At first glance with the screen off, the Cintiq 13HD could pass for a medium-sized Intuos5 touch. Upon closer inspection, though, you'll see it offers a room with a view on its semi-gloss, pen-enabled surface. Wacom's newest gadget remains draped in an all-black coating, while a slightly smaller set of ExpressKeys, surrounding a single Rocker Ring and a centered home button, lines the bezel to one side of the display panel. Once again those controls have a soft-touch veneer, offering a comfy place to rest your weary fingers during an intense work session. Raised bumps on a few of those toggles allow you to get your bearings without having to glance over at your digits, too. A power button, USB 2.0 port, 3-in-1 cable jack (more on that later) and LED status indicator sit on the other end, opposite those user-configurable buttons.
Around back, there's a panel of the same soft-touch material embossed with the Wacom logo that covers a portion of display and two squares of it on the opposite end. A pair of slots for the included stand can also be found on the backside. In terms of size, the Cintiq 13HD measures 14.75 x 9.75 inches (375 x 248mm) and is about half an inch thick overall, but the display or "active" area ticks the tape at 11.75 x 6.75 inches (299 x 171mm), or 13.3 inches diagonally. Those dimensions make this pen display slightly portlier than Toshiba's Excite 13, if you're looking for a size comparison with a full-fledged 13-inch tablet. It also weighs more too, tipping the scales at 2.65 pounds.
Included in the box -- just like with the larger Cintiq offerings, albeit much less robust this time around -- is a stand for anchored use. The black-and-silver accessory offers notches for those built-in slots on the back of the 13HD, with a dash more of that soft-touch material to help keep scratches to a minimum and to ensure the thing doesn't slide around on top of your desk. The stand has separate inserts for 22-, 35- and 50-degree viewing angles and will keep the display stationary in a completely flat orientation as well. That said, adjusting the angle here is a bit more of a chore than we saw with the lever pushes on the massive 24HD touch. Of course, this is by no means required and a stand-less, in-lap work session is also an option.
Remember that 3-in-1 port? Well, as you might expect, there's a dedicated cable for that bad boy. On one end, there's a single connector that resembles Apple's 30-pin option for the 13HD and on the other, the cable splits into three separate connections for USB and HDMI on your computer of choice, and the AC adapter. That's right, folks: if a Mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt jack is your weapon of choice, you'll need to purchase an extra $35 adapter (we nabbed a Belkin accessory at our local Apple Store), just like we had to do for the Cintiq 24HD touch. That makes two Cintiqs in a row that we've had to venture out for an extra piece in order to get up and running. Bummer.
The main attraction on the Cintiq 13HD is easily the display panel. The screen measures 13.3 inches (338mm) with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 for full HD viewing at a smidge over 165 pixels per inch. Wrangling 75 percent of Adobe's RGB gamut, the panel sorts 16.7 million colors and offers 250 cd/m2 of brightness. "Semi-gloss" probably describes the surface best as it provides just the right amount of sheen without tossing back too many reflections from outside lighting. Viewing angles are also quite stellar and we didn't notice the wee bit of depth between the exterior surface and the pixels beneath that we observed on the 24HD touch's screen. Also, close-up work sessions didn't reveal visible pixels like they did on its behemoth sibling -- quite a welcome improvement there. Overall, we're much more smitten with the display quality here than on the larger pen peripheral, as the sharpness greatly improves detailed design work and tedious photo editing.
While the highly capable Cintiq pen does get a bit of an exterior makeover this time around, internally things are largely the same. The 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity (on both the pen tip and eraser) and soft-touch grip that we enjoyed on the Intuos 5 touch and the Cintiq 24HD touch are here once more. There's still a holder for resting the stylus in an upright position that houses 10 nib replacements, too. However, the pen itself now sports a dapper two-tone, silver-and-black scheme with a dash of chrome around its on-board buttons. It also arrives resting in its own separate case alongside those extra pen tips and color rings for keeping one pen easily identifiable from that of a fellow cubicle dweller.
Setup and general use
Before the real fun starts, a quick driver install is required. While a CD with the requisite installation files is included in the box, those living dangerously without an optical drive (like some of with our MacBook Airs) will want to navigate to Wacom's website to snag the software. Once that's done, connect the cables to both the 13HD and your computer, find a nearby power strip and the hard work is done in less than five minutes -- save for configuring those customizable buttons on the bezel, of course.
Those familiar with Wacom's pen-enabled devices know exactly what to expect here.
Those familiar with Wacom's pen-enabled devices know exactly what to expect here. The performance of the 13HD is consistent with both the Cintiq and Intuos lines as far as stylus-aided input goes. Instances of lag between the pen and the cursor were few and far between in our tests with CS6 applications (mostly Photoshop and Illustrator). Just like we saw with the Intuos5 touch and Cintiq 24HD touch, those configurable keys lining the side come in handy for oft-used shortcuts and save extra movement with your pen / mouse hand. When used without the stand, the smaller ExpressKeys feel quite comfortable on the bezel. Once again, on-screen HUD reminders appear by default once a new tool is toggled and Radial Menus allow eight separate actions to be accessed with a single button.