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The Mother of All Design Tablets

Aspiring designers, set aside your iPads. (And scrounge up $3,700.)
July 27, 2012

I’ve asked before whether Apple could woo designers over to its iPad–a question that rests partly on whether anyone can figure out how to make a great iPad stylus.

But a soon-to-be launched product from Wacom–the Cintiq 24HD Touch–serves as a reminder that for serious designers in need of a tablet, the iPad is not going to be a replacement anytime soon. Specialists need specialists’ products, and Wacom has justly dominated this space, particularly with its beloved Cintiq line.

Here’s a quick look at the 24 HD Touch, to give you a sense of what we’re talking about.

Of course, a quick look at specs will show how comparing the iPad to this massive Cintiq is an apples-to-oranges comparison. The 24HD has an active area of 20.4” by 12.8”; the whole thing weighs over 62 pounds with a stand. The adjustable display can prop up like an easel, or swivel over the edge of a desk, just above the lap. The LED backlit screen can show over a billion colors. Its screen and pen offer a level of precision that the iPad simply isn’t designed to support.

“Increasingly, as creative software incorporates multi-touch interaction and gesture support, the Cintiq 24HD touch provides a natural input experience for all related activities including concept sketching, illustration and especially 3D activities such as sculpting, modeling and animation,” Wacom’s John de Olde said in a release.

My talk of apples an oranges aside, the question of whether to spring for a Wacom tablet or try to launch a design career (or hobby) on an iPad is one that arises from time to time on design forums. For anyone remotely serious about designing, the answer pretty consistently seems to be: save up for a Cintiq. Not always the easiest thing: the 24HD Touch runs almost four grand.

One definitive pronouncement comes from Goro Fujita, a Dreamworks designer, in this intriguing interview on the site Photoshopcafe. While Fujita dabbles in design on his iPad–“the iPad has just the right size and you can paint all day long without recharging,” he said–he ultimately wouldn’t recommend using a consumer device when you’re in the major leagues. “I haven’t considered using the iPad for professional work yet,” he said. “The combination of Photoshop and the Wacom Cintiq is still undefeated to me.”

Of course, if you’re a designer, and a great design tablet is essential for your livelihood, then you already knew all this. If you’re not, and you can’t afford to shell out for more than an iPad, then you’re probably not interested. But if I’ve reached just one über-wealthy dilettante who had never heard of Wacom, has a passing interest in design, and has mountains of cash to burn–well, then, I’ve done my job.

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