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Windows Wacom MobileStudio Pro

Wacom MobileStudio Pro: portable Cintiq packs a punch

Wacom MobileStudio Pro: Powerful portable packs 8,192 levels, up to 4K display, 3D camera

Wacom MobileStudio Pro

Wacom MobileStudio Pro With Pro Pen 2. Source: Wacom

Wacom has created an amped-up successor to the Cintiq Companion 2, this one a lightweight portable with up to a 4K display, 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, discrete NVIDIA graphics, and a 3D camera. It will run Windows 10 and full versions of desktop programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Maya, and Cinema 4D.

Engineers, artists, and designers can all tote it around, as it can run not only art programs, but CAD. There will be two sizes: four versions of a 13.3″ display and two 15.6″ models, all with Intel processors, and NVIDIA Quadro M600 or M1000 graphics, depending which model. Storage will range from 64GB to 512GB.

The pen will be the all-new Pro Pen 2, with 8x the pressure levels of the current 1,024-level Pro Pen.

Some of the models will include an Intel 3D camera called RealSense, which captures 3D scans that can be opened in 3D programs such as Zbrush.

(For those without the budget for this who still want to work in 3D, Wacom is also releasing the Intuos 3D).

wacommobilestudiopro

Use as standalone or as Cintiq with Mac or Windows computer

The controls for the Wacom MobileStudio Pro will be similar to the ones on the Cintiq and Cintiq Companion line, including ExpressKeys and Touch Ring, and programmable pen buttons. As with the Cintiq Companion 2, users will be able to attach the MobileStudio pro to any Mac or PC and use it as a Cintiq display and input device, so you’ll be able to use the Mac OS as well as Windows.

MobileStudio Pro 13 vs. 16 specs

The four models of  the13.3″ display, called the MobileStudio Pro 13, will have 2.5K WQHD resolution as well as a wide color gamut of 96% of Adobe RGB. SSDs will have 64, 128, 256, or 512 GB storage. The 512GB one will have the 3D camera.

The 15.6″ models, called the MobileStudio Pro 16, have the nearly the same color gamut with 94% of Adobe RGB. SSD sizes will range from 64GB to 512GB. The 16 hasa 4K UHD display and the 256GB will have NVIDIA Quadro M600M an 2GB VRAM. The highest-end model of all of them is the 16 with 512GB SSD, NVIDIA Quadro M1000M, and 4GB VRAM. Both models of the 16 contain the 3D camera.

With these high specs and high expectations, we can only hope they’ve improved upon the flaws of the Cintiq Companion 2, including loud fan noise and not-so-great battery life. This has got to have a pretty major battery to power the display and discrete graphics, and hopefully it will also power the computer for a long time. The NVIDIA graphics should keep things moving without lag. Maybe the MobileStudio Pro will be the moveable feast so many are waiting for.

(Note, will update info as soon as possible)

See more about the Wacom MobileStudio Pro on Amazon.

Also check out specs on the CIntiq Pro, released Dec. 31, 2016, or see it on Amazon.

Windows tablet pro app review

Conquer your workflow with Tablet Pro Windows app

tablet pro app review

Tablet Pro app lets you ditch the keyboard and mouse

Tablet Pro, an app accessible from the Windows Store, offers on-screen touch controls that can make you work more efficiently, potentially trimming hours from your workflow. We don’t hear a whole lot about Windows apps, and some tablet PC users may have never even visited the Windows Store. But now there’s a good reason to.

The app allows you to ditch your mouse and keyboard and work on the couch or anyplace, because all the controls are moved to the screen. You can program dozens of keyboard shortcuts, use gestures and a digital trackpad, zoom way into any part of the desktop, and use pen and touch simultaneously. More info and videos can be found on the company’s Web site.

Developed by Takashi Yamamoto and Justice Frangipane, the app was once called Tablet PC Mouse.  Its features have expanded to make it a must-use for serious digital artists who want to get control over the Windows touchscreen.

Installing Tablet Pro from the Windows Store

The app works on any device running Windows 10 or 8.1 with multitouch–it will work on pen-only touchscreen computers, but you won’t be able to use gestures.

There are two stages to installation–first the app, then the desktop program. Both are free and provide the touchscreen trackpad with basic gestures. There are also several optional paid features. You get an automatic 14-day free trial of the whole package upon downloading the desktop program. If you continue, you can purchase the package or buy them a la carte.

The Artist Pad is the feature that would be of most interest for readers. Here’ s a quick look.

Artist Pad on-screen menu

I highly recommend that you sign up for the free “14-day challenge” email series where Justice walks you through each step via video.

Tablet PC headaches solved

If you use a tablet PC, you’ve probably experienced the conundrum–a tablet ought to offer mobility, but you end up having to use a keyboard to access shortcuts, as well as a mouse and trackpad to move the cursor.

With a convertible tablet PC, you may end up using an extra keyboard because your computer’s keyboard becomes inaccessible in tablet mode, or, you may be using a clamshell laptop and leaning over the keyboard in order to reach the screen–you may even be working “upside-down” to avoid reaching your arm over the keyboard to access the screen. Or you may use a detached tablet on the couch or on a plane, with the keyboard awkwardly next to you on your lap. No more acrobatics are needed–Tablet Pro solves these headaches.

There is precedent for improving productivity via on-screen controls– the Vaio  Z Canvas has a shortcut menu, and there’s Radial Menu, which expands on Wacom’s radial menu. (See all these methods in this post about best tablet computer hacks), but Tablet Pro goes much farther, giving you dozens of shortcuts and layout options.

The main timesaver is reducing the amount your hand has to travel to access tools. All those little seconds add up.

Krita demo using the app

Seeing is speeding

One common annoyance is that Adobe icons scale to such a small size. You will be be able to see them larger when using the app. And because you can increase the size of buttons, “fat finger syndrome” is abolished.

You can also use touch to adjust volume and brightness, and swipe between desktop and your projects, and swipe through slideshows. I especially like the ability to zoom in not just in art programs, but to anything. It’s like having a skin over Windows 10 that makes it do just what you want.

With a Cintiq, the hotkeys, buttons in the tablet body that let you program keyboard shortcuts, rank highly for the way they increase productivity. Now you can have shortcuts on any tablet PC using any digitizer, such as the Surface Pro, which uses N-trig.

The Four Parts of Tablet Pro

The four paid desktop features are Artist pad, Zoom Desktop, Virtual Mouse and Gesture, and Game Pad. I would suggest Artist Pad as a minimum, but I also really like Virtual Mouse and Gesture and Zoom Desktop. It’s helpful to be able to zoom in on anything on your desktop. It’s cheaper to install the whole shebang than just do three features without Game Pad. (And you could use Game Pad to program shortcuts as well.)

