Early in 2015, Wacom released the second generation of their Cintiq Companion. And this time, I believe Wacom got it perfect. The Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 is really a killer creative tool for the artist on-the-go. Imagine having the ability to take your digital art canvas and creative apps with you wherever you need to go - whether you are finishing a project while travelling, or need to present your creative vision to others. The new Cintiq Companion 2 is, quite simply, an artist's dream machine.
With five available options in the Cintiq Companion 2 line, the unit I am reviewing here is a higher-end Companion 2, with Intel® Core™ i7, 512 GB SSD, and 16GB RAM. It has a 13.3-inch display size with QHD (2560 x 1440) resolution. And let me tell you, this machine rocks! It is a sweet-looking tablet, too, and a huge improvement over the first generation Companion that I reviewed a couple years ago.
New and Improved
While I really did like the first generation Cintiq Companion on its release a couple years ago, there were a few things I was not completely fond of. However, I am very happy to say that there were a lot of changes that went into the Cintiq Companion 2.
First off, I was very happy to see that the power button is now in a much better position. With the first generation Companion, the power button was at the bottom, right of the tablet, and it was all too easy to accidentally press that button in regular handling. This has now been remedied with a different positioning, plus the fact that it is now a slide switch. So, regardless of whether the tablet is turned for right-handed, or left-handed use, you shouldn't have this accidental power on/off again.
Another big improvement is that there are now two front-facing speakers on the unit. Previously, the speakers were in the back, which made it somewhat difficult to hear.
The new Cintiq Companion 2 also seems to feel a bit lighter than what I recall with the first generation unit - perhaps it is maybe just a better weight distribution. Don't get me wrong, it still has some heft to it (3.75 lbs), but it feels more comfortable to carry than I recall. Also, I really like the sporty new carrying case this time around!
One thing that was surprisingly lacking in the first generation Companion was the ability to hook it up to another computer to use as you would a regular Cintiq. That functionality was only previously available for the Companion Hybrid (android version). Now you can use the Companion 2 as a tethered tablet, and it does come with the Cintiq Connect cable to do so.
ExpressKeys are a fantastic way to improve your workflow with Wacom tablets, and that has been improved here as well. Now there are two more ExpressKeys in the Companion 2. The first generation had four, this has six. The ExpressKeys are fully customizable, even to the point of being program-specific. And, there is the Rocker Ring with four customizable positions and a home button. You can even call up on-screen controls as well.
Also, the new Companion now has a full SD card slot, as well as a Micro SD card slot, whereas the first gen unit only had the Micro slot. And, you get plenty of connectivity with three USB 3.0 ports, a miniDisplay port, and the aforementioned Cintiq Connect cable port to tether to another computer. You also get a 2MP front camera, and an 8MP rear camera.
The Pro Pen that comes with the Cintiq Companion 2 comes with its own case, including an additional 9 nibs. The pen is excellent and very comfortable to use, and you get a full 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, as well as tilt recognition. There are also two customizable buttons on the side of the pen that are comfortable in use as well. And, I should also note that the Cintiq Companion 2 is a multi-touch tablet.
Cintiq Companion 2 In Use
Right after Windows set-up and customizing, I loaded up Corel Painter 2016, and Adobe Photoshop and After Effects CS6. Nothing personal, just my go-to programs, which I figured would do well to test out the Companion 2. For digital painting, the Companion 2 worked like a dream. I love the ability to draw/paint directly on the screen. And the surface is great, as it has a little 'bite' to it that doesn't make you feel like you are drawing on glass.
The high-resolution screen is fantastic, and video looks amazing on it. However, programs that don't take high-density displays into consideration, have interfaces that end up looking tiny. This was the case with the Adobe CS6 products, which might have been remedied in Adobe CC. I was able to adjust, though, and did some heavy render-intensive video work in After Effects, which the Companion 2 handled very well.
And as battery life is an important issue, I wanted to see how long a charge would last, putting in some good work. Turns out a good medial usage will see you through around 4 hours. Less if you really task the machine, and a bit more if you play with battery-saving settings and are not doing heavy work.
I also got to test out the Companion 2 with a bluetooth Wacom keyboard accessory (which is sold separately). There is an on-screen keyboard, but depending on the work you do, I think the bluetooth keyboard is a good idea.
One thing I should mention, as I've noticed it's been a hot topic about the Companion. That is the 3-position stand. I'll admit when I reviewed the first generation Companion, I initially thought the stand was kind of clunky and weird. The stand has not seen any improvements with the Companion 2, but I actually have no problem with it. It does its job just fine, and it even has two rubber strips along the bottom ends that keep it from slipping when you work. Perhaps it could be made a bit better in the future. But, for me, I'm okay with it as is.
I do have one final word on improvements, though. I really think it's great to see that this time around there are five options available, which make it a little more affordable for some folks to get into this product line.
In my time with the Cintiq Companion 2, there really isn't anything I could complain about. Sure, I wish the battery would last longer, but that's a small complaint. Having the power to do what you need to in about 4 hours of battery life seems perfectly acceptable to me. With all the improvements made since the first generation Companion, I think it has come a very long way, and Wacom really took customer opinion into consideration. The Cintiq Companion 2 is a very well-designed product, and I give it my highest recommendation.
Sincere thanks to Wacom, and Doug Little, for providing the review unit.
There are five models of the Cintiq Companion 2 to choose from:
- 64GB Intel Core i3 $1,299.95
- 128GB Intel Core i5 $1,599.95
- 256GB Intel Core i7 $1,999.95
- 512GB Intel Core i7 $2,499.95
- Intel Core i7 with Intel vPro technology (customizable build)