Category Archives: Tablet PC

tablet PCs run Windows (with some exceptions) and have pressure-sensitive screens.

wacommobilestudioproreview

Wacom MobileStudio Pro review: Hands-on with power slate

Wacom MobileStudio Pro Review: Slate up with a twist of awesome

We got to try out this powerful drawing tablet hands-on to write this Wacom MobileStudio Pro review. We found it’s strides ahead of the Cintiq Companion 2 and other competitors.

wacom mobilestudio pro review

This pricey all-in-one comes in two sizes, the 13 and 16, with five configurations going up to i7 with 512GB storage.

The 13 model has three configurations, from i5 to i7, with 8 to 16GB RAM and 64 to 512GB storage (the lowest I would go for storage is 128). Displays range from QHD to 4K. The 16 has a NVIDIA Quadro M600M graphics card. The others have Iris 550.

Download the MobileStudioProFactSheet 

The MobileStudio Pro is a professional-level tablet for those who want a larger tablet that’s a portable mobile workstation. The 13, at 13.3″ diagonal is larger than its closest competitors, the Vaio Z Canvas and Surface Pro 4.

The included Pro Pen 2 has 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. It’s the same pen that comes with the 2017 Intuos Pro, Intuos Pro Paper Edition, and Cintiq Pro.

When not drawing, you can game on the MobileStudio Pro with the NVIDIA card. You can also edit video.

The 512GB versions in both sizes come with a fingerprint scanner to log in.

wacom-mobilestudiopro-pro pen 2, pen stand, wacom keyboard

Wacom MobileStudio Pro with Pro Pen 2, pen stand, Wacom keyboard

FEATURES

Type of tablet: all-in-one slate
Runs Windows 10
Digitizer: Wacom EMR
Pro Pen 2, batteryless, two programmable buttons, eraser tip, 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity
Tilt range 40 degrees, tilt recogniton 60 to -60
Display: QHD ((2560 x 1440) or 4K (3840 x 2160)
i5 to 17; 64 to 512 GB RAM
SSD
Intel Iris 550 to discrete NVIDIA Quardro M600M 2GB or 4GB GDDR5
Multitouch
Color: 94% of Adobe RGB
Dimensions: 16.4 x 10.3 x 0.8 inches
Weight: 4.8 lbs.
Both sizes have the 3D camera option (camera is on the back) in the 17/512GB configuration.
The 13 has six Express Keys; the  16 has eight.
Front and back cameras (5MP on front, 8MP on back)

Pen demo video showing the Pro Pen 2 in action in Sketchbook Pro and Photoshop.

What’s in the Box

MobileStudio Pro
Pro Pen 2 with 3 extra nibs (one felt tip, two standard)
Pen case
Pen holder (attaches)
Power cord
Documentation

Ports: 3 USB Type C
MiniDisplay Port (when used with optional Wacom Link)
SD slot
Headphone jack
Kensington lock port

What’s NOT in the Box

Stand
Keyboard
Wacom Link (to plug into Mac or PC and use the MSP as second screen or Cintiq)
Carrying case or sleeve
Standalone pen holder

The first three items all came with the Cintiq Companions, which were 2-in-1s.

Battery Life

Power users may get as little as 2 to 3 hours, with lighter use getting up to 6.

High screen resolution, large files, screen brightness, and resource-demanding programs all take a toll on battery life. Turning off Bluetooth and Wi-fi when you’re not using them can extend battery time.

Portability

At about 5 lbs., I wouldn’t want to carry it around all day, or keep it on my lap. Wacom doesn’t make a case, and there are not that many than the 16 can fit into comfortably. The power brick is big and adds to the weight. Still, it’s a lot easier than carrying a Cintiq plus a laptop.

mobilestudio pro artist

Art by Jaleh Afshar

Drawing on the Wacom MobileStudio Pro

The pen glides smoothly, with the etched glass screen acting as advertised, providing a paperlike bite. It would be even more paperlike with the included felt-tip nib. Perhaps it’s a placebo effect of just knowing there are so many pressure levels, but it feels like butter.

In reality I don’t quite sense the difference, and I’ll never use all the levels because I’ll never use a brush larger than 8,192 pixels.

Some artists may actually need to adjust their pressure curve from their accustomed settings to make it more sensitive, because there are now thousands more steps.

I am still not crazy about a 16:9 aspect ratio. It would be even better if if they made it 4:3.

Using the Pro Pen 2

The grip and the way the pen balances makes it feel more like a paintbrush or ink pen. The pen has tilt from the tip.

While Wacom states there’s no lag, I experienced some in I believe it was Clip Studio Paint–I’d put the pen down, then see the mark. Wacom said that can happen to any computer, and that’s true. It was a big file.

Subsequent drawing did not have any lag. So I think Wacom can say they’ve eliminated most lag, but it’s not infallible. A little lag now and then isn’t a dealbreaker, but the rarer the better.

I’m not sure what more they can do now, except perhaps make nibs that allow side shading like the Apple Pencil. Adding a multiple of more pressure levels would be excessive.

Pen compatibility

Wacom’s site states that these previous generation Cintiq pens are compatible: the Airbrush, Art Pen, Classic Pen, Grip Pen, and Pro Pen.

MobileStudio Pro vs. Cintiq Companion 2

Times have changed. While the Cintiq Companion 2 felt great to draw on, it was plagued by loud fan noise and it wasn’t all that powerful. The pen still had a bit of parallax. The old Pro Pen supported 2,048 pressure levels.

