My Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid 'review'
So, I bought a Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid. Despite its stupid name its actually a pretty sweet idea - firstly, it is a computer monitor that you can plug in, and use with a typical Wacom pen, just like any Wacom Cintiq. But it is also a portable tablet, running Android, that allows you to draw when out and about. I have had it for just over a month now, so I am writing a review. As will soon become obvious, I am motivated to do so for some thoroughly stupid reasons - I don't normally publish reviews of the gadgets I purchase!

First, some context - I use a lot of Wacom products. I have a Cintiq 22HD on my desk at work, two medium Intuos (now branded as pro) for home use, and I am also in charge of the 3Dami hardware budget. For this I have a small stack of Bamboos for giving out to students, and a budget to expand that stack each year (with surprising consistency we lose one for every event we run!) - this year the budget should be at least £300, maybe more. Every one of these has been bought from 'normal' retailers. The Cintiq Companion is different however - you have to buy it from the Wacom eStore directly! So, in the interest of keeping this understandable, here is the sequence of events involved in doing just that:

October 2014: Make decision to buy Cintiq Companion Hybrid, so I can have a Cintiq for home use. There is a 10% academic discount (I work for a university...) and they are showing a price of £800 on the website, so £720. Expensive, but something I can afford and I make enough excuses to myself to feel it is justified.

1st November 2014: Wait until the end of the month (when I get paid) and go to website to make purchase. For whatever reason (registering a previous product?) I already have an account, so login... and the price jumps from £800 to £950. I send an email to support asking what is going on.

11th November 2014: They respond (finally!) and correct the price - it now shows £800 when I login. Unfortunately, when I click the link to register for an academic discount, it turns out I need to create a new account - a total waste of time. So, I register an account using my university email address.

12th November 2014: Registration of academic account requires submitting proof - in my case a photograph of a my university security card. I get confirmation of the account having being accepted with an academic discount (less than 24 hours - they care a lot more if they think you are about to give them money), login... and the price shown is £900, as a 10% discount from £1000... while the website continues to show £800 if I am not logged in. So I create yet another support ticket to have it corrected.

27th November 2014: They respond (similar delay to first time) to say the price is corrected - it now shows £720.

26th November 2014: I actually noticed the above correction the day before, and put the order in on the 26th.

1st December 2014: It arrives! I am at work at the time, but fortunately one of my housemates is in to accept it. Took one month from initial attempt to order - they are already doing quite badly, but at this point I am mostly just rolling my eyes at their incompetence. Unfortunately, they sent me a broken one. Specifically, one with no touch, which is rather critical for a tablet! Spent the entire evening trying to fix it or figure out what the issue was, but had to declare defeat.

2nd December 2014: I phone the number on the Wacom eStore website first thing and get through to this rather disinterested technical support guy. He makes me reset the tablet (already did that), which does not work, so he says the quickest way to send it back and get it replaced is to fill out the return form on the website. I do this immediately after the phone call, and get an immediate email receipt for the submitted ticket.

3rd December 2014: They closed the above ticket, marking it as completed with the text 'forwarding the customers tickets' in their reply. Which, unlike every other ticket response, was not emailed to me. I did not actually notice this until the 9th, when I finally realised I was up against a truly monstrous system.

4th December 2014: They sent me an email asking me to give feedback on the experience of using the Wacom eStore. Where a link your meant to click on is supposed to go there is nothing - reading the source reveals an empty link, which is of no use to anyone.

5th December 2014: Having had no response to the return ticket I phone the Wacom eStore number again - you always get through to technical support for some reason, even though its the number that looks like its for sales at the top of the website. Guy asks me to forward the order email to with an explanation of the problem, and they will get it fixed. I do so immediately after the phone call.

