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Tablet PC slate vaioz-canvas

Vaio Z Canvas review 2016: art tablet on steroids

Vaio Z Canvas review: Cool 2-in-1 with desktop-PC power

The Vaio Z Canvas is a really powerful tablet PCs out there, and it’s designed for artists. If you’re looking for something like a Cintiq Companion 2 or Surface Pro 4, you may want to consider the Z Canvas.

Vaio was once part of Sony, but the Sony got out of the computer business. Several hundred designers and engineers at Vaio found investors and formed their own company in Japan using the same factory. The U.S. division opened in autumn of 2015. The fledgling company is seeking ways to distribute their devices and educate the public about them.

vaio z canvas review

Now that’s a skinny keyboard.

Other than the name, they have no connection to Sony, and now they have creative freedom. They have advanced what began as the Sony Vaio line, creating this as  a mega-tablet for graphics professionals.

Vaio designed the Z Canvas in consultation with illustrators, animators, and photographers, including from Adobe, to create this powerful prosumer 2-in-1. (Prosumer is a device for professionals and consumers). Each unit gets the engineers’ “Azumino Finish” 50-point quality check.

 

Features
Runs: Windows 10
Screen: 12.3 inch (diagonal)
Resolution: WQXGA+ 2560 x 1704
Aspect ratio: 3:2
Glossy, anti-smudge
Build: unibody aluminum, brushed aluminum surface
Color gamut: 100% sRGB, 95% Adobe RGB
Digitizer: N-trig with 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity
Pen (included): DuoSense, takes an AAAA battery
Processor: Intel Core i7-4770HQ quadcore hyperthreaded
RAM: 8GB or 16GB (not upgradeable)
Storage: SSD 256 GB Serial ATA or SSD 512 GB PCI Express or 1 TB PCI Express
Graphics: Intel Iris Pro 5200 integrated graphics
Battery: 63-watt high-capacity
Dimensions: tablet 8.4 in x 11.9 in. x 0.5 in – 11.9 in
Keyboard: 8.4 in x   – 11.9 in x .02 in
Weight: PC Approx. 2.67 lbs.
Keyboard: about .75 lbs. (12 oz.)
Ports: Two USB 3.0
SD memory card reader
mini DisplayPort
HDMI output
LAN (RJ45) port
Headphone/microphone
Front camera .92MP, rear camera 8MP

What’s in the Box

Tablet
Keyboard
Power cord and AC adapter
Pen
Cleaning cloth
Pen holder
Pen grip
documentation

SCREEN

The Z Canvas’s 3:2 aspect ratio makes it easier to use in both landscape and portrait, but the easel stand, as with most tablets, only works in landscape mode.

The super-sharp screen boats a wide color gamut of 100% sRGB and 95% of the larger Adobe RGB gamut, making it excellent for artists who demand color accuracy. It’s unusual for a tablet to have the Adobe RGB gamut and if it does, it’s usually not such a high percentage. (The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S has a similarly wide gamut, and the Surface Pro 4 gets about 70% of Adobe RGB.) The IPS display looks great, with rich colors and deep contrasts, as well as good viewing angles.

The Vaio Z Canvas in action, with drawing in Photoshop and 3D sculpting in Zbrush.

Battery life
5 – 6 hours with mixed use.

PROCESSOR

The Intel Core i7-4770HQ quadcore processor is extraordinary for a tablet and is usually found on laptops 15″ or larger. The Vaio Z is really a mobile workstation that functions as desktop replacement. It’s close to the MacBook Pro Retina in terms of processing power, and twice as fast as the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book. It uses the 4th-gen. Haswell CPU rather than the latest Skylake, but the hyperthreading makes up for it–this machine can multitask.

The most compared product to it is the Surface Pro 4, but The Z Canvas is much more powerful and so unusual that it’s in a class by itself–a tablet mobile workstation. The question is if the Z Canvas a quirky, short-lived bunch of ideas, or a step in the direction of art tablets overpowering other tablets and replacing desktops.

The “Z engine” is the core of the Z series design. It has to do with dense circuitry and heat dissipation. There’s a bit more info here (it’s in Japanese, but if you have a Translate button it will translate).

The computer with its three fans runs cool and quiet.  The nice-looking vent blows air out of the top. Among elements that contribute to its cooling system are big copper pipes on the inside. The power brick, though, can get toasty.

vaiofans

Triple fans and copper piping keeo the hot away.

A fast processor makes everything faster: bootup, opening programs, and graphics rendering. The Vaio is suitable for 2D and 3D animation, video editing, AutoCAD, and light to moderate gaming. While some desktops are faster, and this isn’t exactly a gaming machine, it’s the most powerful tablet so far. The Iris graphics are comparable to discrete graphics on other tablet PCs.

PORTABILITY
The tablet  alone weighs about 2.7 lbs. and with the keyboard gets to over 3.25 pounds, and then add in the pen and power brick. It’s not terribly light, but still portable. In comparison, the Surface Pro 4 tablet part weighs about 1.7 lbs. and with the keyboard, about 2.3 lbs.

KEYBOARD
The very thin keyboard is chiclet-style and has low travel, but is quiet and not hard to use. It’s not backlit, making it inconvenient for use in the dark. If you’re someone who likes to lie on a bed or couch to use your computer, it’s probably not the best choice, as the stand isn’t meant to balance on lumpy blankets or breathing bellies.

The keyboard is meant to stay separate from the screen, as with a desktop. It’s not Bluetooth but RF (Radio Frequency) so doesn’t need to be paired, though you need to have Bluetooth turned on for the RF to work.

The keyboard should be kept within 20” (50 cm) away from the tablet for optimal performance. Also, remember to keep thongs with magnetic strips, such as credit cards, away from it.

