Surface Pro 4 VS Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 in-depth Comparison, which device is better for drawing digitally.

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As I promised you guys in my Surface Pro 4 review, I am going to make a detailed comparison between the two devices, and how each of them perform when it comes to drawing, what are the pros & cons for having each of them and all.

Basically speaking, you could get a rough comparison by reading a review for each of the two, and by looking at the detailed specifications of each of them. But by combining that to how they perform when it comes to drawing, we can get a pretty good picture of which of them is best for you :>

While this comparison here will focus on the drawing capabilities of each device, I will also talk about the other things you may need as an artist, like USB ports, weight & battery life.

One thing I really need to point out that each of the two devices has its own perks & cons, so while the Cintiq Companion 2 may be the best device for some areas, the Surface Pro 4 is much better for some others. While I will try my best to come up with the verdict that suits most people, you will need to consider your own needs when you choose the device most suitable for your digital creativity.

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Advantages Of Wacom Cintiq Companion 2

  • Has a better Initial Activation Force (IAF).
  • Has much more Hotkeys, as well as rocker ring. In additional to two buttons on the pen that are fully customizable.
  • The screen has a lower resolution, which makes the icons & tools in you art program easier to select (depending on your art program).
  • Has three USB ports.

Advantages Of Surface Pro 4

  • Has more affordable options, and better specifications for the money.
  • There are not much fans blowing loudly problem like in case of the Cintiq Companion 2.
  • The cursor at the edges of the screen is much more accurate.

Digitizer Technology

The Surface Pro 4 uses N-Trig digitizer, while the Cintiq Companion 2 uses Wacom’s own digitizer. Which is Wacom’s proprietary that is more expensive. Which is in my guess one of the reasons that Companion 2 is the more expensive device.

Drawing

Let’s take a look at different aspects related to drawing, one by one, and to see how the two devices perform in each of these tasks.

Initial Activation Force (IAF)

Initial Activation Force, or IAF, is the least amount of pressure you need to apply on the screen with the stylus in order for a stroke to be registered. Usually, the less IAF in the device, the better it is.

Surface Pro 3, the one before the current generation, suffered from a bad IAF, but fortunately, this has been improved on in the Surface Pro 4, which has a lower IAF, making it more suitable for drawing.

Since the Cintiq Companion 2 was made specifically for art creation, it has a good IAF from the very beginning, and it is much better of the Surface Pro 4 in that regard.

Cursor Accuracy Near Screen Edges

For those not familiar with this problem, Wacom digitizers tend to be less accurate near the edge of the screen, this is unlikely going to affect how you draw, but when you select from your art program menus, or any palettes that may reside near the edge of the screen, this could be a huge pain.

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Keeping menus away from the edges mitigate or alleviate the problem, I once read that having the pen straight while near the edges can pretty much help as well. These are not perfect solutions, but they will hopefully help.

On the other hand, the Surface Pro 4 doesn’t seem to suffer from this problem. Since it uses N-Trig digitizer here, which doesn’t has that problem.

Parallax

Parallax is how different the cursor appears to be relative to your pen when you view it from a different angle. For example, if you are drawing with a pen display that has parallax, nothing can seem wrong at first, but when you shift the angle you look from, then all of sudden, the cursor won’t seem aligned to pen from the new angle you are looking from. This is what is called parallax. The thinner the display is, the less Parallax you will notice here. Calibrating your display while viewing the scree from the angle you plan to work form pretty much solve this problem, until you start looking at the screen from a different angle

Since the Surface Pro 4 has thinner display, it doesn’t have much parallax problems. While the Cintiq Companion 2 has that problem. Generally speaking, all the Cintiq models has that problem in a way or another.

Pressure & Tilt Sensitivity

Now let’s talk about a very common drawing features in graphics tablets & pen displays in general. Which are pressure & tilt sensitivity. Since I am trying to keep this blog simple even for those new to digital art, I will explain what each of these two feature means so you won’t have to google them to know what they mean.

Since both these two sensitivity features are trying to mimic the way traditional drawing tools do. When you draw with a pencil, a line can get thin or thick based on how much pressure you put on your pencil. Drawing tools like pen displays emulate that with pressure sensitivity. So by having a pen display that supports this feature, it mean you can draw the same way, getting thin lines by applying a little pressure on the screen, and thicker lines by applying more pressure.

Pressure sensitivity is very common in graphics tablet & pen displays alike, it is the amount of pressure supported is what may be different between different models.

