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Review: Wacom Cintiq Companion 2

A video editor puts this tablet to the test

By Brady Betzel

If you’ve ever used a Wacom Intuos or Cintiq tablet, then you know how efficient they can make your workflow, regardless of your job title. I’m a video editor, and after using a Wacom Intuos 5 I immediately noticed less wrist pain when compared to using a mouse.

Wacom makes very high-quality products that do not disappoint. The Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 is a tablet with the power of a laptop, coupled with the precision of the company’s famous line of pen tablets. Whether you’re an illustrator, a visual effects artist or even an editor, you should check out this tablet.

Under the Hood
While there are multiple configurations of the Wacom Cintiq Companion 2, I will be reviewing only the version I received to test. It’s loaded with the Intel i7 dual core (four thread) 3.1GHz processor, 8GB of DDR3 memory, 256GB SSD Toshiba hard drive and Intel Iris Graphics 5100 graphics card. It comes pre-loaded with Windows 8.1 Pro (if you purchase one with an i3/i5 processor it comes Windows 8.1 standard). This configuration retails for $1,999.95.

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Other configurations run from $1,299.95 all the way up to $2,499.95. In addition, the Companion 2 also comes with a carrying case, stand, the Pro Pen (my favorite accessory), an AC adapter and the Cintiq Connect cable. There is a set of six express keys that I don’t often use — except when doing some Photoshop work — but they are programmable and they are there. Around the outside you get three USB 3.0 ports, a display port,a microSD card slot and a headphone port.

I really liked Wacom’s Cintiq Companion. I thought it was great, but there were a few things I felt could be improved: the stand; the power supply, which was cumbersome and had many problems (Google it); and the ability to use it just like a normal Cintiq when connected to another computer

With the Companion 2, Wacom has listened to what its customers wanted. They addressed the bad power supply connection, although the power connection still hangs off the side. Wacom also made a great improvement — allowing the Companion to be used in conjunction with the Cintiq Connect Cable and perform the same functions as its famous cousin the Cintiq. To use this function, however, you must download the drivers to the computer you want to use the Companion with, as well as have a computer with HDMI out and USB ports.

Unfortunately one of my biggest problems with the Companion is the stand and that has not changed. While it’s not a deal breaker, I find it cumbersome and, in my opinion, should have been built-in, much like the Microsoft Surface.

Testing it Out
Once I got the stand attached, the computer turned on fast, and within five seconds I was up and ready to run. If you haven’t used Windows before, don’t worry. It comes loaded with Windows 8.1 Pro and recently has been suggesting that I upgrade to Windows 10. If you are thinking about upgrading to Windows 10, I would be careful because currently many pro apps are not yet certified.

I immediately downloaded the Adobe CC Suite, specifically After Effects and Premiere. When using this tablet, I wanted to concentrate on its video capabilities as opposed to its well-known illustration abilities. As most reviews and articles will tell you, the Companion 2 has 2,048 levels of sensitivity, as well as tilt and multi-touch offerings.

Not long after launching After Effects and Premiere I discovered that I really like to use touch over the Pro Pen for the most part, which is a true testament to Adobe and the improvements they have made to their apps for touch. The exception came when I was using bezier curves, masks or adjusting color curves. I could not get the same level of accuracy as I do with the pen.

Nonetheless, using the CIntiq Companion 2 as a video editor and effects machine proved to be a great experience — including the fact that I was able to use Video CoPilot’s Element 3D without a problem. It should also be noted that there will be some hiccups when editing multiple video layers; you will need way more memory and a dedicated graphics card. This brings up another point: technically the Cintiq Companion 2 cannot be upgraded, so if you order the 8GB memory version, that’s it. My advice would be to spend a little more money and max it out as much as you can, your renders will thank you.

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I tested the machine with an XDCAM 50 MOV file. The XDCAM codec is a notoriously processor-intensive codec that gives even the largest Mac Pro or HP z840 a run for their compression money. The Companion stayed in the race nicely. I compressed the nine-minute, 11.2GB XDCAM MOV using Adobe Media Encoder, compressing to the YouTube 1080p preset and harnessing the OpenCL acceleration in 12 minutes and 52 seconds — with OpenCL turned off, and using only the software acceleration, it took 11 min 37 seconds. It definitely kept up with rough realtime encoding, but with 16GB of DDR3 we may have seen a slightly faster time.

Summing Up
If you have the money and/or the need for Wacom’s high precision and craftsmanship, the Cintiq Companion 2 is the mobile Cintiq for you. In addition to the precision, the Companion 2 boasts a QHD screen with a resolution of 2560×1440 (an aspect ratio of 1.778 or 16:9) and a color gamut of 72 percent NTSC. While this isn’t the fastest tablet on the market, you will not find one with the same precision and quality that Wacom has become famous for.

I leave you with these highlights: the Companion 2 offers 2,048 levels of sensitivity with the Pro Pen; the Cintiq Connect Cable allows you to use the Companion like a standard Cintiq; and it offers QHD 2650×1440 screen resolution.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously, he was editing The Real World at Bunim-Murray Productions. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.

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