Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 and 32 review: hands-on with the huge screens you can draw on

Artwork: In The Crowd, a private commission by Sam featuring over 60 characters from iconic 80s movies.
  • Price When Reviewed: 24-inch £1,899 inc VAT, 24-inch with touch £2,399, 32-inch price TBC, Cintiq Pro Engine i5 £2,399, Cintiq Pro Engine Xeon £3,149

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Digital painter Sam Gilbey tested both of the new, enormous Wacom Cintiq Pro tablet displays – and also with the Cintiq Pro Engine – and loved drawing on them.

I was invited to Gallery Different in London’s Fitzrovia to preview Wacom’s brand new 24- and 32-inch Cintiq Pro devices – using Photoshop – and to spend some time using them. This is an initial reaction based on that experience. A more in-depth review will follow, once I’ve had on sent to my studio and I get to create a full project using it.

First, here’s a little bit about my own current setup. I’m a professional freelance illustrator and I’m currently using an Intuos Pro Medium tablet with a 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display. I also work with an iPad Pro. My artwork often starts on my iPad Pro, where I then export a Photoshop file from Procreate, save to Dropbox, and pick it up on my iMac. I’ve reviewed numerous drawing devices for Digital Arts and others over the years, including Wacom’s previous flagship professional product, the Cintiq 27QHD.

I’ve always been impressed by the Cintiq range, but whenever I’ve been wanting to upgrade, it’s come towards the end of the product cycle – and I’ve not wanted to risk missing out on an imminent better model. I also don’t mind/am used to looking ahead of me at my screen, whilst drawing on my tablet, and appreciate not having my hand and arm obscuring my work, whilst also having my keyboard within easy reach.

Whilst I thought that overall the 27QHD was great, because my iMac already had a 5k resolution (and stunning colour and brightness), and with 4k very much on the horizon generally, I felt it would be sensible to wait for the 2nd iteration, which would presumably boast a better resolution and screen in general. That was back in the summer of 2015. So, while the new models are either a few inches smaller or larger, these machines are very much designed to be the new choice for professionals, and yes, they do now ‘boast’ a 4k resolution and 10-bit colour. There are times when I’d regretted not investing in the 27-inch, but I feel that if I had I would now be cursing not having the higher resolution.

Of course the 27-inch was already a huge machine, so my main question about the 32-inch model is about how useful can a screen that large be – or will it just be unwieldy and uncomfortable to work on? Conversely, for the 24-inch model, will three fewer inches feel like a compromise for someone who was used to the 27-inch but can’t justify the expense of replacing it with the 32-inch?

Sam trying out the Cintiq Pro 32 at Gallery Different

From my limited time drawing on both units, I’d say that the 24-inch screen is more than big enough to let you draw effortlessly without feeling cramped - but the 32-inch is the kind of canvas you wish you had in your studio (assuming you have the desk space to accommodate). You can draw and paint with long strokes and really get into fine details.

(Note that while the ’standard’ 24-inch Cintiq Pro is available this month, the version that supports multi-touch control for zooming and panning won’t ship til May. There’s no official release date for the either of the touch or non-touch 32-inch versions beyond “later this year”.)

In terms of everyday use, it’s also fantastic to see that the excellent Pro Pen 2 is included, which were first issued with the MobileStudio Pro devices. With my admittedly brief experience, drawing on both models with their improved screens and updated pens felt fantastic. I’m not saying I can detect the apparent 8,000+ levels of pressure-sensitivity, but in that regards there was no learning curve at all – and it felt immediately comfortable.

Parallax, the gap between where you’re drawing and where the lines are appearing, has also been significantly reduced, to the point of it not being noticeable at all. I find that the Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro perhaps still offers the greatest ‘synergy’ between stylus and screen, in terms of responsiveness and nuance, but this is a close second. That said, the ‘toothiness’ you get with the Pro Pen 2 on the updated Cintiq screen is absolutely a better feel than the Apple Pencil on the glossy iPad Pro. Line-making both slow and fast felt just right, without noticeable lag (except for some I experienced using blender brushes).

