New Wacom 13HD Cintiq

March 22nd, 2013 | Posted in It's All Geek to Me!

I’d love to say I’m doing a review of this new Wacom Cintiq 13HD “portable” unit because I was sent one by Wacom to test drive, but they don’t return my phone calls. sooooo…. I only know what I’ve read like most of the rest of the world. However, I am a veteran of using 4 different models of the Cintiq (five if you include borrowing a pal’s original Cintiq 15sx to do a job when I was on vacation), including the 12wx which I did review hands on, so after seeing the specs of this new model I can safely make some recommendations for my fellow digital artist gadget junkies.

Save your money for the real thing.

Don’t get me wrong, they fixed a lot of the stuff that was bad about the 12wx. For starters, they have a removable stand that will lock into several different angles for whatever works for you, rather than the horrible recessed stand on the 12wx that didn’t allow you to adjust at all. They of course boosted the specs, so you now have a larger screen but in a smaller and lighter unit, higher resolution, 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, greater brightness and larger viewing angle.

All that is great. The biggest improvement, however, is the elimination of the video control “brick”, which used a proprietary single cable that went to the Cintiq and then had three cables going to your computer’s USB port, DVI video port and AC power. The 13HD has what they call the “3 in 1” cable that looks like it comes directly out of the cintiq, and then splits into three for USB, video via HDMI, and power. I really hated all those cables and the giant brick needed to wrangle them, so that part is attractive. There seems to be no indication anywhere on the Wacom website or in any reviews whether or not the power cable still needs a brick aka transformer, however. The need for an adapter between the HDMI output and a DVI or Mini Port input matters little, since I always needed one for my Mac since the advent of their Mini Port anyway, and they are not expensive.

All sounds good, right? It does if you need a Cintiq RIGHT NOW with some degree of portability. If you already have the 12wx, are not in any hurry for a portable option, or are looking for a non-portable studio solution (just get a real one for an extra grand), take a pass. Cintiq is still not delivering the truly portable solution that everybody is waiting for. That would be:

  • All the specs listed above
  • On a screen of a full portable computer
  • That runs on battery power

In this day of fast evolving tablet computing, it is ridiculous that Wacom still has not partnered up with a computer manufacturer and made a truly portable graphics computer. The 13HD is not it. You still need a separate computer, you still need AC power, you still have cables all over the place. For some reason Wacom is only allowing reduced versions of their technology into other devices like the Modbook Pro and Surface (less pressure sensitivity, no tilt sensitivity, fewer features). It isn’t like they don’t have the technology. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??

Supposedly Wacom is working on a “dream device” that will be a multi touch, full pressure sensitive pen, HD, etc. If it doesn’t run full versions of PhotoShop or Painter, then it’s nothing but an expensive sketchpad, but it would be ALMOST there. I’ll be watching for it, and maybe it will surprise me. This 13HD only makes me wish I could magically transform my 12wx into it for zero money, because while it’s better in many ways than the 12wx they had it is still far short of a real portable solution.

Still waiting……


  1. Anton Emdin says:

    Thanks for the post. Yeah, my excitement was dashed, too. Wacom will have a LOT of sales from a truly portable sketchbook.

  2. Tom, without bothering to check your archive first, have you checked out the series 7 slate, or the new surface pro? Both sound like what you’re wanting in the super portable range. Both run full windows and Photoshop, but both also have less pressure sensitivity than a cintiq. I have the series 7 slate but I’m actually thinking of trading it in for the 13hd. I’d rather have a pen only screen for just drawing than a mixture of touch and pen on an operating system that isn’t primed to handle it.

    • Tom says:

      I have not tried either but, as you say, they aren’t quite there yet. Maybe what I need is too specific, and for most digital artists a good portable digital sketchpad is all that’s necessary. I want a portable digital studio where I can open a full illustration file and literally work on it just like I do at home on my big Cintiq without much compromise. The closest thing to that right now is the Modbook Pro, and I don’t trust that company after they went belly up and disappeared for so long. I’d pay $3,000 for a laptop/Cintiq combo if it was from a company that didn’t A) hack their product from another company’s base laptop B) had a better track record for staying around and providing support.

      • Tom, I think you should try out the surface pro, since its essentially the updated series 7. It runs everything you want, and it is a full computer. You might not notice the lessened pressure sensitivity. If you have the cash or the clout I think it would be worth your time to try as a supplement to the cintiq line when you’re out and about.