It connects via magnets and a couple of pins in the bezel or a micro USB. Connecting it charges the keyboard battery, but only the RF actually makes the keyboard work.

You can’t stand the tablet up via the keyboard. The keyboard snaps on top of it and forms a protective cover.

vaiozcanvasreview.

Drawing no. 2 shows the ideal position of the keyboard, according to Vaio. Images by Vaio.

There is a button that can toggle the keyboard power on and off so the keyboard won’t drain the battery.

You may find it most comfortable to put the keyboard a little behind the tablet, or to the side. These images, created by Vaio for a prototype, discourage the viewer from using the keyboard in the front, saying it causes fatigue. The second image is considered ideal. You might even try it the keyboard behind the screen–each user is different.

If you avail yourself of the Z Canvas’ on-screen shortcut menu, you won’t need to use the keyboard that much while drawing.

STAND

The easel stand is also unusual. Vaio, thinking ahead, says the idea is that the user might “unconsciously” want to change the angle of drawing, so they have designed the stand to be intuitive and easy to adjust without interrupting workflow.

vaio-z-canvas-stand

You put the tablet on a table first then pull the stand down from where it’s ensconced flush in the middle of the back of the tablet, then push or pull the tablet to your desired angle. You can press reasonably hard while drawing without pushing it down.

To close it, push down on the tablet rather than closing it with your hand. You can set the tablet to any angle between 90 and 20 degrees, so fairly low to high. Vaio says the mechanism is made up of “springs, dampers, and cams.”

The Z Canvas is not very lappable, though with some effort it can be done. Best to place the keyboard on your lap and the tablet on a flat surface.

 

DRAWING ON THE VAIO Z CANVAS

PEN
The pen is N-trig, the digitizer tech now owned by Microsoft.

Two pen buttons sit flush in the barrel near the nib. The included soft grip collar provides a comfy, cushioned way to hold the pen, like memory foam for the fingers. Or you can go austere and take it off. Either way, the buttons are accessible. There is no eraser end. The buttons do right-click, open a clipping tool for making screen shots, and open OneNote

The pen attaches not that securely to a magnetic strip. There’s also a pen holder that attaches to holes on either side of the magnetic strip for a stronger way to keep the pen handy. The holder can be taken off with a pinch.

The pen has a tail cap, adding to the pen pieces to make sure to keep together—the cap, nib, battery, and collar.

vaiodualsensestylus

Vaio pen, wearing its grip collar

Vaio worked hard to reduce parallax since the days of the Sony Vaio Flip. N-trig never did have much of a parallax issue, so they’re being perfectionistic here in trying for the look and feel of ink flowing right from the nib.

Instead of a gap of air between the top touch panel and the LCD, there’s now a thin layer of gel (optical resin), bringing the pen tip closer to the LCD. The DuoSense pen seems to be the same pen as with the old Sony Vaio devices.

You can also use the Surface Pen and its variety of nibs.

As with the Surface Pro 4, there are 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, which feels a lot smoother than N-trig’s previous 256. There’s some hover lag, and you need to press down a bit harder than with Wacom pens. There does seem to be less drawing lag than with the Surface Pro 4. The nib is longer than on the Surface Pen.

The pressure curve is excellent (no blobs or sudden shifts, as sometimes happens with Wacom) and can be adjusted in the pen pressure utility. The nib has a bit of bite compared to the regular tip of the Surface Pen, so drawing doesn’t feel like skating over glass, but you may still want to use a matte screen protector if you prefer a more papery surface. (Photodon makes excellent screen protectors and there’s one specifically for the Vaio Z Canvas here.)

You can adjust the pen pressure curve via four points in the Pen Pressure Utility while viewing preview.

Vaio Z Canvas vs. Cintiq Companion 2. The Z Canvas can be compared to the Cintiq Companion 2 as art-specialized 2-in-1 tablets and to the Surface Pro 4 as well.

The screen of the Cintiq Companion 2 is a larger 13.3″ vs. the Z Canvas’ 12.3″, and the CC2 has a textured surface, vs. the Vaio’s smooth one. The Companion 2 also has an EMR pen, which is the most sensitive (besides the Apple Pencil) and offers tilt sensitivity, as well as rotation sensitivity with the ArtPen, drawing more organic lines. The CC2’s aspect ratio is 16:9, making it less appealing to use in portrait mode.

The Vaio’s screen is brighter at 250 nits to the Companion’s 150, and the Companion 2 has only about 5 hours of battery life on a good day–neither device has a very long battery life.

The Vaio’s pen has less parallax and no edge jitter, but you have to press harder.

The Surface Pro 4’s screen is the same size and aspect ratio though much brighter at 436 nits; it doesn’t cover as much of the Adobe RGB gamut, though. The SP4 weighs a pound less; and the digitizer also does not recognize tilt or rotation. The SP4 gets half the speed and power of the Vaio. The keyboard cover attaches to the Surface Pro 4 and holds it up. Battery life is about the same.

Which to get is a tough and individual decision. The highest-spec “enhanced” Cintiq Companion 2 comes the closest to the Vaio and is fast, but is still dual-core and doesn’t hit the Vaio’s speed.

TRACKPAD
The trackpad is large and works well, but doesn’t support 5-point gesture, which could be annoying if you’re used to using gesture on it, but I don’t think that’s a major issue.

Camera oddness. The Vaio has two cameras and oddly, the front facing one is only 1 MB (actually, .92). So you won’t be as tempted to spend a lot of time Skyping. The rear camera is a healthy 8 MB. You could go out and take photos and enjoy the 12.3″ inch preview. Or you could skip using a scanner by photographing your reference image, line drawing, or traditional art, etc. then importing it into your art program.

