Cintiq 13HD Update

Back in April of 2013, I wrote a review article about the Cintiq 13HD, which was a new purchase for me at the time. 4 years later, this continues to be one of the most-viewed posts on my blog. This is a bit surprising because there have been many new releases that impact the market for those who might be interested in such an item. On the other hand, Wacom still sells the Cintiq 13HD and it is the least expensive Wacom pen display that you can find on Amazon (generally running around $800 as of today.)

So, how does the 13HD stand up after over 4 years of use? Am I happy with my purchase? Do I feel the need to upgrade to a newer pen display? What about the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil?

I can tell you that after 4 years of use, I’m still very happy with the Cintiq. But it isn’t perfect. My unit has been solid throughout my time with it. I’ve used it with a 2011 iMac 27″ a 2014 MacBook Pro, and now a 2013 Mac Pro and it has been invaluable for editing in Photoshop. Over the years, I’ve found myself using it more in Adobe Illustrator as well (which is slowly increasing pressure sensitivity in some areas). It’s still fantastic to use with Sketchbook Pro by Autodesk.

Pros and Cons:

Pros:

  1. Still an excellent pressure sensitive display for photoshop and sketching.
  2. The single connector, though somewhat wanky, is still a single connector, which is very convenient.
  3. The buttons on the side of the device are fantastic in work-flow use once you set them up for your app’s most used functions.
  4. 13 inches is a great size for most things and yet isn’t so big that it takes up a huge portion of your desk.

So, what are the negatives about this product? There are 3 negatives to the Cintiq 13HD:

  1. The cable attachment is thick and a bit unwieldy with an attachment that has been reported to have problems.
  2. Accuracy of the pen is poor as you approach the edges of the screen. This makes almost all interface UI elements less accurate than they should be.
  3. There is some slight parallax when compared to the iPad Pro/Pencil combo.

In my use, these don’t really come into play.

When the Cintiq isn’t being used for pressure sensitivity, I have it set up as a 2nd screen, which is very useful for various things. I frequently keep iTunes open on that screen. Sometimes I’ll watch some YouTube over there while I’m using my main screen (34″ LG Curved display) for productivity. I 3D printed a stand for it, and it works great.

When I’m using it (mostly for Photoshop), I just pick it up off the stand and lay it in front of my keyboard on the desk. This makes keyboard shortcuts accessible.

In comparison to the iPad Pro/Apple Pencil combo, I have to admit that the iPad pro and pencil are fantastic to use in iPad native apps. For sketching, I really prefer that combo to the Cintiq, mainly because I value being able to sketch mostly in places beside my desk. I purchased Astropad, which allows you to use the iPad pro in a fashion similar to a Cintiq. While this works, there is lag and the mirroring of the screen to the iPad is limited. I need to do a separate review of this. Anyway, it doesn’t work as well. If there were some way to use the full version of Photoshop on the iPad, it might work better. For sketching, the iPad Pro is slightly better in my opinion.

In summary: It’s been a great purchase. The Cintiq 13HD does exactly what I want it to do.

My criteria that will be required before I upgrade to a new Cintiq-type device:

  1. Improved single-cable connection. (Thunderbolt 3 should be perfect for this, with power for the device and all the I/O needed to drive it) This would also be a thinner, more flexible cable.
  2. Better accuracy at the screen edges.
  3. Bonded glass display for zero parallax (the new Cintiq Pros apparently have this)
  4. Higher quality display (the 16″ form factor may be nice as well)
  5. Buttons/Interface – the buttons are so useful when deep into editing. Switching between tools. Every time you take your hands away from the display to they keyboard interrupts the flow. There has to be a seamless answer for this.

I would like to see the Cintiq Pro 16 in comparison. The price is pretty reasonable on that unit and the display specs appear favorable. On the other hand, I need to update Astropad and see how that works a bit… it has been almost a year since I gave that a try and I suspect it’s had time to mature and improve immensely.

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