I’ve used the iPad Pro as my main drawing tool since launch day, four years ago this September. I got my first review unit at the Apple office in Stockholm and bought my own iPad Pro and pencil that same day to make sure I gave an honest review. I’m currently on my fourth iPad Pro, and I have reviewed Wacom and Apple products for years for IDG magazines.
I’ve always been a little too eager to jump into betas. I was among the first to back Luna Display from Astropad and was more than a little disappointed to see them go down the subscription route. I can see why, but with subscriptions to Clip Studio and Adobe Creative Cloud already I really didn’t want to pile on yet another subscription.
With that at least partially in mind I upgraded to a 24” Cintiq Pro and left my iPad behind. It was just so much better. Especially the screen size and I’ve been hearing this more and more from colleagues. But I still liked the form factor and portability of the iPad and even bought the new iPad Mini just to have a sketchbook with me at all times. So with news of Catalina and sidecar coming to the Mac OS I was on the edge of my seat. Could this be a substitute for travelling, or the tired working-at-a-café cliche I can’t seem to avoid? I even installed it on my main machine, having already converted an old 2012 Mac Mini to run Windows 10 as a backup if everything failed (you’d be surprised how good Windows on a Mac actually works).
Alas, I could not get it to work, and there were many beta testers out there who were stuck with the same error. This morning saw the arrival of Beta 3 on the iPad and we were off to the races.
Mac OS Catalina’s new sidecar feature works like a charm. It’s not vastly different from running either Astropad, Luna or Duet but with a few nifty features you will probably turn off instantly to regain screen space. Let’s not even mention them at the moment.
I’m reviewing the beta just for the sake of drawing comics in Clip Studio.
And no, this is not ready for prime time yet, and what I see makes me a bit worried for the future of the functionality. With my iPad Pro and Photoshop this works pretty good. There’s a tiny amount of lag compared to my Cintiq Pro and a steeper pressure curve, but very nice. It feels a little “sticky” but that’s it. I can see myself using this for colouring comics or painting the occasional cover. It handled large brushes in an A3 painting at pretty much the same speed and accuracy as the Cintiq. And when I say pretty much, I mean close, but not entirely there.
Clipstudio though has severe pooling not seen since the early days of Astropad or Duet display.
Don’t ditch your Wacom just yet. And compared to Clip Studio running natively on the iPad this is no contest. It's like two different applications. It's useable but with the native app being leaps and bounds better than the sidecar version there's no reason to upgrade just to get sidecar. If this is an issue for you, just stick to Astropad for the moment. Will this be fixed? Who knows. The “bug” was there for years with Astropad and takes careful tinkering of the drawing engine. Earlier versions of screen doubling apps used wacom drivers to power the Apple Pencil. It’s all about that split second when you draw something and then lift your pencil up, leaving a blotch on the screen.
Is this a Wacom killer? Not by a long shot. Is it an Astropad killer? Not yet, but it could be in the future. All depending on what app you’re using.