The MobileStudio Pro’s included Pro Pen 2, which can be used on the Cintiq Pro as well, gets 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. There’s zero parallax, bringing it up to par with the Surface Pen in the parallax department. That’s because Wacom, like Microsoft, is now using optical bonding, bringing the surface of the glass closer to the digitizer layer, thus eliminating parallax.

The MSP’s back has convenient grips to keep us butterfingers from disaster. The Companion 2 was QHD, like some models of the MSP. The Cintiq 13HD is HD.

The fans are, sensibly, now on the side instead of the bottom, so the air blows out instead of getting trapped onto your desk or lap. Now they are quiet. The unit can get warm, but I haven’t heard complaints about excessive heat.

The build materials are premium; it’s metal, not plastic. MobileStudio Pro’s bezel is smaller than the Cintiq Companions’. It doesn’t have the inner bezel the Companions do.

Screen

The Companions’ screen protector, like on other Cintiqs, provided Wacom’s signature matte finish. The MobileStudio Pro has an etched glass surface that gives the slight resistance that emulates a pen and paperlike feel.

The glass also allows light to shine through. It’s not oversaturated like Cintiq displays. It’s also not slippery, since the etched glass gives a similar paperlike texture to the Cintiqs, without the filmy coating. The color gamut covers 94% of the Adobe RGB spectrum.

This screen does give some brownie points in this MobileStudio Pro review, for having clearer colors than Cintiqs.

Controls

The MSP sports chrome-trimmed Express Keys rather than the the utilitarian rounded rectangles of the Companions and Intuos Pros. I’m not a big fan of  the chrome trim, but it does make it easier to see the buttons. The tablet has a luxury look and feel. The color is close to black.

The functions are similar; there are six keys on the 13 and eight on the 16, and the Rocker Ring with Touch Ring. The batteryless, Wacom EMR pen still has two programmable buttons and an eraser tip with the same 8,192 levels of pressure as the pen tip.

The included pen case is cylindrical and resembles a cigar case. The pen holder clips onto the lock port. You can slide the pen in, or stand it up. It doesn’t come with a, standalone pen holder.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro Review

Back with grips, rear camera, 3D camera (note: this stand in this photo is not the official Wacom Stand)

Software

In all the models you can use a variety of 2D and 3D programs, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, zBrush, and Corel Painter, Paintshop Pro X9, and Mosketch, a program for 3D character animation.

The processors can run an array of 2D and 3D programs. The discrete NVIDIA M600M graphics is the same as in the Lenovo P70 mobile workstation, which has the 2GB card. The models with Intel Iris 550 are also powerful enough for 3D.

The highest model of MobileStudio Pro, available only in the 16, possesses 3D Intel Real Sense. That’s a 3D camera, aimed at industrial designers or engineers who use CAD and 3D sculptors who start with real objects. It comes with with a year’s license for Artec Studio 11 Ultimate scanning software.

Being a slate, it doesn’t have a dedicated keyboard that can be attached. You can use the Wacom Mobile Keyboard (optional purchase) or any Bluetooth or USB keyboard. There is a fingerprint sensor to log in.

Icons will look small due to the high-res display. Not every art program will get all the possible levels of pressure.

One Wacom MobileStudio Pro review remarked upon lag and other problems in Illustrator. Perhaps this is related to the Clip Studio Paint issue I experienced. Hopefully this will get ironed out as much as it can be.

chrome express keys

The Express Keys have some bling.

User reactions

Most Wacom MobileStudio Pro reviews from artists so far are very positive, with many on Cloud 9, and some detractors. Since the tablet only just came out, users are now bringing attention to bugs for the company to look at. Lots of artists, including me, are craving one! But it’s a luxury unless you really need some of the features, or can drop the dough with no problem.

When you buy something right after release, you become sort of a de facto beta tester, even if you don’t want to be. Unfortunately, Wacom isn’t the easiest place to deal with in getting repairs or doing returns.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro review Pros & Cons

Pros

Sensitive, responsive pen
Portable
Powerful
When used with Wacom Link, can attach to Mac or Windows and use as Cintiq
NVIDIA graphics
3D camera option
two sizes
Can use pen on some other Wacom devices

Cons

Expensiiiive
Battery life not great
Some bugs and glitches such as lag or bootup issues
Type C ports means you will need dongles for peripherals, for now
Does not come with accessories

The Verdict

This is a pricey proposition. It would nice if Wacom included the accessories that came with the Companions, such as a keyboard and the Wacom Link, considering the price tag.

There are other options with the same amount of power. The MSP is not the most lappable, because 5 lbs. on your lap can add up. However, I prefer the all-in-one form to using an attached tablet monitor, since an all-in0one takes up so much less space.

The MSP 13 is a good sequel to the Cintiq 13HD if you don’t like having to attach a computer. If you want the latest Cintiq, consider the Cintiq Pro.

The MobileStudio Pro 16 is more of a commitment in price but expands your capabilities in multimedia and rendering. The 3D camera would be utterly useless for many artists, but for some it’s a great feature.

A tablet that’s a computer makes you stuck with the OS unless you’re using the Link to use it as a Cintiq past the OS’s expiration date. Having it be an all-in-one also limits its resale time and value a bit, but it should last for years with proper updates.

Having a large screen, portability, and all the Wacom art controls makes this a joy to work on; you may have to live with a few bugs and imperfections for now.

