The Best Cintiq Alternatives in 2017

Cintiq alternatives

In this article I've compared all 15 Cintiqs against 13 different competing companies. That's more than 30+ models to compare. Luckily, we can ignore most of them because some of them are just copies of the same unpatented hardware. Wacom is the industry leader for a reason.

Going into this article you need to know that there is no perfect Cintiq alternative. This is why Wacom still gets to charge so much.

When choosing a graphic monitor you have 4 main concerns:
  1. What stylus technology does it use?
  2. What display does it have?
  3. What is the quality of customer support? ( common problem is getting help)
  4. What's the price?

Please note! Drivers cause problems for all drawing devices not just cheaper alternatives.

10" Graphic Monitors (150-300)

parblo mast10

In the the 10" graphic monitor bracket there are no Cintiqs. Although numerous companies make small 10" graphic monitors (not tablets). Such as the Parblo Mast10, which we reviewed. I would not consider any of them a reasonable alternative to Cintiqs or for drawing in general. I would suggest you rather spend the equivalent money on a regular affordable college tablet with a stylus.

13" Graphic Monitors ( 300+)

cintiq 13HD pen and touch

Cintiq alternatives in this bracket are the Parblo Coast13, Artistul 13D, both cost around 4 to 5 hundred. But since we also know that there are several companies including Huion, Fex Archstone, XP-pen, Ugee that offer larger displays at similar prices why would we pay the same amount to get less? Do the 13 inch monitors have some kind of advantage? The only advantage the 13 inch graphic monitors have is the weight and size. They are more suitable for carrying around. Remember, this is not a tablet and requires you to plug it into a laptop or a desktop computer. If not then maybe we should rather look at 15-16" monitors or larger instead because if you have the money let's get more bang for your buck.

16" Graphic Monitors  (400+)


Mobile Studio Pro 16 and the Cintiq Pro 16 are the leaders of this bracket. Alternatives to these are many such as: UGEE HK1560 or XP-Pen Artist16. Both offer full HD IPS displays and 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity. I'd argue that the XP-Pen Artist16 is the better choice simply because of the express programmable keys.  But like with the 13" graphic monitors can we get even better machines for a similar price?

20" Graphic Monitors (500+)

In the 19" to 20" monitor bracket we have no cintiqs.  Something I'd take extra note of is the Huion KAMVAS GT-191. It's costs only a fraction more than the 13 and 16 inch monitors but offers are larger display, more responsiveness and 4x the pressure sensitivity. It lacks express keys, however.

22" Graphic Monitors (600+)

xp-pen artist22

In this bracket we have a lot of choices. Pretty much every company has a monitor in this size. The latest 22" Cintiq is from 2012. XP-Pen Artist22E, Huion KAMVAS GT-221 (this time with express keys) or the Huion GT-220 which doesn't have express keys. Ugee UG-2150, which also doesn't have express keys and doesn't have 8196 pressure levels. Other reliable cheaper alternatives include XP-Pen Artist22 the difference comes from the fact that the E version has express keys.

24" Graphic Monitors 

There are no Cintiq Alternatives.

27" Graphic Monitors 

surface studio

No Cintiq alternatives except the Microsoft Surface Studio  and the Dell Canvas. The Surface Studio is not a real alternative because it costs more and offers less drawing capability. While the new Dell Canvas 27" is cheaper than the Wacom Cintiq 27QHD. If it's anything like the Surface Studio it should support up to 4048 pressure levels and 100% of Adobe's RGB color gamut. Like the Surface Studio it also has a "Dial" for control.

Overview of Cintiq alternatives

  • Yiynova (Newest model 2015) (Similar to Ugee, Huion, Artisul but great customer support)
  • Huion 22 ( Newest model 2016) (Similar to Ugee) 
  • Ugee 22 ( Newest model 2016) (Nothing amazing about them)
  • Artisul 22 ( Newest model 2016) (The guys who make UC-digitizers)
  • Parblo 22 ( Newest model 2016) (No recharging or batteries on these pens)
  • Fex Archstone ( Newest model 2015) (Bad support)
  • Bosto Kingtee ( Newest model 2014) ( Bad support, no updates) 
  • Monoprice ( Newest model 2015) (Like Parblo good pen but MP is a general tech company, not a drawing tablet company)
  • Microsoft ( Newest model 2017) (Expensive but good)
  • Dell Canvas ( Newest model 2017) (Cheaper than both Surface Studio and MobileStudio)
  • XP-Pen 22 ( Newest model 2016) (Similar to Ugee, Huion, Yiynova etc)

What did I conclude from looking at all these monitors/companies?

