Artist's Tablet PC: Which is the best?

Discussion in 'What Tablet PC Should I Buy?' started by Metaleaf, Aug 1, 2007.

  1. Metaleaf

    Metaleaf Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Hello, everyone. I'm considering a Tablet PC - and I need you help! I know nothing about these strange, fascinating machines.

    I'm an artist. I would be using this theoretical PC as a sort of portable digital sketchbook. My hope would be that drawing directly on a screen would be more intuitive than drawing with a non-Cintiq Wacom tablet. As for software, Photoshop is more or less all it would need to run, although I might also want to run things like Maya, Mudbox or ZBrush eventually.

    It would be best for my purposes if I had access to hotkeys while fiddling with the screen. I don't know if any TPCs allow this; most of the models I've seen kind of fold over top of the keyboard. It is possible I've only seen strange models.


    Now I'm yanking questions directly from the FAQ.

    Budget: Doesn't really matter to me, as long as the machine suits my purposes.

    Slate/Convertible/UMPC: I fear I have no idea what any of those are.

    Size: Size and weight doesn't really matter, but I imagine a large-screened TPC would be better for my purposes.

    Country: Canada.

    Brand Loyalty: I'm brand-agnostic.

    Battery Life: As long as it doesn't die immediately upon being unplugged I'll probably be happy. But, say. Six hours, minimum?

    OS Preference: Windows. Although I could use Mac software in a pinch.

    Games: I'm a gamer, but I have a regular computer for that kind of thing. So no.

    Standard or Widescreen: Doesn't matter. I'm more interested in overall size than shape.

    Indoor/Outdoor: I'd prefer to have both options.

    Passive/Active Digitizer: Active.

    Wacom or Finepoint technology: Hell yes.

    Hard drive: Larger is better.

    Do I need an Optical Drive? Probably not, unless I'm completely misunderstanding what that is.

    Modular Bay Technology: Probably not?


    One thing I would most definitely need would be an easy way to move files from the Tablet PC to my regular PC. Does such a thing exist?

    And - I know you folks are the Tablet PC guys, but I gotta ask. Would it be better for my purposes to buy a Cintiq?

    And a final question. Are there any big-name stores that carry tablet PCs? That might let me, say, try one out before I commit myself to ordering?

    So what are my options, you wily internet oracles, you?
     
  2. jenarelJAM

    jenarelJAM Scribbler - Standard Member

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    Fry's Electronics usually carried a couple tablets. Mine carries a hp that does not have a digitizer (either kind) and a Fujitsu t4215 that let me test out wacom before I bought my tablet. I know that Best Buy does NOT carry tablets in-store, but they will order them for you if you want one (right, because if we're going to order online anyway, we want to pay the mark-up...).

    A Slate tablet is basically a thick screen, no keyboard, not really a "laptop" at all. The name "slate" is really what it looks like.
    A Convertible is a laptop-shaped tablet where the screen can rotate around and latch down over the keyboard.
    UMPC stands for Ultra-Mobile PC, and is basically just a super-tiny computer.

    For you, I might actually recommend a slate. I don't know anything about specific models, but I believe they have better battery life (at the cost of speed and performance) but if you're looking for a drawing tool, the light weight/portability/battery life of a slate tablet might be appealing.

    You mentioned that you would like hotkeys when in tablet mode. Many models have buttons next to the screen for just that purpose. I believe that there is also software you can download to allow a portion of your screen to serve as user-defined keys, but I could be wrong.
     
  3. SgtDirtbag

    SgtDirtbag Scribbler - Standard Member

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    This artist prefers his tabletpc (Fujitsu T4215) over a normal tablet and the cintiq exactly because he can finally draw on the screen and it's much more portable than a cintiq.
    Most of his works were done in life drawing sessions, right next to people with regular easels and real paint. ;)
    http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=89032

    This question asks if you want/need a DVD-Drive inside your tabletpc.
    Some models have no optical drives to reduce weight, some do.
    If you buy a tabletpc with no optical drive, you either need to buy an external one or a dockingstation with an optical drive.

    But you can also live without a DVD-Drive, just make images of your CDs or DVDs on another computer and transfer them via WLAN/USB-Stick/external HDD and run them from the harddisk with DaemonTools.

    Modular Bay Technology means that you can take the DVD-Drive out of your tabletpc and use the free space to put a second battery or harddisk in instead.

    I guess all tabletpcs come with wireless lan, you could use that.
    Or you could buy an external harddrive to swap files, I'd recommend this anyway for backup purposes.

    You are the only one who can answer this question.
    You said you want a tabletpc as a mobile sketchbook, then the Cintiq is TOTALLY out of the question.
    Just to make it clear, the cintiq is not a computer, it is just a screen and you need a regular pc to use it.
    I mean, imagine carrying a 21" screen (10kg) + computer (14kg) around, that's as far away from a mobile sketchbook as it gets.