9th December 2014: Still nothing, so phone up again. Guy denies I exist on their system - goes so far as to claim that I don't have an account, and that they have no emails, support tickets or anything. He does create a support ticket for me, and gives me a number to identify myself with. As I ultimately worked out the phone number on the eStore website gets you through to an office in Spain (Barcelona, to be specific) while the actual orders are done in Germany. The systems are completely independent, and they have no access to the others (!), so when the guy said I had no account on their system he was right in the sense that there was no account he had access to. Does not explain the email going missing however. In creating me a ticket on their system they actually started to acknowledge I exist however, which was nice.

Later in the day I got a standardised email explaining a truly byzantine procedure for getting a dead-on-arrival replacement done - one that I am fairly sure is illegal. Here it is, with personally identifying stuff removed (I have also removed some excessive whitespace, to save space):

Dear ||me||,

In case of a defective Cintiq Companion (Hybrid) you will in most cases receive a refurbished unit of equal quality as exchange for your old unit (the original unit will not be returned to you). Please see your Cintiq Companion CarePack terms and conditions for details.

Under which circumstances does Wacom arrange an onsite exchange?

A defect is accepted by Wacom Technical Support and covered by warranty.
You have purchased a Cintiq Companion CarePack within the 2 years standard warranty period of your Cintiq Companion (Hybrid)
The total 4 years Cintiq Companion CarePack timeframe (2 years standard Wacom Warranty and the additional 2 years Cintiq Companion CarePack warranty) has not expired yet.
The Cintiq Companion (Hybrid) and the corresponding Cintiq Companion CarePack are registered on
The unit is located in the EU (except Malta, Cyprus, Canary Islands and French Overseas Territories)
You have carefully read our data protection consent form and followed the instruction.
You have provided us upfront with the information below.

Which information does Wacom need?

Your full name and postal address
In case you are starting the exchange for your company: the full company name and the VAT-ID or the commercial registration number;
In case you are a private customer: a copy of your ID-card/Passport or of the drivers license showing your street address;
A phone number where we can reach you
A proof of purchase of your Cintiq Companion (Hybrid) (receipt copy, scan or photo with the date of the purchase);
A proof of purchase of the Cintiq Companion CarePack;
The Cintiq Companion CarePack Number
The Cintiq Companion (Hybrid) serial number (which can be found on the back of your Companion, on the sticker showing the available memory / disk capacity);
A short description of the issue;
Any screenshots and/or a photo showing the issue (if applicable);
The signed data protection consent form (provided by the Wacom Support Team) as photo or scan;

Note: If the defect is not covered by warranty or the defect description does not match the defect, Wacom will invoice the repair costs.

Kind regards

||Name of Wacom person||

WACOM technical Support

Technical Support:
Support Hours: Monday - Friday 09:00 - 18:00

Wacom Website:
Retailer Contact:
Anonymous FTP Site:

WACOM Europe GmbH
Europark Fichtenhain A9
D-47807 Krefeld

Geschäftsführer / CEO: Martin Boit • Sitz Krefeld, Amtsgericht Krefeld HRB 7273 • WEEE-Reg.-Nr. DE 60401140

So, where to start? I, to this day, have no idea what a CarePack is. Requiring ID to return a dead on a arrival product is draconian, and I expect illegal, and the data protection form is just strange (though having now seen it I have to admit that it is reasonable: just a safety for when they send the broken product back to China in case there is any data left on it). As for the suggestion that they would replace my brand new, if broken, product with a refurbished product? I was fuming. Clearly illegal, clearly immoral.

It was at this point I went exploring their online system to see if their was another way of fixing things (was at this point extremely angry), and discovered that my original ticket had been closed on the 3rd. I re-opened the ticket and sent a rather sharp messaging asking why they had closed the ticket without doing anything.

10th December 2014: Could not get away to make a phone call after the above email, so it was not until the morning of the next day that I could phone back. Phoned up and explained the situation to another person - they got stuck on the idea of dead-on-arrival. However I explained it they just did not get that a product could arrive broken (they evidently understood by the time I got the below email however). I asked to speak to a manager. They refused, as the manager was 'on the phone to another customer'. They also explained to me that the above approach was the fastest way to get a replacement, but that I could also arrange to have the product picked up, returned to Germany, and then a new product sent out - the normal way of doing things. Note that the first guy I talked to claimed this was the fastest approach, a direct contradiction. Given the threat of getting a refurbished unit I insisted on doing the normal method at this point.