Artist Pad preset panel with Photoshop

This screenshot shows you one of the presets for the Artist Pad. You can see that the pad can be transparent , and you can also bring up on-screen keypad and make that transparent.

tabletproreview

Because the app does so much, there is some complexity in setting it up, especially the more advanced features. The primary users of those will be animators and artists with a complex workflow. Following the 14-day challenge will increase your understanding of its many features, and if you’re a quick study, there’s an option to go through the videos faster than the 14 days.

Not all artists need keyboard shortcuts; even if they’re not for you, the app is useful for different work styles and even for non-art use. A lot of businesses work on tablets now, and Tablet Pro is currently being used by thousands in hospitals, casinos, by U.S. government land/property assessors, special-effects studios, professional artists and designers, and more. With 2-in-1s becoming the norm among the public, it makes sense to have on-screen controls that go beyond just the built-in on-screen keyboard.

Tablet Pro lets you customize the Windows interface, lose the mouse and keyboard, and enjoy Cintiq-like hotkey functions. It may be just what you’ve been waiting for.

Here it is in the Windows Store.

Windows

10 best tablet computer productivity hacks for artists

Best tablet computer art hacks: 10 ways to make your tablet PC more like a Cintiq Companionbesttabletpctips

 

The best tablet computer for artists would have all the bells and whistles of a Cintiq or Cintiq Companion, or Intuos. But tablet computers don’t have a rocker ring, Express Keys, expansive and driver, or zoom strip.

Perhaps you’re wondering just what is in store with art features if you get a tablet PC. Or maybe you already have a 2-in-1 that runs Photoshop like a dream, but you’re wondering if you could squeeze a bit more creative juice out of it.

This article is focused on Wacom-penabled Windows tablet PC laptop  (example: Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga)  or 2-in-1s, though some of these tips can be used on other tablets as well.

Update: Adding the Tablet Pro Windows app, which gives extensive on-screen controls to your Windows multitouch tablet. Read about Tablet Pro here.

1. Tap and flick

In the pen settings, you will see a couple of options on what to do with the pen button and eraser (if the pen has one). You can customize the clicks of the pen to do what a mouse would have done.

pensettings

Pen flicks make the pen to do gestures like swiping or other functions to help navigate and edit (such as Back or Copy). These can save time.

If you’re using a graphics tablet along with your tablet PC you should turn the flicks off. Flicks can confuse the tablet.

best tablet computer hacks

 

2. Turn off the touchscreen

Depending how you work, your hand may sometimes be in the zone where the computer gets confused and reads it as a pen, messing up palm recognition and leaving annoying marks. If this is an issue for you, you can disable the touchscreen and just use the pen or a mouse. Some systems make you choose one or the other. The ones that allow both touch and pen/mouse together are the ones where palm rejection can become an issue (usually not a major one).

Type the words Device Manager into your computer’s search. When you see HID-compliant devices on the list, click on that to expand the menu. Find the one that says touchscreen, right click on it, and select Disable. Voila, no touch. (Note: the list of HID devices will differ from computer to computer depending what’s installed).

windowstouchscreen

Poof, touch be gone.

Note: Windows 10 has a Tablet Mode that switches your view to full screen. You can go into Settings/System, toggle the “make Windows more touch friendly (meaning Tablet Mode) on or off and choose whether you want the computer to switch modes automatically, or for it to ask you, or stays in one mode. Tablet Mode is not the same as Touch; it doesn’t affect turning Touch on and off, but only optimizes the display visually for touch.

3. Feel the Feel driver

If your tablet is Wacom-penabled, chances are it came with the Wacom Feel driver, also called Wintab. In older machines, you needed to put this in to get pressure sensitivity in certain programs such as Photoshop. T

he Feel driver gives you many of the functions of Express Keys, allowing you to customize the pen buttons and the radial menu, a pie-shaped menu with programmable slices.  You can put in keystrokes for your most-used commands. 

besttabletcomputerhacks

In the pen part of the menu, you can adjust the pressure curve of the pen, from light pressure to firm.

4. A More Robust Radial Menu

If you’re feeling experimental, try this alternative, much more robust radial menu for Windows Tablet PCs. It features submenus, and goes a lot farther than the Wacom Radial Menu, providing  and on-screen shortcut menu and customizable pie slices.

If you like it, a small donation to the developer will help him keep it updated.

radialmenupc

The other radial menu

5. Calibrate, calibrate!

You may have to calibrate fairly often, especially if you are sometimes using your tablet PC with other tablets. Calibrating will keep your pen tip accurate. There’s even edge calibration.

Tablet PCs don’t seem to suffer from edge jitter the way Cintiqs do. I can draw right along the edge without jitter.

7. Create Photoshop Actions

If you want to get into the more advanced Photoshop functions, this can take the place of ExpressKeys. Photoshop Actions are shortcuts you can create yourself. Here’s some info on how.

8. Max out RAM and swap hard drives

Unlike most tablet tablets and some thinner laptops such as MacBook Air, many tablet PCs will allow you to add RAM and/or put in a larger, faster hard drive, and change the battery (many people do not seem to realize this). Batteries can be found through manufacturers or on Amazon and other stores. You’ll have the check the info for your particular system.

Crucial.com offers a handy tool to figure out what type of memory you need.

 

9. Use your laptop with a larger display

Your laptop may be small, but you can attach it to a larger monitor. Use the display settings and select Duplicate display. I think this is one of the best tablet computer possibilities, allowing you to enjoy pressure sensitivity and also get a big, clear view of your art.

10. Go to the Matte

Sometimes a tablet computer screen can be slippery, overly glossy, and reflective. Fix it by applying a screen protector; a high-quality one can make a real difference, and provide some “tooth” to make you feel more like you’re drawing on paper (on a Cintiq, texture is built in). We suggest Photodon.com, which offers some specially made for some models, and can custom cut to any size. The MXH 25% anti-glare offers good visibility while cutting shine.

11. An extra keyboard may save your posture

If you have a laptop tablet PC, you may find yourself contorting to draw on it, such as reaching past the screen, or using the keyboard upside-down, if you want to use keyboard shortcuts. Don’t strain yourself. Using an external USB or Bluetooth keyboard should take care of your limbs.

 

A tablet computer is a practical and versatile choice that can be just about anything you want it to be. Hopefully these hacks will bring it more toward being that perfect art tablet. If you find them helpful, please share them using the Share buttons.

end of 10 best tablet computer hacks

Looking for a fast art tablet PC? Check out our writeup on the Vaio Z Canvas.

This Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 14 has an NVIDIA graphics card.

 

Windows

 

 

Windows 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

 

Windows wacomuniversalink

Wacom and Microsoft: Pen pals at last

Wacom and Microsoft partner to make pens with 4,096 pressure levels

The Windows 10 Anniversary update will bring welcome advances in digitizer technology this coming holiday season 2016.

Microsoft has inked a deal with Wacom to work together to make Wacom AES and Microsoft pens cross-compatible with Microsoft devices. These “dual protocol pens” will be made by  Wacom and work on Windows 10 devices. Some details have been released at the WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference) in Shenzhen.

Wacom’s AES, short for Active Electrostatic, has replaced Wacom’s traditional EMR in Wacom Penabled tablet PCs, such as the ThinkPad Yoga 14 (Wacom’s Cintiqs still have EMR). The new pens will be for AES and Microsoft tablets across devices from large to small. Microsoft now uses N-trig digitizers in its own Surface line, and Vaio is using the N-trig DuoSense pen on the review of the Z Canvas 2-in-1 tablet PC.

wacom microsoft pen

Wacom-Microsoft pens. From WinHEC slide presentation.

These remarkable, yet-to-be-released Wacom pens using the Microsoft Pen Protocol have dispensed with buttons and erasers, making them more Apple Pencil-like.

The devices would sport a 240Hz pen speed and 120Hz touch speed.

Giving tilt a whirl

The new Wacom pens, called G13 or Generation 13, will feature tilt sensitivity to offer natural drawing angles. Right now, tilt is not available on most Penabled tablet PCs, nor on the Microsoft Surface line. (The Enhanced Samsung used on its Wacom-Penabled pen tablets currently offer some flexibility with tilt.)

The new pens’ 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity is unprecedented–feels like just yesterday when MS was Micro-splaining to us that 256 levels of the Surface Pro 3 was perfectly fine?

I doubt the 4,096 levels will be a world-changing difference from 2,048, and indeed, 256 wasn’t too bad. But each increase seems to bring a slightly smoother pressure curve.

Simultaneous finger and touch

Other advances including more universal implementation of simultaneous finger and touch input, to the joy of finger-painters everywhere.

Palm rejection, lower latency, and more responsive trackpads are also listed in the directives discussed in the slideshow put on at the WinHEC conference.

If you’d like to see all the WinHEC presentation slides, they are available on this technically oriented Microsoft blog.

Wacom will create and make the Windows-Ink capable pens. From then on, Wacom’s pens will have both AES and Microsoft N-trig-based tech. N-trig is currently used in the Surface line.

Companies join the universal pen club

Companies that make pens and touch controllers are expected to jump onto the bandwagon, including Wacom, Sunwoda, and APS on the pen side, and, on the controller side, Wacom, Synaptics, Goodix, Elan, EETI, and Atmel.

elanuniversalcontroller

Elan is playing a role in the push toward universal digital inking solutions. Photo: Tablets for Artists

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It’s all a group effort. Slide from WinHEC.

As you can see below, Microsft aims its pen tablets at all ages and people in varying professions. Who doesn’t need a pen?

whihec wacom slide

Slide from WinHEC presentation

Now, lest we be naive, these companies aren’t doing all this ONLY to make life easier for the artistically inclined. They wish to increase the population of pen users, and it’s working. The first Microsoft Tablet PCs, back in 2001, were a big flop with the public, though embraced by artists who saw their potential. It took Apple’s iPad to bring the gadget-using public into the tablet fold.

The more pencil and paperlike digital pens can get, the more people will use them, or so the company’s reasoning goes. And they seem to be right–pen tablets are expected to double in 2015 to 20 million, up from 10 million in 2015.

Universal’s the word

Microsoft may be going universal, but it’s not abandoning the N-trig tech that powers its popular Surface tablets. N-trig is an Israeli company that created this tech; Microsoft purchased the company in 2015 for  $30 million. N-trig tech will still be present in the “DNA” of the new pens. But Wacom, with its many devices and long history. will be the one creating and manufacturing the new pens, using the Microsoft Pen Protocol under Wacom’s UPF (Universal Pen Framework).

There will be a firmware update for older Wacom digitizers that are G11 and G12. How that will work remains to be seen.

The upshot is that it’s all getting closer to the Apple Pencil, and to the modest wooden pencil as well. According to Wacom President & CEO Masahiko Yamada, “Supporting multiple protocols makes our pen incredibly fast and easy for people to write intelligent notes, be creative, and get productive when using Windows Ink on their Windows 10 devices…”

Echoing this message of harmony, Kevin Gallo, corporate VP of MS’s Windows Developer Platform, “Windows Ink makes it easy for people to turn their thoughts into actions…. People that use pens with their Windows 10 devices are happier, more engaged, more creative, and productive.”

Digital inking push

I’m including some photos from CES showing the move toward universality.

wacomuniversalink-1

At Wacom’s universal ink spot at CES. Photo: Tablets for Artists

This new effort coincides with a push by Wacom in the digital-inking space. Wacom showed off its inking initiative during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this year with these funky digital crayons, each with a unique ID, that allow worldwide collaboration with consistent colors. (These were just for show and I don’t know of any plans by the company to sell them, unfortunately.)

Masahiko Yamada also mentioned digital stationery as a product to develop. The Digital Stationery Consortium began on Jan. 7, 2016 and will be implemented across a range of business sectors.

 

wacomuniversalink-4

A universal digitizer? This tablet, displayed at CES, allows the use of different types of pen on the same tablet. Photo: Tablets for Artists

I don’t this is going to affect Wacom EMR, which is still used in the Intuos, Cintiq, and some tablet PCs. Please check our post categories to see which tablets we’ve reviewed have which type of digitizer.

The word “universal” is music to my ears. It’s just so much easier. Chargers, pens, and other accessories are so much more accessible when you don’t need a different one for every device.

A reminder: the free upgrade to Windows 10 is ending on July 29, 2016, and some of these changes are going to be included in the next Win10 update, so if you’re holding back, you might want to take the plunge to Windows 10.

With this announcement of a Microsoft-Wacom pen pal pact, it looks like late 2016 has holiday cheer in store for digital artists.

end of Wacom and Microsoft: Pen pals at last

 

 

Windows lenovoanypen

Lenovo AnyPen: all the world’s a stylus

Lenovo AnyPen tech: easy as drawing with a fork

Lenovo’s AnyPen is an enticing idea. Available on the Yoga Tablet 2 with AnyPen and some other of the company’s small, general-use tablets, this technology allows you to use just about, well, anything, as a stylus, except something made of pure plastic. Lenovo recommends using a pen or wood-and-graphite pencil.

