Wacom Cintiq 32" Review and Fan Noise Advice

After around 4 years of working nicely, my 27" QHD showed some signs of aging.
Mostly starting up showed green bands or a red edge which went away after 10 -15 minutes but that happens generally when the LCD Panel gets old.

With some savings for a new tablet I decided for the Cintiq Pro 32" Model.

There are many reasons on the pro side to do so, my reasons are listed below:

  1. More screen real-estate for references
  2. More references because of 4k-resolution
  3. Easier on the eyes because of 4k resolution
These were my main intentions and on that front it did deliver, really.
There are many more such as no parallax and less lag as also better dpi and pressure sensitivity with the Pro-Pen 2.

I did not expect the latter to do much, but I was wrong on that end; the Pro Pen 2 is THAT much better and it is nice when the cursor does not move off when moving towards the edge of the display.

Screen Real Estate

Below is a Screen-shot of my current layout for working with references, there is even space for a Netflix window and the Pure-ref window can be open all the time besides a small finder window!

Where light is there is shadow

The downside and Cons I knew about upfront were:
  1. It is pricey
  2. There is no model without touch
  3. The Pro series have noisy fans
Actually the price was not an issue for me, the lack of a no-touch option was a bummer because I don't use touch. I have my keyboard placed on top of the tablet and putting my arms on the tablet for writing just irritates the input device so it becomes useless.

Still using the Cintweak Keyboard tray - more about that here
The fan noise was something I had to see how bad it actually is. 
In the worst case i would be doomed to wear headphones with music all day ;)

There is some wrong info out there that states it is a firmware update available, which is fake news and only available for the 24" models. The 32" Model does not has an option to lower fan speeds. 

The automatic fan speed works pretty good so I don't bother about that one.

In my case the tablet runs at 75% brightness and without anything the fan starts at around 30-40 minutes of work.

What I have observed is that the screen also adapts to brightness, so opening a white sheet of paper in Photoshop brightens the screen up to 100% and it does take 5 minutes for the fans to start moving louder. Having just a grey UI and otherwise dark background on the tablet keeps the fans off for up to 45 minutes depending on the temperatures in your room.

My personal solution

I went with a solution that is nearly silent and keeps the fans very low for about as many hours as I was able to count yet.

As a general info here; it is not possible to keep the fans completely off, but with the following tips, and understanding, it is possible to keep the tablet as silent as a very silent external hdd-drive which is very OK for me and I'm a zen-silence-enthusiast at work.

So what I did to keep the internal fans off very low is to put 2 x Noctua NF-A12x15's with a fan control under the tablet that keeps two external fans running silently at around 400 rpm.
The Noctua Fan-Control in action

I also tried a usb fan with 3 step control such as this combo, but of course it was not as silent and the fans don't quit if the computer goes into Standby mode, which makes this solution just not better than the Noctua-fan-control thing...

Dual USB combo

When setting up the Cintiq Pro 32" model, you will notice that the bottom caps can be removed easily. Beneath them are the intake fans, you can keep these covers off for better ventilation or just the middle cover, whatever you prefer.

Another source of noise are the top venting holes / slits. I found that covering the middle part with isolation tape cuts around 40% of the remaining noise.

I taped the above venting slit in the middle which caused the main noise
I added cardboard with foam underneath to cut the other noise from venting out. Heck, it is even possible to hear the fans from the USB ports on the right side, but I suspect these to be responsible for only 5% of fan noise.

The top is revetted with cardboard so that the air stream is turned downward, this also turns down the noise ratio

Basically the internal cooling system of the Cintiq Pro model works like this: Cold air will be pulled in from the bottom and the warm air is going to move out at the top.

In order to keep the tablet cooler you have to move it away from the edge of the table. If you use an Ergostand this is the regular mode. It is designed with the Ergostand in mind which will always keep the tablet around 10cm from the edge of the table.

Wacom Ergostand

If you are like many and don't want to shell out another 350 bucks it is recommended that you still don't put the tablet at the edge like the image at the beginng of the article, that was done before I learned this ;)

The unit generates a lot of heat down there and it can't vent away. Adding some additional silent fans down there keeps the internal fans slow at any given time.
You know that the ventilation works right when the surface stays cold. If the surface becomes warm it is still not circulating right.

