We were impressed when we saw the forerunner to the Cintiq 12WX – the Cintiq 21UX. A responsive, easy-to-use tablet with an integrated 21.3in LCD, it was ideal for professional artists and designers. It wasn’t so good for those on a budget, though, and its whopping $4000 price tag hasn’t dropped since its release. However, Wacom has heard the cries of consumers, and while the 12WX still doesn’t qualify as an impulse purchase, at $1405 it’s just within the grasp of most committed enthusiasts.
The core pull factor is still there – the integrated LCD. The key difference is the diagonal – the 12WX’s screen measures 12.1in instead of 21.3in, and the 21UX’s resolution of 1600 x 1200 has been cut to a 16:10-aspect 1280 x 800. In practice, this means more zooming in and out when dealing with minute details.
But while some of the other specifications have also been scaled back, the 12WX is still a fine graphics tablet. With 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, it’s possible to make anything from the most finessed of pen strokes to the broadest brush sweeps, and the resolution of 5080dpi makes the 12WX highly accurate. Drawing on the screen is a dream – it’s responsive, precise, and with practice it’s possible to generate some spectacular results. It’s sensitive to the tilt of the pen as well, making drawing as realistic as it can be.
The screen itself is a slightly mixed bag. The 1280 x 800 resolution isn’t overly constraining, but the display is rather dim. The active matrix panel has a brightness of 180cd/m2, which compares poorly with modern panels, most of which sport figures of 300cd/m2 or higher. In use it’s not too problematic, but you’ll have to be careful with lighting conditions. The panel can display 16 million colours, and its response time is a generally smear-free 25ms.
The other problem is with colour accuracy, so if that’s vital, you’ll need to use a calibrated monitor in concert with the 12WX. Our RGB colour ramps showed a fair amount of banding, with our green ramp especially prone to issues. Our greyscale ramps were equally problematic, and while the results weren’t bad compared with those of budget monitors, it means you’ll have to do some careful proofing between finishing an image on the 12WX and having it printed. There’s also a significant amount of backlight bleed along the bottom edge
of the screen.
But even with these drawbacks, there are some clear advantages to drawing directly onto a screen. Instead of needing to constantly flick your head between your tablet and screen, your actions with the pen are immediately married, so you’re less likely to make mistakes. The 12WX weighs only 2kg, is just 17mm thick and never got beyond warm in our extensive testing, which means you can use it on your lap for hours in perfect comfort. On the base is a rubberised pivot allowing you to quickly rotate the panel if it’s flat on a desk – a thoughtful addition for those who will use it all day, every day. There’s also a fold-out stand in the base, allowing you to use it as a miniature drawing easel.
There’s similar flexibility with the supplied stylus, which is nicely weighted and has a rubberised grip. The bulky nib on the top is used as an eraser, while the main nib is replaceable – over time it will wear down. Wacom includes no fewer than six alternatives, including one spring-loaded nib designed to feel like a brush, and a more abrasive one designed to feel more authentically pen-like. Wacom also makes alternative pens, including one designed to work and feel like an airbrush, and another with a wide, flat blade designed to work like a marker pen. The single drawback is the lack of compatibility with pens from the Intuos range of tablets, which will aggravate those looking to upgrade.
We’re particular fans of the modular design, which means that the panel itself doesn’t include much in the way of electronics, keeping both its weight and heat output down. Instead, the tablet connects to a breakout box via a proprietary 2m cable. The box connects to the host PC either through D-SUB or DVI, plus USB, with a further cable supplying power via a power brick. The result is extra clutter, but all the bulk can be hidden behind a desk instead of spilling out of the tablet itself.
The 12WX isn’t cheap, and occupies a distinct niche, professionally speaking, but producing a simple doodle is easy, intuitive and fun, and it brings a whole new angle to graphic design. There are plenty of graphics tablets that do the job with similar accuracy and sensitivity, but being able to draw directly onto such a responsive screen makes a huge difference to ease of use.
This Review appeared in the May, 2008 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
Source: Copyright © PC Pro, Dennis Publishing