Review: Wacom Cintiq 21UX Interactive Pen Display

A Large Screen Monitor and Graphic Tablet in One

Wacom Cintiq 21UX
Wacom Cintiq 21US combines a monitor and a graphic tablet. Courtesy of Wacom

The Bottom Line

The Wacom Cintiq 21UX’s high price tag may give you the vapors, but at $1000 less than its original price, it seems like a great deal to anyone who has been (and perhaps still is) secretly yearning for it. It has a built-in 21.3” LCD (a large part of its high price), so you can work directly onscreen, which is both more intuitive and more accurate. When it comes to digital image creation and editing, a typical graphics tablet is light years ahead of a mouse, but an interactive pen display is nirvana.

The Wacom Cintiq 21UX is flexible, highly customizable, and both analog and digital compatible.


  • Highly accurate output.
  • Generous workspace.
  • Programmable pen comes with three different nibs.
  • Supports analog and digital inputs.
  • Can double as a second display, if your system supports it.


  • Can’t tilt to 90 degrees or lie completely flat.
  • Touch Strips are sensitive to any touch, not just a pen.
  • Workspace may actually feel a little too large for some individuals.
  • Odd software bundle for the target market.


  • Mac and Windows compatible
  • 21.3” display area
  • 1600x1200 native resolution
  • Resolution of 5,080 lines per inch
  • Flat surface, for using traditional drawing tools
  • Display rotates 180 degrees
  • Stand tilts 10 to 65 degrees
  • Programmable pen
  • Programmable ExpressKeys and TouchStrips
  • USB, VGA, and DVI compatible

For many professional artists, designers, animators, cartographers, and photographers, the Wacom Cintiq 21UX is the holy grail of graphics tablets. More accurately referred to as an interactive pen display, the Cintiq has its own built-in 21.3” LCD display. Traditional graphics tablets require you to frequently look back and forth between the tablet and the monitor as you draw, sketch, paint, or edit, which is not only frustrating, but also prone to error. With the Wacom Cintiq 21UX, you work directly onscreen. It’s very well designed, so there’s little or no parallax error. A layer of glass protects the display, so you don’t have to worry about damaging the screen, although if you’re not the neatest person on your block, you may have to clean the glass frequently.

You can position the Wacom Cintiq 21UX so that it's almost flat on your desktop, like a sketchpad, tilt it at a variety of angles, like an easel, or tilt it nearly upright, like a standard monitor. It can’t tilt up to 90 degrees or lie flat, but you can take it off its stand and use it in your lap if you like to work that way, although admittedly it’s a little on the large (and heavy) side for that kind of use. I actually found that to be more comfortable than using the Cintiq on my desk, but that’s just me.

Eight ExpressKeys, four on each side of the display, can be programmed to perform your favorite functions or keystrokes. You can even program them to perform different functions in different applications. Two Touch Strips, located on the active area side of the ExpressKeys, can also be programmed to perform specific scroll, zoom, or keystroke actions, application-specific or not.

The Wacom Cintiq 21UX is bundled with Adobe Photoshop Elements, Corel Painter Essentials, and Nik Color Efex Pro, a somewhat puzzling choice for an interactive pen display that targets professionals.


Updated drivers are available for the Wacom Cintiq 21 UX going back to OS X 10.4 for both Power PC Mac's and Intel Macs. Current drivers are available for OS X Yosemite from the Wacom support site.