As for Tilt Sensitivity, you know how different type of strokes you can create by tilting a brush while you draw in a different way. That’s pretty much how Tilt Sensitivity works here.

Tilt Sensitivity is less common feature in pen displays, and it is usually supported in the higher-end products.

For both Pressure & Tilt Sensitivity to work, your art program needs to support them, also, the specific brush or drawing tool inside the program need to have these features turned on.

One interesting thing I would like to say is that both pressure & tilt sensitivity can be used to not just vary the thickness or your strokes, but to control other things like the opacity of your strokes & more.

Now I have introduced the two concepts for you, let’s compare our two devices. The Cintiq Companion 2 has a pressure sensitivity of 2048 level, which is the typical you can see in the higher-end Wacom devices. It also has a tilt Sensitivity is ±60º.

For the Surface Pro 4, the pressure sensitivity is 1024 level, and there is no tilt sensitivity support in it.

While it is obvious that the Cintiq Companion 2 is the winner here, let me tell you a very important thing. That higher sensitivity or tilt is not always important, I mean, not all artists really need or can benefit from the 2048 level of pressure sensitivity the Cintiq Companion 2 provides, and that’s for many reasons. For most of us, the 1024 level provided by the surface pro is more than enough, and that the additional pressure is not reason to get certain device. The same can be said about Tilt sensitivity, which is a more desirable feature than high pressure sensitivity in my opinion.

The Screens

The resolution of the Cintiq Companion 2 is 2560 x 1440, while the resolution for the Surface Pro 4 is 2736 x 1824. Both devices come very close here when it comes to this aspect of the comparison. Lower screen resolution can be good for art creation, as it means the icons & menus can be larger & easier to select using the pen or even your fingers. So the slightly lower resolution of the Cintiq Companion 2 makes it the winner here, but not by much really. Some artists may prefer to have the higher resolution of the Surface Pro 4 too.

Weight

This is pretty much straightforward aspect of the comparison, since both of the two devices we are comparing here are portable, this mean that having a lighter device is a plus.

The Surface Pro 4 weights approximately around 2.5 pounds, while the Cintiq Companion 2 weights approximately 3.7 pounds, which makes the Surface Pro 4 the obvious winner here,

Express Keys

This is another aspect of the comparison that’s pretty easy, the Surface Pro 4 doesn’t have any customizable keys on its surface (pun intended), and it has only one button on the pen, which works as a right-click button, as far as I know, that button can’t be customized, and even if it can be, it is only one button. While the Cintiq Companion 2 has 4 hotkeys on it, plus one rocker ring for incremental functions like increasing brush size. It also has two button in the Pro pen that comes with it, and these two buttons are fully customizable. Not to forget that all these buttons are application-specific, which mean you can have different functionality set for each program you use.

The Cintiq Companion 2 clearly wins this part of the comparison.

The Stands

cintiq-companion-2-Stand

The Cintiq Companion 2 features a similar stand to the one that comes with the Cintiq 13HD (Reviewed here). Which allows you to lay your Cintiq on 3 different positions. As well as laying it close to flat. One things that’s not good about the Companion 2 stand is that it is not attached to it, something not good for a portable device in my opinion.

Design

The Surface Pro 4 has the kickstand at the back of it, which is adjustable in any angle you want, which is pretty nice. Besides that, it is attached to the Surface itself, which mean it won’t come off in case you decided to move your device a little bit, which is a plus. Making the surface win this part of the comparison.

Battery Life

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The Cintiq Companion 2 features a battery life up to 5 hours, or 4.5 hours according to my review about it. While the official battery life of the Surface Pro 4 is about 9 hours. While both numbers are generally good, the 9 hours of battery life for the Surface Pro 4 means that you can use it for a whole workday without having to recharge it at all. Which makes it the winner of this round.

Note:- The real battery life you will get from your device depends on how much how you use it, and which programs you run on it, and many other factors.

Ports & Peripherals

Cintiq Companion 2 Ports
Cintiq Companion 2 Side-View

The Cinitq Companion 2 has 3 USB ports, while the Surface Pro 4 has only 1, which mean that in case you plan to plug more than one USB device, you are going to need some sort of hub for it.

Surface Pro 4 Mini Displayport
Surface Pro 4 Mini Side-View

Both devices has a Micro SD card that supports up to 2 TB cards. Which gives a good way to get additional storage, as well as support bigger cards in the future.

For external display, both the Surface Pro 4 & Cintiq Companion 2 have a Mini DisplayPort, which mean you will need an adapter to be able to connect any of them to most screens.