This article isn’t about the tablet, but a look at AnyPen as an example of advancement in pen tablets. AnyPen tablets do not have pressure sensitivity or palm rejection.

Rather than using Gorilla Glass, a strengthened glass is used to protect the screen from scratches inflicted by the writing implements.

Lenovo AnyPen demo by cbutters

You can get a fine point with these implements, making it easier to get precise input. On a non-Pro iPad, to use a fine point you need to trick the screen, as with those stylii that have a plastic disc around the tip.

With AnyPen technology, no such trick is needed. You can use a stylus, a real pencil, a real pen, a carrot, a banana, a hammer, your finger, a screwdriver, or a stick as an input device. Just as long as it’s not pure plastic, most materials will work. Lenovo has said it’s not expensive, and they added it to the Yoga Tablet 2 without hiking up the tab a whole lot.

(See more Lenovo articles and reviews)

It’s a capacitive touchscreen, not a resistive one.  A carrot has skin and thus is not all that different from a finger. But getting a stick or graphite pencil to work is a feat on Lenovo’s part. The company can be maddening with its confusing product releases, but they are doing some real R&D.

lenovo anypen

You can use a carrot as a stylus.

They aren’t the only company doing something like this; the Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1 can also be used with a pencil or metal implement. (see this article for more info)

The touch controllers in these have a very high signal-to-noise ratio, making them recognize objects as small as 1mm, whereas most capacitive screens require at least a 5mm stylus. The non-Pro iPad, with its low signal-to-noise ratio, cannot recognize a fine tip unless it has a plastic disc around it.

(see good styluses for drawing on iPad).

With AnyPen devices, you don’t have to press down hard at all to get a mark. On the downside, one user reported it was recognizing the entire tip of the pencil, skewing the line.

Tablets with Lenovo AnyPen are not art tablets per se, since there’s no pressure sensitivity or palm rejection. But for those who geek out on pen tech, it’s a fun concept.

Lenovo’s Yoga Book portable has a pressure-sensitive digitizer in the graphics tablet part, and uses AnyPen in the screen part.

It would be great if a pressure-sensitive tablet came out with this feature, especially with a larger screen; it would be a tough job to incorporate such a feature. But imagine how good life would be if you could still be productive on your tablet after dropping your digitizer pen down a storm drain.

Lenovo has released AnyPen on Windows tablets, but also has demonstrated it using Android.

If you want to read more about the tech, check out this post on the Lenovo blog.

Suppertime! AnyPen demoed on Android

End of Lenovo AnyPen: all the world’s a stylus

Windows galaxytabprosces2016

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S review: OLED hits Windows tablet

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S review: OLED screen, included keyboard

samsungtabprosblack

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S in black with keyboard cover attached

See it on Amazon

Type of Tablet

Windows 2-in-1, detachable tablet
Runs Windows 10 (Home and Pro)
Pen: Not yet released. Bluetooth, pressure-sensitive.

tabprosces

Samsung TabPro S release at CES 2016, Las Vegas

Features

Display: 12″ diagonal
Materials: Magnesium frame, rubberized plastic back
resolution FHD+ (2160 x 1440)
touch Super AMOLED display
216ppi
Memory: 4GB RAM (not upgradeable)
Storage: 128 or 256GB SSD

Ports: single USB-C, headphone jack, no micro SD
Processor: Intel Skylake Core M3, dual core, 2.3 GHz
Fanless
Graphics: Intel HD 515
Battery: 5200 mAh
LTE (Cat. 6) version available
Front and rear cameras both 5 MP
Comes in black or white
Dimensions: 11.43 x 0.25 x 7.83 inches (290.3×198.8×6.3mm_
1.53lbs (639g)
Wireless 802.11 abg

Why a 2-in-1?

The TabPro S is joining a growing population of Windows 2-in-1s. This type of tablet is all the rage, because it turns out lots of people want a portable device that works well for both entertainment and productivity. Active pens have really hit the mainstream.

Non-Pro iPads and other mobile tablets are most useful for entertainment, full, 64-bit Windows and a pen gives a lot more options. It can replace a laptop and tablet and fit neatly into your bag or briefcase.

You can use desktop programs as well as Windows apps (formerly known as Metro apps). The very high-res screen is the first OLED for a Windows tablet. So this is a milestone. Previously, they have been in smartphones, Android tablets (mostly Samsung’s), monitors, and just recently came to laptops.

galaxytabprosces2016

Pen

The Samsung people at CES told me there was not going to be a pen, though one of them said maybe. So either the pen was a weakly-kept secret, an agonizing decision, or an afterthought for them. I didn’t expect to be writing this review.

It’s the big MacGuffin here. Not much is known about it except it is pressure-sensitive, it probably won’t be a digitizer we’re familiar with, and that it uses Bluetooth.

Update: The pen has come out.

 

What’s in the Box

Tablet, charger with cable, keyboard dock/cover, documentation

 

Ports

There’s just a USB-C port and a headphone jack. No micro SD, nothin’. The 2015 MacBook also has this single-port feature and also faced criticism about it, but maybe it’s the future. Samsung says they’re going to release an adapter. Meantime, there are other adapters, but not that many peripherals for the USB-C.

The tablet may be ready for the future, but for now, users are the ones who need to be ready.

Fast-charging

On the plus side, the USB-C offers FAST charging, just 2 1/2 hours from zero to full and the battery optimally lasts up to 10.5 hours on this charge.

 

Display

The display is bright with excellent viewing angles. The colors are more saturated than we generally see.

The colors are rich, and the blacks very deep (because there is no light where there’s black with the OLED),  with great contrast. But this is is made with something called PenTile subpixels, which makes it so the resolution is effectively not quite as high as it says, and there’s a little too much green. Lots of people have been oohing and aah-ing over the display. I just prefer a regular LCD.

The screen is smooth and somewhat glossy, but not high-sheen. It doesn’t reflect so much light that you can’t see the display. Its 400 nits is very bright.

The bezel is relatively narrow, but provides enough of a visual “frame” that makes your artwork pop from the background.

Good proportions

The 3:2 aspect ratio is less oblong than the usual 16:9 or 16:10, and preferable for drawing. Portrait mode is more in proportion to a regular sheet of paper.

 

tabprosreviewwhite

TabPro S in white. Note the closeness of the keys.

 

Using the TabPro S

The machine is snappy and responsive, with apps opening quicky. Scrolling is peppy even in memory-intensive Chrome.

