Video: Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid Review


Hi, my name's Jason Chatfield, I'm a syndicated cartoonist working out of Australia and I've been asked by Wacom to try out the new Cintiq Companion Hybrid.

This is not the stand-alone windows tablet computer version- this is the one that runs Android, works as a stand-alone tablet AND a Cintiq if you plug it into your computer using the HDMI and USB cable that comes with it. It's compatible with both Mac and PC.

Right up the top, in the interest of transparency, I don't work for Wacom, I never have, and I haven't been paid to review this product.

I've been using Wacom tablets for over 10 years now. So I've been asked to test drive a lot of unreleased products for Wacom in the past and I've always been very honest with them- and to their credit, they always listened. No matter how, uh, honest I was.

One of my biggest gripes was when I was asked to test drive the Cintiq 12WX - it was so close to what we'd all been asking for but it just wasn't there yet. It had to have its own power source and just wasn't portable. You literally can't use it 'on the road' without a power point.

Thankfully, the tech is now available for The Cintiq Companion to exist. It's the missing link -they've nailed it. They didn't rush it; they took their time with it, they got it right, and now they're releasing it as a self-contained mobile tablet computer.

I'm going to try and be as thorough as I can with this review, but I won't be able to cover absolutely everything. So what I'd like you to do is post any questions on stuff I haven't covered in the comments below and I can answer them personally. Be sure to read through the previous comments before posting your question so we don't double up.

I've been using this tablet solid for the past month- I don't mean just playing around with it, I mean really putting it through its paces, doing full days of work in real-world scenarios. I travel a lot with my work- so this tablet is something I've been asking for for a decade. I've taken it on domestic trips to Sydney, Perth and overseas to Indonesia and done actual finished work on it- not just sketches and concepts like I do on my iPad.

I currently have a Cintiq 21" in my studio which I rent, and I have an Intuos 4 tablet for when I'm on the road. The drawback with the Intuos has always been that if you learned to draw traditionally by hand, like me, you're not used to looking at your screen while your hand is drawing, and that takes a lot of getting used to. Your style often changes as a result too, so it's not ideal.

The Cintiq Companion Hybrid's Display is 13.3 inches. It's running an Nvidia® Tegra® 4 Processor with a full HD Resolution of 1920 X 1080 with 16.7 million colours and 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and multi-touch (just like the Cintiq 24). It comes in 16GB or 32GB options and weighs about 1.8 kg / 3.9 lbs.

It has Wacom's trademark Boosters ExpressKeys™, Rocker Ring, Home Button and On-Screen Controls. It comes with an Ergonomics Adjustable stand with about 3 different angles. It comes with the usual stable of pens and 10 interchangeable nibs. I prefer to use the classic pen with a felt tip nib for better friction, like pencil on paper. It isn't the official pen that comes with the tablet, but it works perfectly and has the full tilt recognition of a regular Cintiq.

It has two HD cameras, front and back for video conferencing, some pretty nice speakers on the bottom and full wifi and bluetooth connectivity. I'd recommend getting a bluetooth keyboard if you don't like typing on tablet screens.

It comes with a felt carry-case and a pen case if you don't own a laptop bag.

If you've never used Wacom product before, it's very easy to learn. If you have used a Wacom product before, there's nothing new to learn about the interface- it's just a miniature Cintiq. The only difference is I can take it out on your balcony and get some sun on my pasty skin.

As I mentioned earlier, in Tablet mode, this model runs on Android OS. The other model runs Windows and is a complete tablet PC.

Now, I know there's a lot of you whinging that it doesn't run Apple's OS X or iOS. Look, I'm an Apple fanboy myself, I work on a Mac and have for 7 years, but are you kidding? You honestly thought Apple would let another company run it's operating system on non-Apple hardware? Really? You should know Apple better by now.

The other important point to realise is, and I don't like to admit this, but from the moment in late 2007 that Google unveiled Android and its own plan to dominate the world of mobile devices, Google hasn’t just tried to compete with the Apple; it's succeeded. Android's share of the global smartphone market is approaching 80 percent, while Apple’s has fallen below 20 percent.

A similar trend is under way with tablets: in 2010 the iPad had about 90 percent of the tablet market; now more than 60 percent of tablets sold run Android. So the decision for this bad boy to run Android was well made, (even though I still hate Android...) :)

If you really must use iOS, you're probably better off buying the new Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus for iPad. It's actually pretty cool- it's bluetooth, so it actually handles the same level of pressure sensitivity as this Cintiq.

Android's a very easy OS to learn if you haven't used it before, and with the NVidia processor, it's fast. The lag time on the pen stroke, which is one of the most important factors for me working on a tablet, is remarkably low. If you had to measure it, you'd have trouble. It's very fast- I wish I could get a higher frame-rate video to show you exactly what the precise delay is, but rest assured, it's miniscule. That was going to be a deal-breaker for me.

When I first got the tablet, it was one of very few in existence and had been built from the BIOS up- so there were obviously a few little bugs and memory management issues. After a couple of firmware updates it was perfectly fine and ran without any memory issues.

There's an app called ASTRO File Manager™ which lets you pull your files from Dropbox, USB or a bunch of other sources. Ask me any specific questions about this down in the comments.

I'm actually really impressed with the battery life. Owning an iPhone, I'm so used to the battery just running down halfway through the day. I started an illustration commission at the departure lounge, and finished it on the plane on my tray table in under an hour, and I still had 8 hours battery left. I then used a bluetooth keyboard and ran the macbook in clamshell mode for the rest of the flight. The official battery life in tablet mode is 12 hours.

If you're running in Tablet mode, you have some good apps to choose from- Native Wacom drawing apps as well as Sketchbook pro, which is really great. Photoshop's Android app is okay, but obviously has less features than the desktop version.

Which mode do I prefer? it depends on what I'm doing. When I'm sketching and drawing up concepts and drafts, I love being able to sketch on the couch or outside. When I'm doing finished artwork, inking or colouring, I prefer hybrid mode. To be honest, this is really just because I'm stuck in my ways of using the OS X keyboard shortcuts and I work faster that way.

Boiling it all right down, do I like drawing on it? The answer is yes. I've worked full days on it while travelling for the last four weeks and it means I'm not pulling all-nighters to get my artwork done before I leave for a trip. I can get the exact same result on this tablet as I can on my big Cintiq 21 in the studio. It does take a minute or two to get used to the resolution if you run it in 1920 x 1080 but the definition is very impressive.

Whether it's the right product for you is obviously going to depend on the kind of work you do, so it's worth using a friend's Android tablet to see how Photoshop and other mobile tablet apps work before you make the purchase.

Speaking of that - The other big dealbreaker apart from pen-lag is price-point. The official pricing for these has just been released- the Cintiq Companion Hybrid (16gb) - AU$1,849 or (32gb) AU$1,999 the Cintiq Companion (Windows) (256gb) - AU$2,499 or AU$3,299 for the (512gb). Check their website for US prices.

For my money, I think the 16GB Companion Hybrid is well worth the price, and I will definitely be buying one. The waiting list is long, so sign up as soon as possible if you're thinking about getting one. They'll sell out in Australia very fast- I'm not sure what the stocks are like in America, the UK, Japan etc. but this is definitely going to be a popular one with the modern traveling artist.

Thanks for watching, and remember to read through the other questions before posting yours in the comments below!