(I know my personal friends will probably make fun of me for writing this review with copious photos, but eh, I enjoy it! XD And I can at least offer some insight into these things
So about 2 or 3 weeks ago, I managed to pick up (by pure chance) a Cintiq 21UX from B&H that was in stock. (For those who don't know, it's damn near impossible to find the 21UX in stock at just about any store you can think of. This is because the 21UX is a very niche product and makes up so little of the demand for the already tiny graphic tablet market. It's manufactured in such small numbers, it's on a near to-order basis, so you can wait up to 1 or 2 months to receive one after ordering.) So being the only one in stock at B&H, I knew I had to take it and upgrade from my 3-year old 12WX.
Aside from just getting the 21UX, I also picked up an add-on called the Ergotron LX. It's a desk mountable highly articulate arm for LCD monitors. I'll be talking about THIS later in this entry.
That said, the first most obvious difference is that the 21UX uses intuos4 tech. Intuos4 pen, intuos4 digitizer array, and intuos4 expresskeys. The move to the new tech changes the overall accuracy of the Cintiq more than you would think it would. The 12WX has issues with the cursor jittering beneath the pen (making it hard to make perfectly straight lines) and when you approach the edge of the screens the cursor drifts away (like a magnet is pulling it) making it a little difficult to accurately hit buttons near the edges. Now, these issues the 12WX had are of course no REAL issue in overall practice. The last 3 years of everything I've submitted to DeviantART is proof of that. It can just create a few small irks here and there if you're doing some things that require serious precision. I found myself zooming in close quite often to lessen the effects on tight sections of line art. However, it's interesting to note that on the 21UX, both the cursor jitter and cursor drift do not exist at all. I mean seriously, not at all. Even when brought to the 4 corners of the screen, the cursor remains parked solidly beneath the pen. I will seriously admit that I WASN'T expecting this. While my ThinkPad X201T exhibits no cursor jitter, it does show comparable cursor drift to the 12WX. To see NONE on the 21UX, to me, justifies a good portion of the upgrade.
The second biggest difference is the screen itself. Yes it's larger, that's obvious. But the LCD itself is a big difference. One of my biggest gripes with the 12WX was that it was only sufficiently bright -- it never got "bright," especially in a brightly lit room. It always did the job, albeit with the backlight blaring at 100%, it just never went more at the times I needed it. The color accuracy of the 12WX was also severely lacking. It's not that the 12WX's colors were bad -- they were just different. Many of my pieces always had a fantastic warm feel on the 12WX. When I moved them to my NEC monitor for reference, they actually were quite flat, had low contrast, and poor saturation. It was always easy to fix with some quick color balance adjustments, but it was still disappointing that I had to do that at all. By direct comparison, the 21UX has an incredibly bright screen -- topping off at about 250 cd-m. It's easily visible in bright room conditions, and blinding at night. Unfortunately the 21UX can't do much in terms of actually LOWERING it's brightness. The backlight control on lowers the intensity about 10% from 100 to 0. Any further darkening would have to be achieved through standard brightness / color controls. The color however, is excellent. I haven't performed any colorimeter calibrations yet, but just out-of-the-box, it looks like it meets a pretty close sRGB color gamut just like my NEC monitor. Actually, as far as I understand the 21UX uses an IPS panel manufactured by NEC, which explains why they look identical in terms of color accuracy. (This is good, as my NEC is rated for an accurate sRGB mode.) Unlike the 12WX, the 21UX is capable of displaying highly fluorescent / neon colors, making its gamut a noteworthy amount wider. Other aspects of the screen such as color neutrality, viewing angles, bit-depth, and glass coating appear to be the same.
