Wacom Companion 2 Review – Part 1

Wacom Companion review

Over the past month I have had the pleasure of using a Wacom Companion 2 Premium (i7 2.8Ghz with 8gb RAM) and it has totally transformed my ability to be creative on the move.

This review is aimed at artists interested FC in purchasing a Wacom Companion and will go through all the pros and cons as I see them based on real world production tests. I will go through my main applications of choice – Maya, Zbrush, Photoshop and Manga Studio 4.

The Hardware

The Wacom Companion 2 is a fully functioning Windows 8 PC with touch and pressure sensitive pen enabled screen. It’s larger and heavier than an Ipad or Surface Pro, but with that comes good sized real estate on your 13.1 inch screen at a resolution on 2566 x 1440. The battery is good for According about 3 hours under medium load. Remember this is not a workstation, but with realistic expectations you can get a lot out of it.

The screen is the key companent here. It doesn’t have a full colour gamut, so I wouldn’t expect to use it for grading, but it is decent enough for most uses. The pressure sensitivity has 2048 levels, which is more than enough for even the most subtle of strokes. If you look closely, there is a slight grain to the screen, this is the screen protection. I have read reports of some people removing it and replacing with something else, but I don’t find the grain noticable. Multi touch detection and palm rejection work well enough, you have to semi train your brain that lifting the pen too far with your palm still resting will kick in your big fat palm and messing with your navigation in Photoshop. Think of it as leading in pen first and pen last and you will quickly get used to it. With the PPI being quite high, I find it best to scale the Windows UI to 200% which is the default setting. Photoshop has it’s own scaling and there is a trick to getting Maya to scale font size (see individual sofware sections for details). Brightness wise, the screen does a pretty good job in most indoor situations with very little glare, just don’t expect to be able to use it in full-sunshine, that would be crazy.

Alongside the screen are the express keys and rocker ring. These are what sets the companion apart from the likes of a Surface Pro. They are totally configurable and can be customized per application. Without a keyboard these are vital in streamlining productivity. I will go into more detail as to how I cheap jerseys have mine set up so far at another time. I would reccommend attaching a keyboard at first when using it then every time you find yourself reaching for a key in your application of choice, set an express wholesale nfl jerseys key or radial menu to the shortcut instead. Before USA long you can ditch the keyboard and operate entirely by the side buttons and on screen keyboard. Handy hint – in some programs like Maya, you find yourself needing more keys than the basic Wacom on screen keyboard provides. You can get to the Windows supplied one by searching for osk.exe in Wimdows. I suggest you pin it to the start menu in case you need it.

What else can I tell you about the hardware? The SSD is as responsive as wholesale jerseys you’d expect, startup is quick and painless. Storage capacity is fine for most tasks, I tend to operate out of Dropbox these days, so can easily work within those limits. I have yet to try it as a cintiq attached to a workstation. The cable supplied does not work directly as I don’t have HDMI out on my workstation. I need to buy an adapter to convert to display port. The power socket seems solid so far with none of those connected, not charging niggles that plagued the first companion. I am a bit suspicious of the headphone socket though, I sometimes have to rotate it in place to get Realtek to recognise it’s plugged in. The in built camera front and back is adequate for skype and the like. I would’ve like a better rear one for taking reference photos while out on the field, but can understand it was not a high priority for Wacom.

Some people hate the stand that comes supplied with the companion and it takes a certain technique to stop it flopping out when setting it up, wholesale jerseys once in though it’s rock solid. The design is perfect for on the train as you avoid laptop clash when sharing a table and the rubber base stops it from slipping when perched on the tiny back seat fold out tables. The 3 heights are just fine for most purposes.

The fan. Well this is a point of much discussion. The problem with the fan is it goes ballistic at temps over 50 degrees. The trick is not to stress the cpu or gpu if you can help it. For while I am out and commuting, I throttle the cpu to 80% and that eliminates it peaking suddenly and noisily plus it helps preserve the battery. Remember, a hot battery is a dead battery.