CONTROLS
Two buttons on either side of the top edges reach a whole new level of cool. The one on the right shuts off the touchscreen, making it impervious to any palm-rejection glitches that might occur if your hand gets in the way of the hover area.

The left button brings up the customizable on-screen shortcuts, similar to those you would find on a graphics tablet or Cintiq. The shortcuts can be customized for each art program. You can use  the automatic-fit setting so the menu won’t cover program icons.

You can also shut off the trackpad, which could come in handy if your hand keeps hitting it by accident.

vaiopenciboard

Vaio Pencil Board. You put the square over the part of your image you want to protect from changes.

Another interesting feature also found on the Vaio Flip is the Pencil board, accessible from the Tools menu. It gives you a transparent square that you can put over part of the screen, blocking any changes to it. It pleasantly slides around the screen. You can adjust its size and transparency, though it doesn’t become totally transparent. It’s easy to toggle on and off.

More art-specialized features: The unique mapping controls allow you to map the tablet to multiple monitors, so you can use the tablet as a sort of Cintiq, an input device for a larger display, making good use of the two ports that each support a 4K monitor.

More about those two buttons on top (the Express Keys or hotkeys and Disable Touchscreen): the hotkeys can be used on-screen even with the touchscreen is disabled–pretty ingenious, and it’s not hard to see why the disable-touch button has a patent pending.

USER REVIEWS AND EXPERIENCES
A lot of artists voice enthusiastic praise in their Vaio Z Canvas reviews. For many, it’s the tablet they’ve been waiting for. Users love the speed, multitasking and multimedia abilities, and the touches such as the Pencil Window and keyboard shortcut menu.

On the downside, some feel it’s a bit heavy, or too difficult to balance other than on a flat table.

Pros
Powerful, fast processor
SD card slot that lets you push card all the way in
Can open the back
Onscreen hotkeys
easy disabling of touch
good amount of ports, including Ethernet
on-screen shortcuts
Pencil window
Lots of ports (for a tablet)

Cons
Some (not all) users have had problems with keyboard disconnecting
Not very lappable
Keyboard not backlit
Not the lightest tablet
Memory not upgradeable (as with most tablets)

Some glitches some users have noted are: light bleed; pen fragility; and issues with the keyboard disconnecting.

 

THE VERDICT
Despite a few odd choices (such as lack of a backlit keyboard, and the 1MP front camera), the Vaio Z Canvas is a powerful art tool with a “cool factor.” Too bad it doesn’t have a specially made carrying case. Or a USB-C port. Despite all this, our Vaio Z Canvas review is positive, because of all the good things it does have.

It’s probably the only tablet truly good for editing 4K video. It works well with AutoCAD too. It’s ideal for video editors or those working with very large photo and art files. Others won’t need all the power and may choose a larger screen.

The main sticking points are the small screen size, and, I still prefer the feel of Wacom pens and digitizers but that’s an individual thing (I’m a light presser). Many people are happy with both the Vaio pen and the Surface Pen, and both work on this. We will see what the future holds with the Wacom-Microsoft pens due out this holiday season.

Much work has gone into catering to the needs of graphics professionals, making the Z Canvas a powerful addition to any artist’s arsenal.

VAIO_Z_Canvas-review

Vaio Z Canvas with keyboard

See it on Amazon.

End of Vaio Z Canvas review

 

Tablet PC slate

Microsoft Surface 3 review: Windows, pen pressure in an affordable tablet

microsoft surface 3 review

Microsoft Surface 3

Microsoft Surface 3 review: we’re not in RT-land anymore

by Tablets for Artists

Type of tablet

Slate PC with detachable keyboard

Features

Windows 8.1 (64-bit), with free upgrade to Windows 10 when that becomes available

Intel Atom Quadcore x7 processor

Multitouch screen takes finger or pen input

N-trig digitizer with 256 levels of pressure sensitivity

Palm rejection

64 and 128 GB options

full-size USB port

mini USB charging port

takes microSD cards of up to 18 GB

less expensive than Surface Pros

One year of Office 365

Nice design and solid build

Surface Pen with eraser button (not included). Pen takes AAAA battery

Detachable, click-in keyboard (not included)

Bluetooth

Dock (not included)

Can connnect to most TVs and Monitors using  Mini DisplayPort or Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter

Ambient light sensor and more

 

What’s Included:

Tablet, charger (only works with the Surface 3), documentation, Quickstart guide

Microsoft touts the Surface 3 as being a rival to the iPad, because of its light weight, 3:2 aspect ratio, and comparable price; as a potential laptop replacement, it does much more than an iPad. It certainly could take the place of an iPad in terms of what it does, and it does far more than the iPad; if all you need is the functions of an iPad, then you may be happier with one. I see the S3 as a lower-cost rival to the more premium Surface Pro 3 because the S3 has almost the same features, including pressure sensitivity. So this Microsoft Surface Pro review will focus on the comparison with the SP3 rather than an iPad, because many artists are simply looking for an affordable drawing tablet with a screen and stylus and pressure sensitivity.

It’s far better than the now-discontinued Surface RT line, which had no pressure sensitivity and an irritating operating system.  If you want something that can also act as a laptop and art tablet, the Surface 3 is good deal. It has apps such as Netflix and iTunes, or you can use your browser to watch Netflix and you can run desktop iTunes.

This is the first computer to run the Intel Quadcore Atom X7, which as as powerful as an i3. You can run any Windows 8.1 program on the Surface 3. The X7 is made to run cool. It will handle Photoshop well.

The 3:2 aspect ratio is that of a sheet of paper. The Surface and Surface Pros 1 and 2, Samsung Ativ, and some other Windows slates have a wide screen. The 3:2 feels more natural hold and to draw on, and fits drawings such as comics better. It’s the same aspect ratio as the Surface Pro 3.

