So you want a Cintiq? Start with an iPad Pro.

Apple has a history of leap-frogging existing technologies, and understanding users needs better than users understand their own needs. They did it with the original iMac when they eliminated the 3.5" Floppy Drive and helped usher in the era of USB keys. They did it with the iPod, and helped usher in the era of digital music-- buh bye Discman and heavy CD wallet. And they did it with the iPhone when they eliminated the physical keypad, buttons, joysticks, roller balls, and the stylus from the cell phone -- or 'Pocket PC's' as they were called and created an incredible user experience that changed the course of mobile phones forever. When the iPad Pro was announced in September 2015, the press covered it with lukewarm reception, noting it was essentially just a bigger iPad with an optional fancy stylus and keyboard. But for those in the field of design, the iPad Pro was much more. It was another instance of Apple leap-frogging an existing technology in the creative field and ushering in a new era of professional grade on-the-go creativity. For years, Wacom was synonymous with professional design studios. If you were a designer in any field, chances are you had a Wacom tablet on your desk and had used one ever since you could afford one. If you were able to scrounge enough coin together, you had the ultimate Wacom-- a variant of the Cintiq or Cintiq Companion family, which allowed you to draw and create right on the screen. Wacom has given creatives great tools to create with in the digital space, all while making high quality, beautifully designed products with terrific warranties and great customer service. Their Cintiq has been regarded as the golden standard for on screen drawing for years. In the last two years Wacom began to expand the Cintiq lineup with both larger variants in 24" and 27" sizes (in addition to the highly popular 22") and mobile variants with the Companion and Companion Hybrid variants.

About a year ago I was very fortunate to receive a Wacom Cintiq Companion to review during a trip to Zagreb Design Week. "What could be better than a mobile Wacom Cintiq?" I thought at the time. During my trip, I was sadly let down by the Companion. It was heavy. The fans ran hot. The battery lasted barely more than 2 hours when working with it. The power brick to recharge the batteries was big and heavy. And while it ran full PC apps like Photoshop and Lightroom, using them on a small 13" high res screen was less than ideal. I was sad. I wanted to love the Companion. Yet even after all of that, I still wanted one because there was nothing else on the market like it. Little did I know what was going on at Apple. After Apple's September announcement of the iPad Pro, like many designers and early adopters, I could not wait to get my hands on an iPad Pro, and when I did, in a split second it was clear that Apple had just pulled off another technological feat. Apple had just leap-frogged Wacom, especially the portable Companion. The iPad Pro IS the new gold standard in on screen drawing. Because Apple developed the Pencil, the iPad Pro, and the software (iOS) in conjunction, the experience is seamless and incredible. The latency is almost imperceptible. There is no 'gap' between the tip of the stylus and the screen due to the incredibly thin screen of the iPad Pro. The sensitivity of the Pencil is also quite amazing-- you can hold it from the end like a paintbrush and get extremely light marks. And the precision is like nothing else-- hand writing is easy and flawless. The glide feel is terrific and weight of the pencil feels familiar and good in the hand. But all of this is only the beginning of a great experience. The iPad Pro is light and highly portable. It's battery lasts 10 hours, and the charger is small. There are no loud fans, no hot air, and the screen is stunning. Drawings almost feel like they are popping off of it.

Then there is the question of software. Critics will say that you can't run 'full' apps on it like the Adobe suite. True, but trust me, on a small high resolution screen with a touch based interface, you don't want to use' full anything' because these apps were not designed for the iPad. Take Procreate, Pixelmator, Enlight, Concepts, Paper by 53, or Artrage for a spin, or even Adobe's mobile apps, which were all designed for the iPad and you will see they provide an experience that rivals that of 'full' computer based apps. When it comes to 3D, uMake is your portable digital 3D sketchbook which you can use to ideate on the go and refine the models back on your workstation. Add to that that you can use many of these apps together to achieve really incredible results on the go-- create an underlay in uMake and do a complete rendering in Procreate while traveling on an airplane for example.


iPad Pro:Pros:

  • Price: Starts at $899 with the Pencil, Tops out at $1178 with Pencil
  • Lightweight (1.57 pounds or 713 grams)
  • Portable (only .27" or 6.9mm thick)
  • Small power brick
  • 10 hour Battery life
  • Access to the iOS App Store
  • High res screen (2732 x 2048 resolution at 264 pixel per inch
  • Apple Pencil and Screen work together
  • Palm rejection


  • Entry level only has 32GB of on board storage
  • Max onboard storage limited to 128Gb
  • Not mouse compatible for more task based activities.

Wacom Cintiq Companion:


  • Can run Windows 10 and full Applications--(pro and con-- good for workflow, however with the screen, hard to use some features)
  • Matte finish on the screen
  • Max onboard storage up to 512gb
  • Can be used as both a computer and a monitor to draw on with both PC's and Macs (very cool feature)
  • Powerful intel processors
  • built in USB 3
  • built in SDHC and MicroSD card slots.
  • Customizable buttons on the body.


  • Price: Entry level companion starts at $1299, and tops out at $2499
  • Not very portable- heavy (3.75 pounds or 1700 grams
  • Short battery life (stated to be 4 hours, real world was about 2-2.5 hours)
  • Lower screen resolution with gap between surface and screen (2560 x 1440)
  • Big, heavy and unwieldy power brick.
  • Complex cable system for connecting to computer
  • More latency between stylus and screen compared to iPad Pro

When it comes to a question of value, the iPad Pro offers a ton of bang for the buck. The fully loaded 128GB iPad Pro with 4G and with the Pencil tops out at $1178. The 64GB Wacom Cintiq Companion starts at $1299 and the top of the line Cintiq companion tops out at $2499. The 22" Cintiq (which requires a computer) starts at $1799, and with touch $1999 and both have HD resolution (1920 x 1080). When Apple launched the iPad Pro, essentially they democratized the professional grade on-screen drawing experience. For those considering a Wacom Cintq or Cintiq companion to get that experience, consider starting with the iPad Pro. It is unmatched technologically, gives you access to thousands of award winning and incredible apps (like Procreate and uMake) and is the least expensive and most portable option currently on the market. In other words, you can't go wrong starting with the iPad Pro for a great on-screen digital creation experience that is also highly mobile.

Posted on

February 10, 2016