        • Tom says:

          I’ll look into it. Thanks.

        • JB says:

          “Lessened pressure sensitivity” as in “Photoshop and other applications like Toon Boom don’t recognize any pressure variations from the pencil whatsoever”…

          Microsoft has been saying they’re looking into a solution (for Photoshop) for many months now, but the situation with that product seems very discouraging.

  3. Andy says:

    Are the pens on Cintiqs (or even Intuos) better than the old Graphire pens? I destroyed two pens.The one I’m using at the moment has a piece of wood as a button, held in by sticky tape because the original button fell out somewhere and the rubber grip turned to goop within a year of purchase. The main button’s internal micro-switch self-destructed in the other one.

    • Tom says:

      I never had any problems with the graphire pens when I used the Intous tablet, but IMO the latest pens are far more solid and substantial,

  4. s.t.a.l.m says:

    Hey, you can easily build one. Take a 13HD + a suitable laptop. Take away the keyboard and screen. Put it together and solder some cables – Voila!

    • Tom says:

      No keyboard, no touchpad, two power cables, still can’t use a battery alone… 🙄

      • s.t.a.l.m. says:

        I’m not saying it’s easy, just that it is possible. You will probably need a power source with some more Watts to be able to run both laptop and the 13HD. Keyboard and mouse you connect wireless … New chassis you get from a friend that can 3d print it … You will have to open up the 13HD so you need to make sure it works ok, before loosing the warranty.

        • Kyle Maloney says:

          “I‚Äö√Ñ√¥m not saying it‚Äö√Ñ√¥s easy” Isn’t that precisely what you said? :p

          Anyway, I’m wondering what the best affordable alternative there might be to a full on Cinitq. Being portable isn’t even as much of a concern for me yet, I just know I cant afford what their charging for the real deal. But I am itching to upgrade from my intuos 4 to something with a screen.

  5. Koji Cabuto says:

    Well, I’m a veteran as well and like you I have about 5 Cintiqs, and some Pls, Bosto, Yynovas tablets.

    Although you make a interesting point, business wise the “All In One” is not a going to happen since it woudlnt fit Wacom business model. Cintiqs life cycles are roughly 4-5 years of life spam for any given individual model.

    In order for wacom be able to release an all in one they will have to design a unit that can withstand 4-5 years of computer generational technology.
    CPU’s and GPUs are refreshed roughly every 6-7 months. This could only work if they can design a case where users can upgrade the internals. Is not going to happen.

    If after 3 years after the first release of an all in one isn’t refreshed users will be pissed when wacom do not refresh the internals. This topic can be very long and be highly debatable. so I think a clear point is made.

    A Cintiq, as mentioned before, are refreshed every 4-5 years. If we use some logic, it will tell us that this will not happen from a purely business stand point. Moving into a business venture where they will have to change their business operations to suffice the rapid generational cycles that computer graphics go through may not be something they will be embarking on.

    Samsung is investing in Wacom therefore you will see more laptops with their technology. Like it was advised above, the Series 7 (ativ pro 700) is full HD and 1024 presssure. However, this specs are deceiving since the intuos line are superior (disgitizer wise) and the cpu still struggles depending on the task a user may through at it computationally.

    Although the samsung and Modbook claim 1024 pressure is true, they do not performed equally to 1024 of the older intuos 3. I would know I have tested them to death. Day in and day out

    I do use the Ativ t700 on the go and it works.

    If you are waiting for an all in one and intuos technology from wacom. I can almost assure you that it will not happen in the next 10 years.

    You will however find eventually the portability you may want from some of the current to computer manufacturers. They will must likely include a wacom technology but youl will have to settle for the old tweaked 256 pressure digitizer that can handle now 1024 through a firmware update.

    I hope this can help you understand why only tablet display options likely to be the flavors coming out of wacom.


    • Tom says:

      Your point that computer technology changes too rapidly for Wacom to want to make an “all in one” because their customers would be “pissed’ is exactly the best reason why Wacom SHOULD do it, business-wise. They would trade a 4-5 year consumer upgrade of their products to a far less time. You overestimate any company’s caring about making their customers upset by upgrading their products. No one is going to care that the officially licensed Cintiq “Art Studio” laptop has the same Cintiq technology but ever increasing laptop technology for 5 years. A few will be upset that the laptop they got 12 months ago is now not the latest and greatest, but has that hurt Apple, or any other computer manufacturer? People are used to that. Some people have to upgrade, some wait. That business model has been working for a long time now.

