I’ve been using my Wacom Companion daily for all of my professional work for the past 6 months, so I figured it would be a good time to make an update.
My first written review can be found here and the video review can be found here. I might make an updated video review as a companion (no pun intended) to this written review, but I’m not sure.
I also want to take this time to go over some FAQs. I’ve answered these questions probably 10 times each on my YouTube channel, so hopefully more people will read these before asking the same exact questions over and over. If you want to know the specs, your best bet is to go take a look at the official Wacom Companion page. They list all of the specs there in great detail.
Can you flip the Companion and use it left-handed?
Yes. This would actually solve the accidental pressing of the power button too because the button would be on the top, out of the way of your hand.
Can you attach the Companion to a desktop and use it like a Cintiq, using the desktop’s computing power?
No, only the Wacom Hybrid can be used this way. You can attach external monitors to the Companion, but you can’t attach it to another computer and use it like a Cintiq.
Does the Companion come with Photoshop?
No, you have to buy Photoshop separately.
Can you run other programs on the Companion? Can you watch movies and play music on it? Surf the net?
The Companion is a full standalone Windows computer. If the program in question is a Windows program and the Companion meets the required specs, then yes you can use it. Same with movies and music. I’m not sure why people don’t think of the Companion as a full standalone computer. It is no different from a laptop other than it doesn’t have an attached keyboard and it has a pressure-sensitive stylus.
Can you use a keyboard with the Companion?
Yes. Again, this is a full standalone computer. You can use either a USB or Bluetooth keyboard. In fact, Wacom even sells their own keyboard specifically for the Companion.
Can you pinch/zoom/rotate in Photoshop?
Not that I know of. I know you can pinch/zoom/rotate in other programs (like the Windows Photo Viewer) and on the web, but I have yet to figure out how to do it in Photoshop. Maybe if you create gestures those might work or maybe there is some other setting in Photoshop that I don’t know about.
What gloves are you wearing to prevent smudges?
My gloves actually aren’t for preventing smudges, I wear them because I have carpal tunnel syndrome in both of my wrists. They are the Handeze Flex-Fit gloves.
Are you affiliated with Wacom?
No, I just love Wacom products. I’ve been using Wacom tablets since 1999 and I’ve never had a single Wacom product break.
Wear and Tear
I’m sure people are wondering how my Companion has held up over the past 6 months. I know several of my friends have had problems with theirs, so I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. I haven’t had any problems with my computer. It seems like the cable is causing a lot of issues with people, but mine is fine.
I was a little worried about the screen getting scratched after repeated use, but so far I don’t have a single scratch on my screen. I am very careful though when I paint, so maybe that helps.
I actually wore off a little spot on my stylus where it touches my hand, which is kind of funny. My old Axiotron Studio Pen had that same problem. It had sort of a matte finish to it, but I had worn a completely smooth section in it.
The battery life still seems good. It lasts long enough that I’m never out in public long enough for me to need to charge it. I would say I still get 4+ hours or so working in Photoshop, but I haven’t actually let my computer drain down to 0. I read that completely draining your battery down to 0 can damage the battery, so I usually avoid doing that.
I’m still on the original nib, so I’m glad Wacom fixed the old Intuos 4 nib wear problem (which was due to the surface texture of the tablet). I remember when I first bought my Intuos 4 I had to change the nib after 1 week.
Now that I think about it, my Companion is still in perfect condition other than the little spot on the stylus. The screen is great, the unit itself is great, the cable is fine, and nothing else is broken.
People also want to know about gaming on the Companion. I usually don’t put games or other programs on my computer if they aren’t for work because I try and keep my work computer strictly about work. That being said, I installed some games for the purpose of this review.
Now the problem with gaming on a tablet PC or laptop usually isn’t the RAM, the processor, or the GPU, it is cooling. You can have good specs but if you can’t keep your computer cool, it will explode. Ok, maybe not literally, but it will die. Laptops and tablet PCs aren’t really known for their robust cooling systems, and neither are Macs for that matter. I tried playing Fallout 3 on my Mac desktop and it blew out the GPU. I don’t mean it blew it out after playing for days or weeks, I mean it blew it out after 30min to an hour.
Even though I tested some games, I only tested less graphic intensive games because I didn’t want to take any risks. This is my work computer, so I don’t want it to die.
I tried to record the process using several different programs (FFSplit, Open Broadcaster Software, Camtasia), but I couldn’t get an adequate result from any of them. OBS was the best out of the 3, but the playback was so choppy that you couldn’t actually see anything. As soon as the game started playing the video would freeze during playback or lag. Maybe the Companion can’t handle playing a game and recording it at the same time, who knows.
So far I’ve tested The Banner Saga, Shadowrun Returns, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Deponia. They all ran pretty well. Even after playing for several hours, the computer wasn’t hot at all. It wasn’t even warm. Back in the day I had an Alienware laptop and that thing would get so hot you could probably cook an egg on it. No really, a freaking egg.
If you want to try some more intensive games, I would recommend looking for some benchmark tests first and then try the game under the lowest settings before increasing them.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
- Low - Avg FPS: 25.823 – Min: 12 – Max: 42
- Medium - Avg FPS: 33.273 – Min: 18 – Max: 41
- Avg FPS: 38.742 – Min: 26 – Max: 51
- Avg FPS: 43.226 – Min: 0 – Max: 53
The Banner Saga
- Avg FPS: 44.127 – Min: 1 – Max: 54
Not too great, but not too shabby either. I believe some of the lows dropped to 0 because of loading screens. This isn’t a gaming rig, but you can still play games on it. I will probably avoid playing games on the Companion since this computer is supposed to be for work. I don’t need more distractions.
I wanted to free up some real estate, so I got rid of the on-screen menus and went with radial menus instead. I just set one of the rocker buttons to open the radial menu.
The other cool thing about the radial menu is that you can have menus inside of menus! Infinite pies! You can also put actions inside of the radial menu, which saves a lot of time. I rarely have to go through any of the Photoshop menus anymore since most of my actions and commands can be found inside the radial menu.
Here is a video of the radial pies in action.
In conclusion, the Wacom Companion is still an awesome computer and I love it.