So for the holidays I received the best present an illustrator who frequently travels could ask for: the ability to put together a truly mobile studio! While my old, smaller Wacom Cintiq was technically portable, it was a real pain to tote around since it required so much other equipment. The stuff was heavy. My arms are made from noodles. Once set up, the stuff pretty much took up an ENTIRE table… which doesn’t really work at your local Starbucks. Or anywhere.
Enter the Companion. Sleek computer + Cintiq all in one… I’ve been frothing at the mouth to own one since they were first announced. So how does it hold up as a portable studio? Did it pass my road test? Let’s take a look.
I like to go backward because I’d rather end on a positive note.
- The Stand – (photo above) The Companion 2 comes with a stand to hold it up like an easel. This thing patently sucks. It has three “cutouts” that will hold up the Companion at different angles. Except it doesn’t work well. It’s flimsy, and it’s hard to snap the tabs into the holes on the Companion to keep it in place. If I have it at its flattest setting, the Companion won’t snap into the bottom tab, and the thing is constantly sliding forward. I have to keep doing the ChaCha with the darn thing. Draw draw PUSH. Draw draw PUSH.
- The Battery – I have tested this Companion quite a bit, and the battery just doesn’t last very long. My latest test put it into Full Studio mode: WIFI on, Photoshop chugging along, chat programs running, and music streaming from Google Play. I got approximately (and I’m being generous) 2:30 hours out of the thing before it hit about 10% battery. I didn’t run it to power loss, but… I feel like anyone that works out in public hits a point with their battery where they are afraid to keep it running for fear of it shutting off suddenly… and losing your progress. We all know that those battery estimates are wrong, wrong, wrong. So if you’re on a flight or in a café that gives you A/C access? You’re golden. If not? Well, don’t plan on working very long.
- The Price – Whoa mama this thing costs a lot. But then again so does anything by Wacom. If you like Wacom products, you already knew about this going in.
The Ba-- Actually let’s call this The Neutral, aka Mild Annoyances
- Photoshop – Photoshop’s UI is fantastically too small for the Companion’s screen, and the version I have can’t enlarge. I hear the new Photoshop CC has this capability, but that it’s experimental. Sure I could up-res my screen but why would I want to do that? That messes up stuff in other programs. Most applications will adjust their UI a bit so that the buttons are at least not microscopic. Manga Studio does it perfectly, as does Chrome and most games I’ve tried playing on the thing. I get around this issue by just using my Cintiq pen– it gives me way more accuracy, but I still have issues with misclicks sometimes.
- The Borders – I’ve had a teeny bit of trouble hitting menu items on the very edges of the screen, but it doesn’t mess up my workflow very much. I only notice it sometimes, and that’s mostly toward the top.
- Touch Control – This issue might have a workaround that I just don’t know about. Basically, I wish there were a way that when the Companion sensed the Cintiq pen on its surface, it would turn OFF the touch function. Why? Because when I draw I rest my hand on the screen, and that can sometimes lead to hilarious results with simultaneous commands.
- The Weight – This thing weighs about the same as my normal laptop, so it doesn’t break my back when I tote it around. Specifically, because I don’t have to tote a Cintiq AND a laptop (with 500 cords), it’s quite easy to carry through airports and across town to the coffee shop.
- The Simplicity – Graduating from Cintiq plus laptop, three cords, two power cords, two power bricks, pen and external HDD to just Cintiq plus cord, pen, and external HDD has been a lifesaver. My footprint on a tabletop has been reduced by about half, and it’s way less time consuming to set up!
- It’s Slick – The machine has great aesthetics!
- It’s Fast – Mine is the i5, so while it’s not the most powerful that Wacom had to offer, it gets the job done. If I’m using a very large brush, sure I’ll get a bit of lag. Undoing a big Fill tool command takes a milisecond longer than it does on my desktop computer. It’s almost not noticeable though. In addition, it’s got a solid state HDD so this thing boots up and shuts down like it’s breathing. Poof! So fast, my head is still spinning.
- Easy to Use – I love that the computer itself works well as a tablet. Windows 8 is made for tablets and is very easy to control with a finger tip. I needed to get a bluetooth keyboard to make typing easier though!
So what’s the verdict? Companion 2, while it has a few things that I’d like a workaround for, is an extremely excellent, easy to move studio. I can get any type of work done (writing, drawing, painting, comics, emailing, social media, spreadsheets) on the go without issue. I’d say my biggest complaint is the battery life, but that just means that I need to get creative about finding A/C outlets in cafés! I’m excited to use this fancy doodad for years to come!
How does it stack up against a Surface Pro or iPad? No idea as I haven’t tested those. I did significant research on those other options before I settled on the Companion 2, and my findings mostly were that all of these items are comparable. They’re all gonna have pros and cons, so it’s just down to your work style and what things annoy you the most!
Whichever you choose, you’ll probably be fine. Happy drawing!
PS. Wacom didn’t sponsor this or give me the Companion 2 for free. (Rats, that would’ve been nice.)