Touch controls also seemed to work well, where on the 27QHD Touch model it had felt unreliable and inconsistent. That said, on my iPad Pro I often rotate and zoom in or out at the same time, and here I could only either zoom, or rotate. Not a huge problem by any means, but just to make the point that this is not as agile as Apple’s device in terms of touch controls and gesture.

Another issue I had with the previous 27QHD was that the screen brightness seems to ‘tail off’ towards the edge of the screen when you were positioned at the centre, so you had to either move your head to have a better look at what was happening at the edges, or move that detail of the artwork to the centre.

Put another way, I couldn’t see how it would have been possible to work on it without having an Apple display to rely on. I even found I was using it like a huge tablet, and actually looking at my iMac screen as I painted to get a better sense of the colour.

While the demo 32-inch device was self-contained with the PC and there was no secondary screen, I could immediately see that the displays on both models, in terms of overall consistent brightness across the whole screen and improved colour range and depth, seemed to be greatly improved. And this was within a fairly well lit space for the purposes of a product launch, so no doubt would be even better in a controlled studio setting.

Testing how bold colours and subtle shading appears on the Cintiq Pro screen.

With both sizes, the key issue is learning how to integrate them into your workflow. The first thing I’m always struck by, without a physical keyboard nearby, is just how much you use said keyboard when you’re working with a fully-fledged piece of creative software like Photoshop. I find that when I’m in the groove with a particular aspect of the artwork, simply painting away, there’s nothing like the Cintiq for sheer absorption, but the moment you need to make a simple adjustment, and have to think about how to do it, it can also be quite jarring.

The programmable ExpressKey remote is the answer to this, and I feel that the best way to incorporate it, and transfer fully over to it, would be to move the keyboard out of reach, and then be strict about programming a new shortcut every single time you feel yourself reaching for it. This represents the steepest leaning curve for putting a device with such a large footprint on your desk, but developing that muscle memory must be essential for getting the most out of them. For the 32-inch it will be an absolutely necessity, though with either device, once mastered I’m confident that productivity can actually increase.

Cintiq Pro Engine

As before, the Cintiq Pro 24 and 32 work on both Mac and Windows – but there’s a new option if you’d rather not have an external PC at all. Both the new models have been designed to allow for a full PC called a Cintiq Pro Engine to slot into the back - and that’s what were powering the two models I tried.

You see the Cintiq Pro Engine as a block running along the back of the Cintiq Pro 32.

There are two models, the Pro Engine 15 and the Pro Engine Xeon. Both are based on laptop components to keep the size down. There are two configurations: a £2,399/$2,499/€2,699 version based around a quad-core Intel Core i5 chip, and a £3,149/$3,299/€3,549 model with a Xeon processor. Both feature an Nvidia Quadro P3200 graphics chip with 6GB of its own DDR5 RAM – which Wacom says allows the Cintiq Pro Engine to power a Oculus Rift or HTC Vive VR headset as well as the 4K display.

Now, as a long time Mac user, I honestly can’t imagine ever using a Windows machine, or trying to convert. Not that my seeming inability to use Windows is anyone’s failing but my own though, and I appreciate that this may be an appealing feature for some.

Cintiq Pro 24 & 32 review: Verdict

If you have been thinking about getting a flagship professional Cintiq – whether upgrading from a smaller model, or moving over from a drawing tablet without a screen – then these latest models represent the best time to join the club.

If you’re an independent artist then of course they’re also a very serious investment, and you’re going to have to think long and hard about whether you can justify the extra expense for the 32-inch, as well as just if you have the physical space for it and a creative need for it.

While I had limited time using the new models, my experience working with numerous drawing devices over the years allows me to say with certainty that these are superb pieces of kit.

Whether you can truly simply use the Pro Engine models and not have an Apple Screen in sight, even just to compare colour, for example, it’s hard to say without further investigation. It will also be important to test the updated Ergo stand for the devices (below), which allow you to work from different angles and elevations. Questions about workflow aside though, and which size model (and which Cintiq Pro Engine PC) is going to be best on a day-to-day basis, the new Wacom Pros are without a doubt, the best in class.

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