Surface 3 vs. Surface Pro 3

 Surface 3Surface Pro 3
OSWindows 8.1Windows 8.1
Screen size









10.8"12"
Aspect ratio3:23:2
Resolution1920 x 1280 full HD Plus2160 x 1440
Weight1.37 lbs.1.76 lbs.
Dimensions10.52" x 7.36" x 0.34"11.5” x 7.93” x 0.36”
Thickness .034".036"
ProcessorQuadcore Intel Atom x74th Generation Intel Core i3,i5, or i7
Pressure Sensitivity256 levels (N-trig)256 levels (N-trig)
Battery lifeup to 10 hrs. of video playbackup to 9 hours of Web browsing

The SP kickstand takes only 3 positions, making it less flexible than the SP3, but also adding less weight and cost.

Storage options are 64 and 128GB, the 128GB is definitely better for art, since art programs and files can take up so much memory, and Windows also takes a lot of memory.

The S3 has an optional detachable keyboard with buttons.

For lefties

You can actually set left or right-handedness by swiping from the right of the screen and writing the word “hand” (without quotation marks) in Search. A result will pop up asking you to specify the hand you write with, so you tap or click.

The pen that comes with the Surface 3 is the same as the Surface Pro 3 pen.

N-trig digitizer

The N-trig 3 is good for drawing, though you do have to press harder, exerting a higher initial activation force to get a line and the line can be a bit skippy if you don’t maintain the force. It’s something you can get used to There is no line jagging around the edges of the tablet as there are with Wacom digitizers. Microsoft consulted with some digital artists when creating the N-trig interface. Some people don’t like drawing on the N-trig, and others do. It’s good to test it out in person before committing. If you want a similar computer with a Wacom digitizer, which some prefer as it feels a bit smoother, you can still get a Surface Pro 2 or Surface Pro 1.

Pen

microsoft-surface-3-review-surface-pen

 

Surface Pen

The Surface Pen is solid and metal, and handles nicely. It takes a single AAA battery. You will have to pair the pen to the tablet via Bluetooth when you first get it, but only once. You can pair it automatically at setup, or do it manually later.

The pen resembles a metal ballpoint pen and produces a fine line. The barrel comes in 4 colors. It works with art programs in addition to apps that support Microsoft’s Ink, such as Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

The pen has three buttons. The top button connects to the SP3 via Bluetooth. Single-clicking the top button will open OneNote, and double-clicking will take a screenshot.

On the barrel are two more buttons. The one farther from the tip is the Right-Click button. That one can open a pen menu where you can choose an ink color for OneNote, or select text.

The button nearest the tip is the eraser button.

Note: The Surface Pen works with the Surface 3 and the Surface Pro 3. It is included with the Surface Pro 3, but not with the Surface 3.

You cannot use a pen from the Surface Pro or Surface Pro 2 with the Surface 3 or Surface Pro 3. The SP1 and SP2 use the Pro Pen.

Drawing on the Surface 3

The screen is responsive and nice to draw on. When drawing, you don’t get jitter around the edges as happens with Wacom devices. However, there is a different problem specific to N-trig, which is that when drawing a diagonal line slowly, you get a jagged line. This is because the N-trig digitizer is arranged on a grid. Microsoft is aware of this problem and attempted to make the pen connection more powerful in the 3, but the problem continues. In testing the N-trig, I got this problem some of the time, depending on what strokes I was drawing. Here are some possible fixes:

-Draw a straight line, select the line, and rotate it.

-Use Manga Studio, which has line smoothing and fixes the issue.

-Use Lazy Nezumi, an app that gives you line smoothing. It has a Photoshop plugin, or you can do it canvas by canvas in other programs. It has a 30-day free trial, and is fairly affordable to buy.

-The Surface Pro or Surface Pro 2 have Wacom digitizers so would not have the jagged line issue (but do have edge jitter).

Customer ratings and reviews

Mostly very positive, with some complaints of defective tablets. One Microsoft Surface 3 review described it as being great for students, while another praised it for business and giving client presentations. As an artist, you could show your portfolio on it. So it’s a good all-in-one. As a tablet it’s very portable, and adding a keyboard gives you a functioning laptop.

 

The Verdict

The Surface 3 is arguably the best art tablet with screen that you can get for this price. You will not be able to get tilt sensitivity the way you can on the more expensive Wacom Intuos and Cintiq. There is not a variety of pens available as there is with Wacom devices. Professional artists who use Adobe CC and a lot of memory would do better to get a Surface Pro with its more powerful processor.

With the Surface 3, you will have pressure sensitivity, a desirable aspect ratio, lots of computing power (not quite as much as with the Surface Pro 3) and the ability to do anything a Windows laptop can do. You can run Metro Apps such as Fresh Paint and the Sketchbook Express app, or full Adobe programs and full Sketchbook Pro or Manga Studio, games, and Word. It seems that pressure sensitivity is becoming much more common in tablets. As for the diagonal-line problem, not everyone seems to have it, but if you do, try one of the solutions above. This is an annoying problem and may turn you off of the Surface 3 as an art tablet.

When preparing this Microsoft Surface 3 review post, I expected to make more of a comparison to an iPad, but in studying the specs, that comparison doesn’t quite make sense. As far as a buying choice, though, you are getting more for your money as an art tablet and a computer than with an iPad, but that doesn’t take away from what the iPad does offer, which is the Mac OS and breezy design. The Surface 3 has a nice design too.

