Hands on: Wacom Cintiq 16 review

It’s less than half the price of the Cintiq Pro 16. So what are the tradeoffs – and should you care?

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Our Verdict

If you need pro-level colour accuracy or 4K clarity, the new Wacom Cintiq 16 probably isn’t for you. But at less than half the price of the 16-inch Cintiq Pro – and with the excellent Pro Pen 2 included – this entry-level pen display tablet looks to be fantastic value for students, enthusiasts and cash-strapped creative pros. (Full review and score to follow.)

For

  • More affordable price
  • Pro Pen 2
  • Build quality

Against

  • No 4K display
  • Colour accuracy suffers
  • Not exactly cheap

This is a hands on review of the Wacom Cintiq 16 to give you the chance to see what the new pen display is all about as soon as possible. We'll be expanding and upgrading this review shortly with more information and a score.

The Wacom Cintiq 16 is Wacom’s least expensive pen display tablet so far. Aimed at students, enthusiasts graduating from the Intuos line, and jobbing creatives who can’t justify the price of a Cintiq Pro, the new Wacom Cintiq 16 – which was launched at CES 2019 – offers a cheaper way for artists to master Wacom’s industry standard drawing tools.

Grabbing the headlines is the price: the Cintiq 16 is less than half the cost of the pro version – but it still isn't exactly cheap. 

The entry-level model comes with the same super-responsive pro-grade pen, the Wacom Pro Pen 2, with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt recognition and customisable buttons. As you’d expect, however, there have been some trade-offs to get the pen display down to that lower price. It’s 2K, for a start; and has a lower colour gamut than the Cintiq Pro. So how good is it?

We had the chance to have a quick play with the Wacom Cintiq 16 here at CES. We’ll be publishing a full review of the drawing tablet on the site soon – in the meantime, here are our first impressions.

Wacom Cintiq 16: price and availability 

Sitting between the Intuos Pro and Cintiq Pro 13, the new Cintiq 16 pen display costs $649.95 / £528.99 / €599.90. That’s significantly cheaper than the same-sized Cintiq Pro 16, which will set you back $1,499.96 / £1,399 / €1,599. 

It’s also cheaper than the iPad Pro, which costs from $799 / £769 and at the moment doesn’t run pro creative programs such as Photoshop (though it should soon), or come with the Apple Pencil. That'll cost you another $99 / £89; whereas the new Cintiq 16 comes bundled with the Wacom Pro Pen 2.

Wacom's new Cintiq 16

Wacom's new Cintiq 16 is less than half the cost of the pro version

Clearly, Wacom is looking to take on the growing market of cheaper Wacom alternatives that has developed over the last few years: Huion, XP-Pen and so on. These companies are producing excellent pen display and graphic tablets, and have found a loyal fanbase thanks to their much cheaper price points. 

Wacom still doesn’t win on price with the Cintiq 16, but it’s dramatically closed the gap – and it has the excellent Pro Pen 2 stylus up its sleeve. Most competitor pens top out at 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, compared to its 8,192.

Wacom Cintiq 16: display and drawing experience

The new Wacom Cintiq has a 15.6-inch display with full HD resolution (1,920 x 1,080), rather than the 4K display of the Pro version. It can produce 72 per cent of the NTSC colour palette – versus the Cintiq Pro’s 94 per cent Adobe RGB colour gamut – which means less colour accuracy, but not enough to hinder most aspiring artists. If you do photo or image-editing at a pro level, though, you’ll need the pro version. 

Certainly in our short time with the Cintiq 16, the screen appeared bright with vibrant colours. The bezels are wide enough to rest your hand while drawing, and while there isn’t multitouch control – so you can’t zoom or pan, or activate touch buttons with your fingers – it does mean you won’t accidentally invoke touchscreen actions while you’re working. 

We liked the antiglare film coating, which felt like working on paper, and minimised reflection well; and we enjoyed the drawing experience: there are no cut corners here. The pen felt comfortable and responsive, and we didn’t notice any lag. 

We also didn’t notice much parallax – Wacom says it’s “reduced” – but there is a bit of space between the pixels and where the pen touches the screen, so we’ll test this fully, along with colour accuracy, in our longer review.  

Finally, bear in mind that the bezels don’t house any ExpressKeys. But Wacom’s Express Key Remote works with the Cintiq 16, so if you need programme buttons, you can buy a remote separately. 

Wacom Cintiq 16: features

Compatible with Mac and Windows, the Cintiq 16 comes with a 3-in-1 adapter cable, which plugs into the power port on the back of the display and has both HDMI and USB plugs.

As well as a set of high-grip rubber feet, the pen tablet features two foldable legs that can be used flat or at a 19-degree angle, and click into place when fully extended. They’re non adjustable, but an optional stand is available – and there are screw holes in the back panel that will fit different types of mounting system.

Wacom Cintiq 16

The excellent Pro Pen 2 stylus has 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivty

Happily, the Cintiq 16 uses Wacom’s wireless electromagnetic resonance stylus technology. This means that – like the Pro line – the Pro Pen 2 doesn’t need a battery and never has to be recharged.

There’s also a handy fabric pen loop for storing the pen when you’re not using it, which you can snap onto the side of the display on whichever side you prefer. And inside the holder, you’ll find some spare Pro Pen 2 nibs and a removal tool. 

Wacom Cintiq 16: early verdict

Wacom has focused on creative professionals for over three decades. Before this release, if you wanted to experiment with a Wacom pen display, you needed to fork out at a pro-level price point. But the new Wacom Cintiq 16 changes that. 

It isn’t a Cintiq Pro: you don’t get the UHD resolution, multitouch control or as many connectivity options. It isn’t as portable as a Surface Pro or iPad Pro either.

But build quality appears similar, and for less than half the price of the 16-inch pro version you get what looks to be a very capable pen display. Importantly, you also get access to Wacom’s industry standard drawing tools: these are the displays you find in most animation and special effects studios. If you’re a student or cash-strapped creative pro, we think you’re going to like the new Wacom Cintiq 16. Full review coming soon. 

Also read: Hands on: Dell XPS 13 (2019) review

The Verdict

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out of 10

Hands on: Wacom Cintiq 16 review

If you need pro-level colour accuracy or 4K clarity, the new Wacom Cintiq 16 probably isn’t for you. But at less than half the price of the 16-inch Cintiq Pro – and with the excellent Pro Pen 2 included – this entry-level pen display tablet looks to be fantastic value for students, enthusiasts and cash-strapped creative pros. (Full review and score to follow.)