This MobileStudio Pro review  is a thumb’s up for the specs and fun of using it. In designing this sleek slate, Wacom has listened to consumers and is, so far, still winner of the art tablet game. This would be a great high-end portable art studio to have if budget allows.

end of Wacom MobileStudio Pro review

See it on Amazon
(link takes you to the store in country you’re in)

Optional Accessories

Artisul Freestyle Stand fits both sizes (if you don’t want to get the Wacom Stand)

USB C-to USB-3.0 adapter

Wacom Link and Stand

end of Wacom MobileStudio Pro review

Lenovo Yoga_Book_review

Lenovo Yoga Book review

Lenovo Yoga Book Review: Windows and Android

lenovoyogabookreview

A while back, I wrote a fairly detailed Lenovo Yoga Book article when the product was announced, including specs. So here I’ll focus on my experience with it.  I have to say that it was as expected, and in some ways better–it’s a cool and very portable device that delivers in the art area. It comes in both WIndows and Android versions.

lenovo-yoga-book

Lenovo Yoga Book and Real Pen

See the Lenovo Yoga Book on Amazon

The Windows version comes only in black, while the Android Yoga Book’s hues are black, gray, and gold. Perhaps that’s a clue that they expect to sell more of the Android.

Specs

Wacom digitizer, 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity
EMR pen
100 degrees of tilt sensitivity
Screen: 10.1″ IPS LCD with Lenovo Anypen, multitouch,  HD1920×1200
OS: Android or Windows
Dimensions: 10.1″ × 6.72″ × 0.38″ (256.6 × 170.8 × 9.6 mm)
Build: Magnesium aluminum alloy
Processor: Atom X5, 2.4GHz
Weight: 1.52 lbs (.69 kg)
RAM: 4GB, 64GB storage, microSD can be added
Memory: LPDDR3
Dolby speakers

Comes with:

Yoga Book
Charger
micro USB cord
Documentation
Real Pen
3 ink-cartridge refills
Paper pad with 15 sheets of paper (refill pads have 75 sheets)
Book Pad (metal clipboard accessory)

On Feb. 8, 2017, he A12, a lower-specced, Android version of this was released but it does NOT have a digitizer.

Design

Needless to say, the Yoga Book is really cool-looking and the hinge is beautiful, with a bit of Steampunk sensibility. Lenovo is known for its utilitarian style. Here, the design has lightened and become whimsical.

As with all Yogas, the device bends into myriad poses. The smallness of it makes posing it easier and more fun than with the large ones. The large bezel lets you hold it without touching the screen, and visually sets off the display from its surroundings.

yogabookmodes

Tent pose would be great for showing your portfolio, letting an art director finger-scroll through your work. Or you could prop it on an airplane tray table and watch a movie.

yogabooksize

Ports

There’s a micro-USB and micro-HDMI, a conventional mic-headphone jack, as well as a microSD slot for a card up to 128GB. There’s no USB-C. To use USB peripherals, you will need to provide your own adapter, such as a USB to Go. You won’t be able to simultaneously charge the computer and use a peripheral unless you use a USB hub.

While some people are wishing for more ports, they wouldn’t fit into the skinny tablet body that gives the Yoga Book such great portability.

Display

It’s a bright 400 nits. It’s just HD, but I think at a small size, that matters less than it would at a large size. It also makes the battery last longer. Lenovo reports 70% of Adobe RGB though some places are finding up to 90%. It doesn’t have professional-level color accuracy, but is fine for a digital sketchbook.

You can write or draw on the multi-touch Lenovo AnyPen touchscreen with the stylus tip of the Real Pen, or with anything conducive, from a fork to a banana, because the screen uses Lenovo AnyPen. The one thing that will not work is pure plastic. No matter what, though, you won’t get pressure sensitivity or palm rejection on the screen.

Portability

At about 1.5 lbs., it’s very light and easy to carry in a small bag. The Yoga Book feels more like carrying a paperback book or Kindle with a protective cover. To compare, a 13″ MacBook Air weighs about twice as much. I find my MacBook Air starts to feel heavy after a while so if I have to cover a lot of ground I leave it at home.

Since the Yoga Book is a clamshell, the screen is protected. This means savings, as with an open tablet like an iPad, you have to invest in serious armor or padding.

Comparatively, the large iPad Pro weighs about the same as this, and the small one less than a pound. But then you have to figure in the weight of a case, and the Apple Pencil adds about 3/4 ounce.

Light as the Yoga Book is, though, you also have the paper pad, pen, and additional nib to carry around. There’s no silo for the pen. So having a sleeve that holds everything, and closes would be a good solution.

Lenovo Real Pen

lenovo yoga book pen tips

Yoga Book Wacom EMR Real Pen with stylus tip (top) and ink pen tip

The Yoga Book Real Pen is a batterlyess, Wacom EMR pen with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity and 100 degrees of tilt. Lenovo tried over 200 pen designs to get one that fulfilled the Real Pen’s dual functions. While on the large side, the pen is light and comfortable to hold. There’s no eraser tip, so you’ll need to use your program’s eraser brush.

lenovo yoga book pen styluses

If you want to draw for a while on the Create Pad, then change to drawing on the screen, you switch out the nibs, from the digitizer nib to the real ink nib. To switch them out requires using a little hole in the cap to pry out one nib. It’s reminiscent of the hole in the top of the Intuos that you use to pull out nibs.

Notice the fine tip of the top pen, which is the stylus to use on the AnyPen screen. The tip is coated with conduction polyoxymethylene (POM).

yogabookrealpen

Yoga Book Real Pen interior

If you’re a frequent switcher, getting an extra pen isn’t a bad idea. If you don’t like the nib remover you can use a ring one that comes with a Wacom pen. (photo illustration by Lenovo) Or, you can use just about anything to draw on the screen.

 Drawing on the Yoga Book

Here is a super-short pen demo. You can see how the line appears with my pen strokes with no lag. This is just one layer, though. If you have a very large file, you could get some lag as the Atom processor catches up.