Because the screen is not quite as large and the processor not quite as powerful, we still favor the Surface Pro line for professional digital artists, but if you’re on a budget, you can be very productive with the Surface 3. It’s not limited to use as a digital sketchbook; it goes beyond that. It’s also a good general-use device.

see it on Amazon

Optional Accessories for Surface 3

Surface Pen

Keyboard

Dock

Case

 

end of Microsoft Surface 3 review

Want to learn more about the different types of art tablets? Read our introductory article.

Tablet PC slate

Toshiba Encore 2 Write review: a Wacom-powered sketchbook

Toshiba Encore 2 Write Review: affordable Wacom tech

by Tablets for Artists

 

toshiba-encore-2-write-review

Toshiba Encore 2 Write. See it on Amazon.

Type of Tablet

Windows 8.1 tablet with digitizer pen

About the Encore 2 Write

If Toshiba’s new Encore 2 Write is the shape of things to come, then this is an encouraging time to be a digital artist. The Encore 2 Write was featured at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES),  an annual international convention held in Las Vegas that showcases the latest in gadgety innovations.

This tablet’s price point and features are comparable to the Asus Vivotab (read our review), which is no longer being manufactured. The Write is newer and has received more favorable reviews than the Vivotab. Like the Vivotab, it’s a portable tablet that runs full Windows 8.1 and has a Wacom digitizer. While the Vivotab gave you 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, the Encore 2 gives you the maximum, 2,048. The VivoTab only had a thin pen, but the Write has a full-size pen; the tablet does not have a slot to old it. Unlike Wacom pens for the Cintiq and Intuos tablets, the Encore 2 Write’s stylus takes a battery, size AAAA. The battery should last a few months with regular usage. It has two hi-res cameras and dual mics.

Specs

Intel Atom Z3735F processor
Windows 8.1
micro-USB port
16:10 aspect ratio
2GB RAM
64 GB storage
dual mics
two hi-res cameras
active Wacom digitizer with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity
comes in 8″ or 10″ screen
Dimensions: 6.9 x 10.2 x .35″
screen resolution 1280 x 800
Micro SD slot takes up to 128GB Micro SD storage, tablet
supports MSDXC standard
Bluetooth-enabled
GPS
HDMI video out
Pen does not have removeable nibs.

What’s Included

The tablet, pen (called Trupen) with lanyard

One-year subscription to Office 365™ Personal plus unlimited OneDrive storage (subject to change)

Charger

Reset pin

 

Features

The digitizer is not EMR (electromagnetic radiation) like a Cintiq. Instead, it is called “Active ES” (electrostatic) digitizer, which makes for a lighter tablet, as an EMR tablet requires a separate layer. The ES is a capacitive digitizer that is in front of the LCD screen. It’s somewhat like the N-Trig, and the metal pen that resembles a ballpoint pen also has the feel and look of the N-Trig pen. The screen is touch-screen and you could use it without the pen.

Though the Encore 2  does not currently support Wacom’s Wintab Feel It driver, which allows you to get pressure sensitivity in all the art apps that support it as well as map the pen,Wacom has unofficially said it will be getting this valuable feature. The Surface Pro 3 with its N-trig “dual sense” does not have this feature. The ES digitizers could in the future be the norm for lower cost (under $1,000), more portable, lighter-weight tablets.

Drawing on the Encore 2

With some programs  you will get an initial blob, as with the Surface Pro 3, as the tablet decides whether you are touching it with a finger or pen. The pressure curve is very good. The hover is a bit higher than on the Surface Pro 3, so it might seem like the palm recognition isn’t quite as good, but it works. The “hover tracking” is better, so there is less parallax with this than the Surface Pro 3. According to the video below, shot at CES, the initial activation force (geekspeak for how hard you have to press on it) is a light 3 grams. The line does not get jittery around the edges as it would in a Cintiq or the Vivotab. Both the N-trig and ES are fine even right near the edges. The pen provides some “bite” which gives a paperlike feel.

Screen

The screen resolution is not that high, but for this price you would not expect it to be.

 

Pen

toshiba-encore-2-write-review-pen

The metal TruPen is fine-tipped, “pro grade,” and takes a AAAA battery. The eraser is a button on the side. The palm rejection kicks in when the pen is hovering at about 3/8″ above the screen.

 

 

Software

Windows 10 will allow desktop apps on tablets 8″ or over. You can run desktop apps on this, since it’s a full Windows tablet, but it’s a little hard to use Photoshop since the tablet is small. As well, since it is an Atom processor, doing serious digital painting in Photoshop could be laggy, though basic image editing is OK. What will work best are apps such as Fresh Paint and the Sketchbook Express app, which are optimized for a tablet. One user who wrote an Encore 2 Write review praised using Manga Studio (desktop) with this, so by all means, try it.

The tablet is centered around note-taking. It comes with the preinstalled apps TruNote, TruCapture, and TruRecord. TruNote lets you take and organize handwritten notes, TruCapture is to take hi-res photos of text in books or from a blackboard, chalkboard, or whiteboard and do OCR, and TruRecord lets you record sound. There is an organizing and tagging system, kind of like Evernote. So you can not only draw on it, but use it as a multimedia creative diary.

Microsoft Office and OneNote work fine with this tablet.

 

Portability

It’s super slim at .04″ thick, and easy to carry at 13.4 oz. for the 8″ model and 1.2 lbs. for the 10″ model.

 

User reviews

Many people enthusiastically recommend this tablet as a digital sketchbook. One Encore 2 Write review praised its ability to work with Manga Studio. The high-res cameras, dual mics, and other features add appeal.

 

Pros

relatively affordable art tablet with screen
portable, lightweight
cameras do OK in low light
Pen and tablet are both fast and responsive

 

Cons

The screen resolution is not that high.
Atom processor works pretty well, but is not as fast as a full computer when you run graphics-heavy full Windows programs.
Cannot access battery.

