Cintiq 21UX

30 Jan, 2011 By: Ron LaFon

First Look Review: Wacom's pressure-sensitive, interactive pen display fits the bill for creative professionals who want a leading-edge tool.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the Fall 2010 issue of Cadalyst magazine.

Wacom's new Cintiq 21UX is a unique product that combines the best of digitizing tablets with a high-resolution display, allowing digital artists to draw directly on the display surface. This immediate and responsive feedback is unparalleled, and it completes the eye-to-hand coordination loop for creative individuals.

Host of Features

The Cintiq 21UX is a newly redesigned pen display that features a 21.3" diagonal screen with UXGA resolution — 1,600 x 1,200 (4:3 aspect ratio). The active area of the display is 17" x 12.75", and the physical size of the entire device is 22.1" x 16.6" x 1.9" (W x H x D). The tablet can be rotated plus or minus 180 degrees, and the incline of the included stand can be adjusted from 10 degrees to 65 degrees. The entire unit with the stand weighs 22.4 lbs.

Characteristics of the amorphous silicon (a-Si) active matrix display include a maximum power consumption of 54 W, 2 W or less in Sleep mode, and 1 W or less in Off mode. Additional lower resolutions to 640 x 480 are supported by the Cintiq 21UX in 24-bit color. The pixel pitch is 0.270 mm x 0.270 mm, typical contrast ratio is 550:1, luminance is rated at 220 cd/m2, and the given response time is 20 ms. Viewing angle is rated at 170 degrees x 170 degrees.

An onscreen display is part of the Wacom drivers, and it offers access to manual controls for brightness, contrast, pitch, phase, vertical position, horizontal position, transparency, auto adjust, language, backlight, menu position, reset, scaling, and color temperature (9300K, 6500K, 5000K, custom, user, and direct).

The stand can be removed, if desired, for using the Cintiq 21UX on a tabletop or for attaching it to an optional articulating arm using the standard VESA mounts located on the back of the display.

The high-resolution grip pen features 2,048 levels of pressure, doubling the resolution of the pen's pressure curve and improving the accuracy of pressure-sensitive effects. A tilt range of plus or minus 60 degrees is possible with the grip pen, making it a very flexible and responsive tool.

Several innovative productivity elements are incorporated into the design of the Wacom Cintiq 21UX. For example, rear-mounted Touch Strips are placed ideally for fingertip access while working. Each Touch Strip has an accompanying thumb-controlled Touch Strip toggle button that controls as many as four different user-assigned functions — such as zoom, scroll, brush size adjustment, and canvas rotation — per application.

In addition, the Cintiq 21UX has customizable, application-specific ExpressKeys. These eight keys, located on each side of the display's bezel, help to improve workflow and boost productivity by placing commonly using commands in easily accessible positions. You can press the top ExpressKey to bring up an onscreen display showing the settings of all the ExpressKeys and Touch Strips. The ergonomics of these productivity innovations is great, due to the locations of these controls; they are at once easy to access yet difficult to inadvertently touch while in the midst of design operations.

The Wacom Cintiq 21UX is a newly redesigned interactive display that delivers responsive pen performance and innovative ergonomics in a color-accurate LCD display.

In addition to the obvious benefits afforded to users of applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, the Wacom Cintiq 21UX also is useful with numerous Autodesk programs to customize shortcut settings and tie repeated tasks to Wacom's ExpressKeys, Radial Menus, and toggle switches on the grip pen. Wacom currently is working with industry leaders to develop sample configurations that can be downloaded and shared within an organization to speed learning curves and standardize the end-user experiences. For collaboration, users can work with applications such as Adobe Acrobat, Autodesk Design Review, Bentley ProjectWise, and Bluebeam PDF Revu to mark up and share com-ments and design changes by working directly on the LCD surface.

In the box, you'll find a Cintiq 21UX interactive pen display, a grip pen and pen stand, a display stand, five replacement pen nibs, a DVI-I-to-VGA cable adapter, a DVI-I-to-DVD-D cable adapter, an AC power adapter and power cable, four rotation lock screws, and a bearing hub recess cover plate and screws. There's also a quick-start guide and user manual, an installation CD that includes driver software and an electronic manual, and an application DVD.

Using the Display

The provided application DVD includes Corel Painter Sketch Pad, an ideal partner for the Cintiq 21UX; Nik Color Efex Pro v3.0 WE6 for selectively applying lighting and photo enhancements with the pen; and Wacom Brushes v3.0 with 81 customized brushes for use with Adobe Photoshop CS+ and Adobe Photoshop Elements 4+.

Many applications — including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Autodesk SketchBook, and Corel Painter — independently support pressure-sensitive tablets. For applications that don't specifically support pressure sensitivity, the Cintiq 21UX is supported as a high-resolution pointing and positioning device. This capability makes the Cintiq useful for a broad range of professional endeavors, including industrial design, graphic design, GIS, illustration, animation, and photography.

Operating system requirements for the Wacom Cintiq 21UX are Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP (SP2), or Macintosh OS X 10.4.8+. Also required is an available DVI or VGA connection, an available USB port, and a CD-DVD drive. Installation was fairly straightforward, though some useful information was left out of the given installation procedure, which left one of the tablet configuration marks located completely outside of the display area. I was able to resolve this problem fairly swiftly, but some additional notes in the installation instructions would have prevented the problem.

The Wacom Cintiq 21UX has a suggested retail price of $1,999 and is covered by a two-year limited warranty in the United States and Canada. Optional accessories include additional grip pens, a classic pen with extra nibs, and an airbrush pen. Three different nibs — stroke nibs, hard felt nibs, and standard nibs — are available in 10-packs. For those who find the Cintiq 21UX too large for their particular work environments, Wacom also offers the Cintiq 12WX, which is based on a 12.1" thin-film transistor (TFT) display. Also worth investigating is the Wacom DTU-2231, a 21.5", 16:9 wide-screen LCD that is based on Wacom's patented, cordless, battery-free pen technology.

Cool Tool

Although at times I found the Cintiq 21UX to be a tad unwieldy — something that prolonged use would likely eliminate — I came to be enamored of it. There is something truly natural about the responsiveness of drawing on an active display that provides immediate feedback and flexible design options — it just feels right. My inclination is to pick up the Wacom Cintiq 21UX and treat it as I would a drawing pad — something that is unfortunately not possible with current technology, but I can wish. The Cintiq 21UX is a remarkable tool for the creative professional; it has features and accessories obviously evolved for the needs of these individuals. It is a professional tool and is priced accordingly, but for those who can make use of what it has to offer, it is an outstanding option. Highly Recommended.

About the Author: Ron LaFon

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