I do a lot of work with Photoshop. Sometimes it’s tossing together a cover. Other times I’m doing graphics for an advertisement or something. Photoshop skills are useful to have, and it’s even more useful to have a good digitizer.

I’ve been using my iPad Pro + Astropad, more on that in a post of its own, for the past year or so. Before that I had a Cintiq 22HD, but the thing was so big and unwieldy that it wasn’t pleasant to use. I do love the feel of Wacom’s products, though, and so with their new Cintiq Pro line out I decided to give the 16 a test drive.

Note that I mostly do Photoshop manipulations. I dabble in digital art, but I’m far from a great artiste or anything like that. My creative talent lies with the written word, though digital painting is one of those things I’ve always wanted to perfect on that magical far future day when I have the free time to do it.

I just wanted to get it out there where I’m coming from when I talk about the Cintiq. I’m semi-pro/hobbyist, and not the kind of person who is putting in ten hour days in front of the Wacom.

The good:

Sleek, stylish, and functional.

The Cintiq Pro 16 is fucking beautiful. It has smooth lines. The screen is quite good. One of my complaints with the 22HD was the 1080p was really showing its age even on a 22″ screen in a retina display world, but there’s none of that with the Pro 16. Even running at 1440p it was wonderful to look at.

The pen is a Wacom pen.

Enough said. There’s a reason they’re the industry leader and people have been using them despite some of the wonky issues that inevitably show up with each new generation of their products. There’s no substitute for the Wacom pen experience. At least not until their patent runs out.

Parallax

I’m talking about the annoying thing where the cursor was offset from the tip of the pen. Not a useful method for determining distance to celestial objects or a villain from the Green Lantern comics. Parallax plagued earlier Cintiq models, but it’s almost completely gone with the Pro line. Sure there was a little bit of offset, but not enough to be truly noticeable.

The footprint for the 16 Pro is way smaller.

The whole thing is smaller and sleeker than the previous Cintiq line. I was able to easily find a place for it at my writing desk which was nice for me since Photoshop is more of a side gig for me rather than the main event. If space is a concern then the 16 definitely saves it. It’s still not going to be terribly convenient to take out to a coffee shop, but if you’re serious about using a Cintiq then you’re not working in a coffee shop to begin with.

That reduced size also means that the Cintiq Pro 16 is a hell of a lot more comfortable to pick up and place on your knees. There is still cabling attached, but it’s not nearly as intrusive as the 22HD or the 13HD were once upon a time. And the USB-C connectors seem to be pretty reliable without some of the breaking issues that plagued the 13HD which should make people feel better about using this on the couch. If you have a laptop that allows you to use a Cintiq on the couch, and a power strip nearby, and a good cable management solution, and so on and so forth.

This isn’t really a mobile device, is what I’m getting at. You’ll have to pay the premium for the MobileStudio if you want that, or just buy an iPad Pro with the pencil and ProCreate or Astropad which is close enough for quick work.

The bad:

Wonky touch controls

The touch controls suck. There’s no getting around it. Moving around the canvas with two fingers works well enough, but the zoom is basically broken. You either zoom way in or not at all. The palm rejection also wasn’t the greatest even when I was wearing a drawing glove. I disabled the touch controls and found myself pining for the good old days of zooming with the touch ring, which brings me to…

No buttons

The quick buttons that lived on the side of the previous line of Cintiqs are gone. Sure it makes for a more aesthetically pleasing device, but it is something I missed since the touch controls were such crap. Wacom helpfully sells an external ExpressKey remote for about $100 if you absolutely have to have them, but for that price I had a bluetooth keyboard by my side. Why pay $100 for a few shortcuts when you can have all the shortcuts for cheaper?

USB-C vs Displayport + USB

Wacom, much like Apple, is jumping onto the USB-C bandwagon. USB-C might be the wave of the future, but Wacom fans are going to have to get in line with the Apple fans who have had to stop worrying and learn to love adapters and backwards compatibility issues.

