Price When Reviewed: 706
Pros: Sleek, light, bright and accurate; highly responsive on-screen technology; superb sensitivity and pen control.
Cons: Status and power LED lights are distracting; desperately wants a simple keyboard for basic type/shortcuts; stand could use padding for on-lap sketching
Wacom’s graphics tablets have always sported a sleek and intelligent design. Through years of innovation and collaboration with the likes of Adobe and Corel, they have become synonymous with digital creativity.
The past few years have seen a major technological leap, with the introduction of on-screen drawing. The ability to work in this way has marked a creative point of no return for photographers, illustrators, editors and painters worldwide.
The new Cintiq 12WX is a smaller, less expensive version of the Wacom Cintiq 21UX, which was launched in 2005. The 21UX has a 24-bit, 1,600-x-1,200 pixels screen and an impressive 21.3-inch drawing area, adjustable display stand, 60-degrees pen tilt support, 1,024 pressure levels, ExpressKeys and Touch Strip for frequently used functions, and a particularly well-designed cordless grip pen.
The Cintiq 12WX has almost identical screen technology to the 21UX but was conceived with portability in mind. It is best described as Wacom’s attempt to simulate a traditional sketchbook.
At 2kg and 40.5-x-27cm, this device is both lighter and smaller than the 21UX, and, with a 170-degree viewing angle, this 24-bit, 1,280-x-800 screen is a more mobile version of its older sibling.
It carries the same Intuos3 screen technology, and comes with an adjustable stand that can lay flat on one’s lap, or at an angle for on-the-fly sketching. When placed on a desk, it can be rotated freely upon a pivot, to simulate the fashion in which you’d manoeuvre a paper sketchpad around while drawing.
It’s worth noting that should you not wish to use the rotation pivot you can attach provided adhesive rubber feet – but bear in mind that once fitted, they cannot be removed.
The stand is well designed and can be folded to lay flat, but some padding for on-lap sketching would have been a nice ergonomic touch.
The 12WX shifts from desk to lap with the natural flow of traditional sketchbook, but contrary to what a number of people have mistakenly concluded, it is not an independent unit, and still needs to be connected to a computer in order to work.
This 12WX’s screen is guaranteed to become your primary display, but should your work necessitate multi- monitor set up, you will find toggle between displays to be reliable. The 12WX’s display is bright and calibration is a doddle. The only issue we had here was with the Mac control strip, which could not be activated by the pen, and failed to pop up.
The 12WX has an accurate and bright display, and benefits from a multitude of Wacom technologies, such as Intuos and pen sensitivities. These, coupled with the ability to work directly on screen, combine to deliver an impressive offering. There are some nice little touches, too; a neat converter unit cleverly limits the number of cables to one, which makes for a smooth tablet connection. Connectivity includes USB, DVI video, a pen cable connector, and a DVI/VGA switch.
On-screen display controls include those for colour calibration, contrast and brightness.
The 12WX’s Express Keys and Touch Strips improve workflow efficiency and productivity, but the addition of a keyboard, would make this a more well-rounded product.
The Wacom can function flawlessly as part of a multi-monitor setup, but – like the larger 21UX – it is likely to become your primary monitor. Its simulation of real-life brush, pen, and pencil strokes is simply addictive, instantly rendering traditional tablet technology a touch archaic.
The tablet can be comfortably rotated and tilted into several positions – from 10- to 60 degrees. The pen is also well designed, and remains comfortable to use, even during long sessions of work.
Important optional extras that warrant a mention are the Intuos3 Airbrush with finger wheel, while changeable nibs for the pen include a stroke-pen nib (simulating soft brushstrokes) and a felt-pen nib (where slight friction is desired).
These tools can be used right across Intuos range, including the new Cintiq 12WX. So, whether moving to the Cintiq 12WX from the 21UX or making the leap from Intuos3, once you bring existing tools in contact with the tablet they are automatically recognized, and all tool preferences remain intact.
One potential competitor to the 12WX is the P-Active’s new on-screen tablet, the LCD XPC-1700B. This has a display area of 34-x-27cm (compared with the 12WX’s 40.5-x-27cm), and at £695 is a more affordable option. The 1700B lacks the sleek design Wacom products in general. The XPC-1700B boasts a pen with 1,024 pressure sensitivity levels, an adjustable stand display and pen-tilt support of up to 60 degrees. The pen that comes with this 24- and 32-bit colour screen uses an AAA battery, that according to the manufacturer will last for 5,000 hours’ continuous use.
Coming from using Wacom’s super-light grip pen, the 1700B’s pen feels a touch bulky at first, and takes some adjustment. The 1700B’s viewable angle is 140 degrees, compared to the Cintiq’s 170, and its resolution is 1,280-x-1,024. It has a VGA input and output, contrast ratio of 550:1 and a response rate of 12ms.
In short, the XPC-1700B is no match for the Cintiq 12WX. Wacom has also recently announced a 20-inch Cintiq, the 20WX – but the company says that this will be available in the US only.
In conclusion, if your work involves drawing or painting, the ability to work directly on screen that is made possible by the Cintiq 12WX will be of huge benefit. Your creative output will be increased and enriched.
It’s also great for on-lap use, but if you’re considering buying this device as a mobile digital sketchbook, you might want to try before you buy, because it was not designed specifically for this purpose.