Customer Service

I found them pleasant and professional when I did a chat to ask questions. If you happen to get a faulty one, Toshiba or Amazon will send you a new tablet.

 

The Verdict

This is an exciting development in tablets. It would be great if there were one that was a little larger. But this is a great portable sketchbook with pressure sensitivity that allows you to run both desktop and Metro apps. You can also use OneNote, play games, watch videos, and use a Bluetooth keyboard. I don’t see it as quite a Cintiq replacement, because of the size and there is not as much memory as with a full computer, so large programs such as Photoshop would not be ideal, though you could run Photoshop to an extent. For artists, this is overall better than an Android tablet or iPad because of the digitizer and ability to run desktop programs. It doesn’t have the great screen resolution of an iPad, but is more of a productivity tool.

 

Optional Accessories

 

iLLumiShield – Toshiba Encore 2 Write 8 Screen Protector

Cooper Cases Encore 2 Write Folio Case with Bluetooth Keyboard 

More Encore 2 Write opinions, price, and info on Amazon

 

End of Toshiba Encore 2 Write Review

 

Consumer Electronics Show, Wikipedia

official CES site

Tablet PC slate

Asus VivoTab Note 8 Review: Wacom in a small tablet

Asus VivoTab Note 8 Review: digital drawing in a pint-sized package, with Windows

by Tablets for Artists

 

asus vivotab note 8 review

ASUS VivoTab Note 8, 64GB

 Also see our review of the Toshiba Encore Write 2 , new in 2015.

The Vivotab also  comes in a 32GB model, but most of that would be used up simply for the OS, so get the 64GB, it’s about $50 more.

This tablet is quite exciting because it has the Wacom digitizer at a much lower price point than a Cintiq or any tablet where you draw on the screen that also has full Windows, as opposed to Atom or Android. It’s comparable in size and price to the iPad mini, but iPads lack  pressure sensitivity and can only run apps, not full programs. (Also, this tablet would let you watch Flash videos without an app.)

 

Type of Tablet

Small, 8″ slate tablet. A Bluetooth keyboard can optionally be added.
Unlike some tablets of the same size that run Atom or Android, this one runs full Windows 8.1.

 

For Lefties

This would be all right for the left-handed, but you should use the stylus for commands as it could be in inconvenient to use the multitouch with conventional Windows menus being on the left. Also, the screen is small, so whether righty or lefty, the stylus is easier.

 

Features

Wacom active stylus with 1,024 pressure levels (included)
Pre-installed full license MS Office Home & Student included. Win 8.1 full version.
8″ IPS HD 1280×800 Display
Intel Baytrail-T Z3740 Quad-Core 1.3 GHz.
64GB solid state storage. 2GB RAM
1.2MP front camera, 5MP rear camera
Bluetooth 4.0
microUSB slot
microSDXC slot
GPS

Thickness 0.4 inch
Weight 0.8 pound
Height 8.7 in.
Width 5.2 inch
Weight 12.8 oz.

 

This small tablet packs quite a punch as far as features–namely, the Wacom digitizer and pen, and full Windows make this a nice choice for artists, and it’s the reason we chose to review it. The Windows start button is on the left edge, which can be hard to find. One the right side opposite it is the sleep button, so you have to remember which is which.

 

asus vivotab note 8 review2

Portability

At 12.8 oz., it’s easy to tote along.

 

What’s Included

The tablet, charger, micro-USB cable, quickstart guide and documentation, warranty, and a license for Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 edition.

 

Screen

The screen is not that high-resolution. It can’t be compared to something high-res like a Cintiq 13HD, but for the price, it’s not bad. If you, for instance, make Print on Demand cards, the screen is larger than the card, and you could zoom in while drawing. You could create comics for online or print. Not all digital art needs a large monitor. The screen does attract smudges so I suggest a smudgeguard glove, screen protector. Built-in palm rejection favors the stylus, so you can hold the tablet while drawing without your hand causing anything to happen. The screen has is multitouch. It’s quick and responsive to pen and touch, and has good viewing angles. Smooth glass goes from one edge to the other with no lip or plastic border.

 

Stylus

The pen comes neatly tucked into the stylus, which is good news. It’s fine for drawing, and handwriting, but you might do more precise work with a larger pen.

 

Controls

The Windows button and power button are on the sides, which can be a bit confusing. The Windows key is on the left edge. The camera is in an unusual place, right in the vertical center on the back. There’s no video output; you’d need an adapter.

 

Software

Comes with One Note, Microsoft Office, and you can use any Windows programs, including Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.

 

Battery Life

6 to 8 hours (Amazon says 6 and Asus says 8; customers say 8-12)

Customer Ratings and Reviews

This has good reviews on Amazon, with people praising its. One Asus Vivotab Note 8 review said the battery lasted for 12 hours, and many said all day. Some said it is more useful than their Ipad (which makes sense, as it can do a lot more, though you will have to deal with things like Windows updates).

Unfortunately, there were some negative notes as well. In particular, this model has issues with the pen suddenly stopping working, and there is a very long thread about this here. So if you do buy this, it’s good to get it from Amazon because they have a 30-day return policy and make it easy to make returns, and the problem usually happens sooner. The extended warranty is a good idea too. I wish I could write an unreservedly positive Asus VivoTab Note 8 review, but because of the many customers who had issues with it, I have to say buyer beware. As it is, it’s not the most powerful tablet in its class, but it’s the only one so far that has the Wacom digitizer, so it’s an exciting development for artists on the go and for artists on a budget. If you get one with no problems, and you don’t mind the small size, this could be a joy.