Later in the day I got an email explaining things - it started by trying to convince me to try the byzantine returns procedure, including the 'warning' that if I did the byzantine version I would get a new product but if I did the normal return procedure I might get a refurbished product. The exact opposite of before. Here is that email (same adjustments as before):

Dear ||Me||,

Thank you for your phonecall.
I'm writing to you to confirm some things mentioned on the phone.
When you receive a unit that is dead on arrival (DOA) the normal process is we exchange the unit for the customer.
This is the quickest option and also means the customer gets a brand new unit.
The reason we ask for ID is to ensure that we don't send an expensive device to a place where we can\'t invoice it.
The other option is to send it to our repairs centre to be repaired.
Most likey our repairs team will exchange the unit for an as good as new unit.
However if you mark the package with your request for a brand new unit and add all parts and communication inside they may exchange it for a brand new unit,
however this is something we cannot guarantee.
To be sure you receive a brand new unit I would suggest you go ahead with the exchange process.
If you do not wish to proceed with the exchange process,
please find below all the information you need to send the unit to our repairs team:

All repairs for Wacom products purchased in the eStore are carried out at the Wacom Headquarters in Germany. You will therefore receive a UPS return form from us by e-mail so that you incur no costs in returning the defective product to our repair-center.
Please print this out and affix it to the parcel.

Then please agree a collection date with UPS using the telephone number provided in the email.
Ideally, use the original packaging to ensure a safe shipment. If the original box is not available anymore, make sure that you pack your tablet thoroughly. Refrain from using padded envelopes, as this will certainly cause damages during transportation.

(Companion family only)
Your Cintiq Companion / Cintiq Companion Hybrid will be exchanged and thus a backup of all data should be done.
Please include all parts of a Cintiq Companion / Cintiq Companion Hybrid when sendig back the device. The exchanged device will contain all accessories again. Note, that Wacom will invoice missing accessories.
( End of Companion family only)

Mark the package with the following RMA number: ||A new number|| and the customer ticket number: ||Code issues by phone support||
Please send us a copy of the receipt, a short failure description (like the printout of this mail communication - in English if possible) including the RMA and a return address in the following form:

The tablet serial number, that can be found on the back of your tablet, just under the barcode.
The tablet model reference that can be found on the back of your tablet, above the barcode.
Short description / mail printout (in English if possible)
The product purchase date.
Your first and last name.
Your delivery address.
Your e-mail address
Optional phone number.

Testing and repair might take up to 10 working days plus transport in both directions.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further queries.

With Kind Regards,

||Name of Wacom person||

Technical Support:
Support Hours: Monday - Friday 09:00 - 18:00
Wacom Website:
Retailer Contact:
Anonymous FTP Site:
WACOM Europe GmbH
Europark Fichtenhain A9
D-47807 Krefeld
Geschäftsführer / CEO: Martin Boit • Sitz Krefeld, Amtsgericht Krefeld HRB 7273 • WEEE-Reg.-Nr. DE 60401140

It also had attached the data protection form they mention you have to return to them, which is a step up from the previous email, which did not. At this point, with both methods of return coming with the threat of a refurbished product, but a clear statement that I would not get a refurbishment if I went with the byzantine approach, I decided to go byzantine, as at least that was meant to be the quickest and I could point at this email and complain if a refurbished product did turn up. I also did not feel I was being given much of a choice. So that evening I replied to the above email with all of the relevant stuff attached. Hopefully I wont find out at a later date that my identity has been stolen, because all of those details sent in an unencrypted email are more than enough to do that, given it included a scan of my passport, address, partial banking details, signature etc. I would assume that Wacom's email system is in violation of EU data protection laws, given they must have hundreds of these emails and I doubt anyone has thought to secure it appropriately.