      I think Wacom is resistant to licensing out their full technology for laptops becuase they don’t want to split the profits with computer manufacturers. Right now they get 100% of the wholesale net from every Cintiq purchase, dictate and can charge their exorbitant prices. If it’s part of an integrated laptop, they only get a licensing fee or partial profits of a lower priced item. For that reason they won’t do it. BUT if they partner with a laptop manufacturer and create an “Art Studio” version of a laptop, and then charge $3000+ for it, they will tap into a small but vibrant pro graphics community that will pay those prices.

      Eventually Wacom will be forced to be involved with creating a Cintiq-equipped laptop, because some other company will develop their own pressure sensitive technology to rival theirs, and they WILL do it.

    • s.t.a.l.m. says:

      Wacom technology is one LCD + additional 10 bucks of hardware and then the rest is software. In my world you would change a Cintiq tablet as you would with a normal laptop when you want to upgrade to better performance… The sad story is that Wacom have laid a minefield of patents preventing the evolution to carry on …

  6. Kogi Cabuto says:

    You do bring some interesting points. Although clearly from the standpoint of the (artist segment) consumer. The hardware business is in a transitional state (I’m sure you can make an argument on that one), and licensing their higher end technology definitely shouldn’t be out of the question depending of the deal a manufacturer can offer Wacom as a potential line of high end products. Example a Dell Precision with an intuos and multitouch 17′ incher workstation, instead of their attempts with the
    N-trig variant.

    Wacom as a company have been stuck on its business model for some time and in reality, even though they are the global leaders, they are likely to understand the shaky grounds they could be if attempting to move on a venture they have no history or funds to sustain themselves in case of a blunder. The best possible scenario would be to offset the risk by going via a partnership with another company.

    In this case there is the emergence of Samsung. The problem with Samsung is that they do not have any high end line of products that can benefit on the intuos line. Not to mentioned that the computing world is very much focus on social interactivity rather than art and workstation.

    Depending on Samsung investment and agreements with Wacom you will definitely see more Wacom oriented products.
    That said most likely Wacom will be careful if considering to license their higher end digitizer company that could potentially affect their line of exclusive products.

    Although you could argue that if there are more options bay having more companies having the ability to buy more bulk of all of the tech lines they Wacom could make more revenue. True, but then again this hasn’t happen to this day there is no reason to believe that it will. Which tells me that there is an ideology behind the reasoning for not moving on that direction in the past.

    Bringing back my earlier post point and staying pragmatic.
    In the consumer level we will see more wacom related products such Lenovo’s portable display and Samsungs. They have the R&D and distribution infrastructure in place. Division of revenue is another matter of course.
    Demographics are very important indeed, but since Wacom most likely will never release an all in one product, the only possibility will come from any of the computer manufacturers to want to release a demographic specific product that requires the higher end components.

    Computer manufacturers do not care much for the artist segment, but rather the social segment. This trend is not likely to change. It wouldn’t make any financial sense for a manufacturer (Samsung) to license at a higher price a digitizer for social media users when most users can not tell the difference of the digitizer variations

    Most likely if you want to benefit from the higher end intuos technology, you will probably have to settle for the stand alone display.

  7. Ben says:

    I want the 24hd, however that would take me forever to save up for. I have an intuos4 at the moment, and I would hate to feel like I’m just “getting by” with the 13hd. is there any value in purchasing the 13, working with that, in the meantime saving for the bigger one? or to get by with the intuos until a larger Cintiq can be afforded?

  8. Eugene says:

    Hi guys, I never worked with Cintiq before. Could I connect this new 13HD to macbook and work without power supply?

  9. Oluseyi says:

    Hi Tom! Occasional visitor, I always seem to rediscover your blog when Wacom puts out a new Cintiq 🙂

    I’m considerably more excited about the 13HD than you are, as someone who isn’t a veteran of multiple Cintiqs and still can’t justify the cost of a “studio” model, and I’ll be closely eyeing this to replace my Intuos in the next month or so. But that’s beside the point:

    Did you hear that Wacom IS working on a mobile device exactly like you say you want‚Äö√Ñ√Æbattery powered, multitouch screen, stylus-driven pressure sensitivity, etc. They even claim “features you’ve never seen before in a mobile device.” (I don’t use Facebook, so I only heard through third parties.)



New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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