Yoga Book Create Pad

The Create Pad is the black drawing tablet. Pushing a button switches it to stylus mode from keyboard mode.

Drawing is where the Lenovo Yoga Book shines. The Creator Pad is very responsive, perfectly mimicking what you draw or write. The Wacom digitizer works great, offering 2,048 levels of pressure and 100 degrees of tilt. There are no hotkeys.

Create Pad with paper pad (right) and color art on the screen (left)

It would be nice if the EMR pen offered nibs other than a ballpoint, but it has to conduct electricity.

There is something nice about getting back to paper.  I found myself keeping my eyes on the paper, whereas with a graphics tablet you have to look at the screen. (Though the new Intuous Pro includes a paper option). If the paper or just the novelty of it inspires you to draw more, than that’s a good thing. You can use any normal paper. To get retro, you could use tracing paper to build up your drawing on paper.

If you didn’t bring paper, you can draw straight onto the Create Pad with no paper. TheCreate Pad is actually the surface of the drawing tablet, not the paper pad. Then you can wipe off the ink. Similarly, you could use the ink pen on the AnyPen screen then wash it off. But I don’t like washing off ink, so I stick to the paper and Real Pen tip.

The ink refills are regular ink refills. You can buy them at stationery stores or from Lenovo or other places.

yogabookkeyboard

Halo keyboard

The keyboard is cool-looking, but difficult to type on, not a whole lot better than texting or typing on an on-screen keyboard. There’s a vibration when you hit the keys. It’s not good ergonomics to type on a flat keyboard. The haptic vibration may help you reflexively not strike as hard, but I’d still be careful and use this just for emails or short items. The size of the keyboard is also challenging to type.

I asked Lenovo if they considered adding more keyboards, such as those for other languages, but they said that wasn’t a possibility right now, since the keyboard is etched in.

Battery Life

Lenovo estimates 12-15 hours, which is really long; realistically, using art apps,. 9 for Windows and 11 for Android. The device doesn’t get very hot.

Art Software

Since the processor is Atom, there’s no point in trying to run heavy-duty programs such as Photoshop or Gimp. You can use them but only in the lightest way before you run into problems.

The Yoga Book comes bundled with a trial of ArtRage Lite, a versatile art program with loads of realistic brushes and effects, even glitter and impasto. It’s a very affordable program to purchase.

Lenovo Yoga Book Windows vs. Android

lenovo yoga book keyboard

Lenovo Yoga Book, Android version

The hardware for both are the same. The one difference you can see is that on the Android, you can’t see the touchpad as well because it isn’t outlined; there are just markings on the corners.

With the Android version you can use any app in the Google Play store, such as Procreate. With Windows, you could use ArtRage desktop, Photoshop Elements, Sketchbook Pro, Mischief, Krita, Sketchable, and other art programs that are not too resource-intensive.

Which is best? If you’re used to Windows, you might want to stick with the familiar. But the Android actually has more going for it. The Yoga Book is a tablet-first laptop. Its specs are low for a Windows machine, but high for an Android tablet.

The Android version lets you use anything in the Google Play store, including Procreate, Sketchbook Pro, Photoshop Express, and tons more. The Android apps are smaller, hence run faster. In the Android you can turn off the screen to save battery while you draw on the Create Pad, with the image still getting digitized.

In the Windows version, there is two-fingered scroll. You will also get Windows Ink and handwriting to text. And you can use Microsoft Office or Open Office. However, if writing is your main thing, I doubt this can replace a full-size laptop.

lenovo yoga book review

Converting handwriting to text on the Yoga Book.

All in all, the Android is  bit better, but there’s not a huge difference, so get whichever one you’re more comfortable with. Just realize that large Windows applications aren’t going to work well. There are Windows mobile apps (the apps formerly known as Metro) in the Windows Store, but nowhere near the amount for Android.

User Reactions

A lot of people are enjoying this tablet. Some Lenovo Yoga Book reviews say the Dolby speakers are louder in the Windows version. Some are also reporting problems with pressure sensitivity in full Photoshop and Corel Draw, but I think those are too large to run on this tablet anyway. The device seems to be sort of “comfort food” for some users.

The biggest sticking points are the trackpad and keyboard.

Pros

Lightness, portability
Multi-positions
Multi-functions
Display
Responsiveness of tablet
Touchscreen
Pen refills are affordable and easy to find

Cons

Typing is difficult
Processor and storage not very high
Create Pad limited to ballpoint pen

The Verdict

The design of the Lenovo Yoga Book is excellent, the hinge is beautiful, and it’s fun to tote around and show off. It’s a neat digital sketchbook, and nice to have a graphics tablet that’s already connected without dealing with cords.

You could get a Wacom Spark for less money if your main goal is to digitize your ink drawings as you draw.  If you want a very portable device to draw and do light typing on, the Book is a fun, versatile digital sketchbook. The main draws for me are the si

What the Yoga Book has done is combine a bunch of functions. Some call it gimmicky, others just enjoy it. I think there’s a bit of that old Apple charm going on here–though it may not give you a ton of power, it’s got a certain charisma and ease of use that’s getting it a lot of fans (and some detractors).

This functions somewhat better with Android, but go with your needs and preferences.

https://youtu.be/HFZJmV_4sbs

This artist, Arthur Walker, has created this great time-lapse video of drawing on the Yoga Book. He has even mastered touch typing.

See the Lenovo Yoga Book  (Android and Windows) on Amazon

 

Optional accessories include extra paper, ink refills, carrying case.

 

End of Lenovo Yoga Book review

Surface Studio review

Microsoft Surface Studio review: Supersize me?

