Why Apple Pencil blows away Wacom Cintiq

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The Apple Pencil makes drawing on an iPad Pro incredibly precise.
The Apple Pencil makes drawing on an iPad Pro incredibly precise.
Photo: Apple

This is a guest post by Linda Dong, a graphics expert and former designer at Apple. It originally appeared on her personal website.

A lot of hesitation (or dismissal) of the new Apple Pencil seems to stem from people’s belief that the Wacom Cintiq, currently regarded as the pinnacle of professional drawing stylus/surface design, is superior in performance and design at a similar price.

😩 *sigh*

Quite plainly, the Cintiq sucks in comparison. And I’ve been using them for years for industrial design sketching, UI and art. Let’s compare the experience:

Stylus design

The Apple Pencil, which Apple showed the world during Wednesday’s big product showcase, has a much narrower body and tip, allowing the stylus to not obscure the drawing itself. I would also argue it provides more freedom of drawing motion.

The Cintiq stylus is big, the pen tip is wobbly, your fingers randomly collide into the side buttons, and everything feels like cheap jiggly plastic.

Surface design

Cintiqs are heavy — really heavy. The ones deemed “portable” are hardly portable at best. Most come with a giant set of cords because, obviously, they need to be plugged in to a computer.

The screens aren’t Retina, the color is whack, the brightest it can display is not very bright and there’s a lot of reflection. Most importantly, the screen itself has a huge air gap between the pen and the digital screen, causing parallax. No amount of calibration shakes the feeling that you’re not actually drawing on this surface.

All these things are a non-issue with the iPad Pro. Also, it runs its own OS and has Multi-Touch built in;’ you’ll be paying $2,000-plus for multi-touch features on a Cintiq.

Drawing

Latency latency latency. As in all that latency I can visibly see as I wait for my stroke to catch up with my Cintiq pen.

Oops! Dragged my pen too far because I couldn’t see where the strike would end up. Guess that’s why I mapped 10 of these buttons to Ctrl+Z.

This is the game-changer with the Apple Pencil — barely any latency, so you actually feel like the pencil is leaving ink and can see the outcome of your drawing as it’s happening. Makers of real-life pencils got this figured out years ago.

It also seems like pressure and tilt are mapped more sensitively with Apple Pencil compared to the Cintiq.

Outcome: drawing more of what you intended on the first try.

Apple Pencil pricing

The iPad Pro + Apple Pencil: $899 to $1,179
The cheapest, non-touch-enabled Cintiq: $799
All other Cintiq models: $1,000 to $2,800

My advice to anyone trying to decide between buying Apple’s iPad Pro setup versus the Cintiq is to run far, far away from Wacom’s device. Especially if you’re a student. Specialized professionals that have their Cintiqs hooked up to PCs running SolidWorks, C4D, CAD, yeahhhhh … I guess cross your fingers that they make iPad apps.

linda_dongLinda Dong is a designer who worked on Apple’s Prototyping Team, exploring new user-interaction concepts for future hardware and technology. Before that, she worked on Apple’s Video Apps Team and helped design the latest versions of Final Cut Pro and iMovie. This post originally appeared on her personal website. Follow Linda on Twitter @lindadong