Review: Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 (Windows)

We are delighted to have environment and 3D artist Jeff Parrott who wrote this guest review. Thanks! - Parka


The Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 is a worthy successor to the first generation Companion. Wacom has incrementally pushed the design of the Companion in a lot of great ways. It is still a Windows 8.1 PC but now has the ability to tether to a PC/Mac like the larger Cintiq models.

I purchased the Cintiq Companion 2, Intel Core i7 256GB version. This model had 8GB of ram which allows the use of 3D sculpting and painting programs as well as painting in Photoshop.

Key specifications

Display Size 13.3 inch (33.8 cm)
Resolution QHD (2560 x 1440), 16 by 9 format
Advanced control 2048 levels pen pressure, tilt and multi-touch
Processor 1.70 GHz Intel Core i3
Storage 64 GB - 512 GB Solid state drive (SSD)
Micro SD Slot SDHC card, MicroSD
RAM 4 GB to 16 GB DDR3
Multi-Touch Yes
Extra nibs 9
Weight 1700 g / 3.75 lbs
Size 374 x 248 x 15 mm
Displayable colours 16.7 million
Video Out Mini DisplayPort
USB ports 3
Wireless Wifi and Bluetooth
Battery life Up to 4.5 hours
Warranty One year


The portable drawing system
The best thing and also oddest about the 2nd generation Wacom Companion is the weight of the device. The weight is almost identical to the original. But it is spread out throughout the device. Instead of one side being heavier and feeling odd to hold, it is all spread out throughout the device. The device does have some heft (1.7kg) to it. Make no mistake this is not a tablet device you can also paint crudely with. The Companion is a professional artist computer that is also portable. Sitting on the sofa painting, on an airplane, or at the beach and creating artwork without the sacrifice of your normal tools or workflow is all possible with it.


Multitouch on this device is great. It’s very usable to type using the onscreen keyboard. For painting and drawing it does not seem that great of an option. But for typing and launching programs it works great. You can also view websites easily using the multitouch.

Screen quality
The screen colour quality is very good. It’s on par with any of the other Cintiq desktop products as far as I could compare. I compared it to a Cintiq 21UX and the 22HD.


The back


Input side (headphones, USB inputs, memory cards, monitor, and power inputs, microSD slot)

The hotkeys are a must! I have read that artists typically do not use the hotkeys on desktop tablets/Cintiqs. I personally have never used them since a keyboard is right there. The portability of this device actually makes the hotkeys usable and essential (unless you want to carry a portable keyboard around).


Hotkeys, volume buttons, power switch, and rotation lock

The pen is the same Wacom pen you know and love. Using the similar pen for 12 plus years I can say I would not change a thing about the design. The only drawback is there's no way to store the pen inside or on the device during storage. Wacom created a great pen case with it.


Pen inside the pen holder

All these get stored in the included carrying case, which can also house cables or an external keyboard.


Cintiq Companion 2 and pen case inside the carrying case

Battery life and heat
There are only a few negative points about the Companion 2. The battery life is not that great. Currently I get 4-5 hours in Photoshop CS5 as a maximum. The battery meter icon fluctuates and depends if you are actually doing operations (painting, filters, etc) or not. It is difficult to gauge the actual time left on your current battery. It would be great to see battery life get to 8 hours on a single charge.

The fan noise is also rather loud. Not deal breaker loud. But in this day and age everyone is used to silent smart phones and tablet devices that this will sound like holding a miniature helicopter trapped inside the device. Personally I put on headphones and listen to music when using it.

Despite the loud fan the Companion is not hot to the touch. The first generation device did have a heat issue. it is nice to see that they improved this.




The stand is the same stand from the Cintiq Companion 13HD. This is one area that Wacom could stand to really improve with future iterations. The stand feels flimsy and adding unneeded thickness to the device. Again this ends up staying in the box instead of being carried around with the device.


Photoshop on a Retina Macbook Pro


The same Photoshop window on the Cintiq Companion 2

New tethering feature
The largest addition to the Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 is the ability to tether to a PC/Mac. Like a traditional desktop Cintiq has done for years. Tethering is done with the included HDMI and USB cable along with the power cord. For example you could connect this up to your desktop and use desktop software while you are working. At the end of the day just disconnect the Cintiq Companion 2 itself, place it in the carry case and head out. Using the device the whole time while you are out.

The two photos above are the Cintiq Companion 2 being tethered to a Macbook Pro showing Photoshop on the Macbook Pro then the same window on the Companion 2. Notice the resolution difference on the two devices. The screen brightness and matte finish are also very apparent. While not as bright as the Macbook Pro screen the Companion 2 screen works great and has enough brightness for painting outdoors.

Hotkey transferring from device to device seems much easier. Wacom allows you to backup hotkey information to a cloud server and install on another machine. If you connect to a Mac computer the PC settings currently do not seem to transfer. But it works great from the Cintiq Companion 2 Windows 8.1 environment to another Windows machine.

There is auto-rotation like mobile phone/tablet devices have. There is also a switch to lock this. It works great if you are left handed and prefer the hotkeys on the right side.


Drawing on the screen
Drawing on the matte screen feels great. There is a slight tooth to it like the rest of Wacom’s devices. Pressure sensitivity works just like other current generation Wacom devices. Lag only occurs on very large files or with a high dpi. The pen strokes feel smooth and intuitive just like Wacom tablets.

Photoshop buttons and panels are very small on the screen given the resolution and size of the screen. Photoshop CC has a tablet option that would be great to use if you have access to Photoshop CC. All of the hardware drivers are already installed on the Cintiq Companion 2 but there will most likely be a driver update.


The USB and HDMI cables connected while tethering

Conclusion
Is the Cintiq Companion 2 a great device for Artists? Yes.

Is it a must upgrade from a 1st generation Companion? Only if tether to a computer is a must.

The price point is steep. But what you get is a quality built machine, with every you need to use it. No additional hidden costs (case, cables, etc are all included) aside from if you need a portable keyboard with this. But having a keyboard defeats the purpose of the device.

The ability to use this as a portable art computer for years then retire it to a desk eventually has a ton of appeal.

Availability

Just for reference, the official retail price as recommended by Wacom is as follows:
Intel Core i3 (1.7Ghz), 64GB storage, 4GB RAM - USD $1299
Intel Core i5 (2.7Ghz), 128GB storage, 8GB RAM - USD $1599
Intel Core i7 (3.1Ghz), 256GB storage, 8GB RAM - USD $1999
Intel Core i7 (3.1Ghz), 512GB storage, 16 GB RAM - USD $2499

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