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Astropad (on a iPad 4) vs Cintiq - My Personal Review

Hey all, I just recently got my new Cintiq 13HD touch in the mail as a little upgrade from my previous setup (Wacom Intuous Creative Stylus, iPad 4, and of course, Astropad). Thought I’d share some of my experience with the 2 products.

I’ve just jotted down some of my first impressions, will provide a more in-depth review later!

- Pricing
Definitely a big decider for most people. I dropped about $1000 on the new Cintiq, which is about $200 up from the cheapest Cintiq option, the 13hd without the touch capabilities (that are already native to iPads). Keeping in mind that most people looking into astropad already own an iPad, the astropad app is $20 on the app store, which is very very nicely priced for all the features that it shares with a Cintiq.

- Wires
Yes, wires get its own whole section because in my opinion, this is a huge issue with the Cintiq. Quick note that astropad is wireless (or just one USB connection), which is amazing. I have lost that feature with the Cintiq - it has SIX wires in total (which was just a complete mess, by the way), and requires you to be plugged in into a wall outlet for it to power. I didn’t notice the power supply issue at first, completely my fault, but my jimmies were still visibly rustled as I’d thought that I could use this iPad-sized tablet on the go. The Cintiq itself has this hydra-like 3-way connection to my Mac with the HDMI cable (+1 wire for the mini display port adapter), USB connection, and connection to the tablet itself, as well as the 2 wires for the power supply. I will mention that you do get a much faster connectivity (no “pixel L lag”) with all these wires. Now, as this is not a Cintiq-focused review, I will quickly say that I was disappointed with Wacom’s wire shenanigans and astropad is definitely the better choice for on-the-go sketching.

- Performance
As I mentioned above in “Wires,” you sack a visually-pleasing wire setup for faster speeds with the Cintiq. There is no lag at all, while a common astropad issue is lag itself. I do think that the Cintiq’s performance is in every way superior to the iPad’s, because, well, that’s what it was made for. Considering the price tags, astropad hold up phenomenally well against the Cintiq in that if you can give up some convenience and performance for a much lower price, you’re all set.

- Some Thoughts
If you are considering astropad because of the price tag of a Cintiq, I say go for it as it is the most viable option for you at this price range. If you are upgrading from an art tablet like a Bamboo or an Intuos to have that display functionality, I’d recommend looking around some more to see if Astropad suits your needs, and definitely try out the free trial to see if you like it. I’d say that if you already own a Cintiq or other display tablet, astropad is a good backup option and great for sketching in places where you don’t have a power outlet or computer with you or you don’t want to haul around your larger tablet (for example, the 60-pound 24HD). Personally, although I am absolutely loving my new tablet, I’d still use astropad for sketching and doodling or when I really can’t be bothered with all those wires.

Should you buy? Again, I recommend trying out the free trial for astropad if you are looking into it at all, and it does hold up quite well to the Cintiq. For those looking into upgrading to a Cintiq from astropad, go for it if you have the funds and are serious about art either professionally or as a hobby. You get a lot more functionality for a lot of money, so decide whether you are willing to make that trade.

Tl;dr Astropad is a good cheap alternative to Cintiq but I wouldn’t say a replacement or upgrade to.

Thanks for reading, and I will update with some photos/videos/more walls of text as I go! :slight_smile:

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Going wireless with Astropad + iPad Pro + Apple Pencil is one of the best drawing experiences you’ll get. And without all those wireless that Cintiq has, you can rotate the iPad and draw how we all used to draw on paper. Very natural experience. There isn’t much lag during actual drawing and you can minimize it some by using a 4:3 res, reduce transparency and most of all, focus on your work. The Apple Pencil is the first Stylus that has no lag. I’ve used Creative Stylus 1 and 2 and the delay in drawing was so bad, I couldn’t even take notes with it (and that was with native iPad apps not Photoshop or Painter). Apple responsible for creating the iPad Pro and Pencil; combined with these Ex-Apple Engineers at Astropad are doing some great work at a great price.

iOS drawing apps do not measure up to desktop drawing apps. Astropad fills that gap. Most iOS drawings app look like their made for children, not creative pros and casual doodlers. It’s awesome drawing in Photoshop and Painter. Very happy with my purchase. I thought I would be stuck with Adobe Draw and Photoshop what the hell ever they made on the iPad.

