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Submitted on
February 5, 2013


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The local Boston Microsoft store has the Surface Pro on display, and I got a good solid 30+ minutes to play with it.

The Pro is definitely thicker than the Surface RT and even the iPad 1, but it's not to the point of feeling unattractive -- if anything it improves handling a little bit because it makes it nearer to the thickness of something like a book. I had no problem gripping the drive in portrait mode one-handed. (Being a widescreen device, it can get a little uncomfortable in landscape mode, but only if gripped from the sides. Top or bottom is just fine. Two handed is no problem at all.) The great thing about the Microsoft store is that they don't tether their devices down, so you can unplug it, pick it up, move around with it, really get a feel. That said, the weight, at 2 lbs, is no issue to me either. I have big hands, and I'm used to picking up heavy stuff for long periods of time (groceries etc) so I can't speak for everyone on that -- but if I owned the Pro, I'd have no qualms lugging it around in my camera bag. The system was warm from having been on all day and being used constantly, but -- it was only warm. Not a hot spot anywhere on it. There was the faintest warm breeze coming from the perimeter vent, (felt nice since my hands were frozen from the winter air.) Interestingly, the speakers were moved to blast sound out of the perimeter vent -- so unlike the RT, the Pro has no speaker holes. Clever.

Now, the thing you're REALLY curious about: The Pen. Yes, it works exactly like a Wacom pen. I forget if Microsoft has ever officially stated whether the digitizer and pen are made by Wacom or just liscened by Wacom, but the pen requires no power -- a misconception I had (I thought the pen recharged by docking with the Pro's power port.) The optically-bonded display is a real welcome change from the thick, elevated glass on my Cintiqs. When you put the pen to the screen, it really looks like you're physically touching the pixels. This makes pen calibration not only easier, but less necessary altogether -- the since there's very little to no parallax whatsoever between the cursor and pen tip, it will always be good to go.

The pen is responsive, MUCH more responsive than my old Thinkpad X201T. When I make a mark on a blank canvas, it follows up nearly as quickly as my Cintiq 12WX. Pressure sensitivity seems a little more smooth in its gradation than the old X201T as well, being able to maintain a lighter pressure more easily. (The X201T pen had such a short throw in its pen pressure, it would take almost no effort to go straight to 100%. Not so good.) The finish on the glass feels durable and totally smooth. The pen glides across without any feeling of resistance or thinking "I am going to make a scratch sooner or later...." The Pro recognizes the pen from an impressive distance above the screen, about as much as a Cintiq, which is great for making sure palm-rejection works properly. Sketching around in SketchBook Pro, I only had one instance where my palm left a little mark on the canvas because I brought my hand down at a weird angle. But otherwise, I had my hand resting all over the thing and it rejected just about everything except the pen input. The pen cursor will drift from the pen a LITTLE bit when brought close to the edges of the screen, but the effect is so little pronounced on the Pro compared to other traditional Tablet PC's. No cursor jitteryness -- beats out my Cintiq 12WX in that regard. The eraser tip wasn't programmed to work with pressure in SketchBook Pro, but it did switch to the Eraser tool at least. Not sure how I feel about the squared-off eraser, seems quite a bit inaccurate (due to its shape) compared to Wacom erasers, but it was mostly designed with note-taking in mind. I think if I owned a Pro, I'd be switching to the eraser tool rather than flipping the pen over. The pen can also enact Windows 8 gestures, such as swipe from the left or right to switch apps or access the trinkets drawer. This is a problem, because if you're making a line from one side of the screen, it's way to easy to suddenly fling yourself into a different app entirely. I'd have to see if there are ways to prevent that from happening.
Oh also, the button on the pen is that black stump that locks into the Pro's charge port. It's big and easy to press, very nice, didn't know that was a button from pictures.

The Pro's display is very nice. The Microsoft store is extremely bright inside, so the Pro felt a LITTLE sub-par in brightness, but I couldn't really tell since it's like... close to daylight in there. Colors seemed natural and neutral, not overly punchy. The 1920x1080 resolution is really something on a screen that size (running a real full desktop OS.) Yes, all of your desktop apps do run in full 1080p real estate size if you don't bump up the system UI Scale. Unscaled, text is ridiculously tiny (but so crisp!) If you have good eyesight, this won't bother you, you'll probably love the way it renders text at such a small size. But, if you want things to be a little more natural, you can up the scale to 25% or 50% larger. 50% larger will make all UI elements and web pages about how they appear on the 720p Surface RT. I found the best middle-ground to be the 25% larger, where things felt a little less microscopic, but extremely roomy given the screen size. Internet Explorer was easy to use with touch and was extremely smooth -- (actually EVERYTHING was really snappy and smooth. Music, video, maps, IE, Sketchbook Pro, whatever you're doing,) -- the system seems more than capable of dishing out performance for artists.

It goes to sleep and wakes up nearly as fast as the RT -- about as fast as an iPad that's been asleep for a few hours. So it's definitely a device that you can turn on and off as you please and no feel annoyed that you'll have to wait through log-on screens and reloading the desktop and such.