12th December 2014: Having heard nothing since replying to the email I phoned up. Person I got refused to help me - the person from the 10th was now the only person I was going to be allowed to deal with, and they were on the phone with someone else. On the one hand, this is a good way to avoid all of the inconsistencies noted above and make sure the person dealing with you can get up to speed quickly. On the other, I really did not believe the person when they said I would get a phone back.

I did get a phone back however, about 10 minutes later (from a foreign number - this phone call is how I know that the support team is based in Barcelona, as my phone automatically identifies area codes), and was assured I would be sent a replacement, and would be emailed the UPS tracking code shortly.

15th December 2014: Finally got confirmation via email:

Dear ||Me||,

Exchange of the defect Cintiq Companion has been approved by the Wacom Support Team.

What will happen now:

UPS will deliver a unit. ||UPS tracking code||
In the package of the unit you will find:
A voucher for sending the defective unit back to Wacom. ||UPS tracking code, but not one with which you can send the Hybrid back. I phoned up UPS to check.||
A description on how to pack the defective unit into the box of the exchange unit.
You will receive an invoice in a separate letter. This is due to Wacom's internal processing of warranty exchange cases.

IMPORTANT: You won't have to pay this invoice now. In case Wacom receives the old unit within 2 weeks we will send a credit note, invalidating the invoice. Once the procedure is completed in time you will have no due payments of your service request.

Packaging of the defective unit:

Carefully pack the whole Cintiq Companion including all accessories. In case something is missing, Wacom would need to invoice the costs for the missing parts
Use the box delivered with the exchange Cintiq Companion.
Make sure that all parts are packed in a way as they have been wrapped in the box of the exchange Cintiq Companion.
Add the signed data protection consent form as a printout.

Add the following to the package:

Your full name and postal address
The support ticket number provided from Wacom
A phone number where we can reach you
A proof of purchase (receipt copy, scan or photo with the date of the purchase) for the Cintiq Companion
A short description of the defect
Any screenshots and/or a photo showing the issue (if applicable)
The signed data protection consent form as printout

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further queries.

With Kind Regards,

||name of Wacom Person||

Technical Support:
Support Hours: Monday - Friday 09:00 - 18:00
Wacom Website:
Retailer Contact:
Anonymous FTP Site:
WACOM Europe GmbH
Europark Fichtenhain A9
D-47807 Krefeld
Geschäftsführer / CEO: Martin Boit • Sitz Krefeld, Amtsgericht Krefeld HRB 7273 • WEEE-Reg.-Nr. DE 60401140

I now know how things are going to work, which is nice. However, that 2 week thing is incredibly worrying (note that it is the first time it has been mentioned) - I am about to go on holiday for 2 weeks (from the 20th December 2014), and given how close things are now getting their is a real chance that I may not be able to return the product in time. I did reply to this email asking for some clarifications and complaining about the 2 week thing only being mentioned at this time and warning them about me vanishing on the 20th. Got a response the next day that resolved the clarifications but ignored the complaint about the two week issue.

17th December 2014: At this point the tracking code for UPS says that the package has not been picked up, and given its coming from Germany and how long that takes I conclude that it is not going to arrive before I go on holiday on the 20th. Given this I phone up and demand that they do a normal return (without replacement - I am that sick of having the broken one taking up space at this point), and that they email me a UPS return code that day so I can have it sent off before I go on holiday. They effectively refuse by saying that it should arrive before I go on holiday.

18th December 2014: Tracking is still saying nothing has happened, so phone up again. Get a different person this time, as my 'normal' person is on holiday. They actually agree to phone up the eStore and make arrangements for a straight return. Obviously, given what happens next, they did not. Later the same day I sent an extremely strongly worded email - the kind that gives a hard date by which I would invoice them for my money back, and interest schedules for late payment of said invoice.

19th December 2014: Got a response to the above email completely ignoring its contents. Said that they sent a replacement out on the 17th which should arrive today (!). It included a (new) tracking code that collaborated this story, so I decided to work from home as late as I could (being the last day of work that year I was hardly going to miss the Christmas drinks!). A fully working one arrived at lunch time - I spent just long enough to confirm it was working before heading in to work. Note that the simple act of emailing me the new tracking code on the 17th would of both saved time and avoided pissing me off even more.