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Astropad was one of the best experiences I’d had with digital drawing for the price. I can’t really say anything for the iPad Pro + Apple Pencil combo because I don’t own any of those products, but from what I’ve heard it works pretty well.

iOS apps do have very limited functionality and that’s why astropad and Cintiq are here in the first place, you just get so much more with a desk/laptop and professional drawing applications than, well, anything on the iOS app store really. Dropping 20 bucks on astropad just improves your workflow that much more and it’s definitely worth it.

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I sold my Creative Stylus 1 and 2, and iPad Air on eBay before even knew about Astropad. And for Xmas (and my 44th birthday), I got an iPad Pro and Pencil. The same week I got it, I searched around for anything that was made for the Apple Pencil and Astropad for $20 showed up the search window. I’ve been hooked ever since. I used to draw every day, and gave it up with family, career and kids, but I happy to to day the artist in me is back and I can thank Astropad for that. (Sorry that’s a lot of I’s there).

Tip: if you get HiDPI working and a native Res for your iPad, it looks way better on both your Display and on the iPad.

I also got a protective glass screen for the iPad Pro. At the Apple Store it appeared that after many uses the Pencil could put small grooves in the glass. Getting the protective 2-3mm glass is worth protecting your investment and lets you apply more pressure without that weird LCD liquid effect.


That sounds great and it’s amazing that Astropad has come through as an affordable but viable option for both professionals and hobbyists alike. Many thanks to Matt and Giovanni for this!

Thanks for the tips, I’ll try that out. Unfortunately not planning to get the iPad Pro anytime soon, but I will try a protective cover with my iPad 4. :slight_smile:

+1 on iPad Pro + Pencil combo. I’ve just got mine and it is insanely superior to any other iPad stylus that has come before it. To me iPad Pro + Pencil + Astropad is really going to be the Wacom killer. When connected over USB I don’t really perceive any lag. Even on wifi, the occasional pixellated redraw after scrolling the canvas isn’t very distracting. The beauty of Astropad is I can leave my MBP in the study and I can continue using all my Mac apps with my iPad Pro in my bedroom. Can’t do that with a Cintiq. Cintiq 13HD display is also inferior to the iPad Pro imho.

I agree that Astropad on any other iPad wasn’t all that convincing when compared to a Cintiq. But on the iPad Pro, oh man. This is a game changer for Mac users. And can only get better as the tech evolves.


A few months ago I bought a Cintiq Companion 2, on the basis of it being a self-contained tablet computer with a Wacom stylus. Even with being self-contained it’s still ridiculously cumbersome - it’s heavy (too heavy to hold comfortably, really), I get maybe an hour of battery life on it so I need to keep it plugged in all the time anyway, calibrating the stylus is a laborious and difficult process (that keeps on breaking with every driver update), and the tracking accuracy turns out to not be all that great anyway.

Meanwhile, a friend turned me on to Astropad when it was first released, and I tried it out on my iPad Air and fell in love. I got an Adonit Touch stylus and found it to work way better than the Wacom stuff, and then the iPad Pro was announced and recently I upgraded to that. And let me tell you, it is SO much better in every possible way.

So, uh, anyone want to buy a slightly used Cintiq Companion 2? :wink:


That sounds great! Actually, I bought an iPad Air a few days ago as well, how do you think that the Air compares with the Companion 2?