Microsoft Surface Studio: big, skinny all-in-one

Microsoft Surface Studio review

At work using multitouch on the Microsoft Surface Studio.

Microsoft Surface Studio review

Along with the refreshed Surface Pro 4 with Performance Base, Microsoft has just released this large all-in-one, the Surface Studio, that will go nicely with a Starbucks Trenta (that’s the 31-oz. cup). How big is it? It’s 28″ and has lots of features, including four input methods for the touchscreen–with all that caffeine, you’ll be as productive a semi-octopus. I got to try it out and penned this Microsoft Surface Studio review.

Features

Resolution: 4500 x 3000 (192 DPI)
Color gamut: sRGB, DCI-P3, Vivid Color Profiles, individually color calibrated
Touch: 10-point multi-touch
Aspect Ratio: 3:2
Surface Pen
Zero Gravity Hinge that folds to 20 degrees

Processor: Quadcore 6th Gen Intel i5 or i7
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M 2GB or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M 4GB
Memory:  8GB, 16GB, or 32GB RAM
Storage: 1TB or 2TB
Dimensions: 25.09 x 17.27 x 0.44 in. (637.35 x 438.90 x 11.4 mm)
Weight: up to 21.07 lbs (9.56 kg)
Ports: Four USB 3.0
Full-size SD card reader
Mini Displayport
headset jack

surfacestudiopin

Cameras: Windows Hello  5.0MP front-facing camera, 1080p HD video

What’s in the Box?

Surface Studio
Surface Pen
Surface Keyboard
Surface Mouse
Power cord

microsoft surface studio review

Surface Studio folded on Zero Gravity Hinge

Get  a free Surface Dial with pre-order: Shop Shop Surface Studio

The Microsoft Surface Studio has an amazingly thin, 12.5 mm 28″ PixelSense screen with 10-point multitouch and comes in models from i5 with 16 GB to i7 with 32 GB RAM. With a light touch of the Zero Gravity Hinge, the screen folds to any angle down to 20 degrees, similar to the angle of a drafting table. This is positive, because 20 degrees is the best angle for ergonomics–it’s “neutral” on your wrists.

The GPU options are 2GB NVIDIA GeForce with 1 or 2 TB memory. You should be able to have lots of fun and games on those. It even has XBox Wireless built in. Though its primary use will likely be art and design, can use it as an entertainment center, art studio, monitor, or very expensive drafting table.

The lower-end models of the Surface Studio, if you can call something this fancy lower-end, use the GTX 965M and the highest-end one has the GTX 980M. Both of these are from last year, and considerably less powerful than the latest GTX 1070. So if you’re working in CAD programs, it won’t be the fastest that’s possible. For Adobe programs and most 3D use it would be fine.

Surface Dial and Mouse

The Surface Dial is a sleek-looking puck that reminds me of gizmos of the future from the movie Sleeper. You place it on the screen, where it can open up the Radial Menu, or use it as a color picker. It’s even got haptic feedback. You turn it to access various settings, such as opening up menus of tools, palettes, or brush options. The dial has a black magnetic bottom that gets some traction on the screen, but doesn’t stick like a refrigerator magnet, you have to hold it.

The curvy Surface Mouse also can be used directly on the screen. So there are four possible touchscreen options–the mouse, the dial, the pen, and your fingers. Perfect if you like to accessorize. The Dial may feel gimmicky, and if you’re into keyboard shortcuts, turning the Dial may slow you down. Others may enjoy its tactility.

Adobe didn’t work with Microsoft on the Radial Menu, so it doesn’t offer granular support for the programs, and it’s not customizable in the same way as Wacom ExpressKeys. You make adjustments in Windows Settings. The dial will work via Bluetooth with the Surface Pro 3, 4, and Book (Surface Pro 3 and up) but the on-screen functions will only work on the Surface Studio.

It’s not that easy to say what the advantage is over something like the Wacom Feel Driver’s on-screen radial menu for tablet PC. That’s not an option for the Surface, but if you prefer an easily accessible on-screen menu, you might want to try the Tablet Pro app.

microsoft surface studio review dial

Surface Dial with Radial Menu

The power cord comes with a release grip, which is convenient since you might not be moving this around that much.

Screen

The screen is glossy, and if you don’t want that you’ll probably need a custom-made screen protector. With 13.5 million pixels, it’s 63% over 4K. Or, since the Surface Pen has a variety of nibs, some of which provide some bite, you could draw with one of these nibs. You can quickly switch color profiles, which are individually calibrated.

The sharp resolution, individualized color profiles, endless angle adjustability (to 20 degrees) and inviting 3:2 aspect ratio all make quite a feast for art. Adobe RGB Is not specifically supported; instead it’s DCi-P3, 25% larger than sRGB and similar to the iMac Retina.

Portability

Not much. But at around 21 pounds, it’s more portable than some desktops. And it looks really nice. The Bluetooth keyboard is full-size but light, with good key travel.

The Microsoft Surface Studio is basically a huge Surface Pro 4 with higher specs. Storage won’t be a problem, at least not for a while, with 1 to 2 terabytes.

Battery Life

9-16 hours, not bad at all.

Drawing on the Surface Studio

The Surface Pen is included, and gets 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity via its N-trig digitizer, and same with its eraser end. That’s a far cry from the new, compact Wacom MobileStudio Pro‘s 8,192 levels, but hey, who’s counting. 1,024 is plenty and enough for a smooth pressure curve. S

However, compared to Wacom’s offerings, the Surface Pen isn’t quite there in terms of fluidity, and there’s no tilt or rotation sensitivity. It also requires more pressure than a Wacom pen to make a mark on the screen.