A 128 GB hard drive is not that big, so if you get that one, big files are best kept elsewhere. The 256 GB SSD is not huge.

You can run full Photoshop CC with the TabPro S, but you may experience some lag when running heavy graphics, such as filters with high-res files. With 4 GB and a Core M3, it’s not powerful enough for heavy use of Adobe Suite, you would need at least an i5 and 8 GB.

I have no complaints about the RAM and storage, since this is a portable tablet of a certain class and fulfills its duties well. A close cousin is the entry-level Surface Pro 4, which also has a Core M processor but has a lot more ports and a better keyboard. 

It would be nice if the battery were replaceable.

The machine is suitable for light gaming.

Build

The build is solid and feels and looks premium, with a metal frame. The TabPro S is almost as sleek as the luxe Galaxy S7 phone. The tablet’s back is a not-unpleasant black, rubbery, matte plasticky material that is very grippable and lowers the chance of dropping it. And the rubberized texture is not a dirt/fingerprint magnet.

I don’t know how much the rubbery surface protects the device in drops onto its back, but it probably provides a bit of cushioning, along with the cover.

Keyboard dock/cover

tabproscoverhigh

Upright position shows off the thinness of the tablet. Keyboard is not backlit.

Unlike with the Surface Pro line, here, a keyboard dock is included. It’s held on by a Pogo connector in the bottom center edge of the tablet. Once connected, it’s pretty stable, and doesn’t seem to cause lags or skips when typing.

The cover only takes two positions. It’s a trifold, similar to the Apple Smart Cover. It’s thin, but seems durable, and the design is clever: the cover wraps all the way around the tablet, protecting it from light mishaps.

The angles of  two positions are decent, but, they only work in Landscape mode. If they really had an art tablet in mind, maybe they would have designed the cover for Portrait position, too.

The cover’s square camera port lines up well with the camera. The whole tablet has straight lines, except for the rounded edges.

Typing on the keyboard

The keyboard wasn’t really to my liking for typing, I prefer island-style keys. There’s almost no space between the keys, they don’t have great travel at 1.4 mm, which is a bit low.  I also don’t love the look. It was challenging to type accurately. There’s no requirement to use the keyboard; a separate keyboard would work too.

tabproscovertyping

TabPro S cover in typing position

The keys are larger than most, but to me that doesn’t really help with accuracy. It might be a good for thick-fingered folks. The whole thing feels a bit floppy. It’s similar to the old Surface Pro Type Cover, except that one sat at an angle and this one is flat on the table, and the stand had more positions.

The trackpad works fine and works with Windows touch gestures.

You can use the TabPro S with  the keyboard on your lap, but being so light, it’s not super stable, and may cause worries about it falling. If you get really into painting and move like a digital Jackson Pollack, sitting on a wide, soft surface may calm those anxieties.

Color

The color gamut is standout. It covers 95% of Adobe RGB and  full (or more than full) sRGB, similar to the Vaio Z Canvas  (an N-trig tablet PC with an IPS screen) That makes it suitable for artists and photographers to use it to make their own prints for professional print work, provided they have a strong understanding of color correction.

Without that understanding,  the color gamut can be a source of confusion. According to DisplayMate, a trade organization, “OLEDs currently have the opposite problem of traditional LCDs, too large a native color gamut, which requires color management in order to deliver accurate sRGB/Rec.709 colors.”

If you’re a professional artist, you probably use a printer that uses Adobe RGB or, for photographers, ProPhoto RGB. Consumer printing is mostly done in sRGB. sRGB is also the standard for Web colors.

The high gamut can really make your work pop, and you can adjust settings to avoid the high saturation that can occur. There’s also an sRGB setting. The settings panel also gives you choices of how long the screen will remain bright before it auto-dims to prevent screen burn-in, which can be a problem with AMOLED screens.

Many love the saturated colors of AMOLED, but they are a bit hyper-real.

Samsung Flow

No, it’s not a psychological state, it’s a feature. If you’ve got an unlocked Galaxy phone, you can unlock the tablet by scanning your fingerprint, as well as easily turn on the phone’s hot spot and sync notifications.

Battery Life

Excellent, up to 10.5 hours, or 8-9 with a lot of video or gaming

Portability

Very portable, thin about 1.53 lbs.

User reactions

Most users who have penned a Samsung TabPro S review so far seem to be enamored with the lightweight 2-in-1, calling it speedy and able to handle a lot, and they like the sound quality and the rich display.

One pointed out its use as an e-reader for, ahem, ageing eyes because of its deep contrast. (I still prefer e-ink for reading, because it has less contrast and less glare than a computer).

The biggest complaint about the tablet is about the keyboard. The second biggest is the lack of ports. Wouldn’t it be nice if they included an adapter?

 

Pros

Exceptionally thin and light
Attractive, premium-looking
Choice of black or white
AMOLED screen, wide color gamut
Fast
3:2 aspect ratio good for drawing
Fast-charging,
Long battery life
Keyboard cover included
Keyboard cover wraps entire tablet, providing protection
Multitouch trackpad
Samsung Flow offers syncing options with Galaxy Phone
Good “lapability”
Good speaker sound

 

Cons

Just one port, USB-C
Keyboard cover sits in only two positions
Keys a bit clunky to type on
Keyboard not backlit
Stand only adjusts in landscape position (as with most keyboard covers)
Limited to 4GB
Not everyone likes AMOLED display color
Can’t replace battery (typical in tablets)

 

The Verdict

If you like the screen, then this is the only Windows tablet that’s got it. If you don’t mind the single port, or find the simplicity is appealing, this may be for you. There really are a lot of pros, and the cons are not so bad.

Update: TabPro S Pen is now available on Amazon.

The tablet is pretty peppy and the wide color gamut is appealing. Is the TabPro S overall better than its main rivals, the entry-level Surface Pro 4 and the iPad Pro? I don’t really think so, but the pen will be a a major factor.

But it has got its own unique character, and the field is getting wide enough that there’s something for everyone.

 

Here’s a video of a Samsung spokesman showing the tablet in action. You can get a full look at the keyboard cover.

See more info, reviews, and price for the Galaxy TabPro S on Amazon

 

 End of Samsung Galaxy TabPro S review

Windows hpspectre15review

HP Spectre x360 15 Review: sleek ultrabook deserves a better pen

HP Spectre x360 15 review: sleek ultrabook, but HP pen falls short

The HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 with 15.6″ touchscreen was released in Feb., 2016, following 2015’s successful HP Spectre x360 13″. This larger version has some more-powerful options, such as an extremely high-resolution 4K display.

