Tablet Review: Wacom Cintiq 13HD

June 10, 2013

By Scott Neumyer

Wacom’s previous HD interactive pen displays, the Cintiq 22HD ($1,999) and Cintiq 24HD ($2,599), have long been (very expensive) wish list items for many serious digital artists and professional photographers. Now the tablet giant has brought to market the family’s new little brother: the Cintiq 13HD ($999.95). While photographers can get away with clicking and pointing with their mouse or trackpad to do their photo retouching, imagine how much more quickly and efficiently (and possibly more precisely) you could do the job by actually drawing directly onto your photos with an interactive pen. That’s what the Cintiq 13HD offers.

What’s great about this new version of Wacom’s high-definition line of interactive displays is the fact that, while it retains many of its larger siblings’ features and usability, it arrives at a more affordable price point and it does so in a much more portable form.

Compare the weights of the three models: The Cintiq 22HD (with stand) weighs in at 33.7 pounds, while the 24HD (also with stand) tips the scales at a whopping 63.8 pounds. My arms are tired just thinking about lifting that massive display onto a desk, where it would most certainly stay put.

The new Cintiq 13HD, on the other hand, comes in at a svelte 2.65 pounds. Add 13.5 ounces if you decide to use the optional stand and you’re still carrying around an infinitely lighter machine. This lends to one of the display’s most impressive selling points: portability.

Photographers and artists are often on the go these days. The Cintiq 13HD makes it simple to add this item to your laptop bag right alongside your mobile workstation. Another advantage of the decreased size and weight is the display’s ability to run cool throughout a long post-production touch-up session. While the 22HD and the 24HD tended to get extremely warm (and sometimes downright hot) during long work sessions, the 13HD can easily rest on your lap for hours at a time and stay significantly cooler than even your laptop might.

While Wacom’s new offering might be the right size and weight for a traveling setup, it’s definitely not a truly portable solution. You’ll still need to lug your laptop along as the Cintiq 13HD must attach to your computer via the included Wacom 3-in-1 cable. There you’ll find attachments for a power source, a USB and HDMI. Keep in mind as well that if you’re using a Mac, you’ll most likely need to pick up one of their Mini Display Port to HDMI connectors for a few extra bucks if you want to connect the Wacom display. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s definitely an inconvenience.

The lack of true portability and the fairly high price point might scare some photographers away, but the positive aspects of Wacom’s Cintiq 13HD far outweigh the negative.

What’s in the Display?
The 13HD is a truly gorgeous interactive pen display that provides plenty of useable room on its 13.3-inch screen for just about any photographer looking to up their post-production game. Imagine being able to quickly draw, shade, dodge and burn directly onto your photos using a 1920 x 1080 full high-definition screen (boasting 16.7 million colors) and an interactive pen that has 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity. That’s what the 13HD brings to the table (or to the lap), and it does it with precision, style and power.

The display screen and pen combination is extremely responsive and lag between the computer and the 13HD is non-existent (depending, of course, on how much computing power you have in your Mac or PC). Drawing feels natural and you don’t have to worry about resting your hand on the display as you draw—the 13HD only senses the pen’s touch. The included detachable stand is lightweight, but sturdy, and offers four viewing angles (22 degrees, 35 degrees, 50 degrees and flat). I, however, preferred to hold the display on my lap, which worked just as well and offered me the chance to sit back in my reclining chair and work comfortably for hours.

Included in Wacom’s package is a nicely weighted interactive pen with a rubberized grip, complete with its own magnetically snapping case that also holds the nine different included pen nibs that vary in shape, size and feel. The case also includes a nib removal tool as well as several colored pen rings so you can differentiate between your tools if you decide to have more than one pen working at a time.

Like many of Wacom’s other tablet offerings, the Cintiq 13HD also includes several programmable buttons on the display itself as well as two buttons on the interactive pen. These switches make navigating your photo, changing tools on the fly, and increasing zoom, brush size and shape a snap once you’ve gone to the trouble of customizing them to your personal preference.

The Bottom Line
For professional photographers looking to bring an extra level of precision and flair to their detailed post-production work, the Wacom Cintiq 13HD is a much more affordable option in the company’s long-entrusted line of interactive pen displays. It’s more portable and useable than previous versions of the display, works incredibly well for its intended use and offers plenty of customization for even the most detailed photographer. The price is still a bit high, and the prospect of a truly portable, computer-free tablet on the horizon makes the 13HD seem like a shaky investment, but it still comes highly recommended in the professional marketplace. Hobbyists and photographers who don’t do a lot of detailed retouching will more likely lean towards one of the less expensive non-interactive-display tablets in Wacom’s lineup.

Pros: Extremely lightweight; never gets hot to the touch; beautiful full HD display; responsive and comfortable interactive pen; much more portable than previous models in this class

Cons: Not truly portable yet; HDMI connection means you may need additional accessories (especially if you’re a Mac user); price is still a bit high for most photographers looking to break into the interactive display game; Wacom may be introducing a truly portable, computer-free tablet display sooner than we think

Price: $999.95;