22nd December 2014: The Wacom eStore finally responded to my original ticket from the 2nd December. They apologised and issued me with an RMA number so I could return it. I replied to tell them it was all fixed.

5th January 2015: With me vanishing for 2 weeks on the 20th I could not send the broken one back until the next year! This finally occurred the day after I returned, when I dropped off the broken one at a collection store near Euston, London. They had sent me an invoice for 949.91 euros while I was on holiday, for the replacement, and 2 days later they sent me a credit note for the same amount. Charging me a different amount for the replacement, even if the intention is to nullify that charge, does not come across in the best light, but at this point its just one more reason to hate them.

So after all of the above I actually got a working one. Most people will (I hope!) not have to go through that. But if I knew I was in for that, or even that there was a chance that may have occurred, I would never have bought my Hybrid. Its a lovely bit of hardware, but its not worth the stress and anguish of dealing with the second worst customer support I have had the displeasure of interacting with (Virgin Media has actually managed to be worse. A lot of that comes down to the fact they caused me real harm however.). I am not going to make any in depth comments on the above sequence of events - if you have had the patience to read this far you will have also reached your own opinion, and don't need mine as well. I will state the following however: the above is without a doubt a management problem. The people I was dealing with often had no real clue what was going on and no access to the relevant information. The person I ultimately got stuck with actually had an understanding of the system, and I think probably did the best they could given the circumstances.

There are going to be consequences to the above: I am in charge of the 3Dami hardware budget. Before I would of stuck with Wacom products, but now I am going to make a point of investigating the competition. It may be a I feel I have no choice but to stick with Wacom in the end, but I have read reviews and it looks like some of the competitors have better products for less money. If I confirm this then not only will the 3Dami budget end up elsewhere, but the very brightest and best students in the UK will get to use the competition and form their own opinion, long before they start purchasing their own digital art hardware. Make of that what you will.

I did say this was a review of the Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid, so I feel I should actually say something about the product itself. The hardware is well made, and works exactly as you would expect. The gap between the digitiser and the screen is a little less than what you find on the larger products, but it is still there. I have already learnt to compensate for it, so it no longer bothers me, but I know some people can't stand that gap: for them this product remains a no go. The pen is an improvement over the one that comes with a Cintiq 22HD, less wobbly and feels better made, though my biggest complaint about Wacom products is always the robustness - I can destroy a Cintiq pen in about a year. Its too soon to say if I will have the same problem with this one, but it already feels a touch less precise only a month after purchase. On the subject of robustness that single power/monitor/usb connector thing worries me - if it breaks the product is dead, and its kinda flimsy, and sticks out where you risk knocking it. The power button is in a stupid place. Other than that the product feels good, has a great battery life and is basically up to the standard Wacom level of engineering - using it for sketching and sculpting it proves to be absolutely gorgeous.

Using it in tablet mode I have to be a little less positive, though this isn't entirely Wacoms fault. The version of Android is getting old, and could do with an upgrade, but its perfectly functional. There are a few bugs that are unique to their setup... including touch sometimes not working. This worries me. But the big issue is software - I actually bought and tried out all the big packages so here is a list of my (sometimes unsubtle) thoughts:

The stuff Wacom provides: Its crap - don't bother.

Autodesk Sketchbook: Brush engine is good, though like every tool here lacks the simple ability to calibrate the pressure curve (by my judgement their F pencil is the closest match for a real HB pencil). It does stick to its name a little too much - its brush selection is quite crude, and beyond sketching is gets a bit weak. Also, half the paid for brushes feel pointless, and they have their size and opacity adjustment hidden deep, unlike the default set where its instantly available. Haven't figured out what that weird puck thing is yet, other than annoying. Beyond simple drawing it has the most basic of symmetry etc. tools - nothing great, but good enough. I am aware that there used to be a pro version, but have never had an opportunity to try it out. This would be my favourite, but it has one utterly absurd flaw: Limited undo, even when you have paid. I am sorry to say but experimenting is an important part of sketching, and the biggest advantage of going digital is being able to undo your experiments quickly. Remove the ability to undo beyond 20 levels, or whatever it is, and I feel like I might as well pick up a sheet of paper instead.

