Tuesday, 13 September 2011 17:02

Wacom Cintiq 24HD first look

Wacom Cintiq 24HD first look by Ardjuna Seghers

Using Intuos 4 pen technology, the new 24in Cintiq offers a 1,920 x 1,200 resolution, 92 percent of Adobe RGB, improved connectivity and controls, and a massive, semi-industrial stand. For those who want to see what they draw on the surface they're working on, it's the ultimate artist and designer tool.

Today is an exciting day for graphics-tablet fans in general and Cintiq fans in particular. When we reviewed the 20in Wacom Cintiq 21UX recently, our biggest complaint was the screen's 4:3 aspect ratio and sub Full HD resolution. We recommended Wacom bring out a model with a 1,920 x 1,200 panel minimum, and that's exactly what the company has done with its brand new Cintiq 24HD.

As its name suggests, the 24HD sports a 24in panel. But it's not just larger and with a higher resolution, Wacom has also upped the colour gamut and increased contrast. Meanwhile the chassis is a complete, ground-up redesign, with improved controls and an industrial stand that puts many architects' drafting tables to shame, as well as more connectivity options.

It's basically on a whole other level to the 21UX, and indeed both models will co-exist in the Cintiq range, rather than the 24HD replacing its smaller sibling. Wacom doesn't classify its 24HD as a graphics tablet, but rather as a "digital workbench". The only thing that remains unchanged is that it still uses Intuos 4-equivalent technology, so you can draw on the glass-protected screen using the included stylus, and the tablet part will pick up delicate lines or hard strokes, pen angle and more.

So let's get into the nitty-gritty. Haters of glossy will be glad to hear that the new Cintiq is mostly encased in matt black plastic, while the tempered, etched glass front sports a reflection-killing semi-matt finish. Build quality is superb, even better than on the already impressive 21UX. The stand feels like it's made from cast iron, featuring metal arms that provide enough strength that you can lean on the tablet even in its raised position (handy if you want to draw for a bit while standing up).

The impression of solidity isn't harmed by the 24HD's quite frankly astonishing weight of 29kg! That's nearly three times as heavy as the 21in model, and confirms this Cintiq's status as a permanent fixture on your desk (of course, that's a lot more viable now that the display is large enough, contains enough pixels and is of a high enough level of quality that it does a great job as your primary monitor).

A lot of the 24HD's weight is due to its 15.3kg stand, which has been balanced so that you can put the base at the edge of your desk and tilt the tablet/display over the edge at an angle. This is probably the most comfortable working position available, and the 24HD has been designed so that you can lean on it while working. Not only is the construction of this Cintiq strong enough to take your entire upper body weight, but the bezel has been significantly extended to give you plenty of area to rest your elbow(s) on.

In fact, there's almost as much bezel as screen this time around, and Wacom has used the extra space to add more controls and make the existing ones more accessible. The fully programmable eight control buttons (called ExpressKeys) on each side are now variously positioned and of different shapes and sizes to make it easier to know which one you're pressing, which we feel is a positive change. We also like that the touch-sensitive zoom strips - which used to be behind the bezel at the sides on previous are now the same rings as on the Intuos 4.

The three shortcut buttons at the 24HD's top are also welcome, especially one that calls up a virtual onscreen keyboard – essential for naming layers when you haven't got a physical keyboard easily to hand. The other two offer access to the onscreen overlay for the ExpressKey functions and direct access to the software driver for easy fine-tuning.

As to the pen and holder, it's the same as with the Wacom Cintiq 21UX and Intuos 4, meaning you get 2,048 pressure levels, angle and tilt sensitivity, a rocker switch and pressure-sensitive eraser, as well as a selection of nibs stored in the holder. For more details, you should check out our Intuos 4 review.

Suffice to say, drawing on the 24HD is as close as you can get to drawing on paper while actually drawing on a digital display. The added ergonomics make the experience even more comfortable and flexible than on the 21UX (though you can no longer rotate the screen). The only possible downside is that the glass feels slightly smoother, giving less friction than its smaller sibling.

When it comes to the actual screen, improvements are significant. We're dealing with a 24in, 1,920 x 1,200 (16:10) IPS panel here, and though we would have loved to have seen a 27in 2,560 x 1,440 version, it's more than usable as a primary display. Not only did colour vividness and contrast appear to have improved over the 21UX (as far as we were able to assess in our brief hands-on time), but the 24HD caters to those who want an extended colour space too, offering 92 percent of Adobe RGB (the 21UX only offered 72 percent, making it an SRGB-only screen).

Connectivity is also significantly improved. The 21UX had a big, unwieldy cable that was fixed to the back, and terminated in power, USB data and DVI video plugs. If your cable became damaged, your tablet was basically unusable. The 24HD has removable cables that are threaded through the hollow arms and channels in the base to come neatly out of its rear. Both DVI and DisplayPort are offered simultaneously so you can connect two machines out of the box, and you can just use standard cables like with any ordinary monitor.

The best news of all is that, compared to the 21UX, pricing on the bigger and better model is eminently reasonable, and Wacom has improved the warranty to boot. The 24HD can be yours for a 'mere' £1999, which is only around £200 more than its lesser sibling, and includes a three-year onsite warranty.

While we're reserving judgement till the full review, our first impressions are that Wacom has ironed out all our concerns and niggles about the previous top-end Cintiq to make for a compelling all-round professional product that simply has no rivals. The Cintiq 24HD will start shipping towards the end of the September.

Wacom Cintiq 24HD

Wacom Cintiq 24HD

Wacom Cintiq 24HD

Wacom Cintiq 24HD

Wacom Cintiq 24HD

Wacom Cintiq 24HD

Wacom Cintiq 24HD

Source: trustedreviews