Affordable Tablet for Artist

Discussion in 'What Tablet PC Should I Buy?' started by Enkmar, Jul 13, 2010.

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  1. Enkmar

    Enkmar Pen Pal - Newbie

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    I'm not really looking to spend over $300 as I'm only dabbling with an artistic career at the moment. With that said, I've done some research on my own, namely on these forums. I know little about computers and even less about Tablets, so I thought I'd list what I found and you guys could give me your input, or perhaps point out anything I've missed?

    Here's what I'm looking at so far:

    Compaq's TC1000 - It seems to be the most affordable on ebay, a good 100-200 dollars cheaper than the rest I've found. Any reason for that? How is it for drawing?

    Toshiba M200 - The video's on youtube make it look quite nice for drawing. Any info here?

    Toshiba M400 - Didn't research it other than to see it's a bit more expensive than the M200. What separates them?

    HP 2710p - Didn't really get to research this one. It's just one that was recommended to my price range. Any info?

    Overall, any tablets that may be good for me that I'm missing? Any suggestions on which of these I should look into primarily?

    Thanks in advance, guys and gals!
     
  2. Shogmaster

    Shogmaster Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    TC1000 is no good since it uses none Wacom digitizer. TC1100 is OK, but it's gonna get too hot because of it's small size, and the 1GHz/1.1GHz Pentium M is just too damn weak.

    M200 is much better, but jebus, that thing is ancient too. The resolution is fantastic though. I struggle to suggest a Pentium M machine in 2010... Also, you'll have to own a decent bootable CD/DVD drive since they don't have optical drives.

    M400 is bulkier than the M200, but comes with Core Duo instead of Pentium M. But chances are you won't find high res screen like M200. You'll be stuck with 1024x768... It does come with an optical drive however.

    2710p also lacks optical drive built in, but it's the most modern TPC in that bunch. Also comes with 1.2GHz Core 2 Duo. Nice machine. I recommend this one over others. I own 2730p, which is an update to 2710p. Try and get the slice battery for it too.
     
  3. purplepeopledesign

    purplepeopledesign Scribbler - Standard Member

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    I got lucky a month ago and managed to find an M400 with the 1400x1050 screen. The high resolution is really quite good for sketching but the stock battery doesn't last more than about 3 hours even with 40% brightness. Mine was a business lease return so I think if you find a used one at a reseller it's worth checking out.

    :)ensen.
     
  4. Enkmar

    Enkmar Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Appreciate the feedback thus far! Looks like I'm narrowing it down to the M400 vs the 2710p. Can anyone tell me a little about it's responsiveness for sketching? I can't find any demonstrations on youtube where anyone is using it for drawing. Are they pressure sensitive?

    Anyone have any other suggestions for any other lower price tablet PC's I should be looking at?

    I'm not too concerned about it's specs so long as they can run art programs like photoshop, etc. I'll be using this primarily for writing and sketching.
     
  5. mazzarin

    mazzarin Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Hey! HEY! *clutches m200* it's ok, he was just being a jerk.

    /in denial.
     
  6. DRTigerlilly

    DRTigerlilly Tablet Lead Mod (Retired) Super Moderator

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    also don't forget the m200's were notoriously impossible to boot...unless you had the toshiba drive, or were lucky enough to find a usb optical drive it liked.

    @mazzarin I loved mine too (until it kicked the bucket)....but Jesus that thing was a pain in the a$$ with boot issues....reinstalling the OS should not be that painful.
     
  7. thatcomicsguy

    thatcomicsguy Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    The M200 worked fine and everybody loved it when it was new in 2005. These things aren't leafy greens. They don't rot.

    Was everybody wrong when they found the M200 an exciting and useful art tool five years ago? No. I think it's just a case of out-of-control consumerism getting the better of people's brains. Consider; five years from now, today's expensive darling machine will be eschewed like so much dirty laundry. Why? After a certain point, chasing the latest, greatest machine becomes a race for benefits on the vanishing point. The watershed technology was the Wacom digitizer being put under an LCD screen. That's it. Everything else since that revolution has been small potatoes.

    Until a new technology comes along to revolutionize the scene again, (perhaps super-high resolution screens with high-resolution resistive non-Wacom tech which would fix numerous inherent problems like edge-accuracy and line-wobble issues), then all we're really going to see are marginal improvements in software and chip speeds.

    Frankly, based on screen size and the build reliability, (the M200 is a very solid workhorse with virtually no reported issues due to poor manufacturing quality, such as system failures or overheating, etc.), I would rather use it than any current machine. Today's wide-screen format which the industry has settled on is fine for note-taking, but is not ideal for servicing the needs of the average visual artist.

    In terms of speed. . .

    You will notice some limitations, but so long as you work sensibly, you needn't be affected by them.

    For instance, I find the M200 entirely suitable for Photoshop CS4, where I do nearly all of my sketching and paint work, (and I generally work at 600 dpi on images with over a dozen layers). With 2 Gigs of memory and 1.8 Ghz clock speed, the M200 performs just fine. (I have heard, though, that earlier versions of Photoshop don't run as smoothly.)

    Though, it doesn't have the 3D power required to play with numerous of the more advanced features, like drawing at arbitrary canvas angles.

    I still use mine regularly, and for your budget, it's an excellent option. I've bought three of these things and given two of them away to other artists who I thought might enjoy trying out this cool new medium. That's how cheap they are. I've seen them go for under $100 on eBay.