The schematic view shows better what to do and why to do it.
The actual view of the enhancement

Of course it would be nice to have the external fans be connected with the Cintiq via USB so they shut down when the tablet goes into sleep-mode, but moving the knob to shut off the fans when done working is not the hardest thing to do.

I'm on the hunt for a better solution that shuts the fans down when the Computer goes into Standby mode. If I have some news on that front, you will find it up here.

With a price tag of another 100 bucks just for the external fans that is an expensive solution I know, but when talking about a 3.5k tablet a bit more or less does not make a big difference in my book.

Enjoy the Silence

Here is a recording with the Noctua fans running:

The Room silence is about 30 db in any casual room, so 35 db is not even noticeable.

Now when the Cintiq fan kicks in, the meter clocks in at about 58 db WHICH IS noticeable:

The Surface

Of course the surface is nice, feels natural and is quite good out of the box, but even Wacom suggests to clean the nibs to prevent scratches, which means the glass surface is not so much made of glass after all.

As with the old one, I prefer having the glass plate on top as mounting a protection-foil on such a big screen is doomed to fail.

Touch won't work with the glass plate, but since I don't utilize touch it is not a problem for me. The glass plate saves pen nibs galore. 

In 4 years with the Cintiq 27 QHD, I never changed a nib!

Another advantage of the glass-plate is that it distributes the temperature away from the center of the tablet, just to a certain degree, but even without the Noctua-Fans, the internal fans set in later than without the glass-plate.

A nice thing is that there is still some space left and right to put stuff on there such as the EK-Remote that I wanted to start using more frequently.

The Qi- charger on top is a nice add-on to charge the phone while lying around ;)

But there is also a downside for having so much room on the tablet:

Since I use another keyboard for working in Photoshop I had to put some foam-pads on the edges because having the arm rest there, led to marks on the skin when using for quite some time.

One nice side-effect of having the Noctua-Fans running under the tablet; The resulting ventilation leads to some lower iMac temps too!
Usually in summer the meter runs between 65° up to 69° where the internal iMac fan starts to set in, that nearly does not happen anymore now and it runs smoothly between 53° - 62°.

Don't move!

Now you could argue that you need the Ergotron arm or the Ergo-Stand and this solution does not work for it... 

Let me tell you: I have worked 4 years with the 27QHD and believe me, I was happy not having to move this thing once.

I use the self printed stairs (picture above) which I made available here if you have a 3d-printer for different heights and once the perfect height is reached it becomes a painting/drawing table that I do not need to move anymore.

That said, I have to admit that I use an electric standing-desk, that is a must have when considering such a big Cintiq anyways.


Actually a pricey gimmick and for someone who does not need it and has already a 27 QHD, I'd say stick with it. If you are like me and need the Screen-Real-Estate and work with large paintings, and work with apps that support the Pro-Pen 2's level of pressure sensitivity, it is a worthwhile investment.

I suspect that Wacom does not have anything new to offer until at least 2021 for the pricier units, and the smaller 24" unit has the same issue with the fans as the big one - that are some facts to consider and so far there is no one else who delivers such a big tablet for artists yet as an alternative.

To Wacom: When making a new tablet, consider the Form-Factor to be not much larger than the 27 QHD was, because that was perfect. I would also be happy with just 30" screen and a smaller frame around the edges and more than 4k is not even necessary so that would be a win on all ends. And perhaps if a fan is necessary, please make circulation or venting holes in the back to make use of external cooler boards or DIY-solutions.
An aluminium back could also help to distribute heat away from the center.

If you have ideas or created some solutions, let me know in a comment.

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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook


Anthony Pacheco said...

Does the back fully open giving you access to the fans? If so, I bet you can replace them with magnetic, baring-less versions that significantly reduce the noise output. I am a big fan of quiet PC fans myself (heh).

Congrats on the great new setup!

Fantasio said...

@Anthony Pacheco, thanks for your comment!
Of course there might be an option to exchange the standard internal fans with some better Noctua fans for example, but for the next 12 months, I want to stay within the warranty. After that time has passed I might open the case and see what is possible. On the other hand, this external fixing has done so much it has become very acceptable ;)


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