Apr 212014

A few months back, my Intuos graphics tablet died, so I replaced it with an Intuos Pro.

Well, I’m 3+ months into using it, and it’s not really working for me. It may be the change from a smooth surface to the rough surface of the Pro, or the general feel of the stylus, but whenever I use it for longer than 30 minutes, my fingers hurt.

I’m holding the stylus as light as possible without dropping it, and my fingers still hurt.

So I have spent the last week or two looking for an alternative.

I like my Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and I like drawing directly on the screen, so I decided to look along those lines.

I spent a LOT of time looking at the Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2. The Surface is a nice ultra-portable laptop, but I had a few reservations about it, chief being a display that is just too small for me. I think Microsoft did a great job with the Surface, and it’s pretty to look at, but I don’t like the Windows 8 interface, and the extra money to get 8GB of RAM and another $140 for a keyboard are, in the end, deal-breakers for me. I will probably revisit the platform when they come out with a new version, or my VAIO dies.

I also spent a lot of time looking at Yiyinova displays. The 22HD was the only one I was seriously considering, but the VGA connection bugged me. I would have had to put in a second graphics card to run it, and I didn’t want to mess with that. I already run two DVI displays, so there wasn’t any room to hook up a Yiyinova without adding another card. (And it doesn’t do HDMI.)

While I was flailing around, I found that MacMall was having a big sale on Cintiqs. They use an HDMI connector, and I still have one of those left on my graphics card.

To be honest, I wasn’t even considering one, because of the pricing. But the current Cintiq line has some nice specs, and it’s something I’ve always wanted. Even on sale, the new Cintiqs are a bit out of my price range. So I checked MacMall’s refurbished Cintiqs. Bingo! That’s the pricing I’m willing to go with. The refurbs are significantly cheaper, and come with a one-year warranty.

I decided on a 13″ Cintiq because I don’t have room for anything bigger. (Not much, anyway.) Also, the 22HD was $1599. Ouch. The refurbed 13HD was only $799, plus tax and shipping. I could live with that.

When it showed up, the tablet itself was pristine. No scratches, dust, or fingerprints. Nice. The stand and pen case, well, those were dirty, but not damaged. I have a tub of yellow goo called Compu-Clean that works wonders on this kind of stuff. It removed all of the dirt, dust, and other random stuff from the rubbery parts.

I’ve been using the 13HD over the weekend, and I really like it a lot. Setting it up with my dual-monitor system was kind of a pain. My main monitor is 1920 x 1200, and the 13HD is 1920 x 1080, so if I used the Cintiq as a mirrored display with my main monitor, my main monitor would get all messed up. (It changes the resolution to something that looks unpleasant.) I wound up mirroring my second display, a 1920 x 1080 Asus display. The Asus display isn’t terrible, but it’s kind of janky and over-saturated, and I’ve never been able to get the colors to not look weird. As a box that shows video, it’s fine. As something color-accurate… that ship never sailed, and probably never will.

One other minor beef with the 13HD is the stand. It’s cheap, and prone to collapsing if you aren’t really careful with it. So be careful with it. You only get three angles to choose from.

I like the controls on the side, but the controls on the Intuos Pro are better, and it’s a $500-$600 cheaper tablet. Instead of the great circular control of the Intuos, there’s a circular button with four buttons on it, and one in the middle. Meh. It’s okay, but not nearly as flexible. Instead of 8 more buttons (4 above, 4 below), there are only 2 above and 2 below. For the money, I want more buttons.

But these are minor complaints. Using it is a joy. While my Galaxy Note 8.0 has a capable pen and digitizer (also by Wacom), the S-Pen is too small and becomes uncomfortable over time. Also, there’s a distinct lack of really good drawing programs in Android. Autodesk Sketchbook Pro is the only program I can be remotely productive with, and it’s lacking far too many tools. (Gradients, anyone?) In spite of its limitations, I love drawing on my Galaxy Note 8.0. It bring a kind of immediacy I just can’t get from a graphics tablet.

The Cintiq improves on that experience quite a bit.

Using the 13HD with Clip Studio Paint (also known in the US as Manga Studio Pro) is a breeze. I love CSP for designing quick and dirty graphics and forms. It also runs Photoshop CS6 just fine, too. I tweaked the settings for Photoshop to change the controls to suit my workflow better. The only downside– I had to shove both programs in my Asus monitor window. Oh well.

I haven’t had a chance to put Lightroom through its paces yet, but I will soon. I hope this will speed up my photo editing workflow– using a pen on sliders should be faster than mousing over a bunch of sliders. We’ll see.

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