Type of tablet

2-in-1 ultrabook (tablet PC laptop, nondetachable keyboard)
Digitizer: Synaptics (256 levels of pressure sensitivity)
Pen: HP Active Pen (not included), or (see on Amazon)

 

Update: Dell Active Stylus 750-AAGN used to work on both models (13.3 and 15″) but updates have caused it to stop working.

hp spectre x360 15 review

HP x360 Spectre 15.6″. See it at Best Buy

Notice that the screen is squarer than most laptops. The touchpad is about 6″ wide. My phone fit neatly on to of it. Notice the shiny hinges.

hpspectre360-15 4kscreen

 

 

hp-active-stylus

See the HP Active pen at Best Buy

The pen is flat on one side lengthwise, and snaps onto the computer via a magnet that’s across from the button.

Features

Operating system: Windows 10, has Home and Pro options
15.6″ screen (diagonal) UHD
Dimensions” 14.8 x 9.75 x 0.63″ (15.9 mm thin)
Weight: 4.02 lb
backlit keyboard
brushed aluminum unibody
geared hinge
large touchpad with multi-gesture and customizable settings
Display: 15.6″ Multitouch, backlit. IPS panel with viewing angles to 180 degrees
LPDDR3 RAM

Display options

1920×1080 px full HD 2 million pixels (px)

Ultra HD 4K, 3840×2160 (8.3 million px)

Storage: 128, 256, or 512GB SSD

Miracast, which lets project wirelessly to a TV or other display

Note: This is not the OLED display you may have heard about. That one is scheduled for the 13.3″ HP Spectre x360, and the OLED screen for that has not yet been released as of this writing.

Processor/graphics

Intel Skylake 6th-Gen. Dual-Core, Intel integrated graphics with these options:

i5-6200U with HD Graphics 520 and 8GB RAM

i7-6500U with HD Graphics 520 and 8GB or 16GB RAM

i7-6560U with Iris Graphics and 16GB RAM

 

Ports

Three USB 3.0 Type A (you can still us 2.0 devices and get 2.0 speed)
USB-C port, no Thunderbolt support
Full HDMI
mini DisplayPort
SD card reader
headphone jack

No Ethernet port or CD/DVD drive.

Battery life

HP states up to 13 hours for the full HD version and up to 9.5 hours of mixed use for the highest configuration. The 3-cell lithium-ion polymer battery gives this exceptional battery life.
Portability

4.02 pounds is very light for a 15.6″ screen. While it may be difficult to carry it around all day, it’s quite portable. Its slim .63″ profile and compact power brick makes it more portable.
Screen

4K is very high-definition, over four times as many pixels as full HD. It doesn’t look pixelated even from up close. Your content has to be as high-res as the screen to get the effect. It’s not yet common to have this high a resolution on laptops, but it’s getting more so. The colors are good with 72% of the Adobe color gamut sRGB. The display is very sharp, but doesn’t seem super bright. The screen is smooth, but not super glossy.

The Spectre 15’s  screen has a 3:2 aspect ratio, which some may find better for drawing than the video-centric 16:9 that’s on most laptops. 3:2 is a bit squarer. Surface Pros and the Surface Book are also 3:2, as is the Chromebook Pixel, which is not an art tablet. The iPad and iPad Pro are  4:3, more like a sheet of paper, and perhaps more natural-feeling to hold and draw on. (The Spectre x360 13.3″ model has 16:9)

hp spectre x360 review

The HP Spectre x360 15 has a 3:2 aspect ratio. Most laptops have 16:9. The iPad has 4.3.

 

Design

The Spectre x360 is sleek and comfortable to hold in two hands. Its unibody aluminum chassis gives it durability and dissipates heat. There are generous-sized, aesthetically pleasing vents on the side.

The aluminum chassis was carved with CNC (computer numerical control–see on Wikipedia) machines. Used by the aerospace industry, these machines cut with great precision. These cutting tools give the Spectre an elegant look. The shape tapers, getting thinner as it goes toward the user. At its thickest, the bottom part is thick as a pencil and considerably thinner as it gets toward the trackpad. The thin profile is remarkable for the large screen size. It’s a thin as the 13″ version. The most noticeable thing about the x360 is the thinness.

The 360-degree “flip and fold” design is a LOT like a Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga. Like the Yoga, it’s even poseable into four positions of stand, tent, tablet, and notebook. The keys do not retract the way they do in the Yoga 14 (do they still work)?? You can open the HP to any angle, including flat.

Tablet mode

When you fold it to Tablet mode with the keys facing away from the tablet, the keys do not lock in place, but they disable themselves. The keyboard backlight goes off and the keys no longer function. So if you’re drawing in that mode, you’d need an external keyboard  to use shortcuts (anyway, it’s inconvenient to use the keyboard even if they still worked in that position, but easier).

HP has put a lot of engineering muscle into the geared hinge. It makes the tablet stays in its positions. The hinge is encased in stainless steel to keep it clean and functional. It can be a little bit stiff as you push the lid upward.

Usage

There are no discrete graphics, but the 4K model has Intel Iris graphics which are powerful enough to do video editing. Photoshop will work fine in any of the models. If you’ve got high-res video, it will display in all its glory on the 4K. But for intensive or professional video editing, a computer with discrete graphics would be better. Similarly his computer is best suited for light gaming. The thinness leaves no room for the cooler that discrete graphics requires. If you want to do a lot of video editing, this probably isn’t the right computer. Photoshop will work fine.

Keyboard

The backlit keyboard is island-style with chiclet (separated) keys. It has no numerical pad, though it could have had one with all the space.

The key travel is 1.5mm, which is the same as the keys on larger, full-size notebooks, so they are very comfortable to type on–they felt a bit far apart at first but I find that my typing accuracy was better on it than with keys that are closer together and my (small) hands appreciated the big keyboard. The silvery painted characters on the white keys can be a little bit hard to see, unlike the white paint on black letters of laptops such as the ThinkPad Yogas.

Other than the contrast, this keyboard makes typing comfortable and could boost productivity.

Trackpad

The large Synaptics trackpad is about 6″ long, and you might find yourself hitting it by accident. It’s very responsive, and can even be adjusted via its own driver settings. It supports multitouch gestures, so you can use it to pan and zoom. The part you click on is only on the bottom half.

Pen

HP Active Stylus

Takes one AAAA battery, which is included. For a replacement, you may need to go to an electronics store to find these, or buy them online. The end of the pen unscrews to put the battery in. The pen is round but has a flat part that goes the length of the pen, to keep it from rolling away. It snaps magnetically to the laptop’s frame or cover.

