty awesome as well, so you might not even need to turn off touch.

Another question I've been asked a lot about is battery life.  The Companion's battery lasts 7 hours in Power-Safe mode and about 3.75 in High Performance mode.  I noticed the new-fangled brushes lagging in Photoshop with Power-Safe mode, but beautiful responsiveness in High Performance...so if you are using those and you want to work effectively, you're looking at just shy of 4 hours of work away from a power supply.  Not too shabby, to be honest.

So, how's the screen?  Well....awesome.  I use a 22HD Cintiq at work and was a little nervous to downgrade in size, but I've not noticed an issue with it.  In fact the ability to effective rotate the screen LIKE A PIECE OF PAPER has made my drawing more precise to what I want.


Also, I'm a lefty and happy to report that switching the whole thing's orientation to accommodate for that was eaaaaaasy.


An interesting issue I've noticed is the need to calibrate my pen more often.  Since I'm constantly changing my orientation to the screen, depending on if it's in my lap, on a table or using the stand...you'll find that the cursor needs adjusting, so I pretty much calibrate every time I use it.  Not a big issue, just a new thing.

So, I'm a Photoshop kid, and an avid hotkey junky.  I can't use Photoshop effectively without my precious hotkeys, so I was curious to see how this was all going to play out.  The Companion has touch buttons similar to the other cintiqs....and to be honest I've never used those on other models.  I knew this would be different though, since they were the only hotkeys I was gonna get.


So don't be fooled, that's not a rotary wheel in the center, it's just 4 extra buttons, meaning you get 8 hotkeys in total plus a windows button (which just takes you to the annoying Windows 8 Start Screen)  Good news is you can customize these buttons to do anything you want....including BRING UP MORE HOTKEYS!


That little black box is a set of touch buttons that you can program to do anything you want.  You can make multiple versions of these hotkey menus and have them come up anywhere you want on the screen.  This is a really ingenious way to make hotkeys still an option without a keyboard.  So how do they work?

Guys, they are soooooo close to working well.  There's just one issue I've been running into, and that's a lag between the Companion recognizing Touch functions when you are using the pen.  Basically if you try to switch from the pen to your finger, you don't get a response for a little bit, and that sadly renders these menus all but useless D:  It's a horribly frustrating bug because it's SO CLOSE to working so well.  When those buttons do function I'm able to navigate Photoshop as easily as with a keyboard.  The good news with this is that I'm confident this is a driver issue that will get resolved down the line.  So what do you do in the meantime?

...I bought a keyboard, lol.

Even despite this (potentially) awesome feature, I'm too set in my hotkey ways to completely abandon them.  Once the little glitch is fixed, though, I will still be able to be functional without a keyboard, which is a lot more than I can say for my last digital drawing device (The Samsung Slate 7...don't get me started on it)

Drawing with the Companion is really all you've wanted it to be.  It's fast, easy, responsive...and I was surprised to find that I draw most often with it in my lap instead of on the stand.  I spent lunch a work sitting on a couch and was able to ink half a comic page, and also have used it in bed as well, haha.

So, big list of pros and cons:

PROS

-Touch screen that's super easy to turn on and off.
-A decent 4 hours of battery life with the Companion chugging at full speed.
-Photoshop doesn't lag or operate any differently than I'm used to on my main machine.
-Smaller size not an issue for those used to using a larger Cintiq.
-Wacom has gone to great lengths to make a customizable alternative to no keyboard hotkeys.

CONS

-Glitch where switching between pen and touch isn't immediately responsive, rendering the onscreen hotkeys all but useless.
-Need to calibrate pen on almost ever use due to shifting orientation to the screen.
-And I just noticed tonight that when I updated windows, it reset all my customized hotkeys to default :|  Another glitch I hope Wacom gets on soon.


My overall opinion on the Cintiq Companion:

THIS IS THE DEVICE YOU HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR.  It's a hefty chunk of change, more than it needs to be, but it is worth it.  If you have the means, pick up this bad boy ASAP.  There a couple of software glitches but I am confident they will be resolved easily, and there are workarounds otherwise.

I was expecting this device to be simply a stand-in for my main machine that made remote work possible if a little less efficient.  I'm happy to report that I can move seamlessly between devices and really lose no amount of productivity.

Thank you Wacom, ya done good :D  (...now lower the price.)


If you have any additional questions about the Companion, let me know and I'll do my best to tell you what I can!













8 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I've not heard or felt the fan at all, actually. Also the device stays a very consistent temperature, I didn't notice anything of that nature while using it either :D

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  2. Hi Nate! Thanks a lot for you review, it was very helpful. I'm just pondering whether to buy a laptop or a cintiq companion as I'll be going abroad for a month. I'd need to use Photoshop, Illustrator & InDesign (CC) and I heard that you could even use InDesign on cintiq. So it starts to seem like I wouldn't really need a laptop at all.. What you think, would you still need it or would the companion do the job :)? Thanks & greetings from Finland!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Heidi!! :D Thanks for the message! You're totally right that if you got a Companion you wouldn't need a laptop...basically this is a laptop :D It has a full version of Windows 8 and has a 500GB harddrive and 8GB of RAM. It can absolutely run inDesign...I actually animated in Photoshop on it today, plus ran AfterEffects to do some composting and I was really impressed at how well it performed. Like, really impressed o_o I didn't notice and lagging or memory issues at all, it was great!

      The only thing I would think about in terms of non-drawing programs like InDesign and AfterEffects is that the touch-screen is a little awkward to use (as least for me) the screen resolution is very high, so the menus are a bit tiny and can be clumsy to click with you fingers. In that instance tho, I just put it on the stand and use the keyboard/mouse so it's just like a normal laptop setup and everything works great! :D

      Last note, you could do all the things you're talking about on the Cintiq Companion, but could NOT on the Companion Hybrid. The Hybrid runs Android so any apps you have are made for mobile and not the full version.

      Hope that helps a bit!

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  3. Oh, excellent, this helps a lot, thanks a million! And I love your answer :) Because I really want to by this device but cant't afford to buy both (laptop&cintiq). Now I know what is my choice! Just have to get the keyboard in case I'll be doing some occasional work in InDesign when traveling, mostly I'll be probably sketching though. Cheers Nate :)

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  4. I'm having some problems with the power cable on my Companion. If the plug moves/rotates slightly, I lose power (and the brightness goes down a notch). Usually for half a second or so. This happens a lot if I sit with the device in my lap. I have to sit perfectly still to avoid it.

    Does this happen to you too, or have I just been unlucky with my device?

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  5. Great review, are you able to tell the difference between all the nibs that come with it? to me they're all the same.

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  6. Hello there,
    i found your post after searching for touch fixes as i've not been able to use mine.
    you mention a tiny switch that can toggle it on and off?
    any chance you could tell me where this is as i might have accidentally switched it off.
    thanks~

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