I played with the gigantic Wacom Cintiq 24HD last week. It is so well designed and it works so incredibly well that I found myself giggling like a little girl. I drew and drew and I became addicted.
After a while I wanted to lick it. Then I wanted to hump its movable arm. I wanted to take it home, fuck her, marry her in Vegas and then divorce to marry her again in Niagara Falls. Wacom Cintiq 24HD: I love you.
This tablet is so much better than the previous Wacom top dog, the Wacom Cintiq 21UX. That was good — it’s still available — but this one just destroys it. Not just because the new screen is amazing — with a gorgeous 24-inch 1920×1200 widescreen IPS panel — or the quality of the design or the usual exquisite control of the pen, with 2048 levels of pressure and 40 degrees of tilt control.
That’s all great, but what I like most about the Cintiq 24HD is the extremely good ergonomic design. Unlike the 21UX, the tablet design really fits the way illustrators work in the analogue world: It allows you to position it exactly like a drafting table. Its heavy counterweight and spring-loaded mechanism allows it to float in any position, from just above your lap while you sit on a normal chair — it goes below the base level of your table! — to a standup position, just in case you want to draw right on top of it standing up or on a tall stool.
Adjusting its position is extremely easy. So easy that you can buy this tablet and forget about having a secondary monitor if you want. You can have it down to the perfect angle when you are in Illustrator, Painter, Photoshop, Animate or whatever other professional graphic/animation/video/3D software you use, and then lift it to a normal monitor angle and height whenever you want to do other tasks that require that position, like e-mail or surfing the web for a long period of time.
The quality of the IPS-based screen panel — the same technology used on the iPad — is really gorgeous. It gave me consistent colour independently of the angle I was looking at it, which is something that is not true in the other Wacom graphic tablet displays. Wacom says that the Cintiq 24HD can be colour-calibrated with any professional colour management solution.
Around the screen there are improved touch-sensitive old-school-iPod wheels and buttons. With them I could easily change any parameter I want, from zoom to brush size. There’s no limit in the personalisation of these tools, which can be tailored depending on the running application. A new button on the top allows you to summon an overlay help screen, in case you forget what each button does is in some software package. Next to it, another button allows you to directly open the Wacom control panel. The most useful top button, however, is the one that calls the on-screen keyboard. The combination of side function buttons, the touch wheel and the on-screen keyboard would make it possible to forget about using a physical keyboard, even if you depend on some keyboard shortcuts like I do. The customisable software radial menu — which is common to all Wacom tablets — is the icing on the cake.
The Cintiq 24HD’s performance is just perfect. There’s absolutely no lag and, after calibration, it really felt to me as if I was drawing on paper. Smooth and extremely fast. A pleasure. There’s nothing much to explain.
But while the new Wacom graphic tablet is a dream for artists, I have even wetter dreams, starting with a higher pixel density display. While 1920×1080 pixels works well enough at 24 inches, it’s not ideal compared to most modern monitors.
Another thing that can be improved is the spring-loaded positioning system. It works great and reaches the perfect positions every time, but perhaps a hydraulic- or pneumatic-based arm design will make it even easier to move, like the old lamp-style iMacs. Of course, the old iMacs didn’t have massive heavy displays.
A thinner distance between glass and surface, so no calibration is required at all would also be great, but that’s something minor compared to the wetterest of my more porny artist dreams this side of spending a day in a studio drawing Monica Bellucci having the sex with Helen Mirren: be able to use my fingers to smudge a virtual pencil. You know, add capacitative touch capabilities so I can use a high precision stylus and my fingers. Just like my wettest dream about the iPad, but on reverse.
But all that is just being picky. Right now, this is the most amazing and useful gadget a graphics professional could buy.
Should I Buy It?
If you are a professional illustrator, you should get it. If not must. At $US2500 it will pay for itself in just a few jobs. Also, if you are looking for a new machine and monitor, you can avoid buying the monitor and get the Wacom Cintiq 24HD. Heck, and I’m not a professional illustrator and I’m thinking about getting this and a Mac Pro to replace my ageing iMac 24.