The resolution of the Cintiq 21UX doesn't look like much on paper -- 1600x1200. Considering the 12WX is 1280x800, that's only about 200 pixels extra in each direction comparatively. How can JUST that be worth $1000 more than the already-adequate 12WX? The answer is that, well, specs are deceiving. It isn't so much the resolution that's deceiving, think about the screen size. With a larger format screen like this, I find myself doing entire 8x10" thumbnails at 33.33% zoom. I couldn't do this on my 12WX because, well, mostly of its somewhat narrow vertical screen space. The resolution may not be much higher, but the actual difference in interaction with the canvas with so much more PHYSICAL room is immense. The tablet's pen resolution is better spread out across the canvas, so I can draw cleanly and easily despite being so zoomed out. It's nice being able to draw the entire image as a whole instead of just one section zoomed in, and consistently having to zoom out to see how it's looking from afar. While the 1600x1200 resolution is completely acceptable in my opinion, I will note that Wacom COULD have used a larger QXGA LCD screen (at a resolution of 2048x1536,) also made by NEC. This would have given the 21UX a similar pixel density to the 12UX, for a bit finer detail when working. Had Wacom used a QXGA screen, it would have likely kept the 21UX's price point at the old $2500. While the new $2000 pricetag is much nicer, (as nice as it gets, anyway,) I will admit $500 extra for a significant resolution upgrade would have been worth it over the many years you'd be using it. Still, I'm not complaining about the 1600x1200 resolution. Just noting that, well, it could have been better.
The third notable change is the new set of expresskeys. The new 21UX uses mostly the same setup as the Intuos4, which is sorta good, sort bad in my opinion. The older key setup was great on the 12WX and Intuos3 because they were arranged in a "pad" like format, similar to a game controller. Your thumb had a definite home position which allowed you to quickly and accurately hit ANY key without looking. The vertical key setup on the 21UX isn't bad, but I do (still) find myself hitting the wrong key every now and then since there's no easily identifiable home position. The new touch strips are so-so in my book as well. I'm very happy that Wacom didn't give the 21UX that circular track-pad the Intuos4's have, and kept the vertical touch-strips instead. (The touch "strips" are better in my book because I can very easily control things like brush size by swiping up or down, and increase/decrease increments [such as brush size] by 1 by tapping the top or bottom end. You can't do that on the 4's radial touchpad.) Moving them to the back of the 21UX's casing is mostly good -- I don't hit them by accident anymore, but I also find using them accurately just slightly more difficult since I'm used to hitting them with my thumbs -- not my fingers. Though, I can still tap to adjust increments by 1, at least. I expect I'll get used to it eventually, but as of this moment the transition isn't the smoothest. I do like having many more keys, though. I finally could add much needed workflow shortcuts. Though I still disable the right touch strip, and only use 1 of the 4 presets on the left
The rest of the usage of the 21UX is pretty standard tablet affair. Just bigger and more natural.
Except, well, there's the setup. The 12WX has a built-in stand that really only has two REAL positions: open and closed. Closed, the 12WX lays flat. Open, the 12WX has about a 25~30 degree incline or so. You can stand the Cintiq up more vertically by having the stand "partially" open -- but you can't sensibly use it this way. The stand will eventually slide back and fold down to its usual open position. By comparison, the 21UX has a special stand that can be used at almost any incline, (even nearly vertical,) and keep its stance. It also allows for mostly free rotation allowing you to match the 21UX to your stroke motion, much like a normal sketchpad. It seems like it would be a great way to use the cintiq, except... unfortunately, the stand isn't 100% solid, and will "give" up and down a bit as you lean on it to draw. It will never flatten down as you use it, but it will compress and uncompress. The stand also holds the 21UX considerably higher than the 12WX was. Since the 12WX just has a simple kickstand, it stays lower on your desk, similar to an inclined drawing table. The 21UX however, is overall raised. Leaned back, it's like having an entire OTHER desk ontop of your desk. I found it to be too tall for my desk, (which thankfully is adjustable in height,) so I lowered the desk to be at my optimal working height. Others may find themselves wanting to invest in a higher-sitting drafting task chair to get a better vantage point on their 21UX. Unlike the 12WX, you can't pick it up and put it on your lap. The 21UX weighs a serious-business 19 lbs versus the 12WX's nothin' 5 lbs. While you can detach it from the stand and place it flat on your lap, it still becomes unwieldy since it DOMINATES your lap, and does it heavily. This isn't a piece of equipment you're going to want to be taking off the stand all the time, especially if you're worried about accidentally sliding off your lap or something. It should be kept on the desk.
