Experienced Digital Artist Looking to Upgrade to new Tablet PC!

Discussion in 'What Tablet PC Should I Buy?' started by dedwar24, Mar 15, 2013.

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  1. dedwar24

    dedwar24 Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Hello, I've been doing tons and tons of research and really feel like I haven't gotten anywhere at all! I could really use some decent feedback from people who are artists and have experience with tablet PCs. I currently use (and am using) a Gateway C140X. It's old, tired, and half the screen doesn't work (the pen no longer works either). I am returning to Grad school for my MA and -really- need a new Tablet PC for coursework. Please help!


    1. What is your budget?
    Not a concern. Cheaper the better, of course but not my focus for quality.

    2. Would you consider purchasing used/refurbished?

    3. Do you prefer a media/mobile tablet like the iPad, Windows tablet PC, or notebook convertible?
    Windows Tablet PC.

    4. What size Tablet PC would you prefer?
    Larger the better.

    5. Which country do you intent to purchase from [where do you live]?
    The US (Oregon).

    6. Do you have any preferences to brand loyalty or dislikes?
    Not really, though obviously Gateway doesn't exist anymore! :)

    7. How many hours battery life do you require?
    More than 2 hours? lol. My current laptop dies within that time frame because of its age... So frankly, 4 hours to me is spoiled!

    8. What will be the primary usage scenario of this tablet? (Email/Web Surfing/Drawing/Word Processing/Entertainment/Notetaking etc)
    All of the above. I have a desktop to run my "main" programs such as email, web surfing, word processing, etc. But since I travel frequently, I need this PC to be capable to do the same things. Doesn't have to be Houdini at it and doesn't need to function for intensive computer gaming (I don't do that), but it DOES and absolutely HAS to function perfectly with Adobe programs and Wacom for heavy imagine/graphic intensive work.

    9. Do you have an OS preference? For example, do you own an iPhone and a Mac, or are you a Windows fan? Do you own an Android device and use Google services frequently?
    I have an iPhone and iTouch but that's about as far as it goes for Apple. It's a completely foreign product to me and I know that it is the industry standard for artists... but unfortunately for them, they haven't created a convertible tablet yet (and the iPad doesn't count because the stylus' available can NOT match a Wacom...or run photoshop, etc). In short, Windows fan.

    10. What software and tasks do you intend to run? (Microsoft Office or other Word Processing Suite/Photoshop/3D Studio Max/Autocad etc)
    Almost ALL of the Adobe Creative Suite CS5 and all of Microsoft Office. Beyond that, nothing exceptional.

    11. Do you intend on playing Games? If so please list.
    Nope. I have my desktop for that.

    12. Would you like to stream content through your home theater system?
    I...wouldn't? I have a wifi connected BlueRay player and thus, all my internet content can be displayed through that.

    1. Any preference on screen resolution?
    Well, I'm used to a cracked screen that displays black as red now... so anything would be better than this. :)

    2. Will you be using the tablet outdoors? Do you need to be able to see it through glare from the sun?
    There are a few times I would like to go outside and work, but frankly... I live in Oregon. Specifically, the coast. When is it EVER nice to go outside?

    3. Do you require a pen? With or without pressure sensitivity? Do you prefer Wacom or N-trig?
    ABSOLUTELY require a pen with INCREDIBLY pressure sensitivity. And ABSOLUTELY Wacom.

    Component Specifics

    1. What size Hard Drive and Memory do you require? Would you like expandable memory?
    As silly as it sounds, I really don't know? More the better..? 4GB of RAM at least. And as much hard-drive memory available? I store all my art on my desktop and on several external hard drives... so not much will be physically stored on the laptop but I've only gotten into that habit because of how much is limited on my current laptop (150GB). My music files take up at LEAST 20 GB. So...yeah... imagine what my art folder is like, yikes.

    2. What sort of inputs do you require, if any? Would you like full-sized USB and SD card slots? Are microUSB and microSD ok? Do you require HDMI inputs?
    Full sized USBs, SD card, microSD (if capable?), HDMI would be cool but not required.

    1. Other non specific items ~ please add other items you require not covered above?
    Internet capabilites/wifi capabilities must be exceptional to. I do A LOT of web browsing while working for research and references while also streaming music, etc. My laptop currently can only function (and barely at that) with one thing at a time. I need my new laptop to keep up with me.

    2. Additional requests ~ anything other you wish to take into consideration?
  2. thatcomicsguy

    thatcomicsguy Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    Well, you've working with a 14" screen up until now. All of the new machines are going to feel somewhat to very cramped. I'd stay away from anything less than 12", and 12" is going to bug you. You'll get somewhat used to it, but from my experience, (I worked on a 12" for a year), you'll never quite get away from the constrained feeling, and it definitely affected how I drew in a negative way. I now work on an old 14" Tecra M4, (1400 x 1050) and I really like it a lot. It's the perfect size for comfort in hand access, (the real problem when drawing is being forced to work exclusively tight from the fingers rather than being able to move your whole arm). Any extra size, which I would certainly appreciate, would merely be useful for showing more screen data at one time so you don't have to scroll around quite as much.

    I wouldn't recommend the Tecra M4, however; it's old and needs a hardware hack to make it viable, and it's CPU and memory limitations can be annoying if you do a lot of high-res color work, or animation. It has half as much RAM as you've become accustomed to and a single core processor. It's fine for me; (I work 90% of the time on black & white comic pages). But in your case, I'd look for something more modern.

