Click to viewHere's the video review for the new Wacom Cintiq 12WX, a tablet that allows you to draw directly on the screen with extreme precision, great feel and amazing results (even with butter fingers like mine). The Cintiq 12WX is probably the best peripheral I have ever tried. If you are not a professional illustrator or photographer, you may want to get one. If you are pro, however, you will be wondering why have you been waiting for so long for this 12" wonder.

(UPDATE: Since there were so many questions in the comments, I've updated the post with new information)

Pressure-sensitive displays are common now in the Windows Tablet PC world, but not all tablet displays (or as Wacom calls them, interactive pen displays) are created equal. The 1,280 x 800 Wacom Cintiq 12WX has 1,024 pressure levels on both the pen tip and the eraser, with a +/- 60 tilt sensitivity. The difference is clear from the very first time you fire up Painter or Photoshop. The pen smoothly reacts to your actions like it would in the real world. The only thing you will miss is the drag of the actual pencil or pastel on paper.

I connected the Wacom Cintiq 12WX to my 24" iMac via DVI (using a mini-DVI-to-DVI adapter, only necessary when dealing with an iMac or some laptops). I connected it to the Mac via USB as well, to record the pen's data. The video and the USB, along with the power, go into a small box that you can easily put on the floor, as the cable that goes from the box to the tablet is quite long and allows for plenty of freedom of movement.

The process is pretty much plug-and-play. Once you are connected, the Mac or PC with Vista will automatically recognize the extra monitor, which behaves like any other display connected to your machine: your desktop will extend by 1,280 x 800 pixels and that will be that. You can also mirror your main monitor, but I like having the extended display. After you install the Wacom drivers (and I recommend you download the latest ones from the site), the tablet component will be live and ready to use to its full capacity.

The trackpads, thin strips of touch material similar to those on a laptop or an iPod, allows you to zoom in and out dynamically, just by sliding your finger. Those along with the buttons—which are programmable but come by default as modifier keys like Shift, Control and Command or Windows keys—allow you to draw and retouch constantly without having to use the computer keyboard at all. The top key on each side is, by default, configured to allow you to jump from the Wacom display to the main display. When you click on it, the cursor jumps to the main screen so you can select menu items or whatever you want. This effectively converts the Cintiq 12WX into a regular Wacom and completely avoids the use of the mouse in your system.

You probably recognize some of the illustrations in the video from Giz's pages. That's because I have been using the Cintiq for the past two weeks yet even so, I can only come up with two negative things to say about it. First, it has a very rare video glitch that I can't reproduce in other systems and, in fact, I can hardly reproduce it in my own. My guess is that it's a strange video driver issue, either with Mac OS X or the Wacom. The second "negative" thing is that it takes a bit of time to get used to those buttons and side trackpads but once you get in the habit, they can be real time savers.

Other than these two points, I can only say positive things about the tablet. The quality is great, the ease of use can't be beat and it just feels great in your hands. What's more: it speeds up your work because this is the way that you are supposed to work. After using it, trying to control Photoshop with the mouse—or regular graphic tablet—will feel like trying to paint holding a brick dunked in acrylic paint. In your mouth. Blindfolded.

For some people, the price for natural hands-on drawing and photo/video retouch would look excessive, however. If you are an amateur, the $999 price tag is hard to justify. However, if you have the money and you enjoy working on your images and digital paintings, I can tell you that it's worth every cent, if only for the joy.

If you are a professional artist that needs to retouch stills or video or draw from scratch, the Wacom Cintiq 12WX's price is peanuts. It saves so much time and could make the job so much more precise and better that it will pay off in a few hours of work. In other words, if you do this for a living and don't get one of these, you will be wasting your money. Even with that little glitch, which looked like a driver issue in my iMac, I can tell you that you won't be able to go back to a regular graphic tablet or, God forbid, a mouse. The two-year guarantee just sweetens the deal even more.

There's only one thing I miss in this thing. Like my wife would say: more inches. Or pixels. Or however she's measuring the size of my tablet these days.



UPDATE

Response time

The response of the tablet is great. There's is no delay between the pen moving and the actual pixels appearing on the screen. In the video some people perceive a delay but this is because of two reasons: first, the actual LCD screen is separated from the drawing surface a couple of millimeters. While you draw, you don't see this separation because you calibrate the tablet to match your point of view, so the tip touches the pen. However, when you film it from another angle, you see the separation of the pen and the pixels, giving you the illusion the trace follows the pen while this is not true. Another reason, while watching the video again myself, could be that I sometimes do the gesture a few times without actually drawing. This is something that happens to me—and most illustrators—naturally with both real media and the Cintiq. While filmed, sometimes you get the illusion that I am drawing and the line doesn't appear until later, on the second or third pass.

Software compatibility

The Wacom Cintiq 12WX is compatible with any software, including Photoshop (that's the whole point of it, not Excel.) It works transparently and, like I said in the review, it's completely plug-n-play.

If you have more questions, please use the comments.

[Wacom]