    Cintiq:
    • 21" Screen, can't get a tablet pc this big
    • 1600x1200
    • 1024 pressure levels
    • Detects at which angle you hold the stylus to the surface of the screen
    • You can have several different Stylus, each with individual brush settings.
      Each Stylus is recognized by its ID# so you just have to switch your pen, instead of opening the brush dialog in photoshop if you want to switch
    • Just a screen, barely portable

    TabletPC:
    • Don't know the max. screen size, should be way below 21"
    • Max. 1400x1050
    • 256 pressure levels (the modified Macbook is the only one with 512)
    • No angle detection
    • No individual Stylus ID# as far as I know
    • Fully portable computer

    Sure, the technology of the cintiq is much more sophisticated, but do you want to sacrifice mobility for that?

    I'm also planning on buying a TabletPC and I've asked myself the same question, cintiq or TabletPC.
    I decided on a TabletPC because I don't want to be chained to my desk at home, I want to draw and sketch digitally everywhere.
    I get the burnout syndrome much faster when I'm always working in the same spot.

    As I said, the cintiq gives you more space and is probably a bit more comfortable to work with, but imagine sitting in a sweet little café in a busy shopping street, nipping at your cappuccino and sketching the life that surrounds you while it's happening with all Painter IX and Photoshop tools availaible right there with you in a small neat package.
    Only a TabletPC can give you that experience.

    As for real recommendations, I'd look into the Fujitsu T4220 and the Lenovo X61 Tablet.
    They are fast, have good battery life, the best integrated graphics (you can even run some fairly recent games on these machines) and everybody who has either one seems to love it.
     
  4. SimsHsia

    SimsHsia "I will do science to it" Senior Member

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    A Tablet PC has 256 levels, and Wacom has released digitizer sensor boards that have 512 levels, of pressure sensitivity. Although, it is still unknown if the newer Tablet PCs that have been released last month and this month have 512 levels of pressure sensitivity, but there is no doubt that they possess 256 levels. The Cintiq, on the other hand, has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, and tilt-angle pressure sensitivity.

    The Acer TravelMate C213, C214, and C215 may be choices for you to also consider, they are convertibles, but sort of like a slate. It is what you described when you saw a Tablet PC that had a screen that slid over the keyboard. The Acer TravelMate C213, C214, and C215 are available only in Canada (along with the UK, Asia).

    Shogmaster, who is also an artist and regularly posts here, uses a Toshiba Satellite R25 with a 14.1" display, however for the U.S., Toshiba has discontinued the Satellite R20/R25. Luckily, Toshiba Canada still offers the Satellite R20, here. The Toshiba Tecra M7 with a 14.1" display may also be another possibility, here. Like the Satellite R20/R25, Toshiba US has discontinued the Tecra M7.
     
  5. Metaleaf

    Metaleaf Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Thanks for your help and your swift replies! I must say that after reading through everyone's advice I'm leaning towards the Fujitsu T4215. It seems to have the best balance of features and, according to one review, the best performance with Photoshop.

    jenarelJAM:

    Fry's and Best Buy don't have branches in Canada - at least not in Vancouver. The best we have are Future Shop and Staples, which I'm almost sure don't carry Tablet PCs. Alas. I'll hunt around, maybe make some phone calls to smaller stores I've frequented in the past.
    And thanks for the tips on the hotkeys. I wonder - could an external keyboard be attached in tablet mode? I tend to draw with one hand on the Wacom and the other on the keyboard, and I'd rather not take up screen space with hotkeys if I can avoid it.

    SgtDirtbag:

    Ooh, it's nice to see what someone who knows their stuff can do with a table PC. I can't imagine getting that kind of detail with a regular Wacom. Or rather I can, but I can also imagine it being extremely frustrating.
    And, oops, yes, it appears that an optical drive is the way to go for me. I can deal with isos and such if necessary, but it's rather a hassle, isn't it? I don't mind extra weight or extra noise. I'll likely have headphones on, at any rate.
    As for an external hard drive, I've been using my iPod as one lately. I suppose I might as well use it for this, too.
    Regarding the TPC vs. Cintiq debate, I agree with you. Portable is better for sketching. And besides, they cost more or less the same amount - why not get a whole computer?

    SimsHsia:

    Which Tablets PCs have been released in the last month? On the off chance that they have this new feature, 512 levels of pressure sensitivity would be nice.
    On an opposite note, artists I've talked to who have made the conversion from non-Cintiq Wacom to 256-level Tablet PC say they can't detect any real difference. I'd be curious to try it for myself.

    After reading through a few tablet PC reviews and spec charts, for some reason the thing that gets me most excited is the fingerprint-recognition-as-log-in thing. I had no idea this existed! We're in the future!

    Thanks again for all your kind help.
     
  6. SgtDirtbag

    SgtDirtbag Scribbler - Standard Member

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    I'd rather take the T4220. It's basically the same thing as the T4215 but it's equipped with the new Santa Rosa platform.
    The main advantages are some new powersaving features and a better graphics card.

    Sure, just plug it into one of the USB ports located at the side of the tabletpc.

    You're welcome. : )
     
  7. SimsHsia

    SimsHsia "I will do science to it" Senior Member

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    The Tablet PCs that were released last month were the Lenovo ThinkPad X61, the Fujitsu LifeBook T4220, and the Gateway C-140X. Two out of the three Tablet PCs are available in Canada, the T4220 and the X61; Gateway, however, does not sell outside of the U.S.

