Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 (2021) Review

wacom cintiq pro 16 2021 review

Today, I’m reviewing the 2021 version of the Wacom Cintiq Pro 16. This is a top-of-the-line graphics tablet with a built in display you can draw directly onto.

In this review, I’ll explain the new features and I’ll give you my overall opinion of the device.

Disclaimer:

Wacom sent me this device unconditionally for review purposes. I may earn commission from purchases made through affiliate links in this article. All opinions in this review are my own.

The 2021 version of the Cintiq Pro 16 is a refresh of the previous generation which was released around 2016 or so.  Wacom took a lot of the feedback from users and used it to improve upon the device.  Let’s start with a quick overview of the key features that have not changed since 2016:

Cintiq Pro 16 1st Gen. compared to 2nd Gen.
Cintiq Pro 16 1st Gen. compared to 2nd Gen.

Overview of Specs

  • The 2021 Cintiq Pro 16 still has a 4K Resolution
  • It comes with the Pro Pen 2 which features 8192 Pressure Levels
  • You can also use other Wacom Pens like Pro Pen Slim or Art Pen which supports barrel Rotation
  • The display is made from Etched Glass with Optical Bonding to greatly reduce parallax
  • There is a Kensington mini lock slot
  • And the device is compatible with both PC and Mac

Accessories Included

The accessories included are:

  • One USB-A to USB-C cable
  • One USB-C to USB-C cable
  • One HDMI cable
  • 1 Power Brick and Power Cable

The cables are not super long, but long enough to connect to a desktop that is very near your desk. Most certainly, it will do for a laptop. But if you use use a standing desk like I do,  you may want to pick up some longer cables from the thrift store.

While I like the design aesthetic and convenience of Wacom’s all-in-one cables, once you break one, the attraction fades. I broke the HDMI connection on the cable to my Wacom One, it was completely my fault, and I had to replace the entire cable rather than replacing just the HDMI cable. So, although they are not as tidy, I think the individual non-proprietary cables are less wasteful.

This tablet also comes with instructions, 2 year warranty in the US, and a weighted pen stand which can be opened to reveal 6 additional standard nibs and 4 felt nibs which have more of a marker feel to them. (With the one in the pen, that’s a total of 14 nibs.)

What’s New Compared to the Older Version

The second generation is about the same size and weight as the previous generation
The second generation is about the same size and weight as the previous generation

The build, weight and size are all about the same. So as you can see, the core features of this device are pretty much unchanged. Now let’s look at what’s new:

Express Keys

The most noticeable new feature are the (8) Express Keys are included on this model. Located on the back of the tablet, there are 4 buttons on each side. These buttons can be programmed to activate shortcuts and other commands.

8 Express Keys on the back of the device. (4 on each side)
8 Express Keys on the back of the device. (4 on each side)

The idea here is to allow you to press the keys where your hands will be holding the tablet.

Personally, I find the buttons to be in kind of an awkward position. I’m struggling to understand how this is ergonomic. The keys are too close to the edge, which doesn’t feel like it would be a very comfortable hand position long-term. As you can see, the legs prevent the keys from moving any farther in, so I’d move the Express Keys down a bit and then over toward the back. I’d make them flat but maybe a bit inset like the keys on the Intuos.

This is ergonomic?
This is ergonomic?

If you just pinch one key at a time, the placement isn’t too bad. But my second gripe is that you have to feel the buttons (which isn’t difficult because they are elevated quite far off the surface) but that means you need to keep all 4 fingers there.

If the Express Keys have to be on the very edge of the tablet, then there really should be some LED or at least markings on the side of the tablet to show you where each key is so you don’t have to rely on feel. You could put a few stickers on there yourself I suppose.

That’s not to mention that it’s impossible to have your hands on all 8 keys while simultaneously drawing on the tablet. Although, you can still press the keys while holding the pen.

If you need more than 8 buttons, you can purchase the optional Wacom Express Key Remote. There’s no way to dock it to the Cintiq Pro 16. but I’d recommend upgrading to the remote. I think these Express Keys are a little too clunky for my taste but better than nothing and certainly useful for invoking Display Toggle and On-Screen Keys.

Pen Holder

The location and style of the pen holder has been changed. Instead of being located on the top of the tablet, it’s now on the sides. You can move the holder to either side depending on your handedness.

Although, the holder does block the Express Keys a bit. Not as much when the pen is removed. but If I were using the Express Keys often, I wouldn’t have the holder attached.

The Pro Pen 2 blocks the Express Keys when snuggled up next to the Cintiq Pro 16
The Pro Pen 2 blocks the Express Keys when snuggled up next to the Cintiq Pro 16

Rather than the plastic and metal pen holder that was on the previous generation, this one is a fabric sleeve with an attached nib holder hiding 3 spare nibs. This is the same pen holder you see on the non-pro Cintiq 16 and 22.