TIP: If you have trouble getting the HP Active Pen to work,download the touchscreen firmware from Spectre x360 15 product page. (LINK)

Dell Active Stylus (750-AAGN), takes one AAAA battery. Lighter than the HP Active Pen and works better on the x360, tested on the 13.3″ version so far.

Drawing on the HP Spectre x360

The metallic pen feels solid and similar to the Surface Pen. It could feel heavy after holding for long periods. The black that bounces up and down, sinking when you draw with it, which gives it less of a “hard” feel on the screen. To get any mark on the screen, you have to press even a little harder than with N-trig (Surface Pro). As with the Surface Pros, if you very gently run the pen over the screen, you will not get a mark. Scribbling on the screen with the pen brought on an annoying, though not very loud, squeaking sound. You can get a light mark with some practice.

I found the pen to be pretty bad for drawing. You have to press down quite hard ( a high initial activation force). There are no parallax issues, but still, handwriting isn’t that accurate unless you make an effort. There’s not any more jitter than on an N-trig device.

Drawing, it felt like I was battling the pen to get the line I wanted, and got some skipped lines. he palm rejection faltered once in a while when I was bringing my hand down quickly and I got some weird lines. It’s definitely not as good as the Surface Pro 4, and a bit worse than the Surface Pro 3, which also has 256 pressure levels.

drawinghpspectre

Here’s an example of a skipped line, (top) in drawing an oval.

 

Dell Active Stylus on HP Spectre x360

UPDATE 6/16: Updates by HP have caused the Dell pen to stop working. I have tested the Dell Active Stylus (the Synaptics one, 750-AAGN, see on Amazon) on the Spectre x360 13.3″ and the Spectre x360 15.6″ and it works MUCH better than the HP Active Pen. It requires a little more force than Wacom EMR to make a mark, but much less force than the HP Active Pen, and there’s a little jitter when drawing slowly. It flows great, pressure sensitivity works well, and there’s little parallax. It flows as well as Wacom but with slightly less accuracy.

Handwriting was okay, but the letters seemed flattened down. Drawing worked better than handwriting, as differences in one’s own handwriting are more noticeable. Using the Dell on this is not the equal of Wacom EMR or ES, but I think exceeds the Surface line with N-trig pens in terms of drawing–this of course is a subjective opinion.

User Reviews

Most HP Spectre x360 15 reviews are very positive about the computer, praising its design, build quality, and value, though most don’t go into the drawing part that much. One exception was Mobile Tech Review, and I’ve included their video drawing demo below.

One criticism I’ve heard mentioned (though it was for a refurbished model) was about cracking. The computer is well-built but very thin. I don’t know what caused the cracking, but this very pretty laptop should be handled with care.

Pros


Comfortable, backlit keyboard
Choices of configurations, including 4K
Long battery life
Big screen
Slim profile
Can open it to replace battery
Not much bloatware

Cons

Trackpad big enough to get in the way of typing
HP Active Pen not that great
Synaptics less accurate than other digitizers
No discrete graphics available
Cannot upgrade memory yourself
Thin, not flimsy, but should be protected

Verdict

I can’t give this HP Spectre x360 review a negative verdict because it’s a very good computer,. You can use Photoshop and any art software, and it’s great that even the starter configuration has 8GB RAM. It’s a pleasure to type on, and a nondetachable keyboard means you won’t have any connector glitches, though it also means you can’t have a separate tablet.

But as an art tablet, the Synaptics digitizer doesn’t measure up to Wacom. It’s maybe a bit smoother than N-trig for drawing, but harder to get handwriting that really looks like your own. Synaptics is okay for note-taking, drawing, or drafting. But if you want to exact, delicate, freehand drawing, it’s not a top choice. I do think your hand would adjust and I would consider this a good contender for a drawing tablet, less so for note-taking.

 

See the HP Spectre x360 15.6″ 4k and other x360 models at Best Buy

See the x360 15.6″ at HP.com (the 4K here is referred to as UHD. You can configure your own specs on the HP site)

See the HP Spectre x360 13.3″ signature Edition at Microsoft

Comparable:

Surface Book

Surface Pro 4

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 14

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga

end of HP Spectre x360 15 review

Windows dell-active-pen-new-venue

New Dell Active Pen and Stylus: Wacom ES for New Venue 8 and 10 Pro

New Dell Active Pen and Dell Active Stylus: New Venue 8 Pro and Venue 10 Pro get Wacom ES

Dell unveiled revamped Venue 8 and 10 tablets at CES 2016 in January. They included the New Venue 8 Pro 5000, now with a Wacom ES digitizer and the New Dell Venue 10 Pro (5055) and Venue 10 (5050).

“New” is part of the name of the New Venue 10 Pro, but not part of the name of the revamped Venue 10, though they refer to it as  a ‘new’ Venue 10 with a lower-case “n” in the product info. Sigh. So, in with the New.

These new models are  currently sold only through Dell.

New Venue 8 Pro 5000 (see at Dell.com):

dell-active-pen-new-venue

Dell New Venue 8 Pro

The New Venue 8 Pro comes in 32 and 64GB storage and 2GB and 4GB RAM, runs Windows, and has an Atom processor and 8″ screen.

 

Dell Active Pen

The New Venue 8 Pro 5000 (5855) now uses  a Wacom ES pen, the Dell Active Pen. See it on Dell.com. The pen is sold separately. You cannot use the Dell Active Stylus from the old Venue Pro line on the New Venue Pro line. The old ones used Synaptics tech and Dell has now switched over to Wacom and is using the term “pen” rather than “stylus.”

dell-active-pen

Manufacturer Part# : N1DNK
Dell Part# : 750-AAMI
PN556W

The Dell Active Pen is also compatible with some other Dell 2-in-1 laptops and tablets. It uses Bluetooth and takes an AAAA battery and 319-type coin-cell batteries. It has an LED light that indicates pairing. Its tip is 3 mm, which is still pretty fine-tipped.

Here is the list of compatible Dell devices:

Inspiron 7568, Latitude 11 5715, Latitude 11 5179, Latitude 7275, Venue 10 Pro 5056, Venue 8 Pro 5855, and XPS 12 9250.

The new system is an improvement over the old Venue Pro line. The new one has 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity and good palm rejection.

New Dell Active Stylus for New Venue 10 Pro

There’s also a new Dell Active Stylus, the 750-AAIZ, (click to see it on Amazon) for the also-revamped Venue 10  (5050) and Venue 10 Pro (5055). “New” is not part of the name of the stylus. Same name, different stylus than the old one. Double sigh.

