Review: Wacom Cintiq Companion 2

With the Cintiq Companion 2, you can take the artistic power of Painter, Photoshop and ZBrush anywhere you like.

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Our Verdict

This is a superb bit of kit that runs quickly without heating, even when cradled in your lap. The screen isn't great outdoors in bright light, however, and, as with all Wacom products, the price will exclude many potential buyers,

For

  • No competitors
  • High resolution
  • Quick run time
  • Runs full digital art software
  • Bite to the screen

Against

  • Small interface elements
  • Really expensive
  • Grainy screen
  • Dim outdoors

Usually, a review is designed to help you know which from a range of competing products you should choose. That's not really the case here, however, because the Cintiq Companion 2 doesn't actually have any competitors.

It's a self-contained Windows computer with the full Wacom graphics tablet features already built in, which can also be used as a 'dumb' graphics tablet when connected to a Mac or PC.

Essentially, you can use this to draw, sketch and paint at your desk hooked up to your main computer, and draw, sketch and paint directly on it while sitting on the sofa or outside.

Indeed, it's meaty enough to use as your main computer, especially since you can hook up an external display as well as keyboards, mice and hard drives.

Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 review

The updated Companion features six ExpressKeys, compared to the four of its predecessor

The nearest thing it has to a rival is the Microsoft Surface tablet, but this has neither Wacom's heritage nor chops when it comes to rich drawing tools. The iPad Pro is an excellent tablet but cannot be called a competitor here due to its mobile operating system.

Unlike the first-generation Companion (which came in a version that ran Windows but couldn't also be used as a regular tablet tethered to your Mac or PC, plus one that could do both but was limited to Android when standalone), this all-new Cintiq Companion 2 can be used at a desk as a graphics tablet for your regular computer, but because it also runs Windows, you can use full, familiar versions of Painter, Photoshop and so on when away from your workstation.

Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 review

The screen proved disappointing when used outside, putting a dampener on potential plein air studies

There are some additional improvements over the original, too: a higher-resolution screen (although a side-effect is that interface elements are tiny by default), USB 3.0, two more ExpressKeys to speed up your work (customisable, of course, and per-application if you choose), and more.

Generally, it's superb. The drawing surface has a bit of bite, the small gap between the nib and the target becomes less of a problem as you adapt, it's light and cool-running enough to use on your lap, and it comes with a three-position stand, the wonderful Pro Pen, and a natty protective sleeve.

Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 review

The battery-free Pro Pen features two customisable side buttons

There are four models and we tested the Standard – and it's not perfect yet. There's still a (probably unavoidable) graininess to the screen, colours are a little muted, and while fine indoors, it's particularly dim for outdoor use.

We often triggered the ambient light sensor as we drew with it on our laps, too, dimming the screen. The battery life is a little meagre; we regularly achieved between three and four hours. If you're a Mac user, you might shudder at the idea of using Windows, but mollify yourself by remembering that Windows 8.1 is Microsoft's best OS.

It's a solid investment for digital illustrators who want flexibility. However, if you don't need to use it away from your desk, you could save money and purchase the Cintiq 13HD Touch, or benefit from a bigger drawing area with the slightly more expensive Cintiq 22HD touch.

Wacom Cintiq Companion 2

The Verdict

8

out of 10

Cintiq Companion 2

This is a superb bit of kit that runs quickly without heating, even when cradled in your lap. The screen isn't great outdoors in bright light, however, and, as with all Wacom products, the price will exclude many potential buyers,

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob Redman is a 3D artist working in VFX and motion graphics for print, TV and film.

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