Improved Multi-Touch

I’m pleased to see a refresh of the multi-touch on Wacom’s devices.

Touch has come a long way. Early multi-touch was very inconsistent and I would rarely use it. The Cintiq 27 QHD I use currently has pretty decent touch. However it does glitch out sometimes, so I usually keep it disabled until I need it.

A better touch awaits
A better touch awaits

I haven’t tested it extensively, but the new multi-touch feels much more responsive. The motion appears smoother and the movement of the canvas is less choppy.

Panning and zooming feel much improved, but rotation feels a lot different. I’m used to using one hand to rotate, but it feels like it now takes repeated gestures to get a full rotation. However, if I use two hands, it rotates very smoothly.

If this is how it is, I can probably get used to it, but what I would prefer is a more sensitive rotation or at least a setting to control rotation sensitivity so that I can make it feel more responsive.

In the Wacom Tablet Properties, there is also an option to use Wacom or Windows Gestures.

Touch Switch

The Cintiq Pro 16 features a physical switch on the top-edge of the bezel for enabling and disabling multi-touch. There is a bit of a delay so the switch just triggers the Touch On/Off command like an Express Key would.

For those times when you don't want Multi-Touch, switch it off
For those times when you don’t want Multi-Touch, switch it off

Once you do this, the Wacom Tablet Properties give you the option to either Disable All Touch Input, or Disable Touch Input except for On-Screen Controls. On-Screen Controls are buttons that are on-screen rather than physical.

This switch is a nice addition because then you don’t have to waste an Express Key on that function.

More-Accurate Color

The Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 is slightly brighter and more color accurate than its predecessor at 98% of Adobe RGB. This puts in on-par with the larger Cintiq Pros.

Display Connection

The Cintiq Pro 16 can be connected as a display through HDMI, or USB-C, if  your computer supports DisplayPort Alt Mode or Thunderbolt 3. The USB-C connection only requires a single USB-C cable.

An HDMI, USB-A and USB-C cable can be connected, though you may not require all 3.
An HDMI, USB-A and USB-C cable can be connected, though you may not require all 3.

If you are connecting the display through HDMI, you’ll also need to connect an additional USB-A or USB-C cable for the data transmission. My computer was a little picky about which USB port I used, but I got it working. (Don’t use a USB Hub.)

Unfortunately, you cannot both power the Cintiq and display video with a single USB-C cable.

No Wacom Link or Adapters are included, but you can for example, use an adapter to convert DVI to HDMI. Although, that may reduce the display resolution to 2560×1440 or lower. I had to make sure to connect directly to HDMI on my video card to get the full 4K resolution. HDMI 2.0 or later is required for 4K.

Stand

The Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 has built-in folding legs that put the tablet at a slight 20 degree incline. I happen to prefer drawing with my tablet more upright, so these legs never quite do it for me.

I can't stand these folding legs. Get a real stand.
I can’t stand these folding legs. Get a real stand.

VESA Mount

One of the small features that I’m really happy to see is the VESA mounting holes on the back of the device. This allows you to attach your display to a monitor arm like an Ergotron.

Sorry, Wacgyvers. The world no longer needs your handmade VESA brackets.
Sorry, Wacgyvers. The world no longer needs your handmade VESA brackets.

The older generation lacked this feature and instead had a clunky 3 position stand. I recall dozens of people selling their own sketchy-looking hand-made VESA mounting systems.

Wacom offers an optional adjustable stand for the Cintiq Pro 16 which connects to the VESA mount. I’d go ahead an pick that up if you don’t like hunching over while drawing.

PVC-Free Cables

And the last new feature I will mention is that the cables do not contain PVC. Because we need to conserve that for pants… You know, because of Covid.

But PVC is also harmful to the environment.

Drawing Experience

Now that we’ve looked at all of the features, let’s see how the device performs for digital art.

For the most part, you can expect that a Wacom Pro Pen 2 is going to perform pretty much the same across any of the devices that support it. For example, the lines I draw are not going to be unintentionally wobbly.

Unlike many of their competitors, Wacom’s not wasting anyone’s time with a sub-par pen and drawing experience. And as a reviewer, I appreciate when things just work right out of the box.

No wobbly lines or BS. Just an excellent pen and drawing experience.
No wobbly lines or BS. Just an excellent pen and drawing experience.


One thing that is sort of drawing related is the noise that the fans make. They are definitely audible compared to my Cintiq 27 QHD Touch, which is near silent. Something about these newer Cintiq Pros are noisier and I don’t like that as someone who records what I am drawing.

Price & Alternatives

The Cintiq Pro 16 is $1,4999.95.

