Cintiq 21UX review

Forget the iPad: here’s the digital sketchpad most artists will want. Despite costing more than many workstations and being about as portable, the Cintiq 21UX is so much more than a sketchpad. It’s an easel and a full set of Grumbacher paints and brushes, enabling you to create final artworks, not just roughs.

Like the iPad, it has a 4:3 touch-sensitive screen that feels odd if you’re used to widescreen displays – but its 1,600 x 1,200 resolution is enough to prevent tools, from Photoshop to After Effects, feeling cramped.

The design is more appealing than the muted greys of the 21UX’s predecessor, which confusingly had the same name. It’s not just the design that Wacom has improved: the new 21UX works better too. The level of sensitivity has been doubled to 2,048 – so you’ll really be able to fine-tune effects in tools such as the wet paint system in Photoshop or Painter.

More importantly, the older model’s parallax effect – at which the point where your pen appears to touch the screen seems to float over what you see in Photoshop – has been reduced, giving a more natural, tactile experience.

Despite having an excellent colour depth, the screen of the 21UX has one major flaw – it’s a heavy gloss that shows considerable glare under bright sunlight or studio lights.

Another issue is the Cintiq’s bulkiness and weight. Even without the base, the main unit weighs more than a 17in laptop – and it’s unappealingly thick. This makes it more than a little cumbersome to use on your lap, although it is a lot easier on a desk.

The well-designed base has two paddles, like a steering wheel, that let you quickly tilt the 21UX, and rotate it to avoid having to draw strokes at odd angles. Along both sides of the bezel are the ExpressKeys and Touch Toggle, with Control Strips behind.

Lefties will be glad Wacom has put ExpressKeys, Display Toggles and Control Strips along both sides of the Cintiq. While many left-handed creatives have learned to use right-handed mice, the use of your natural hand for drawing is a must.

OUR VERDICT

Every artist, designer, animator and compositor will want a Cintiq 21UX. It makes drawing, painting, designing and rotoscoping like being a kid with crayons again – it’s just so much fun to use. Its price will put many off, but if you can afford it you’ll quickly learn to love it.

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