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Wacom Cintiq 15X

Pressure-sensitive LCD pen tablet By Dave Nagel
Writers who specialize creative technology get the best toys to play with. We get more software than we could possibly use, and we also get first dibs on some pretty amazing hardware?everything from digital projectors to computer workstations to printers and cameras. And, on rare occasions, we get to put our greasy, pizza-encrusted hands on hardware so powerful, so drool-inducing that it ought to be taboo for anyone to touch it without some sort of government exemption or papal mandate. Such is the case with the Cintiq 15X from Wacom.

Frankly, I didn't expect to see this thing for quite a while. It's in high demand among consumers and reviewers alike. And with good reason.

What it does
The Cintiq is Wacom's latest LCD pen tablet, the successor to the PL500. If you don't know what an LCD pen tablet is, that's no shocker. It's almost too much to imagine. It's a high-quality LCD screen (15 inches in this case) that works as both a computer screen and an input tablet. In other words, it lets you draw directly on your screen for applications like Photoshop, Painter, Studio Artist and others. Like any of Wacom's tablets, it supports pressure input from its cordless pen, and it can perform any function that you might use a mouse for, such as accessing menus, etc. So it's not just designed for drawing; it's designed for use in any environment where a touch screen might come in handy.

It's the kind of technology artists dream about. For most, the technology has been inaccessible owing to the rather high cost. But not now. Now, with the Cintiq's new price point, it's not exactly cheap, but it's also not out of reach.

This is what distinguishes the Cintiq from its predecessors. It's actually not too far out of reach for a lot of people, coming in at less than $2,000. Its immediate predecessor, the PL500, was in the $4,000 range. Now, I've used both of these tablets, and the only difference I can see is that the Cintiq is better. Cheaper and better. Not a bad combination.

So what makes it better?

First off, it offers more pressure sensitivity than the PL500?512 levels versus 256 levels. This means more subtlety in each stroke when compared with the PL500. (512 levels of pressure is the equivalent of Wacom's Graphire line of non-LCD tablets.) The pen also includes a pressure-sensitive eraser and two programmable buttons.

Second, the screen is just beautiful. It's bright and rich and offers a 160-degree viewing angle horizontally and vertically. The screen itself is 15 inches, about equal to the viewing area of a 17-inch CRT monitor. It supports 24-bit color at 1,024 x 768 at a refresh rate of 75 Hertz.

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