Wacom Cintiq 18SX
Issue: Volume: 27 Issue: 4 (April 2004)

Wacom Cintiq 18SX

At work and in my personal life, much of my time is devoted to composing creative digital content. For years, I've incorporated a 12x12-inch Wacom Tablet Digitizer 2 (so old that it's no longer listed on the company's Web site) in my work. Although I have few complaints about my current device, I've been looking forward to a time when Wacom would merge a monitor with its pressure-sensitive tablet. So when the Wacom Cintiq 18SX made its debut, I quickly acquired it.
Through its combination of a display and tablet, the Wacom Cintiq 18SX improves the creative workflow.

The Wacom Cintiq 18SX sports an 18.1-inch, high-resolution (1280x1024 SXGA) display and ships complete with a new Grip Pen stylus and a software bundle with Corel Painter Classic, Nik multimedia's penPalette, and Wacom brushes 1.0. The tablet also is accompanied by an adjustable stand capable of being rotated up to 180 degrees and inclined a maximum of 70 degrees. The stand was helpful, enabling me not only to move the tablet forward and back, but also to turn it to virtually any angle. When extended forward, however, it would sink slightly as I applied pressure to or leaned on the tablet. It's a minor detail, but I would prefer to mount the Cintiq on a more rigid armature.

The Cintiq weighs in at 17 pounds when removed from the stand. Its weight is such that it's not conducive to working with it in your lap for long periods. Besides, after an hour of working in that position, I had neck pain from having to look down all that time.

On the other hand, the Cintiq did alleviate a common discomfort. I often suffer pain in my shoulder from having my arm positioned on a tablet at the side of my workstation, while I look forward at the screen. And I'd stretch even farther to access the mouse or keyboard. Because I can draw, paint, and preview images directly on the face of the Cintiq, I didn't experience that old, familiar shoulder pain.

Everything I do involves shortcuts and key commands, so I require constant access to my keyboard. With Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, there's no getting around it. It was difficult to access the keyboard while drawing with the tablet in my lap or on its stand. Such awkwardness can be solved by working on a drawing board, which keeps the keyboard within reach. Another minor criticism, the tablet can generate quite a bit of heat, causing me to limit the time spent with it in my hands or on my lap. At the same time, a small groove in the Cintiq held the cord out of the way of the screen. In time, I could adapt to the system physically, but there was a learning curve in that regard.

I prefer the high resolution, sensitivity, and color accuracy of the Cintiq to other hardware solutions. The signal input to the CPU can be made with either a VGA (analog RGB) or a DVI (digital) connection. Although the digital connection offers a faster response, I did not experience any problems or delays with my VGA connection. In fact, I was impressed by its quick, roughly 27-millisecond response time.

I encountered a surprising side effect to using the Cintiq. When I work with a traditional tablet, I have only a cursor on my image, and it doesn't block my view. Each time I accessed an application's toolbar menu on the Cintiq, however, the drop-down menu was hidden by my hand. Although only a problem for right-handed artists, it was rectified by Wacom's optional CintiqPartner tablet, priced below $200. I accessed menus with the Partner tablet, and used the Cintiq for painting and drawing.

Compared to other tablets and tablet PCs, the Wacom Cintiq provided a more comfortable and natural way of drawing and painting. It's much better than having the tablet on my desk and looking over at the display. With a traditional tablet, strokes at varying angles don't come out naturally unless I rotate the image on the screen. Using the Cintiq, I didn't have to rotate the image to change the angle of the stroke. The Cintiq is unique in that I can just rotate the unit, much like rotating paper on a table, to create a natural stroke. Or, as I would with pen and paper, I could rotate my arm to make brush strokes in different directions.

My view of Wacom is that it strives to emulate the traditional drawing environment. And to that end, it has been successful with the Cintiq. I can see how the new device would fit well with visual arts, film and video, and character animation applications. The Cintiq changed the way I work for the better, and change is good.

Gregor Bernard is a professional illustrator well versed in a variety of digital software and hardware solutions.

Wacom Technology www.wacom.com
Price: $3499
Minimum System Requirements: Windows 98/2000/NT/ME/XP or Mac OS 9 or X, a serial or USB port, a DVI or VGA graphics connector, and a CD-ROM drive