Pros

Wacom digitizer and pen at much lower price than larger tablet PCs or Cintiqs

portable, light

Rubberized back can take a fall

Excellent battery life

Good handwriting recognition; will convert handwriting to text

Comes bundled with Office

Cons

No HDMI out, but can use an adapter

Some devices have been failing for some users (see Consumer Ratings and Reviews, above)

Screen smudges easily

The Verdict

If you get one without any issues, I think this tablet would be fun for an artist. Because of the small size I wouldn’t want it to be my sole art tablet, but I think this is a good starter tablet or extra tablet, especially with a Bluetooth keyboard (any Bluetooth keyboard would work, not just the detachable one) so you could use it as a small, lightweight computer for art and general productivity.

The VivoTab is comparable to the Dell Venue 8 Pro, though artists may prefer the VivoTab’s Wacom tech.

See more info, reviews and price

 

Optional Accessories

IVSO Bluetooth Keyboard Portfolio Case

Stylish Versa Sleeve

Here’s an illustrator doing her thing on a VivoTab Note 8:

 

 

End of Asus VivoTab Note 8 review

Tablet PC slate

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Review: Good-bye Wacom, hello N-trig pen

surface-pro-3-review

Surface Pro 3 with N-trig pen

 

Surface Pro 3 Review

by Tablets for Artists

 

TYPE OF TABLET

Tablet PC hybrid (slate tablet with detachable keyboard, runs full Windows 8.1) This Surface Pro 3 review is for the 4GB/128GB model.

 

Features

11.5 x 7.93 x .36 inches, with a 12-inch display 2160 x 1440 px resolution.

The kickstand now allows you to adjust it to 135 degrees–basically to any angle, including flat.

64-bit

Now in attractive aluminum color rather than black.

N-trig pen with 256 levels of pressure sensitivity.

Keyboard sold separately.

Weight 1.2 lbs. without keyboard.

Dimensions 0.36 x 11.50 x 7.93 inches.

 

surface-pro-3-kickstand

Tablet

 

The larger screen of 12″ is a major step forward for artmaking. The workspace doesn’t feel so cramped. The 3:2 aspect ratio instead of 16:9 is closer to a regular sheet of paper as well as to the artist’s traditional ideal of the Golden Mean, and lets you use portrait mode more intuitively.

The tablet is also considerably thinner and lighter than the Pro 1 and 2. The Pro i and 2’s Wacom digitizers require another layer of innards, adding more thickness. Using N-trig plays into Microsoft’s strategy of competing with Apple–the Surface Pro 3 is lighter than the MacBook Air. The Pro 3 is also now competing with the Cintiq Companion using N-trig.

Photoshop’s menus have been given magnification that you can turn on and off. Problem is, it only covers certain menu items, so unless you only use those specific items, you might want to go back to the regular menus, which show up small. Adobe has still not worked out an ideal way to get menus to display well on a high-resolution screen.

The trackpad on the new Type Cover 3 (optional) is much better than on the Type Cover 2. It’s larger and making a right-click isn’t a chore. If you don’t want to purchase the Type Cover, you can use any Bluetooth or USB keyboard.

Because of the higher screen resolution, the computer needs to work harder, and as more than one artist noted in a Surface Pro 3 review, the i5 processor can feel sluggish when using Photoshop. Penny Arcade artist Gabe has worked the with Microsoft Surface Pro 3 team in improving the artist experience.  Even though Gabe complains of pen lag even in the i7, we’re impressed that Microsoft is listening to the arts community and continues to tweak it.

Update: here is a link to the i7 model, which wasn’t out yet when we wrote this review.

 

surface-pro-3-review-portrait

Portability

At 1.8 pounds, about 2.4 pounds with Type Cover and pen, this versatile machine is very portable.

 

For lefties

MS moved the Windows key over to the right bezel, so lefties holding the tablet in their left hand may hit the Windows key by accident and end up at the home screen. On the other hand, it may be easier for southpaws to hit the Windows key by using their right hand when not holding the tablet; they no longer have to use their main hand.

You can choose left or right-handedness writing  “hand” (without the quote marks) in Search (to get to that, swipe from the right of the screen). A search result will appear and prompt you to specify which hand you use to write.

The Surface Pro 3 pen will also work on the Surface 3  (release date May, 2015).

 

Pen

The most striking news for artists is that the 3 does not use Wacom digitizers. Instead, it uses an N-trig pen, which requires 3 batteries–a AAAA battery for the pen, which supposedly can last thousands of hours, and are also cheap to replace, and two batteries for the Bluetooth. So now you need to worry about batteries.

The metal Premium Pen certainly looks nicer than the plastic Wacom ones, but is heavier and if you draw for many hours on end, fatigue can set in. The N-trig pen is metal because it takes a battery, not just for looks.

On the bright side, the N-trig doesn’t have the issues of jitter at the edges that the magnetic-resonance Wacom digitizers have. You can draw smoothly all the way up to the edges. Also, there is almost no parallax. There is a much smaller space between the pen and your line than there is with Wacom. So the experience is closer to using a pencil and paper. Pen accuracy is greater. The other big difference about the N-trig system is that there are only 256 levels of pressure sensitivity–that’s as few as the early tablet PCs had. It’s far less than the norm of 2,048 today. But oddly, it makes little difference. You only need more than 256 levels of pressure if your brush is larger than 256 levels, because that is the largest your mark is going to get no matter how high you press it. You can hover-click the pen, but you need to hold it closer than you do with Wacom.

For a detailed discussion, read this article about N-trig vs. Wacom.

Unlike the Cintiq, the eraser does not have pressure sensitivity, and the pen does not have tilt sensitivity. So it’s not quite as advanced, but it’s considerably cheaper than a Cintiq Companion, and you can do almost anything that you can do on the Cintiq Companion or other Cintiqs.