Wish they could at least call it “Dell Active Stylus 2” or something–they already caused heaps of confusion with the three versions of Dell Active Stylus for the old Venue Pro. Maybe “Son of Dell Active Stylus”? If you’re confused now, try finding info on their site–it’s a haystack! So I’ve compiled the relevant info in this post.

dellactivestylus

 

The new “universal” Wacom Bamboo Smart Stylus, a Wacom ES pen, will work on the Venue 10 5000 Series (5050) and the Venue 10 Pro 5000 Series (5055). That one comes with two swappable tips, one firm and one soft. Since the tablets don’t come to a pen, you could get this one instead, then you would have the two tips.

Even though the new Dell pens are both Wacom ES, they are not interchangeable.

Here’s the Bamboo Smart Stylus on the Wacom site.

 

dell active pen 5055

New Dell Venue 10 Pro (5055)

The New Dell Venue 10 Pros also have 2GB and 4GB models with a 10.1″ screen.

These tablets, which run on Atom processors, are for sale only at Dell. See them

See our review of the old Venue 8 Pro

Comparable: Asus VivoTab Note 8
Toshiba Encore 2 Write
Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S Pen

Windows cubei7review

Mytrix Complex 11t / Cube i7 Stylus review: budget Wacom tablet

Mytrix Complex 11t (Cube i7 Stylus) review: affordable Wacom EMR tablet

The Mytrix Complex 11t is a version of the Cube i7 Stylus, a Chinese tablet made by a company called 51 Cube (it was also rebranded for a while as the rhyming Cytrix Complex 11t.) The Mytrix has been changed a bit from the original to get FCC approval, which is required for electronics in the U.S. market. If you get the Cube i7 Stylus alone,but it won’t come with the keyboard and stylus, and the whole package is economical (you can compare prices).

cubei7stylusreview

Mytrix Complex 11t, also known as the Cube i7 Stylus. See it on Amazon

If you want to see the plain Cube i7 and read Cube i7 Stylus reviews, here they are on Amazon.

To clarify a few naming things: The name i7 is confusing; this does not have an i7 processor, it has Core M. Also, this is not a review of a stylus, the name of the computer is Cube i7 Stylus in it, so it’s a Cube i7 Stylus review.

Type of tablet: WIndows tablet PC 2-in-1

Digitizer: Wacom EMR with 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity

Comes with pen? Yes. Keyboard too

This 2-in-1 Windows tablet has recently come to the U.S. It has been available on Chinese sites such as Gear Best for a while, but that means waiting for shipping, and inconvenience if problems arise. Now, the computer has been rebranded as the Mytrix Complex 11t and for sale in the U.S. market, having been changed a bit to fit FCC standards, according to the seller.

It’s got 4GB RAM, which is soldered in, so not upgradable. It’s got an SD card slot for up to 32GB of extra storage. Its processor is speedy and good for light gaming. It has a Core M processor and 4GB RAM, which is not adequate for heavy Photoshop CC use such as files with many layers. You can run large programs on it, but it has some limitations.

Like the Surface 3, it’s more of a digital sketchbook, best used with programs such as Photoshop Elements, ArtRage, or Sketchbook Pro, Krita, and Manga 5. It has only 64GB of storage, so best to keep your files on an SD card or elsewhere. You can, with some elbow grease, add a larger SSD.

The Cube i7 has Core M, not the most powerful processor, but a big step up from Atom tablets.  It’s fanless, so it’s quiet. As far as speed, it’s competitive with an i5.  Its LPDDR RAM is fast. The HDMI connector allows you to connect it to TVs, monitors, and projectors to enjoy content on a big screen.

This is quite a good deal if you want a Wacom tablet. It’s reminiscent of the Samsung Ativ line in its size, but that had Atom, so this one is more powerful. What it does do, it does well. And, you can swap the SSD to give you considerably more power.

What’s in the Box

Tablet
screen protector already installed
Wacom pen
keyboard that attaches via magnets
OTG cable (USB On-the-Go)
manual (very basic); paperwork

FEATURES

Screen size: 10.6 inch diagonal
16:9 aspect ratio (the norm for Windows), multitouch
Resolution:1920 x 1080 full HD IPS display
Windows 10
Intel Core M 5Y10 5th generation Broadwell
4GB RAM
64GB storage, SSD
802.11 b/g/n Wi-fi
Micro USB 3.0
micro SD slot for up to 32GB
12-volt DC charging port
mini HDMI connector
Weight: 1.2 K (lib/??)
Bluetooth
audio jack
metal chassis
screen protector, if you see scratches, try removing it as the scratches may be on the screen protector.
Portability
It’s a bit heavy for a tablet of its size, but it’s portable.

Screen

The IPS screen has good viewing angles and is bright with 350 nits. It’s the same screen used that was used in the higher-end Microsoft Surface Pro 2. It has good contrast and 75% of the Adobe SRBG, which is good for something in this class, though less than a higher-end computer would have. It has an accelerometer which you can lock or let go, flipping your image to portrait or keyboard mode depending on the angle of the tablet.

The screen protector can get scratched, so if you get one where the screen appears to be scratched, try peeling off the protector. You might want get a matte screen protector for some tooth while drawing.

Battery Life
6 hours mixed use, 4 hours of video

Pen
The Wacom pen has good accuracy. It’s a standard Wacom EMR pen, so if you have one already you could use that one as well.

cube i7 stylus review

User reviews and ratings

This tablet has been well-received with positive ratings from Tech Mobile review and various sites where Cube i7 reviews appear. Artists writing a Cube i7 review have praised its pen accuracy and speed. Wacom penabled tablets can actually vary in accuracy.

Pros
good for light gaming
very affordable for a Wacom penabled tablet

Cons
Trackpad can be sticky
can get hot
speaker quality tinny

The Verdict

It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, very good value for students or hobbyists or people who want to draw, do art, take notes who like the natural feel of Wacom EMR. It’s not recommended for heavy Photoshop use, but for smaller art programs.

Here’s a drawing demo by Samson Lee:

Here’s a Photoshop CS5 demo on it. As you can see though it works, there’s some lag on this 16MP image. That’s not because anything is wrong with the tablet, but because it’s Core M. However, there are a lot of less intensive art programs you can use.

 

 

 

See the Mytrix on Amazon

If you’re searching for more info, looking up articles about and reviews of the Cube i7, or Cube i7 Stylus, might turn up more than searching for Mytrix.

end of Mytrix Complext 11/Cube i7 Stylus review

Read our reviews of these comparable models:
Microsoft Surface 3
Toshiba dynaPad
Asus Vivotab Note 8
Surface Pro 2