Wacom has surprised us by launching two tablets that combine its powerful pen tools with the ability to work wherever you want without being tethered to a laptop or desktop.
Originally hinted at back in March, and trailed by a promo video a few weeks ago, we've been wondering whether Wacom would create a full tablet PC – which would give users access to high-end creative tools such as Photoshop and Corel Painter – or a smaller Android-based 'digital sketchbook'. We weren't expecting both, which is what the company has delivered in the form of the Cintiq Companion and the Cintiq Companion Hybrid respectively.
Wacom Cintiq Companion specs
From the outside, both the Windows 8 and Android version are near identical. Both have 13.3-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 screens – the same as the Cintiq 13HD Wacom released earlier this year. Unlike the Cintiq 13HD, both tablets support multi-touch input like the Cintiq 24HD Touch. The tablets' overall design clearly draws on Wacom's Cintiq and Intuos lines of tablets – and feature the standard D-pad style Rocker Ring and ExpressKey shortcut buttons creatives will be used to from those previous Wacom tablets.
The 13.3-inch screens are high-quality IPS displays with 178-degree viewing angles both horizontally and vertically – which should make it easy to see what's on screen whether you're sketching in the park or train, or showing off your work to a group of clients.
As with the Cintiq 13HD, the Cintiq Companions both support 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity through the Pro pen, which ships with both a travel case (below) and desk stand to keep your nibs and coloured rings safe wherever you are. Both are also compatible with other Wacom pens, including the Art Pen, Classic Pen and Grip Pen.
Both tablets ship with an adjustable stand allows both tablets to be used at a range of angles from fully flat on a desk or your lap, to propped up a tad for more comfort, to near-vertical for presenting or demoing.
Other features common across both models include Micro-HDMI video out for adding a second display (such as if you're using the Cintiq Companion in a pitch presentation or lecture), front and rear cameras (2Mp and 8Mp respectively), 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, GPS, an accelerometer, and USB ports for connectivity. However, while the Windows-powered Cintiq Companion has two USB 3.0 ports, the Android Cintiq Companion Hybrid has a single USB 2.0 port.
Wacom claims at battery life of seven hours for each model, which should be long enough for a good stint in the park – though we've no news on how the screen will fair in the sunshine.
Wacom Cintiq Companion vs Cintiq Companion Hybrid
The differences are almost all internal – and in who the tablets are aimed at. The Cintiq Companion is a full-spec creative tool that Wacom claims is more than capable of running demanding day-to-day creative tools such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel Painter and Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro – while the Cintiq Companion Hybrid is for dooming and drafting using a set of Wacom's own creative applications (plus Android apps such as Photoshop Touch and that platform's version of Sketchbook Pro, we imagine).
The full-spec Cintiq Companion (above) has an Intel Core i7 3517U processor running at 1.9GHz and 8GB of RAM. You can buy it with either a 256GB or 512GB SSD drive. The internal storage can be expanded with Micro SD cards (which currently offer up to 64GB of storage).
Both run Windows 8, though the higher-end model runs Windows 8 Pro, which adds corporate network tools you probably don't care about. It has Bluetooth 4.0 connectivty.
The Cintiq Companion Hybrid (above) has an Nvidia Tegra4 quad-core processor and runs Android 4.2 (known as Jelly Bean). Again there are two versions: 16GB of storage or 32GB (both have 2GB of RAM). Again a Micro SD card slot offers up to 64GB of additional storage.
This Android tablet ships with two Wacom-created sketching apps: Wacom Creative Canvas for painting and sketching and Wacom Manga Canvas for, er, painting and sketching Manga artworks (us neither).
In a bit of technical wizardry, when you plug the Cintiq Companion Hybrid into a Mac or Windows computer, it turns into a standard Cintiq – allowing you to work in Photoshop, Painter et al as if you'd plugged in a standard Cintiq 13HD.
Wacom is selling an optional bluetooth keyboard for the Cintiq Companion – though you could use any Windows 8-compatible USB or wireless keyboard.
Wacom Cintiq Companion release date and pricing
Both models are due in October. The Cintiq Companion costs £1,375 plus VAT for the 256GB version and £1666.67 for the 512GB version. The Cintiq Companion Hybrid costs £999.99 for the 16GB version and and £1,083 for the 32GB version.
Digital Arts expects to get a first chance to get our hands on the Cintiq Companion and Cintiq Companion Hybrid at the IFA show in Berlin from September 6-11. Tune in then for our first hands-on review of the Cintiq Companion and Cintiq Companion Hybrid.
Update 10.50am: Wacom has confirmed that the Cintiq Companion has Bluetooth 4.0 and the Cintiq Companion Hybrid has Bluetooth 3.0. The eariler information was supplied to us was incorrect.
Update 21/8/13: Wacom has confirmed that both models of the Cintiq Companion have 8GB RAM. The eariler information was supplied to us was incorrect.