Friday, July 12, 2013

Wacom Cintiq 24HD Touch in-depth review

So you are thinking about buying Wacom Cintiq 24HD Touch

Reasons that I thought about buying… As a long time lover of the Wacom products, I had quite a history with using their products.  I had a serial 9x11 (and for those of you that don't know what serial was, there use to be serial and parallel interfaces in computers of old, is has since been replaced by USB and the like) So I had a tablet to draw with clear back in the 1990's.  I bought the original Painter (in a paint can, no less).  I have always liked the idea of having a pen to be able to sketch and draw and paint with a digital interface.  Chances are that the thought of using both the analog of a drawing pen with the latest advancements in the digital realm.  If you know about me from my bio, you know that my primary profession is designing software interfaces.  This usually involves a very large amount of drawing.  About 6 years ago, I convinced my boss to let me get a Cintiq 21UX for work.  If you are looking at the Cintiq 24HD Touch, chances are that you are already a digital artist of some sort, or want to be.  When the announcement came of the 24HD, I got really excited about the added capabilities, with the extended full HD resolution.  For a while now, trying to do digital whiteboarding, using a HD projector with the Cintiq 21, was a pain.  So I thought that moving to a full 1920x1200 resolution would enhance this greatly.  Probably my main excitement came from the enhanced ergonomics of being able to pull the drawing surface closer to me.  Drawing on the 21UX was alright, but trying to keep a keyboard close by, and draw made for a sore back most of the time.  To my surprise, Wacom announced a Touch version of the same 24 HD.  To me, this was going to remove the need for keeping an external keyboard nearby.  I watched several of the marketing videos that showed "beta" software that made this thing really sing.  I had to have one.

Here is what I actually use it for.....  So my primary uses were going to be, drawing user interfaces, mostly in Photoshop, and photo retouching in Lightroom and painting in Painter 12 on my personal time.  So I use this to draw, edit, prototype, and share what I am drawing by hooking to a HD projector and mirroring the Cintiq display on the projector.  I started with Windows 7 Enterprise Edition and most of the features that were demoed in "beta" software, were released by the time I got the Cintiq.  While it wan't perfect, like how Painter would stop being able to touch the tools menu bar, even though multi-touch zoom and rotate would continue to work, it was awesome.  Photoshop had it's own strange-ness with using touch features to zoom and rotate, but it too was very cool. Being able to see what you are drawing and touching right on the screen as you draw it, is amazing.  Especially when you switch between a pencil, to a pen, to a brush, to selection tools, it is awesome.  As a monitor, the color reproduction is also much improved over the 21UX. 

Here are the things I didn't expect or didn't likeWow, where to start. So I thought that software updates would fix all the annoying bugs that seem to happen in the initial release.  I upgraded both the Wacom drivers and other software like Adobe Photoshop as soon as they were released.  This was the worst experience that I have had with any piece of software.  I am not one to complain about buggy software, because I know the nature of software because I write software.  It is rarely perfect.  But when every update actually made things worst, or kept things the same, I went from annoyed, to livid over the course of several months.  I updated to Windows 8, thinking that maybe these products were being tested in a different environment than I might be using -- no such luck.   So without taking you through the process, today, almost a year after the release of this product, it doesn't work even as well as it did the first day.  I actually did an unboxing and a review of the product when I got it, and showed features that don't work now.  As far as I can tell, Adobe pulled out of being able to support some of the basic features of this touch and pen enablement.  So, for most people, this means that using their primary software choice, Adobe Photoshop, requires the touch feature to be turned off.  This wouldn't be so bad accept for the fact that it kinda worked before, as it was a selling point in the marketing material.  It was very strange to watch how Wacom had remove marketing material and place "disclaimers" on their website saying that Adobe didn't support touch features.  It also wouldn't be as bad if the touch version was a few hundred dollars difference.  But it's not, it's 1000 + more for the touch version. 
I do not think that knowing what I know now, that having the touch version is worth the trouble and heartache that I have had over this past year.  My disclaimer for this is that Adobe might come around an do a update tomorrow and make it all better.  The testing teams of both Wacom and Adobe should be ashamed of themselves.  They let a marketing and sales teams push through a product that wasn't ready.  Shame on them.  Shame on Adobe for not recognizing this trend and having a touch ready product with the release of Windows 8.  This was the primary reason that most people bought a Windows 8 tablet and if they did, they are frustrated trying to learn some other drawing program and product.  I can understand not doing an RT version, but are you really going to ignore the potential market of Touch and Pen combination that would have been huge.   
I spent a huge amount of time trying to get a Touch Keyboard that would work well.  I found the Windows 7 virtual keyboard to be useful, but without enough flexibility to really use it to replace a hardware keyboard.  The Windows 8 touch keyboard is better in some areas, but much much worse as a replacement keyboard, as it is designed for tablet devices and not desktop screens.  I will probably do a full review just on the state of the virtual keyboard world.  

Here are the super cool things that I love about itSo, with all that said, and ignoring touch features for a moment. The pen interface (even though there have been problems with certain pens and programs) for me, it has worked very well.  Like I said before, the color and brightness and the texture of the screen are all great.  The touch ring and programmable buttons are all so much better and very useful.  I love the multi-touch added capabilities that are also programable.  Being able to position the screen at an angle to prevent back ache makes things so much more comfortable. Too bad I have to turn off touch and still position a keyboard within reach. 
I am so utterly disappointed with this product.  It is like having something that is a dream come true, but, when you get it, it is all smoke and mirrors.  I have to say that there was a large stretch of time that I just didn't use it.  I used the old fall back of just a mouse and keyboard.  That was just sad times.  
There may come a day when Wacom and Adobe get back together to give creative professionals the best experience that money can buy - who knows, it could be next month, next year, or maybe never.  Right now, there is NO REASON to buy the Touch version unless you are a gluten for punishment.  Wait till they figure out what the hell they are doing. 

Settings that I use all the time…
Custom settings for buttons for applications
Multiple monitor setup and projector mirroring
Cakewalk Sonar X2 with update for touch (Win8 only but still very cool)

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