  • All of these have 2048 pressure levels (at least)
  • All of these have IPS displays and most of them have full HD resolution 1080*.
  • All of them are relatively cheap in comparison to a Cintiq 13HD.
  • Except Dell and Microsoft, of course.
  • They also use the same stylus technology quite often
  • All of them have driver problems. So you really need to be aware of that. 
  • Mac seems to cause more problems than PC.

What are we comparing these alternatives to?

  • Cintiq 13HD (touch and without) Less than $1000 (2013)
  • Cintiq 22HD (touch and without) Less than $2000 (2012)
  • Cintiq 24HD (touch and without) Less than $3000 Note: DISCONTINUED (2011)
  • Cintiq 27QHD (touch and without) Less than $3000 (2015)
  • Cintiq Pro 13/16 (touch) Less than $1500 (2017)
  • Mobile Studio Pro 13/16 (touch) Less than $3000 (2017)
  • Cintiq Companion 1&2 Less than $2000 Note: DISCONTINUED (2013)

Important note: The Cintiq Pro 13 is roughly as expensive as the Cintiq 13HD Touch. Which makes the new Cintiq Pro 13 the default choice if you have the money for it. The Cintiq 13HD is the cheaper choice if you don't care about touch functionality. 

Which would I choose?

Knowing what I know. I'd personally would take the risk with either a Huion, Parblo, or Xp-Pen. I have a hunch that people who have AMD graphic cards might have more luck with driver problems.  To be honest I'd rather use a Wacom Intuos Pro Medium or at the first sign of problems return the monitor to be on the safe side.  Most of these knock-off alternatives tend to have problems for Mac users. I think this is because Windows holds a bigger share of the market and that's the primary focus when fixing drivers.

The 5 types of Stylus

One way to differentiate between these monitors is looking at their stylus technology. This is an excerpt from our stylus guide.

Wacom EMR

EMR stands for electromagnetic resonance . It is the oldest and the most reliable. Used most commonly in the Intuos line of graphic tablets by Wacom. This is why Wacom is the industry leader in drawing tablets because they got the hold on the patented technology that allows for a stylus to influence a graphic tablet without a power source of its own. Recently they have been partnering up with companies such as Samsung or Apple who have adopted their technology.

N-Trig

N-trig is a small Israeli company that Microsoft acquired in 2015. The Stylus you nowadays see accompanied with the Surface Pro is from that company. The digital pen runs on a powered stylus with a passive digitizer.

Wacom AES

Wacom AES which stands for Active Electrostatic Solution is Wacom's response to being poked by a competitor like N-Trig. Powered stylus with a passive digitizer.

The new Wacom Pen 2 features 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity and 60 degrees of tilt sensitivity (which currently is a feature only Wacom has currently). There are no physical shortcut buttons and are instead replaced by the Wacom ExpressKey which is extremely handy and sold separately.

Bluetooth

Such as the Apple stylus.

UC-logic Digitizer

Made by the company that owns Artisol. Used by companies like Yiyinova  and Huion. 

Graphic monitors where the stylus doesn't need recharging

Wacom pens do not require batteries, just like the pens from Artisul, Bosto, Parblo and the one from Dell Canvas.

The Display Technology

The second but equally as important way to distinguish between these companies is the type of screen they use. The main thing we're looking for is the word IPS. Meaning In Plane Switching.

IPS - What we want

Most panel types are TFT (thin film transistor). Cheap TFT displays are usually "TN" TFT-LCDs. The less expensive TN panels have lower color fidelity - usually 18-bit - while IPS panels can display 24-bit truecolor. IPS also come in various quality. If the manufacturer has mentioned the specific quality I'll mention it. But primarily all you need to know is that the cintiq alternative you choose has IPS. Most of them do.

Drawing monitors also allow you to use powerful software to enhance your art.  But please bare in mind that older software like the original Photoshop does not support modern high end resolutions like 4k.

Wrapping it up

Obviously if you had the budget you should go for the Cintiq Pro. But since we don't have that we can't really get the Surface Studio nor the future Dell Canvas.

So what we have left is the XP-Pen 22HD, the Parblo 22 or the Huion GT-200. The safe bet would probably XP-Pen or the Huion GT-200 they are virtually the same. Parblo 22 however if you get lucky would be better in terms of hardware because of the Wacom-like pen.

Artisul is great if you want something small like 13".

A lot of it depends if you simply get lucky. Because it's not just the drivers that the company makes, it's also the drivers and the hardware your computer has. That will define if you have a painless experience with your new cintiq alternative.

About the author

John Thatch

John Thatcher is a computer science educated artist. He uses technology to solve artist problems. His friends don't like it when he speaks of himself in the third person. But John does it anyway, because he's a rebel.

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