So, besides the difference in the number of USB ports, the two devices are two similar, but the higher number of USB ports it has makes the Cintiq Companion 2 wins this comparison.

Value For The Money

I don’t know exactly why, but the Cintiq Companion 2 is generally more expensive than the Surface Pro 4, my guess is both Wacom’s brand and the cost of their digitizer. In case you are cost-conscious, then the Surface Pro 4 is a much better choice, despite the few cons I mentioned about drawing with it.

Software Customization

And by this I mean if the manufacturer, Microsoft or Wacom, has provided software to customize how your device work. For one, as I mentioned in the hot keys comparison, the Cintiq Companion 2 software allows you to modify all the hotkeys, the rocker ring, and the two buttons in the pen, while the Surface Pro 4 doesn’t do that. Since I already declared the Cintiq Companion 2 the winner of the Hotkey comparison, I won’t use that in this section.

Another thing that is interesting to compare is how much each device allows you to modify the pressure curve of the stylus to suit your needs & drawing style. Both devices allows you to do it. But the Cintiq Companion 2 allows you to modify the pressure curve much more freely, while the Surface Pro 4 was pretty much restrictive when it comes to that. So the Cintiq Companion 2 wins this match.

Other Issues

The Cintiq Companion 2 is known for how the fans tend to blow almost constantly, a problem I hope Wacom will solve in a way in another in any upcoming release of its drawing device. The Surface Pro 4 doesn’t suffer from this problem. Actually, the very low-end version of it, the one that uses Intel Core M3 processor, doesn’t have fans in it at all. Making it the better device for those how want to draw in a quiet environment.

The Final Verdict

Despite the price difference, the Cintiq Companion 2 seems to have scored generally better than the Surface Pro 4. Which makes it the overall winner of this Comparison, I am not saying that the Surface is a bad choice for artists or anything, as the real choice depends on your actual needs and the software you are using. The Surface Pro 4 has the price advantage here.

It probably should not be a surprise that the Cintiq Companion 2 won this comparison, as it was made specifically for art creation (despite all its flaws). And as I mentioned in my Surface Pro 4 article, I don’t really know if Microsoft has artists in mind when they were designing the Surface Pro 4, but they seem to be doing generally well in that. Which make me looking forward for any upcoming Surface Pros in the future to see how well they perform when it comes to drawing.

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SweetMonia
I am an anime artist, and huge fan of digital art. I love drawing with pencils too. But I rarely do that anymore nowadays. Since some aspects of digital art can be tricky, I try my best to explain the concepts as easily as possible.

6 Comments

  1. Wow, such a biased review…

    Value for the money???
    What about most important fact: for the money you pay with surface 4, you get full blown PC, plus the drawing board.. With Wacom.. Well you only get one expensive drawing board…
    Not going into other aspects, of the “article” :))
    But facts are firm… Time of Wacom cintiq has ended…

    1. Hello Levan,

      My review is not meant to be biased in any mean, but you are entitled to your opinion.

      In the case Cintiq Companion, you also get a full-blown PC, so that is not exactly an advantage of the Surface Pro honestly~

  2. Biased? It was an honest review from an artist! Whether you’re pro Microsoft or pro wacom it can’t be denied that they both lack in one area or another.
    I understand that for the cost of either unit is enough to buy a mid range desktop pc, you could buy yourself a new laptop or 3 ps4’s, but thats not what we’re talking about is it? I myself have an intrest in purchasing either one of these units soon and found the article informative towards my decision.
    Thanks again Monia for putting in the time and effort for the research, it was much appreciated.

    1. You are welcome damon, and yes, both Cinitq Companion 2 & the Surface Pro 2 have their own shortcoming :>

      I am glad you found my article useful, I will see if I can make them even better in the future ^^

  3. Thank you for your review.

    The IAF of the Surface Pro 4 is what brought me here. If you are a light sketcher or like to draw lightly and build up strokes, the Surface is almost unusable. It requires an unnatural amount of force to register a pen stroke. I have to return it.

    Wacom now has a new companion device, the mobile studio. Hopefully you’ll get the opportunity to compare that device next! Thanks again.

    1. You are welcome Samuel,

      I am glad you liked my article, IAF is one reason I would choose Cintiq Companion 2 (or MobileStudio Pro) over Surface Pro 4. Exrpesskeys is another reason. :>

      I am thinking about writing a comparison between the Mobile Studio Pro & the companion or Surface Pro by the way. I hope I will get to do it & release it soon~

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