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Wacom’s pressure-sensitive graphics tablets have become ubiquitous, indispensable tools for Mac-based graphic artists. But if co-ordinating movements across a tablet with on-screen actions is awkward for you, then consider Wacom’s Cintiq, the latest iteration of that company’s combined tablet and LCD screen. It fixes many idiosyncrasies of Wacom’s previous LCD tablets and, at £1,195, is more reasonably priced.
The Cintiq’s 15-inch LCD screen has a maximum resolution of 1,024-x-768 pixels and support for 24-bit colour. Simply by pressing and holding a hinged release on the Cintiq’s stand, you can tilt the tablet to any angle for use as a completely upright monitor or an almost-flat tablet.
Because Cintiq works as a second display, you’ll need an additional video card. The Cintiq attaches to your Mac’s video port via its DVI outlet, and it comes with a DVI-to-VGA adaptor – so you should have no trouble attaching it to any modern Power Mac, iBook, or PowerBook with a video-out port. To connect it to a Power Mac G4 that has an NVidia GeForce2 MX video card with TwinView, you’ll need a £36 ADC-to-DVI adaptor, available from Lindy (01642 754 000). No matter which Mac model you use, you’ll also connect the Cintiq its USB port.
The tablet’s display is first-rate, offering excellent colour, brightness, and contrast; however, the contrast ratio of the Cintiq’s LCD – like that of all LCDs – varies slightly across its surface.
Earlier Wacom LCD tablets suffered from two main problems. First, the tablet surface that sat over the screen was so thick that there was too much space between the on-screen image and where the stylus touched the drawing surface. This created a parallax problem that was annoying when doing fine-detail work. But the Cintiq has a much thinner drawing layer, which allows the pen almost direct contact with the underlying surface.
Second, previous Wacom LCD tablets had a very slippery texture that pens would often skate across. The Cintiq’s surface is much-improved, providing resistance similar to a piece of paper’s, and giving you much better control for fine strokes. However, it isn’t tilt- and bearing-sensitive, so it can’t determine the angle at which you’re holding the stylus, and therefore can’t use that information to vary the characteristics of strokes.
We can’t help but wonder why Wacom didn’t include the new Grip stylus, which comes with the high-end Intuos2. The Cintiq is also a lower-resolution tablet than the Intuos2, and it lacks a programmable menu.
Previously, it was difficult to recommend Wacom’s LCD tablets to anyone but highly paid graphic artists, but this is not true of the Cintiq. The tablet’s improved design and more comfortable drawing surface, as well as its ability to stand upright make the Cintiq well worth its price. If the bulk of your work involves digital painting or retouching, and especially if you’ve been contemplating the purchase of an additional flat-screen monitor, you’ll want to seriously consider the Cintiq.