If you have  USB-C port on your computer great! You’re good to go. If you’re like most of the current population who haven’t upgraded yet there is a solution provided in the box. They have a breakout box that goes from one USB-C wire to a USB 3.0 and Mini DisplayPort connection. This worked on my MacBook Pro even if it added more wiring to hide away, but it wasn’t without problems such as…

Resolution

Wacom advertises the Cintiq Pro 16 as a 4k screen. Which it is if you use a USB connection. If you use the breakout box with the USB/Mini DisplayPort adapter the most you get out of the box is 1440p. Which is still plenty big, but not the 4k advertised. There are posts around the Internet that claim the issue is with the Mini DisplayPort cable Wacom provides and that swapping it out for a cable that supports 4k fixes the issue, but as of this writing I haven’t had a chance to try that out.

Edit: I’ve since tried this out with mixed results. I was able to get it to work at 4k by getting a new cable, but there’s a catch. It’s wonky if you have another external monitor hooked up. I got it to work at 4K with another monitor connected a couple of times, but eventually it stopped working and I had to disconnect the external monitor which was annoying, to say the least.

Stand issues

The stand is pretty much nonexistent. There are two little kickstands on the back of the Cintiq that raise it a couple of inches, but there isn’t the adjustable stand that came with the 13HD or the Companion 2 line, and nothing like the massive desk real estate devouring stands that came with the 22HD and higher. It didn’t bother me too much, but if you’re the kind of person who sits staring at your Cintiq all day long you might want to look into a third party solution so you don’t develop any neck RSI from constantly hunching over to look at the screen.

Fan noise

There are fans in the Cintiq Pro 16. They kick on pretty quickly and run almost constantly. This faded into the background for me and wasn’t a bother, but I know there are some people who get annoyed by that so I wanted to note it. Not to mention it did lead to an even bigger issue which I’ll detail below in a section I’m calling…

The ugly:

The fans ran almost constantly. That wasn’t an issue. What was an issue was when I rested my hand on the left side of the screen, we’re talking the minimal amount of force caused by gravity pulling my hand towards the center of the earth with the screen in between at good old fashioned 9.8m/s squared, it pressed the screen down to the point that it brushed against one of those fans inside and created a godawful buzzing noise.

I can’t imagine that was good for either the fan or the expensive sensitive screen. I asked around in some Wacom enthusiast forums and other people say they don’t have that issue so it’s entirely possible it was a defect with the unit I tried out, but it’s something to be aware of.

Edit: I’ve since tried TWO other units. Neither one had the fan buzz issue. It looks like I got a slightly defective unit the first time around.

Wavy horizontal lines

This was another dealbreaker for me and apparently it’s an issue that several people have had. Every time I moved the pen near the bottom of the screen, or touched the pen to the bottom third of the screen, it would create several rows of faintly flickering horizontal lines about an inch tall and an inch across. It was prominent enough to be a distraction and an annoyance, and not the kind of thing that should be showing up on a piece of kit this expensive.

I contacted Wacom customer support about the screen issue and they were very nice and asked me to duplicate the issue, but at that point the minor annoyances in the bad coupled with these two dealbreakers in the ugly convinced me this unit wasn’t for me. Especially for what they were asking. I don’t mess around in Photoshop often enough that it was strictly necessary, especially considering I already have the iPad Pro and AstroPad, and I figure something that expensive shouldn’t have that many issues right out of the box.

Edit: I mentioned above under the fan noise that I tried two additional units. Both of those units exhibited the ghosting dark lines issue along the bottom of the screen, so that seems to be a price of doing business with the Cintiq Pro 16.

The takeaway

The Cintiq Pro 16 is an amazing looking device. It has the Wacom pen which is still the best in the industry, but the issues plaguing it mean I’m going to hold off before I give it another try. Obviously they still have some kinks to work out, and here’s hoping that they work them out in the next revision. If you already have a Cintiq it’s probably wise to wait just a bit, and if you’re using a tablet it’s not time to upgrade just yet.