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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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:iconstrathelme:
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]
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:iconstrathelme:
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:

[link]
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:iconfox-orian:
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.
[link]
Give this a shot, will it give your Surface Pro Photoshop pressure?
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:icondualmask:
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.
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:iconfox-orian:
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
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:icondualmask:
Dualmask Featured By Owner May 10, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Er, Now it appears...
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:iconrocklaw:
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!)
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:iconnikki0417:
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.
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:icondanielfrisbee:
danielfrisbee Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2013
hello
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!!!)
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:iconsmoke2007:
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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:icongh-comics:
GH-Comics Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yes it can. Up to 50,000,000,00 polygons, get one now
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:iconratatty:
ratatty Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Curious, just a thought, is it possible to change Microsoft's pen out for a Intuos3 pen (both have 1024 levels I think) so would this work, or does the digitizer not work like that?
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:iconfox-orian:
fox-orian Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
I'd say 99.99% nope.
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:iconmaratuna:
MaraTuna Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Huh! I'll have to take a look at this in another couple generations. Sounds like a great alternative to a Cintiq!
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:iconkittyhawk-contrail:
kittyhawk-contrail Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Got a few questions, since you're the first artist I've seen who's palyed with one.

1) Have you used it with Photoshop? I've heard the Pro gets very hot and wanted to know if PS or AI tweaked it out.

2) Does it play nice with mirroring it's output to an external monitor? Does it even have a way to hook up to external display?

3) Is it fast enough to use Adobe's flash codec and run art programs at the same time? Without scorching flesh?
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:iconnikki0417:
Nikki0417 Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2013  Student General Artist
To answer your second question, yes. It has a port on the side allowing you to hook it up to a monitor using an HDMI cable and an adapter.
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:iconkittyhawk-contrail:
kittyhawk-contrail Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
thanks
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:iconjorj-x-mckie:
Jorj-X-McKie Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2013
By now you probably are aware that the Surface Pro doesn't use Wintab API so no pressure in Photoshop, Illustrator, SAI, Painter. For now, ArtRage and SBP are what you have available with full functionality. Same as us N-Trig dead enders with devices like the Sony Vaio Duo 11.
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:iconkittyhawk-contrail:
kittyhawk-contrail Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Man, that is sad. SBP is fun and I've finished stuff with it, but it's not a patch on PS for shading. Oh well, maybe they'll figure it out someday :/
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:iconfox-orian:
fox-orian Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
1) No, the store did not have Photoshop installed. People have been exaggerating the Surface Pro's "heat" because other tablets like the iPad hardly even become room temperature. But we're dealing with an intel processor here. Comparative to an iPad, of course the Pro is hotter. But believe me when I say this, it only gets warm to the touch -- almost pleasingly so (as it's winter in Boston right now.)

2) I'd imagine it does. Not that I could test that in the store.

3) It should be. The specs tell me that it should be able to. It only has 4 GB of memory. So if you're not running a 13x19" 300 dpi 21-layer 16-bit PSD file, I'd imagine you can mix Photoshop with something like Amazon Instant Video just fine. The Pro does make up for not having a mechanical hard drive, though, so read/write should remain snappy. Also, again, heat is not a problem. Either my endurance for such things is unrealistically high (2 lb weight doesn't phase me, "hot" temps are only "lukewarm" to me,) or the Pro is really just not as bad as people like to say it is.
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:iconkittyhawk-contrail:
kittyhawk-contrail Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
thanks!

I'm gonna have to seriously consider this as a tablet then.
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:iconfox-orian:
fox-orian Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
(but of course, that's the price Microsoft must pay for not putting out an Apple product.)
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:iconthascorpion:
thascorpion Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2013
Interesting, although it is way expensive for me
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:iconhavocc:
havocc Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013
This review was a lifesaver in my life-or-death decisions of getting the Surface Pro. Pen input is the single most important feature I need, I'm glad your review here cleared things up a bit more for us neurotic artists that really needed to know. :D
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:iconlilium-bell:
Lilium-Bell Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Just curious, does this tablet pen come with the same pressure sensitivity of a conventional Wacom tablet?
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:iconcogbaby:
COGBABY Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013
It uses Wacom tech and has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity.
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:iconlilium-bell:
Lilium-Bell Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Holy shit it's all I dreamed and more.
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:iconcogbaby:
COGBABY Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013
It sure looks promising. I'm a bit concerned about the legibility and usability of smaller interface elements in desktop apps such as Photoshop.

Anyways it'll probably be another couple of months before it reaches Australia.

I'll be keeping an eye on this as well as the Lenovo Helix.
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:iconlilium-bell:
Lilium-Bell Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The Helix looks awesome as well, plus the battery life is much better than the Surface Pro. I hope it has the same pressure sensitivity and technology as the Pro.

I played around with the Surface RT, and imagining Photoshop on the screen size isn't that bad. At the same time, it's still very small.
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:iconcogbaby:
COGBABY Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013
The Helix also has Wacom tech, but with 256 levels of pressure sensitivity. On the other hand, it has the option of faster processors and more RAM.
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:iconjorj-x-mckie:
Jorj-X-McKie Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2013
I think the Helix will be the top dog penabled Win8 machine until the Haswell generation hits the scene. Then things might get very interesting.
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:iconcogbaby:
COGBABY Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2013
Realistically when do you think Haswell machines will hit the stores?
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(1 Reply)
:icondana-redde:
dana-redde Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I'm just overwhelmed with hatred for those flat snap-on keyboards UGH. Granted, I'm in the minority since I still use a 1957 typewriter, but I actually like the keys having a click and some give, not that flat 'did I press it or not?' shit. Can't deal with Windows 8, either.
:icongrumpycat-plz:
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:iconfox-orian:
fox-orian Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Yeah, but you've always been slow on adoption of new technologies/standards. Look how long you clinged onto 800x600 resolution for dear life with that old CRT you had? XD I don't have a problem using the touch cover. Though if I owned a Surface Pro, I'd probably get the type cover.





maybe both, eventually.
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:icondana-redde:
dana-redde Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
:icongrumpycat-plz::icongrumpycat-plz::icongrumpycat-plz::icongrumpycat-plz:




That said, since you have slandered me in this public space, I feel it necessary to defend my honor: I NO LONGER USE 800X600. JUST PUTTING THAT OUT THERE.