Some things I'm going to have to wait to see more about: the potential storage issues (though there IS an onboard MiniSD slot,) how well it might be able to handle some light gaming, and potentially maybe even some quick video editing.
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Strathelme Featured By Owner May 26, 2013  Student Filmographer
I've had the new wacom drivers for a while and havent noticed any problems yet other than sometimes it will stop registering the pressure and out of the blue you get this huge painted area so you need to undo the history but that is something which is happening on my intuous 3 as well so im not sure what the reason is, it probably is not the surface itself. One thing im missing is the ability to use the screen with my fingers to rotate and manipulate while using the pen because of the palm rejection. But its sort of a dual dielmma. On one side i want to have the palm rejection so i can rest my hands on the screen while drawing, feels more natural than being constantly aware that you need to avoid the screen with your ands (and it gets tiresome also) but the other part of me really wants to rotate,scale,zoom as im drawing instead of having to press hotkeys which requires you to have a keyboard. Im thinking as these tablet pcs become more widespread software will come to take advantage of this.

made an updated video of the surface pro with the drivers enabled here: [link]
Strathelme Featured By Owner May 5, 2013  Student Filmographer
I have a surface pro and the reason i bought it was because it was a combined computer and a cintiq sort of. some key softwares do not yet support the pressure sensitivity of the pen however using sculptris and cinema 4d i took it for a test drive.

the express keys can be partly remedied by isntalling artdock which will give you the keys you need. Microsoft has said earlier they are working on the wintab driver to support more software so im hoping something happens there however its not a major dealbreaker for me at least not yet. I havent used the surface pro for a long time yet but the battery life is as expected for something so compact, most ultrabooks have the same or worse battery life with more weight to it. The surface pro weights just around 1 kilograms if you include the touch or type cover, however unless your arms are pretty small it should not be a proble. Who holds their graphics tablet up in the air when drawing anyway? I use the surface pro on my lap and its perfect, you don't need the kickstand for that and i love just chilling on the couch or bed with it. However it does turn a bit warm but not uncomfortably so (i live in norway so its not that warm in the atmosphere to begin with so that might play a factor in there). It can play light games just remember to install the intel HD 4000 graphics drivers so you can scale the game resolution down because playing in 1080p can become laggy.

Made a short video of how it is to handle the slate here because i couldnt find any other videos of people using it for 3d stuff and i wanted to test its limits:

fox-orian Featured By Owner May 9, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Hey really quick, Wacom just posted a new driver that says it extends pressure support for many new tablet computers and such.
Give this a shot, will it give your Surface Pro Photoshop pressure?
Dualmask Featured By Owner May 10, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
I just got the driver and it works perfectly in Photoshop CS4. Seemed to create a bit of a conflict when I tried to run Paint Tool SAI though; the pressure stopped working briefly in both SAI and Sketchbook Pro, until I stopped using SAI. Not it appears to work fine in both Photoshop and Sketchbook. I can live without working in SAI. If everything stays stable, it'll make the Surface nearly perfect.

Now if only the screen were a tad larger.
fox-orian Featured By Owner May 11, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Can't wait for my Cintiq 13HD to come in, man. Yeah it's nowhere near as convenient as a Surface Pro, but it's got that full size pen, expresskeys, and 3" larger at the same resolution hahahah
Dualmask Featured By Owner May 10, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Er, Now it appears...
Rocklaw Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2013
As far as I can see, the only thing that the Wacom 12 WX has and the Surface doesn't are the ExpressKeys and the touchstrips, which really fasten the workflow.
How annoying do you find it to work on the Surface without them? (cuz looking at the price and features, the Surface absolutely beats the Cintiq hands down!)
Nikki0417 Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2013  Student General Artist
I work at the Microsoft Store in my hometown, so I've have more than a few chances to work with the Surface Pro (although each time I get into a drawing, a customer walks in).

I remember from the keynotes that the Pro is made with Wacom technology. I took that to mean the system used Wacom drivers, but the pens themselves aren't made by Wacom (don't quote me on that though). The only games I've tried out on the Pro have been games from the Windows Store, hopefully in the future I can see how it handles other PC games. The storage space is compariable to that of a Macbook Air or an ultrabook, and I'd say with the USB port and miniSD slot, storage shouldn't be too much of an issue, especially if you're getting the 128GB. Wish I could give more concrete answers. There are still some things I haven't gotten a chance to do with the Pro since my experience has been with the demo units in store.
danielfrisbee Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2013
I've had a sony vaio duo 11 for 6 weeks or so. The screen seems to flicker though people vary when noticing this/finding it bothersome. I've grown to very much enjoy the pen imput, despite being in the creative field I'd never used a Wacom. However, I'm disappointed by the quality of the line, if you draw a diagonal line slowly, the digitiser reads like it's on a grid and draws a stepped wiggly line. I'm curious to know whether this is the case on the surface pro- If anyone has access do please test the slow accuracy of the pen-
I'm hoping driver updates can cure my vaio but not likely. (more generally the vaio duo is great!!!)
Smoke2007 Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I am really interested if it will run Zbrush with decent performance. Would definitely buy one if it did.
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