With something this expensive, it’s disappointing to not have tilt. It seemed like less of a compromise in the smaller Surfaces, since those were portable and could replace laptops and tablets. But this is a studiobound art tablet. It has lots of redeeming features, including the thinness, hinge, and relative lightness, as well as all the other good stuff (like the way over 4K display). This could work very well for photo editing.

The Zero Gravity Hinge  with 80 custom-set springs feels wonderfully weightless and the screen simply floats up and down, coming to a firm rest at 20 degrees–it doesn’t go all the way flat. As with the computer’s smaller cousins, the Surface Pen sticks magnetically to the upper-right side of the frame.

The screen is glossy, but not glarey and it doesn’t feel too slippery. It didn’t bother me that there was no “tooth” or screen protector.

The Studio would suit some people great, but others might prefer something Wacom. You can read some creatives’ reactions to the Studio in this Endgadget article. One who gave a quick Microsoft Surface Studio review lamented the lack of tilt sensitivity.

Pros

Gorgeous display would impress clients
Effortlessly adjustable hinge goes to ergonomically sound 20-degree angle
Will work with Creators 10 update focused on 3D and augmented reality
NVIDIA GPU
ample ports
full touchscreen, pressure sensitivity
3D-friendly
Pen has several nibs with varied textures
Dial has a lot of potential in future applications including Creators 10

Cons

Pricey (though Microsoft says it’s a great value, and you are getting a lot, but still)
Lack of tilt sensitivity for pen
Processor not the fastest or latest

The Verdict

I’m a bit wary of investing this much into an all-in-one, because of the speed at which computers obsolesce. You can keep a Cintiq around longer than the average computer, and Cintiqs hold their value longer. The Cintiq Companion 2 and the Wacom MobileStudio Pro can be attached to a larger monitor so that you can draw on and see your creation on the larger screen.

The Surface Studio is not the first large all-in-one, but it’s certainly the most powerful. Some Wacom-alternative companies have put out all-in-ones but they are seldom seen, and don’t have high specs like this one.

The Surface Studio has great build quality. Its hinge is graceful. There are plenty of ports. It’s gorgeous and would wow clients who walk in–which can be quite valuable.

If size and power are what you need, and you want the convenience of the hinge, this might be all you need.

Get a free Surface Dial with pre-order: Shop Surface Studio

end of Microsoft Surface Studio Review

tabletswithusbports

Tablets with USB Ports 2016

Full size, 3.0, 2.0, C, micro USB… what does that have to do with tablets?

tablets with usb ports

Surface tablet with USB stick

This article will give you the basics about tablets with USB ports. A tablet is a lot more useful when you can connect other devices into it. Different types of tablets have different sizes and speeds of ports.

You may be looking for a tablet with a USB port that’s full-size so you can hook up a mouse and keyboard, hard drives, printers, card readers, USB sticks, other peripherals, or even fun USB gadgets.

To use these devices, your tablet must become a USB host. Most portable tablets have micro-USB ports. If a tablet says it has USB 2.0, 3.0 etc., that refers to speed, not size, so you can’t assume it means a standard, full-size port. So if a full-size port is important to you, you need to choose your tablet according to this need.

OTG (On-the-Go)

To make your Android tablet into a host, you can usually use an inexpensive Micro USB OTG (On the Go) cable, thus named because of the portability of tablets. Some tablets come with the cable. Not every tablet supports OTG, so you need to check first.

OTG does have some power limitations. The devices you connect via the cable are the USB clients.

USB hubs

The tablet’s battery will be the power source for the peripheral (which is the thing you’ll be connecting to the tablet). If the peripheral’s power needs are more than the OTG cable can handle, you can use a powered USB hub.

A USB hub, powered or not, will also let you connect several devices at once.

Some cheap Android tablets may have a micro USB port that cannot become a host and is only there for charging the tablet, but most are capable of accepting OTG and many come with the OTG cable.

Tablet with USB port: Windows

The main tablets with USB ports are full Windows tablets and tablet PCs, such as the Surface Pro and Vaio Z Canvas and Lenovo Yoga 900. You can also use the older Surface 3 and Surface RT. These full tablet PCs will also have other ports such as HDMI to support external monitors and TVs.

The Windows 10 tablet by Fusion 5 is a portable tablet (not an art tablet) with a full-size USB.

Most Android tablets have USB 2.0, which doesn’t transfer data as quickly. Some Windows portable tablets, such as the Cube i7, have micro USB 3.0.

IPads have a Lightning port and come with a Lightning to USB cable, whether iPad Pro, regular iPad, or mini.

In PCs and desktop computers, USB 3.1 is the current standard. This is faster in transmitting data than 3.0 and 2.0. USB-C is a newer type of port that will likely become the standard for many types of devices. It can take the place of other ports, including one for charging and HDMI. Some Android tablets have USB-C.

Want more info? This Wikipedia article  goes into much more detail about USBs. This Forbes story tells you all about USB-C and why it’s turning things upside-down.

Android

Here are some Android tablets that have full-size USB ports. These are NOT art tablets–while they are touchscreens, to be art tablets they would need a pressure-sensitive touchscreen.

Google Pixel C

The Google Pixel C has a USB-C port, so it’s ready for anything. This Android tablet is thin and powerful, with a battery life of 10 hours. It’s got a really sharp screen: 10.2″ with 2560 x 1800 (308 PPI), and an NVIDIA Tegra X1 with Maxwell GPU. Would that our art tablets had these kinds of specs.