If that sounds outside of your price range, you can get a display tablet like this for far less than $1500. The Wacom One is only $399. And although it has fewer features and a smaller display, it still offers a great on-screen drawing experience.


At $1,199, there is also the Cintiq 22 which is quite a bit larger. and it comes with an adjustable stand. Although the screen resolution is lower at only 1080p.
I’ll discuss some of the differences between the Cintiq Pro and the non-Pro models in just a bit.

Wacom Cintiq 22
Wacom Cintiq 22


If you want to spend a bit more for a larger display, you can get the non-touch version of the Cintiq Pro 24 for $1,999.95. But then you are probably going to want an Ergotron Arm or a stand which can be another $200 or $500 on top of that.


I don’t know if there will eventually be a 13 inch model of the Cintiq Pro like there was with the previous generation, but that could be a bit cheaper as well.

Who Is It For?

So who is the Cintiq Pro 16 for?

Ultimately, I think it just comes down to size preference. The price of the Cintiq Pro 16 is probably overkill for most hobbyists, so it will most likely be professionals buying this.

If you want the best display tablet on the market, but don’t have the desk space for one of the larger Cintiq Pros, then this is the next best option. It really does look and feel like the larger Cintiq Pros, only smaller.

It's a baby Cintiq Pro!
It’s a baby Cintiq Pro!

Just as well, if you are a student and you want the same quality device as the industry professionals use, the Cintiq Pros will give you the same performance at home as you are used to at school.

Compared to Cintiq 16 and 22

Wacom has some confusing product names. So I don’t blame you if you get the Cintiq Pro 16 mixed up with the regular ol’ Cintiq 16. So next, I’ll quickly list some of the key differences between the Pro and non-Pro Cintiq 16 and 22:

Wacom Cintiq 16 compared to Wacom Cintiq Pro 16
Cintiq 16 compared to Cintiq Pro 16

The Pro version of the Wacom Cintiq 16 has a higher display resolution, more accurate color representation, built-in Express Keys, multi-touch, an etched glass surface, and it can be connected to your computer through USB-C in addition to HDMI.

The only advantage the Cintiq 16 has over the Pro 16 is that it has better protection for the cables where they attach to the display. There is a little compartment you have to open which keeps the cables from getting broken at the connection points.

Cintiq 16 dares you to try and break its cable
Cintiq 16 dares you to try and break its cable

The cables on the Pro 16 feel like they are attached firmly, but they do wiggle a bit.

I’m sure the compartment was probably scrapped in order to make the design thinner. Plus the compartment makes it more time-consuming to take apart if you want to your tablet to be portable.

Both the Cintiq 16 and the Cintiq Pro 16 have folding legs. But as I mentioned earlier, the Cintiq 22 comes with the built in stand.

Clues About Next Generation Cintiq 24 & 32

Before I wrap up this review, I think it would be fun to speculate on what clues the updates to the Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 might give us to the next generation of larger Cintiq Pro 24 and 32s.

For the record, I don’t have any insider information about upcoming Wacom products. I’m just making educated guesses.

At first, I was expecting the refreshed Cintiq Pro 16 would feature an 8K resolution. This signaled to me that perhaps the next large-format Cintiq Pros are either not going to be 8K, or they aren’t coming for a while longer. (There was about a 2 year gap between the first generation Cintiq Pro 16 and the Cintiq Pro 24. And that was before all of the worldwide supply chain issues we are having now.)

A painting of a haunted house made on the Cintiq Pro 16 with Corel Painter 2022
A painting of a haunted house made on the Cintiq Pro 16 with Corel Painter 2022

But as my eyes were struggling to see much of a difference between HD and 4K on such a small screen, I realized that 8K would be overkill for a small 16 inch screen like this. So perhaps we will see a Cintiq 24 or 32 with an 8K display since you can better appreciate the resolution at larger scales. (Even better would be a 27 inch model.)

A higher resolution certainly would be a feature that would differentiate the larger Cintiq Pros from the smaller ones.

What seems the least likely is that there will be a similar refresh of the larger Cintiq Pros. I can’t see built-in Express Keys as being much of a reason to upgrade since the Express Key Remote is a better option and it is included with the current Cintiq Pro 24 and 32. Improved multi-touch would be welcome, but most everything else that was added to the refreshed Cintiq Pro 16 already exists in the current Cintiq Pro 24 and 32.

Conclusion

While it’s not as substantial of an upgrade as I had initially expected, I think it’s great that Wacom has used user feedback to improve upon the design of the Cintiq Pro 16.  If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line 16 inch display tablet, I highly recommend the Cintiq Pro 16.

Watch my video review of the Cintiq Pro 16 on YouTube


⭐ For more drawing tablet reviews, be sure to subscribe to my channel and enable notifications.