Getting to the tablet component of the Cintiq 21UX, this is, for all intents and purposes, an Intuos 4 with a few minor differences. So for all the nitty-gritty details, we suggest you have a read of our comprehensive review of that model. However, for the rest of you, and to see just what's changed, let’s go through the basics.
The provided pen is but one of a range of different available models, including specialised airbrush, inking and art pens. However, many will never need to upgrade from this standard model. It’s a soft-touch black affair with a rubber grip, and is both large and eminently comfortable in the hand. It offers tilt-sensitivity, a programmable rocker switch, pressure-sensitive eraser on its top and a nib that requires a mere gram of pressure to activate. Nibs are interchangeable to mimic various tools from pencils to markers, and Wacom provides ten nibs as well as a nib removal ring in the pen’s container stand.
Naturally, the new Cintiq now provides 2,048 pressure levels to match its Intuos 4 sibling’s sensitivity, more than doubling those found on its predecessor. Unfortunately this only applies to the 21in 21UX model – the 12in, widescreen 12WX is still the equivalent of an Intuos 3 tablet, a situation we hope Wacom will soon remedy - especially since this smaller model has a Hanvon SenTIP rival, which we’ll be taking a look at soon.
So what is different between the Intuos and Cintiq ranges, aside from the obvious screen aspect? Well, the OLED key indicators haven’t made it across, and we do miss these a little. However, to ease the loss, Wacom has designed the 21UX’s programmable buttons (called ExpressKeys) so that a press brings up a screen overlay showing all the various functions.
The Cintiq 21UX also rather spiffily doubles the Intuos 4’s eight ExpressKeys, selection wheel and zoom ring, by having a set on both sides. The zoom rings are now back to straight strips, and can be found behind the ExpressKeys on either side of the monitor’s bezel. Since this largely eliminates the potential for accidental activation (except when adjusting the screen’s rotation) that plagued the arrangement on the Intuos 3, we actually prefer this arrangement.
Wacom’s excellent driver is as easy to install and use as ever, and allows you to assign a multitude of tasks and commands to all 16 buttons, the wheels and strips. With this many options, you may not need to touch your keyboard at all!
Wacom has really done an excellent job with the Cintiq’s glass surface too. It feels just like drawing on the Intuos, meaning it’s as close to paper as you’re likely to get without using the actual article. From fine, delicate strokes to harsh lines, using this monitor/tablet hybrid never feels less than superb, and – unlike early Intuos 4 surfaces – the screen doesn’t scratch or wear easily.
Of course, the price of entry for all this goodness is significant. You’re looking at around £1600 – that’s enough to buy a high-end 27in 2,560 x 1,440 IPS monitor, hardware colour calibrator and Intuos 4, plus some decent software. So the 21UX certainly isn’t for everyone, especially as it’s not great as a general-purpose monitor thanks to its 4:3 aspect ratio and sub-Full HD resolution.
However, if you do draw for a living or you have the money to fritter away, there simply is no similarly-sized rival that lets you ‘see what you draw as you draw it’. Since Wacom’s own 12in Cintiq uses older pen tech, the only viable alternative is Hanvon’s significantly smaller SenTIP, which we have yet to assess. It's also worth keeping in mind that Wacom will be updating its Cintiq line soon, and we're hopeful a 24in widescreen model might be on the cards.
Wacom’s Cintiq 21UX tablet/monitor hybrid is the best digital artist’s tool available, but lacks the appeal of the company’s Intuos 4 thanks to its weight, limitations as a screen, and wallet-killing price. It has no rivals, but most will be better off buying a traditional tablet and separate monitor, and saving themselves a lot of cash into the bargain. If in the future Wacom lowers the price and makes its larger Cintiq more viable as a primary or companion monitor by using a higher-resolution widescreen panel, it will have a winner on its hands.