Dragon Touch X10

Dragon Touch X10 octacore Android tablet PC

Dragon Touch X10 octacore Android tablet with USB port

The Dragon Touch X10 has both a standard USB port and a mini HDMI port. Its Octa-Core CPU and  Octa-Core high-speed PowerVR SGX544 GPU will keep games going fast. It’s got a 10″ IPS screen that’s not high-res, but has good viewing angles.

If a tablet with a USB port is important to you for reasons such as attaching printers, you may be better off with one of the full Windows tablet computers above.

Pretty soon we’re likely to see lots of tablets with USB-C’s, but for now they’re still relatively rare.

It’s a good idea to have something like this Sabrent USB hub so you can use your port to multitask. The Sabrent is compatible with both USB 2.0 and 3.0. When buying accessories, be sure to check your device’s compatibility.


end of tablets with usb ports

 

 

 

 

 

best laptop for photoshop

Best laptops for Photoshop and photo editing: 2016-2017 picks

Top laptop and 2-in-1s for photo editing, Photoshop

best laptops for photoshop

What’s the best laptop for Photoshop and photo editing? While desktops can pack a lot of power, laptops have come a long way. Many people need the portability, lap-ability, and space-saving qualities of a laptop or 2-in-1.

The best laptops for Photoshop painting, or photo editing in Photoshop and Lightroom, have to serve many purposes. Certainly you need something powerful for working with large files in high quantities. You also need a high-res screen and good color quality, preferably wide gamut.

Some believe you need a laptop suitable for gaming in order to run Photoshop well, but this isn’t the case.  What’s more important is having the power of a mobile workstation. You can use many laptops for photo editing, but certain features make for an optimal experience.

Best laptop for Photoshop and photo editing: what to look for

Here’s a handy chart showing our top choices so far for 2017.

Best laptops for Photoshop and photo editing 2016-2017  
MacBook Pro Retina 15
NVIDIA GeForce GT 650MSee it on Amazon
Dell XPS 15
Dell-XPS-15
Multitouch option
Nvidia 960M graphics
See it on Amazon
ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501 VW 15.6" 4KNvidia GTX960M GPUSee it on Amazon
Lenovo ThinkPad P40 YogaQuadro M500M Discrete Graphics with 2GB VRAMSee it on Amazon
Vaio Z Flip
(Vaio Z Canvas, pictured, also recommended)
vaioz-canvas
Pen tablet with pressure sensitivity, N-trig, 1,024 levelsSee it on Amazon

See our Vaio Z Canvas review
Surface Pro 4
microsoft surface pro 4 with surface pen
Pen tablet with pressure sensitivity, N-trig, 1,024 levels
128MB Intel HD Graphics 520
See it on Amazon

See it at Microsoft

Read our review
Surface Book

microsoft surface book review
Pen tablet with pressure sensitivity, N-trig, 1,024 levels, optional NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M 2GB GDDR5 memorySee it on Amazon

See it at Microsoft

Surface Book

Wacom MobileStudio Pro
Wacom MobileStudio Pro

Wacom MobileStudio Pro. Source: Wacom

Pen tablet with pressure sensitivity, Wacom, 8,192 levels

NVIDIA Quadro M600M 2GB GDDR5 to NVIDIA Quadro M1000M 4GB GDDR5
See it on Amazon

Processor

An Intel i7 is the best option for handling the demands of Photoshop. You should at least get an Intel i5. Xeon E3 is another processor that’s strong enough. If an i7 is too pricey, an i5 will work.

CPU
At least dual core, quad core is fine too. Photoshop doesn’t always take advantage of all the cores available.

SSD
An SSD, or solid state drive, is faster, quieter, and more reliable than a hard drive (HDD). It does cost more. Another option is a hybrid SSD/HDD is more affordable and delivers most of the benefits of an SSD.

Memory
If you don’t want to spend a lot on a computer with a ton of storage, you could get a 256 GB or 512 SSD, and a 1TB external hard drive to store your art and photos for the long term. It’s a good idea to have multiple backups, on drives as well as in the Cloud.

Keeping layers makes files much larger, so flatten layers when you can. Some laptops have space for additional storage drives.

Screen resolution
A high screen resolution such as Retina, 4K, or UHD will really let you zero in on pixels. You’ll be able to see some large files in actual size instead of partial. Most programs by now have adjusted scaling so text and icons won’t show teeny-tiny on a high-res screen. This may still be an issue with older software. With programs that have not adjusted, you can dial down the resolution by adjusting it in your display settings.

Matte vs. glossy
Matte is better for screens because it’s less reflective. If you work indoors and can control lighting, then glossy is okay, but outdoors it can be hard to see. It also tends to exaggerate brightness.

IPS
An IPS display is important because it provides good viewing angles. You don’t want your image to become invisible to you because you looked at it from the side.

Screen size
Laptops mainly go from 11 to 17″. We favor 15,” as being portable but large enough to see what you’re doing. If compactness is a priority, then 13″ is OK. Eleven is too small to be very productive.

Operating system
Mac or Windows will both do equally, it’s a personal preference. They both support Adobe programs. Chrome OS does not.

Color gamut
While average laptops cover about 60-70% of the sRGB color gamut, for Photoshop, you’re better off getting one that has around 100%. Some also have some or all of Adobe RGB color gamut. Adobe RBG can look oversaturated on the screen; if you have one with Adobe RBG, it will allow you to switch to sRGB.

You also have the option of using a good external monitor for color-sensitive work, and using a calibrator on your laptop. I don’t think it’s necessary to get all the Adobe RGB on a laptop, as working on a larger external monitor is preferable. Some of the best laptops for Photoshop and photo editing include the Adobe RGB gamut, and others do not.