The Air has a smaller screen, and Astropad’s quick access buttons end up making it feel even smaller. Also the Adonit Touch is a little glitchy at times. I haven’t been able to try out the Apple Pencil yet (it’s still backordered like crazy!) so I’m still using the Adonit with my iPad Pro.

There’s pluses and minuses to both the Air + Astropad and the CC2, but on the balance I prefer the Air just because it’s more portable and friendlier. And of course, iPad Air + MacBook Pro still weighs less than the CC2, and both parts have way better battery life.

I can’t recommend the Air (or even the Pro, for that matter) on its own though - iPad drawing apps are so severely limited compared to just running Photoshop/Manga Studio/Krita/etc. on your laptop. Some of the iOS drawing apps are okay for quick sketches, but when it comes to actually making finished works they’re just too limited. I also can’t get any of them to work with the Adonit’s pressure support (another reason I’m looking forward to getting my Pencil in, oh, three weeks…)

The experience also depends on your model of Cintiq. My 12WX is nice and fast, but horribly inaccurate. If I draw a straight line across the Cintiq, it looks good in the center of the tablet, but gets progressively wavier towards the edges. A problem that Wacom has never provided a fix for. It makes anything but “expressive” painting a no-go for me on the Cintiq.

There’s also the issue of parallax due to the separation of the pen head from the display pixels. On the iPad Pro, it’s a fraction of a millimeter, which is almost non-existent. On the Cintiq it’s approximately 3mm, which means that you have to re-calibrate the display every time you change the position of your head in relation to the Cintiq, or your lines won’t appear at your brush tip.

So even with some lag issues on the iPad Pro’s connection to my iMac, I still prefer using the iPad Pro to the Cintiq in Photoshop. Plus native apps like Sketchbook or Procreate are good enough that I can do most of my drawing, and initial coloring, in them before moving to Photoshop.

For other apps like Mischief though, the lag is almost non-existent, so I have no problem drawing quickly over the Astropad connection.

I can’t find an app titled Mischief. Can you give more info please?

Available for Mac and Windows -

I just searched the Mac (not iOS) app store and it’s there.

What about drawing though: precision and speed?

Just to add my experience, I had a Cintiq 13HD and later a Companion 2, and sold it to move to iPad Pro + Apple Pencil+ Astropad.
The actual experience with Astropad 2 is excellent, lag is basically gone, works beautifully using wi-fi and the freedom of drawing anywhere with a lite device has no price. I think this is better than the Cintiq experience.
Now, the screen you get on the Cintiq is bigger, that is true, I use the Astropad with the 1:1 hidpi trick and quality is great, but screen real state is lower… But that is fine, having the freedom and lightness is better for me.
Another benefit is that you can use the iPad+pencil without Astropad too, don’t underestimate the quality is native drawing apps, procreate is fantastic, I usually draw there, and export to clip studio on the Mac for line work.


Hello Victorious and thank you for your review. I completely agree about the wires. I returned a Cintiq because of the wires.

I completely disagree that iPad apps are “severely limited”. You can do far more than quick sketches with them. I’ve done solo art shows with paintings made from them (and sold them). They are also not “made for children” (by the way, children give painting apps quite a workout, since they are not incumbered by preconceptions or expectations).

iPad apps ARE, however, limited. I’d never give up my favorite MAC software for them. On the other hand, I’d never give up my iPad apps either.

The good news is I don’t have to do either because the better apps export to PSD and do a good job of it. And now, Procreate IMPORTS PSD. Personally I see no reason to feel a need to choose, but rather to integrate. The best of each into a single workflow.

Yes, Procreate has gotten a lot better in the year since I posted that comment. It still doesn’t do a lot of stuff that I rely on in desktop Photoshop, however. It’s great for digital painting but that’s only a tiny subset of what I use a computer for, art-wise.

Totally agree that no app can fulfill an entire workflow. But neither can Photoshop, for which I pay a dear $ sum, and far more than collectively the rest put together. Corel Painter isn’t cheap either.