    I, myself, am not an artist, so I would be unable to notice any difference between 256 levels and 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, however there are those that do. :)
     
  8. Shogmaster

    Shogmaster Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    Guys, don't get obsessed with the pressure levels. I have hard time seeing the difference between using my R25's 256 and the 1024 of the Cintiq 21UX. 256 vs 512 is even less so. I've gone back and forth between R25 and 21UX on some of my pieces and I can't tell which part was done with what digitizer as far as pressure sensitivity.

    The real difference is gonna be the tilt and the rotation sensors of the 21UX. If you rely on that with some of your tools (such as "Flattened Pencil" in Painter), you do miss it.
     
  9. jerelyn

    jerelyn Scribbler - Standard Member

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    Thank you for posting this! I've been using an tablet with 1024 levels for 2-3 years now, and will be moving a Cintiq soon (I hope!), and I have been unsure whether to care about the 246 vs 512 tablets or not.

    You say you couldn't tell which was done with which...do you mean that from the perspective of someone viewing the results, or as the person who did the art? I had an occasion to use a tiny Graphire once, and I found it to be hard to get the pen-reaction I was used to, especially when I was doing something like skin. But it was also much smaller than I was used to, and I could not control settings otherwise (not my computer), so I wasn't sure where the responsibility lay. Do you do the sort of art that requires a subtle control of pressure?
     
  10. Metaleaf

    Metaleaf Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Oh yes, I was checking that one out on Fujitsu's website last night. Looks good. The thing is - I started going through their system construction process to scope things out and, with all features maxed, it ended up being over $3500 Canadian. :eek: I thought I didn't have a price cap, but it turned out that that was it.

    It's possible that I don't actually need four gigs of RAM for what I'll be doing on this machine. But my inner geek is saying yes, yes of course you need the four gigs of RAM. And you must have the largest possible hard drive. You must smite the unbeliever with the vast superiority of your tiny computer!

    It might take a while to talk myself into this.

    It's good to hear that the pressure level thing isn't such a big deal. I don't tend to use tilt/rotation sensing brushes, either, so I guess I'm golden.

    Speaking without having used the Graphire in question, I'd hazard that it was the tablet size. The size of a tablet makes an amazing difference. I used an Intuos 2 4x5 when I was starting out, use a 6x8 at work, and currently use an Intuos 3 9x12. There's no comparison between the 4x5 and the 9x12 - the 4x5 feels slippery and it's hard to get decent arcs. I've been completely satisfied with my 9x12. Until now. Drawing directly on the screen - ? Shiny!

    Okay, more questions. Does the indoor/outdoor display make the screen fuzzy at all? I've heard rumours to this effect. Has anyone out there used both types of screens - indoor/outdoor and regular? Variants for light conditions aside, which was superior in terms of image quality and sharpness?

    Typically, how do laptops charge? Just plug them in and they go? Will an extra modular bay battery charge in the same way as a regular battery, or must it be unplugged and charged in some other way? Why yes, I am a total noob. Damn it, Jim - I'm an artist, not an engineer!

    Does anyone have strong opinions on Vista? What I've heard inclines me to avoid it.

    Thanks again. I'd really be lost in all this without you guys.
     
  11. P8RSON

    P8RSON Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    There are two points to note here though Metaleaf.
    1. Unless you are planning on running Vista 64Bit version, with the 32Bit the maximum RAM you will get from the 4GB is 3.2GB.
    2. Don't purchase the whole RAM from the manufacturer, instead look to order the Tablet with the minimum amount of RAM fitted and purchase the remainder from an independent memory specialist.
     
  12. Shogmaster

    Shogmaster Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    With Wacom pens, there are many things that contribute to the "feel" of the pen in my experience. Some of that is the pen itself, the power of the computer being used, the surface you rub your pen on (I guess that's called drawing ^_^), the application you are using, and the complexity/approach/resolution of the piece you are working on.

    I can't say obviously that your experience will be the same as mine when it comes to pressure feel. All I know is that I've used everything from Art Z II to Pen partner to PL500, Sony LX900, Cintiq 15X, 18SX, 21UX, Intuos 1~3, Graphire 1~4, and various tablet PCs. And I highly doubt that the raw pressure sensitivity is the end all be all for the illusive pen "feel". I have had the most incredibly synergistic "one with the machine" experience with a 4x5 Graphire 2, while having a jacked up stilted experience with a 21UX. All depends on the many variables I've listed already.

    As for my comment, I was relating to as a viewer of the end product. While using the two digitizers, the "feel" is definitely different. But viewing the piece afterwards, I had hard time remembering which part was done with which digitizer.

    Let's not fool ourselves here. Using a 14" TPC is a wholly different user experience that a 21" 21UX on a fast desktop with all the trimmings. It is impossible to get a TPC to behave the same as a 21UX on a fast desktop. But having said that, it is rather short sighted to relegate everything to the difference in the pressure sensitivity ratings of the two digitizers.
     
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