Pen (optional)
As you can see, this site focuses on pen tablets. But many people attach tablets to a computer, so this post includes laptops that have no pen.

A pen allows accurate input without attaching an additional tablet. It’s an option in deciding what features you want in the best laptops for Photoshop. When photo editing, it’s easy to cut out backgrounds, make quick masks, and selectively do things like burn in small areas. If you don’t get a pen tablet, you can attach a separate graphics tablet to your laptop.

Battery life
Battery life is important, unless you always work indoors. The same features that boost performance also drain the battery, including high-res screens, fast graphics, and a fast processor. So you want to get a balance of features and good battery life.

Ports
To connect an external monitor you will need an HDMI, DisplayPort, or, older, a VGA. To connect a Cintiq, you will need an HDMI. If your laptop has a VGA, you can use a VGA to HDMI adapter. To connect a graphics tablet, you just need a USB. All laptops have full USB ports, usually USB 3.0 or USB-C.

Do I need dedicated graphics?
This is a common question and one surrounded by confusion and misinformation. In short, the answer is no. Discrete, or dedicated, GPUs are more important for gaming and 3D rendering and intensive video editing than they are for most digital art and photo editing. They will give you a performance boost in Photoshop, but are not required.

Photoshop doesn’t access the regular GPU that much–it’s there for certain functions, including blurs and image rotation. If you do want the discrete GPU, preferably use an NVIDIA with 2 GB or more memory.

There are many great laptops for photo editing and creating art in Photoshop. Here are our favorites in 2016-2017:

MacBook Pro Retina

Many creatives opt for Macs. Using Photoshop on a Mac is not any different than using it on a PC. A long time ago, it was, and, largely from tradition, graphic designers have largely stuck to Macs. Also, the MacBook Pro is color-managed. There’s a 13- and 1- inch option, and integrated graphics. The MPB covers about 99% of sRGB and 88% of Adobe RGB. With its beautiful display and powerful processor, it’s a top laptop for Photoshop.

Dell XPS 15 Touch

The Dell XPS Touch and non-Touch are also top choices. It has  over 100% of both Adobe RGB and sRGB. It also has discrete NVIDIA graphics. The highest end has a 4k touch IPS display (3840 x 2160), 3 million more pixels than the Macbook Pro. Spec-wise, this Dell laptop is is equal  to or even better for photo editing than the MacBook Pro.

See Dell XPS 15 Touch on Amazon

Read our review of the newer Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 if you’re wondering. In short, it’s a fine laptop but a bit  less powerful than the first XPS.

ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW

This 15.6″ Touch IPS sports and 4K Ultra­-HD display, 3840 x 2160 resolution, Intel Skylake Core i7­-6700HQ 2.6 GHz Quad­core CPU and Nvidia GTX960M GPU graphics suitable for gaming. You shouldn’t have any problem tackling photos or with demanding rendering tasks such as using filters.

See the ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW on Amazon

Best laptop for photo editing: pen tablet PCs

Want the added accuracy and sensitivity of a pressure-sensitive pen? These laptops have touchscreens that are like Wacom tablets, delivering great accuracy and allowing you to sensitively edit your work using a stylus. I believe the best laptop for photo editing has an active stylus.

Surface Pro 4

If you want a laptop with a pressure-sensitive pen, the Surface Pro 4 is an excellent choice, though the screen is pretty small. Its compact size is perfect for when you’re scrunched into an airline seat.

Surface Book

surfacebooktrackpad

Surface Book pen and keyboard

The Surface Book is Microsoft’s laptop-first detachable 2-in-1 pen tablet. One configuration of it boasts NVIDIA graphics.

Same with the Vaio Z Canvas (read our review)–which has a healthy battery life. This remarkable 2-in-1 is as powerful as a mobile workstation and good for video editing as well as Photoshop. Drawbacks? The display isn’t very big (that can be good or bad, depending) and the keyboard lacks a backlight. But it’s a powerhouse.

best laptops for photo editing

Vaio Z Canvas with keyboard.

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga X1

The Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga X1 delivers excellent color accuracy, over 100% of sRGB, and is Wacom AES penabled. There’s an OLED option. See more about Lenovo tablets.

WACOM OPTIONS

The Yoga X1 has a Wacom digitizer, but the computer is not made by Wacom and doesn’t have the controls that make for the Cintiq workflow. Cintiq controls can really speed up your work whether you’re painting or photo editing.

Wacom’s new MobileStudio Pro and Cintiq Companion 2 provide these express keys and rocker ring. While some criticize the CC2’s less than stellar battery life and noisy fan, it’s still great for digital painting and photo editing.

Read our Wacom MobileStudio Pro review

Wacom MobileStudio Pro

 

 

Wacom MobileStudio Pro

Wacom MobileStudio Pro. Source: Wacom

This recent offering from Wacom comes in two sizes, the 13 and 16. It’s a very powerful slate tablet. The 16 has an option with dedicated graphics and even a 3D camera. If you want to be able to carry just one thing around, this will serve your needs. You can also purchase the Wacom Link and use it as a Cintiq, attached to a Mac or PC. See our Wacom MobileStudio Pro review.

See the MobileStudio Pro on Amazon

 

cintiqcompanion2

Cintiq Companion 2 (see on Amazon)

The Cintiq Companion 2 is the predecessor to the Wacom MobileStudio Pro. It comes with more extras than the MobileStudio Pro. While it doesn’t deliver all the power of the MSP, it’s still very good for photo editing and Photoshop. You also have the option of using any Mac or PC with an attached pressure-sensitive tablet.

Hope this article has helped you pick one of the best laptops for Photoshop and photo editing for your needs. If you’ve got further suggestions, leave them in the comments.