(heee)
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:iconpikachuvz:
Pikachuvz Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Sounds good. There's no way I could afford one. I just barely made $600 to buy my laptop. I really want a tablet with a display that's affordable. I prefer drawing on screen. I don't really care about pressure sensitivity because I never use it for drawing in the first place.
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:iconthedanhale:
thedanhale Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Sounds like an upgraded version of the Samsung Series 7 Slate which I have had for the past year. Great for drawing! A little small for finished work. Wish mine could have a typepad cover, not having a keyboard sucks sometimes.

For ANY of these Slates you NEED to get this program so that it will not recognize your hand (but allows for touch on the command strips)

[link]
[link] (Newer version/options)
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:iconblaqueandstuff:
blaqueandstuff Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is a great review since I have been wondering how the Surface Pro does in the way of a digital sketchbook. I would love to have that device and a nice powerful desktop at home these days instead of trying to get everything into a single laptop like I have in the past. I oculd get a desktop and this for about the cost of a laptop, and be a lot more productive i think.

Am cruious how it handles Photoshop or Painter myself more than anything, though for just sketching and doing heavy lifting on a desktop, tha tmight be more desirable anyhow.

Thanks for posting this, good to see comments of the Surface in the wild.

And stuff.
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:iconfox-orian:
fox-orian Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
I know I wouldn't do any big huge serous illustration work on a Surface Pro -- then again I don't even do any on my MacBook Pro and that has a 15" screen and a corei7. That's why I'm considering the Surface Pro, and sell my MBP.
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:iconblaqueandstuff:
blaqueandstuff Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The gist I get is that the Pro would be great for starting stuff or getting things done while on the road, and then one comes home to a nice desktop that can do a lot of the heavy lifting from there. For $2k you can get both a pro and a $1,000 tower that from my gathering does more than a single laptop would of done at least.
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:iconfox-orian:
fox-orian Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
A $1000 desktop computer can be very, very powerful. Desktop components are more powerful compared to their mobile laptop counterparts, (a 2.4GHz Core i7 is faster in a desktop than in a laptop for example,) and this is all down to desktops being able to push more power into the components from the mains and next to no space constraints to have to worry about cooling. A typical quad core CPU in a desktop can consume up to 90 watts under load -- JUST the CPU itself. A MacBook Pro consumes 85W under load -- by its entirety. The display, memory, hard drive, etc, all add up to 85W. Laptops are all about efficiency for mobility, whereas desktops are all about raw output.
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:iconyakkingyetis:
yakkingyetis Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013
i'm just wondering since you do such awesome reviews.. do you know of any good video editing software ? :please:
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:iconcyberborg:
Cyberborg Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the review.

Personally, the only win8 implementation that peaked my interest in any way was the Lenovo Yoga. I have no desire to own one as I am quite happy with my 17" HP laptop and a Bamboo tablet, and travel with them all the time.

My dream device would be a 15" Cintiq-like tablet with wifi, 10-hour battery, media card reader slots, and leave out every other resource-sucking feature not dedicated to drawing/painting.

I'll remember to stop by the Prudential when I'm in town and check it out.
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:iconfox-orian:
fox-orian Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Have you seen the Lenovo Helix? More expensive than the Yoga, but it has pen input like the surface pro. VERY interesting ultratablet.
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:iconcogbaby:
COGBABY Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013
It does look very promising. It also uses Wacom tech, but with only 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, which may or may not be an issue.
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:iconcyberborg:
Cyberborg Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Not in person. I got to play with the Yoga 11" for about an hour, and thought that it was actually something I would use if I was in the market, as I have found using other non-touch enabled Win8 devices tedious. Eventhough the keys facing out would be a bit of a concern, I really like the fact that it's an all one unit that feels neat in the hand (no awkward bevels, protrusions, or transitions),--a literal slab, like a clipboard or a thin academic sketchbook. I would actually find that preferable to the detachable screen design of the Helix. I'll be on the look out for it when it launches in a month or two.

A small sticking point for me is that I would prefer a 15" screen (the Yoga 13 comes close) if I was going to use a 1080p screen so that I would have the full, letter-sized screen area to work with.
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:iconenzudes1gn:
EnzuDes1gn Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Professional Interface Designer
I tried one out the other day as well, I won't write a novel length reply, other than to say, personally I prefer my Wacom 12wx over it ;)
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:iconfox-orian:
fox-orian Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
I'd still use a Cintiq 12WX over the Pro as well, the Intuos3 tech and expresskeys are too valuable in workflow.
The surface pro is defintely extremely capable as a ultraportable computer and digital sketchbook / lightweight illustration machine. --- probably amazing for on-the-field photography too. Link up your DSLR to it.....
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:iconenzudes1gn:
EnzuDes1gn Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2013  Professional Interface Designer
all very true :)
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:iconcogbaby:
COGBABY Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013
I also use a Wacom 12WX. In what ways did you find the Surface Pro inferior?
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