Cintiq Companion 2 | Hands on

Cintiq Companion 2 | Hands on

Overview

Wacom introduced the Cintiq Companion 2 earlier this year and after a bit of wrestling with their ordering process and the subsequent issue of getting it shipped it arrived in May of this year. The original version of the Companion had numerous hardware issues prompting a quick redesign from Wacom and while the Companion 2 isn’t perfect, it has been a valuable addition to my digital workflow.

Prior to ordering the Cintiq Companion 2 I tried using Microsoft’s latest Surface Pro 3 and while I loved the computer, the drawing experience left a lot to be desired (mainly because of the pen). The Companion 2 on the other hand was made specifically for drawing and if you have used the tethered Cintiqs before the experience is nearly the same. I mainly use the 22″ Cintiq HD Touch on projects so the familiarity of the pen and buttons on the Companion 2 makes it easy to go from one to the other. While this is not a comparison review between the Surface Pro 3 and the Companion 2, I will periodically point out differences between the two.

One of the biggest things the Companion 2 has going for it is portability. Before I had this tablet I was lugging my computer and 22″ Cintiq wherever I was working. I had to deal with 2 cables (USB and power), removal of the stand, and just the sheer size of the thing sitting in my lap. I was constantly getting the cables caught which resulted in one of the cables being pulled out of the computer. With the Companion 2 I just grab my bag and go.

Wacom has 4 different models of the Companion 2 (i3/64GB, i5/128GB, i7/256GB, i7/512GB). Just like their tethered siblings they are expensive ranging from $1,300 for the i3 to $2,500 for the 512GB i7 model. Each version comes with the pro pen, pen case, and cables. Only the i5 and better come with the case and adjustable stand. I went with the i5 because it hit that middle area between storage, processor, and memory. The Wacom pro pen has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity compared to only 256 for the Surface pen. For some that could be a huge difference in the type of line being laid down.

The Good

So after spending roughly 6 months with this drawing tablet I’ve come to the conclusion that it does a great job for what it was designed for.

  • When drawing in Sketchbook Pro, Manga Studio or Krita there is no lag while drawing or sketching. This is significant for a tradional artist switching to an all digital workflow.
  • Since the buttons on the front are configurable I am able to have presets for undo, redo, turning the touch screen on and off, saving, and more. This saves time doing repetitive tasks and allows me to focus on drawing and not have to deal with finding something in a menu or  palette.
  • The Companion 2 strikes a decent balance between size and weight. Sometimes I wish the screen was slightly larger but the size has not caused me to have issues illustrating.
  • The colors are bright, the lines go where they are supposed to
  • As mentioned above portability is a huge plus.
  • The touch screen is nice and when I want to zoom in or out or rotate the page I just use my fingers to handle that task.
  • The pro grip pen that comes standard with any Cintiq is a little large for my liking so I purchased the classic pen which is a little narrower and feels more like a tradional pencil. Both pens work great and if you have bigger hands the pro pen maybe perfect for you. You also don’t have to replace any batteries in the pens which is a plus.

The Bad

  • The tablet runs hot and the fan is constantly on. Fortunately I am hard of hearing so as long as my hearing aids are off I don’t hear it running. The fan exits out the bottom of the tablet which is normally in the lap so I believe it gets warmer because sometimes the vent holes are covered up.
  • The connector for the power is poorly designed and would benefit from being a magnetic power connector like the Surface Pro or Apple MagSafe. This wouldn’t be a real issue if the battery life was longer (which I’ll mention more in a minute).
  • There is no place to store the pen with the tablet when not in use. This is more of an annoyance then anything but the Surface Pro pen attaches magnetically to the tablet which is nice.
  • The stand works but seems to be an afterthought more than anything.

The Ugly

  • Battery life is pathetic. The Surface tablet lasted close to 9 hours on a charge and I would expect that the Companion 2 would be similar and its not even close. The Companion 2 lasts a paltry 2 to 3 hours and spends most of its time plugged in while being used.

Wrap-Up

Overall for an artistic tool it delivers an experience similar to its bigger Cintiq brothers. It’s as close to traditional drawing without having ink, charcoal or paint under your fingernails when you are done. I have created numerous drawings using only the Companion 2 (see a few below) and while not perfect the Cintiq Companion 2 allows me the freedom to draw anywhere, while also functioning as a regular tablet where I can check email, take notes, or watch something on Netflix.