I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the experience of using a Wacom Cintiq 21UX for the best part of four or so years. The majority of this time was spent using the first generation model which in itself was extremely impressive. Upon switching jobs in the last year, it came time for me to choose some new equipment for my work. Without hesitation, I put in my order for the Wacom Cintiq 21UX second generation model – and I was lucky enough to get it.
So for those of you who are considering investing in this piece of hardware, I thought I would write a review which might hopefully help you make the decision one way or the other.
The Wacom Cintiq 21UX is a 21.3 inch TFT Flat Screen monitor that allows you to draw directly onto the screen with a stylus pen. Drawing on the screen allows for more precise control over what you are drawing and helps bring you closer to the more common illustration experience of pen on paper. It has a resolution of 1600×1200 with a colour depth of 16.7 million colours and a contrast ratio of 550:1. I’ve noticed the images are sharp and bright and the stylus is very accurate. The response time of the stylus to monitor seems to be quicker on the Gen Two than the Gen One version as I remember it. If it’s your first time using a Cintiq, you might notice a slight lag when drawing, but believe me, you will quickly get used to this and it is not an issue at all. Considering the technology involved, it works extremely well.
Setting up the monitor and installing the software is a very quick and easy process. I got it all up and running in around 10-15 minutes tops. The monitor connects to your computer via DVI-I connection, but it also comes with DVI-I to VGA and DVI-I to DVI-D cables. You will also need a USB connection. You get your standard installation CD in the box along with Adobe Photoshop Elements 7.0, Nik Color Efex Pro Filters and Custom Wacom Brushes. However, if you are using the full version of Photoshop or similar, it’s likely you won’t have much reason to use this additional software.
The second generation unit has undergone some notable physical changes from its predecessor. Overall, it has a much sleeker, and more modern appearance. It feels as though it is thinner and more angular than the original. The Express keys are now vertically alligned whereas before they were vertically and horizontally aligned. The vertical alignment is an improvement because the buttons are easier to select without hitting the wrong one. The touch strips which are used for zooming and scrolling have now been placed behind the screen. This is definitely a good move because now there is no more accidental brushing against the strips whilst drawing causing the monitor to zoom in and out uncontrollably – an annoyance which sometimes happend on the Gen One monitor.
The monitor is mounted on a base which allows you to adjust the angles ranging from pretty much flat to around about 80 degrees vertical. You can also swivel the screen from landscape to portrait layout. I find that once you find an angle that you are comfortable with, you will rarely change it, though that’s just me. Having this ability is certainly handy though and you might find yourself changing the angles depending on what type of project you are working on.
As for the screen itself, it is flat and very smooth. You will notice your hand glides across the glass with minimal friction. The stylus will also move across the screen with little effort. The screen is activated by the slightest touch of the stylus to the screen. It also has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and 60 degrees of tilt sensitivity which is fantastic if you find yourself using custom brushes in programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Corel Painter. The Cintiq comes with a standard battery free Grip Pen Stylus and a selection of nibs that simulate different media such as felt tips, pens and pencils that are neatly concealed in the stylus holder. The stylus fits comfortably in the hand and has two buttons with an eraser on the other end. You can also choose from a variety of accessories including the optional Art Pen, Airbrush or Classic Pen, all which give you a different drawing experience.
Express Keys are positioned on both sides of the monitor for ambidextrous use. They allow quick and easy access to typical functions and frequently used shortcuts such as Clicks, Keystrokes (keyboard shortcuts), Modifiers (shift, alt, ctrl on Windows, Shift, Option, Command, Control on Mac), the Wacom Radial Menu (contains a variety of features to choose from or customise), Back, Forward, Pan/Scroll and more.
On a side note, but equally important, the Gen Two model does have a hole for a cable lock, so if you work in an office with lots of people like me, you can rest assured when you go away from your desk to get a coffee, that it will not be gone when you come back (so long as you have actually bought a cable lock and used it to lock the monitor down securely).
All in all, I have found the Wacom Cintiq 21UX to be an extremely valuable tool for the professional designer and especially the professional illustrator. It really does help you to create amazing artworks by helping you to push the boundaries of what you can achieve with your digital art program of choice. As the Cintiq is usually around the mid $2000 mark depending where in the world you buy it from, it is a substantial investment, but if you can afford the price, it’s definitely worth it. I highly recommend it. Trust me, once you have one, you won’t look back.
So, if you’re interested in buying one, what are you waiting for?