    You can get an external drive specifically designed for the M200 for less than $40 (after shipping), so really, it's just an extra purchase on eBay.

    Now the M400...

    The M400 is a superior machine, (faster, double memory, internal cd/dvd drive), and it seems that about half of them come with the 1400 x 1050 screen. In fact, there's a bunch of them up for grabs on eBay right now which have the good screen. Here's one. . .

    Toshiba Portege M400 Tablet PC CoreDuo 1.83Ghz 2GB 60G on eBay.ca (item 160453969888 end time 15-Jul-10 22:23:03 EDT)

    The only thing to be cautious about is that there was a batch of M400's which had overheating problems resulting in component burn-outs. Something to be wary of. Though I think this particular listing would be a good gamble, because it's clearly the liquidation of an off-lease set. Any problems which they might have encountered would have been dealt with during the lease period.

    In any case, for an artist on a budget, I highly recommend either of these machines as either will get you into the game and keep you there for as many years as you like.

    I'm currently working very happily every day on a modified Tecra M4, (which has a 14" screen at 1400 x 1050). It serves very well, and it has the same approximate chip speed and limits as the M200.

    The only reason I'd see to buy a new machine would be to get a larger screen with an even higher dot pitch, but I don't see that happening any time soon. The only machine offering a better screen than the one I've got is the 21" Cintiq, but the benefits/disadvantages ratio doesn't warrant the price tag in my opinion.
     
  8. Enkmar

    Enkmar Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Is 512 MB enough RAM to run various art programs?
     
  9. MDillenbeck

    MDillenbeck Pen Pal - Newbie

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    I'll share my recent experience, and hopefully you will find it helpful.

    For the last 1 1/2 or so I have used an HP TX2120US. It dropped and the touch screen glass cracked, messing up the digitizer. Already frustrated with the low resolution (1280x800, but I use portrait mode to draw and 800 pixels wide is horrible), I decided to replace it with a higher resolution screen.

    The only better resolutions I could find was 1400x1050, with only a few models out there.

    The first was a slate by Motion Computing - the LE1700. The only one I could find was $1500 and sounded a bit underpowered.

    The second one I found was an M200 for $250 on Amazon, so I went for it. It only had 1.5 GHz CPU and 1 GB RAM, but I needed something right away. I have tested it with the free version of ArtRage (worked nicely), Journal Writer (full page drawing started to get sluggish), Painter XI (okay for simple sketches, started lagging with more complicated things like medium sized digital paintings with acrylics), and Flash CS4 (again, okay but sluggish with simple animations - so I worried about fuller animations).

    I used a free partition utility and installed Windows 7 on it. Most of the stuff worked, but with no driver support beyond XP there are some crippling limitations with the graphics. Also, 7 was just a tad less responsive in all programs - maybe 2 GB or RAM would have fixed this.

    I have not tried it yet, but I have an eSATA PCMCIA card, sata DVD drive, and an eSata to Sata cable - my external USB DVD won't boot, so I am going to try hooking up the internal drive via the eSATA (otherwise, I have extra parts at home that I could build a PXE Boot server with if I want to learn how to do that). Lack of USB booting is a major drawback.

    Then I learned that Toon Boom Animate has a free personal learning edition, and I want to try that out. It, however, needs a dual core CPU of 2 GHz and 1 GB RAM - so I started looking into alternatives.

    I found the M400 has what I am looking for, so I would really recommend it over the M200. Be careful when buying them - they have 1280x768 screens on some models.

    The earlier models were Core Duos. There were also Core 2 Duo models. The 1.86 GHz Core 2 Duos are all 1290x768 resolution (pointless to get). The only 1400x1050s I found were 2.0 GHz and on eBay. Sometimes they go fast, and it looks like Core 2 Duo models will run you around $400-$600. If you are okay with Core Duo, there are plenty available for around $300 at 1.86 GHz.

    I have heard that the M400 has a slightly better screen. They are older laptops, so battery life won't be as good.

    Either way, unless you are doing simple sketches, I recommend the M400 over the M200. The more strokes you add, the better computer you will need. Also, the M400 as a dual core 1.66-2.2 Ghz system isn't too shabby compared to many of the systems out today. Old, yes, but not really outdated like an M200. Don't concern yourself too much with the amount of RAM included - you'd be better off budgeting for the following:

    $50-$100 to max out RAM*
    $80 for a full version of ArtRage3* (or $20 or $40 depending on the version)
    $250-$600 for the actual computer (M400 preferable, M200 acceptable)

    * - alternatively, if you are just starting out, skip these and use the free version of ArtRage (2.5 I think) and hold off on the memory upgrade.

    Again, hope that helps and good luck finding something that suits you.
     
  10. purplepeopledesign

    purplepeopledesign Scribbler - Standard Member

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    The free 2010 version of ArtRage is quite crippled. Maybe half the pens and brushes and no paper options. Don't know what else is missing because I removed it. Since I'm still messing around, I've got SmartDraw installed and it's pretty good for what I need, which is a digital napkin. Another power user around here swears by MS Journal and I think he's onto something since it saves really small files. The one drawback is that it only exports to TIF and not a format that is easily viewed by others. I tried Sketchbook but I just can't wrap my head around the palette menu system... too long using Windows I guess.

    :)ensen.
     
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