Artflow: I like the well hidden interface, but it takes too long to change from one brush to another. Seriously, it often takes 4 clicks to select a different brush. Its a very large set of brushes, but most come across as gimmicks (on the flip side, based on extensive experimentation, 5 year olds love it). There is still a good set of brushes for normal drawing. Its brush engine is not quite as good as Autodesk Sketchbooks, but it feels a touch more responsive, and its good enough. I would complain that many of the brushes take up a lot of pixels, and can't have their radius adjusted, which is annoying as this app, like most others, has serious resolution limits. It also lacks the ability to rotate the canvas like sketchbook, which rather misses another key advantage of being digital. As to which is my favourite, I think this one is in the lead, but only because it does not have any big flaws.

Corel Painter Mobile: Nice interface, good selection of brushes with a decent engine behind them. Does suffer from being a little too unresponsive however, and there are a whole collection of brushes that are simply unusable due to doing some kind of simulation thing. Nasty habit of resetting brush widths, often to really wide values - my default pencil should not be 50 pixels wide thank you very much. Good technical controls for when you need them - this should be my favourite. The problem is the bugs - I have had it crash on multiple occasions, wiping out good sized chunks of work. This leaves me stressed about saving regularly when using this program, which rather undermines the idea of having fun and sketching.

Infinite Painter: Does this share code with Corel Painter Mobile? It feels very similar, right down to having some of the same bugs. I prefer the Corel Painter interface however, as much because it doesn't give me a load of stupid names for the brushes, though this one does have some more advanced technical features, some of which are unique. However, its called infinite painter and does not have an infinite canvas - it may be irrational, but this annoys me. Plus bugs - it really is key when making a tool for sketching that you appreciate just how important it is for users to trust your tool to not crash when saving is both well hidden and slow, and a distraction from what they actually want to be doing.

Clover Paint: This has the most responsive brush engine out of all of them, and it feels so much faster than all the rest: I either have to praise the programmer of this app or refer to the coders of the rest as idiots. Running on the GPU perhaps? It is also the only tool I have found that is both non-vector and has infinite canvas, though admittedly in this case that just means the image gets bigger as you draw off the edge. Brush engine is a bit weak however, and, by their own admission, the interface is an abomination. Seriously, I think the only way you get an interface this bad is if you employ zombie Hitler to do it... The coder behind this needs to team up a good designer (not zombie Hitler) and fix the interface. There is a great program in here somewhere, but I just can't recommend even trying it until this happens.

LayerPaintHD: As far as I am concerned the Hybrid in tablet mode is for ideation, not polishing a final image, and this app is designed for polishing, or at least for inking and colouring. It has lots of interface and a weird brush system that I am sure makes sense to someone other than me. Basically, some people like this kind of thing, but if I want a 'proper' interface for the technical side of creating an image it won't be on a tablet.

There are a few others that I tried that made me run away so quickly I don't feel I can give an opinion here. In case anyone is wondering I consider MyPaint to be almost perfect for sketching, but its unlikely it will ever be ported to Android. The interface gets out of the way whilst providing just enough customisation. The brush engine is brilliant, and includes all the impossible brushes that make drawing on a computer so much more fun than the analog equivalent (The number of drawing tools that slavishly replicate the analogue world and miss one of the main advantages of going digital disturbs me.). And it has an infinite canvas. Quite simply, it lets you make what you want without any technical distractions. This is not to say its perfect - several of the above complaints also apply to it. Those issues are not as bad however, as on a real computer you can switch tool much easier, particularly as unlike almost everything above the MyPaint file format is well documented and can be both opened and saved by several other programs.