We noted that when holding the pen at a near-perpendicular angle (something we normally don’t do), the pen would not make a mark. Also, you have to press considerably harder to make a mark than with the Wacom system. On the bright side, there is nearly no parallax, meaning no distance from the pen to the line, and no edge jitter, so in that aspect the N-trig beats Wacom and feels closer to pencil and paper.

Here’s a little sketch done in Fresh Paint. You can see the effects of the pressure sensitivity.

 

microsoft-art-tablet

 

Many have complained that when drawing a diagonal line slowly, you get a jagged line. This is because the N-trig digitizer is arranged on a grid. This is an annoying problem and could be a dealbreaker. But if you want to use the Surface Pro 3, here are some solutions:

-draw a straight line, select the line, and rotate it.

-use Manga Studio, which has line smoothing and fixes the issue.

-use Lazy Nezumi, an app that gives you line smoothing. It has a Photoshop plugin, or you can do it canvas by canvas in other programs. It has a 30-day free trial, and is fairly affordable to buy.

-get a Surface Pro or Surface Pro 2 instead, since those have Wacom digitizers.

What’s Included

Windows 8.1 Microsoft Surface Pro 3 4GB/128GB Power Supply, N-trig pen, batteries, documentation.

CONTROLS

The charger now slips into a thin slot and is much easier to use than on the Surface 2. The power brick, like the 2, still comes with an extra USB port you can use to charge a phone. There is a now a known Surface Pro 3 Wifi issue on some types of networks and I expect Microsoft will release an update to fix this. The Windows button has been moved to the right.

surface pro 3-power-port

 

Software

You install Wintab drivers and they now work with Creative Suite. You can use any program you can want, such as Photoshop, Maya, etc., though ZBrush is not supported. You can use full graphics programs as well as apps such as Fresh Paint and Sketchbook Express from the Metro store.

 

 

Customer ratings and reviews

We have read many comments and articles by artists and have tried to include important info here. Amazon users were very positive, though they aren’t all using it to create digital art. Overall, customers are happy with this, and many artists are, too.

 

PROS

Larger screen

9 hour battery life, more like if you use large graphics programs

Clicking on the pen opens One Note

Easy to connect the power

Larger Type Cover with 68% larger trackpad

Can replace a desktop, laptop, and tablet Runs full Windows

No parallax when using pen

 

 

CONS

Near-perpendicular pen angles do not leave a mark

drawing slow, diagonal lines causes jitter for many people

must press harder to make a mark than with Wacom pen

drawing fast can result in missed short lines not showing up, and gaps

kickstand not comfortable in lap due to sharp edge, so put the computer  on top of a book or something

no tilt sensitivity

eraser lacks pressure sensitivity

Wifi issues on some networks

Zbrush not supported

You can’t flip the pen over to use the eraser, now you have to click one of the buttons on the pen. This can be easy to do by accident and if you’re not careful you might end up erasing your drawing.

Screen sometimes flickers and dims, it’s the computer trying to not heat up. It can run hot.

TIP: There are two ways to shut off the auto-dim feature: Control Panel –> Power Option –> click on Change Advanced Power Option –> Scroll down to Display –> turn off Enable adaptive brightness Or PC Settings -> PC and devices -> Power and sleep, shut off the “Adjust my screen brightness automatically” option

 

THE VERDICT

This is a very versatile machine a The new screen size is great.  If you are a 3D artist, currently, Zbrush is not supported as of yet. The lagginess is annoying and I’d get the i7 model when it comes out.  Microsoft is definitely listening to artists, and they plan in the next iteration to put in a customized pressure curve, which will allow more control over brushes. Also, the user won’t have to download the Wintab driver. For more info, read this post on the Surface blog.

Once these fixes are in, this could be much closer to a great art tablet. However, I have to say I prefer Wacom to N-trig. The N-trig requires more initial activation force and is thus less sensitive, there’s an incongruity in having to press fairly hard to make a delicate little line. But we know art supplies are all different and the hand can get used to the tool.  If I had to choose between a Pro 2 and 3 I’d get the 3 (but wait til the i7 processor comes out). A Cintiq is still a bit better art tablet, but less portable, and the Cintiq Companion is more expensive.

The N-trig pen does handwriting very well, and has no edge jitter, edge drift, or parallax, so in that sense it’s an improvement, but perhaps these are more important in writing than drawing. I still find the Wacom pen more sensitive to my hand, and this isn’t due to pressure sensitivity but just to the force it takes to make a mark, and the fact that you can hold the Wacom pen at any angle. Even quickly drawn strokes will show up with Wacom, there won’t be any smoothing. It really depends how you draw. It’s worth trying out the Surface Pro 3 to see if it fits your style. If not, the Surface Pro 2, now sold online only, has a Wacom digitizer and  is now at a lower price.

Here’s a video about the Surface Pro 2 vs. Surface Pro 3.

 

Surface Pro 3 on Amazon

 

Optional Accessories

 

Type Cover

The Type Cover 3 connects by a hinge. The keys are backlit and there’s a handy pen holder attached to the side. Typing on it is comfortable.

 

type-cover-3-review

 

 

This Microsoft Surface Pro 3 dock for the SP3 can make life a lot easier.

surface-pro-3-docking-station

 

 

 

 

 

 

surface3typecover

 

 

 

 

 

The Surface 3 Type Cover comes in some pretty nice colors.

 

joto screen protector

 

 

 

 

 

A matte screen protector not only keeps your screen from scratches, it can enhance your drawing experience by giving the smooth screen a bit of tooth, giving you greater control.

 

Read our Surface 3 review.

Read our Surface Pro 2 Review.

End of Surface Pro 3 Review