See what I mean by the 21UX being on a whole higher level than my desk?
So, I ended up taking a very different approach to manipulating my 21UX on my desk. I WANTED my 21UX to be usable at about lap-height. Since picking it up was a bit too much, I bought an Ergotron LX desk mount.
- The Ergotron LX - A floating cintiq!
Around the net, there were some small reports of people using this somewhat-known LCD arm for their cintiqs -- and despite the 21UX's heavy weight of 19 lbs, it holds it hanging in the air with ease.
Check it out, a true dual monitor Cintiq setup when the 21UX is off duty!
I got the LX from Amazon for $115 www.amazon.com/Ergotron-Desk-M…
. At first I was skeptical because, hey, this is a mammoth and heavy display. The LX only has a capacity rating of 20lbs, and it extends 2 feet. I'd be trusting the construction of it to hold up my $2000 tablet in the air safely! So you can't blame me. However, after receiving the LX in the mail, it was definitely far better built than I thought it would have been. No plastic parts -- all 100% (heavy) metal. It came with mount hardware to clamp onto the edge of your desk, or drill through your desk for inner-surface placement. I tried it on the edge of my desk first, and while the clamp held firm, let's face it, I'm taking no chances here -- and I wanted a little more "universal" flexibility in accessing the cintiq, so I measured out the optimal spot to drill a hole in my desk and mounted it SOLIDLY through the top. Drill and bolted in place, there's absolutely 0% change of the clamp failing and falling off the desk, and the arm can reach both sides of the desk easily.
Now that's what I'm talkin' about!
So what does the Erogtron LX allow me to do? Well, first off it allows me to "float" the 21UX in front of me, lowered to hang half-off the edge of my desk It's basically in my lap by this point, offering me optimal ergonomic usage. I find myself no longer slouching when I draw, and I can withstand much longer sessions of drawing in my chair. It's nice that I can *float* the cintiq to where I need it, instead of moving to where it needs me to be.
The Ergotron has full rotation and tilt support as well. I still get all the same rotational benefits the stock Cintiq stand had. A view from the back, so you can see the connective hardware. Strong and good looking!
Really you can't go wrong with the Ergotron LX. I'm literally using it with, probably, the toughest thing it will ever have to go up against. I feel safe with my 21UX mounted to it. It's that solid. Sure, there's a little bit of wobble if it's free floating -- but it's nothing that appears concerning, like the thing's about to break or something. In fact, the Ergotron wobbles less with the Cintiq on it than my NEC monitor on its stock stand. How's that for overbuilt?
It's really worth the investment for all 21UX owners who want some greater control over the behemoth. I even recommend it as a top-notch (and good looking) option to those looking for articulate arms for their normal LCD monitors, or hell, even your 12WX if you got one. Ergotron makes other attachments for the arm, such as extenders and a laptop tray. You can really make it work for your workspace well. It's nice being able to simply push the Cintiq out of the way to be up next to my primary monitor when it's not in use. I usually leave it turned off, since I rarely have use for a second monitor outside of Photoshop, but it's nice to save the desk space. The ergotron has a considerably lesser footprint than the 21UX, afterall.
A few other shots:
Another view from the back. Hey, look, I play with legos! Another view from the back, reared up and parked on my desk.
Alright that's enough for now. The 21UX is a winner in my book, which is damned relieving because it cost me a freakin' ton. The ergotron is even more awesome. Get one. Any other questions, ask me up in the comments!