    The first option which springs to mind is the Fujitsu T902; it's cutting edge and it has gobs of power; it'll do everything you need and probably more. It has a 13.3" screen with more pixels than you're presently used to. It should fill the bill and the minor reduction in physical screen size may remain okay. The only real problem as I see it, is that it's also very expensive. >$2000

    Another option on the other end of the scale is the Fujitsu T5010; it's very inexpensive; they only live on eBay now, but you'd only be looking at around $200 plus shipping. It has a 13.3" screen and about the same pixel density as you're currently used to, and very similar internal specs, (Core 2 Duo and 4 Gigs of RAM).

    There's really not much in between.

    If you decide that you do want to torment yourself with a smaller screen, then there are plenty of options available, offering excellent build qualities and hardware specs. I won't even go into those, because honestly, I think pro artists should avoid small screens, but I will say that the HP 27xxP line is well loved around here.

    If you can wait, there are a couple of interesting options coming along this Summer; Lenovo has a stand-alone screen coming out at 13.3", which you can plug into a laptop. It's going to be around $400 if Lenovo's claims are to be believed, and also, Wacom is brewing up a portable art tablet which may be the answer to many artist's desires, though we'll have to wait and see what they put out. I'm personally hoping for a 15" tablet of some kind, but it's entirely possible that they'll opt to make something in the 10" to 12" range.
  3. stoneseeker

    stoneseeker Animator and Art Director Senior Member

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    Yeah, Fujitsu is the only one left making larger than 12" convertible tablets. Take a look at all the recent 13.3" offerings on Ebay: T5010, T900, T901 > look for NVidia optional GPU on the T901.

    good luck! Let us know what you get, and how it works out.
    Any questions regarding the T902 for digital art purposes, ask away. I work full time on it (2D animation and illustration) and frequent the boards here on breaks.
  4. Deannerbug

    Deannerbug Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Hi Stoneseeker! I've been doing some research on tablet PCs for a little while now and stumbled on this thread. You mentioned that you work on the T902 for digital art purposes, specifically for 2D animation and illustration. Lo and behold, these are the exact purposes I hope to use a tablet PC for as well (I also work as a 2D animator)! I would find your thoughts on the T902 invaluable, and whether you would recommend this PC to someone who wants to do the same thing you use it for. I've been looking at the Lenovo Helix and X230t too, if you're familiar with either of those. Unfortunately I'm not a huge techie person, so comparing the details has been a little mystifying. Any insight you can give me on your experience with tablet PCs I would appreciate a lot!
  5. stoneseeker

    stoneseeker Animator and Art Director Senior Member

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    Sure thing Deannerbug. I am very familiar (read: geeked out) with all the current offerings in the tabletPC world, and the Fujitsu T902 still stands out as the best option for digital 2D animation an illustration for artists who need the screen space and the power. The reason is this:
    -It's one of the few with a FULL power processor (powerful as a modern laptop, not the weaker ones used in ultabooks and slates)
    -it's the only series with 13.3" (the largest available currently) screens left that feature Wacom, (actually, Modbook Pro does too)
    -it's also higher resolution than it's predecessors. (T901 and Modbook Pro under have 1200 x 800 instead of 1600 x 900)
    -high quality build and reputation
    -modular bay for extra battery or hard drive
    -user replaceable batteries, easy to upgrade RAM, HDD, and even a miniSSD slot if you wanted extra space still.

    I am assuming you are either using TVPaint, or Flash and After Effects? or maybe Toonboom?
    These programs typically require plenty of horsepower and screen space, so in a lot of ways it's a feat that we can even considering leaving our desk to do the work in our field mobile.

    I have gotten rid of my desktop, (gave it to the studio I work for) and have been working from home and abroad on all my shows for the company I work for exclusively on the T902! It requires some adjustments, but for me it has been the best technical change I have made to my workflow since finding a wacom intuos back when I first started.


    1.) Ergonomics:
    If you are used to using an intuos and a monitor and not a cintiq, the adjustments of having your hand on the screen and the problems it presents are rather surprising at first. Really, the most ergonomic and smartest solution to drawing digitally is still the intuos style workflow. Your eyes are gazing straight ahead, posture is good, plenty of space to see, and your hand is never blocking elements of the screen. On a cintiq or tabletPC, your hand is sometimes in the way of stuff you wanna see when scrubbing through the timeline or adjusting keyframes during lipsynch etc. It takes getting used to. Not to mention you have to be careful to set up your work space on your couch or desk or coffee shop or wherever with a bit of care for your neck and shoulders as you are now looking down at the screen and drawing which can be hard on the body for long periods of time. I have to take more breaks, and switch work positions more frequently. One super duper essential trick is to buy an adjustable laptop stand to elevate and hold your tablet at an angle for you so you don't have to hold it in place while drawing and to have your tablet at a perfect angle to you on your lap or on the table, or desk or wherever. One more thing to carry around, but I find it indispensable.

    2.) More technical stuff that can frustrate...

    Essentially, now there are a few more steps between you and animating then before. You may find yourself troubleshooting little things for the first month trying to get a good workflow set-up. It requires patience, and figuring out what you need to work efficiently. It's the nature of working with computers sadly, but it may require a little more tenacity at first in getting your system set-up and calibrated the way you like it.

    3.) Screen space.

    I have adjusted and so will you, but it is quite the difference going from staring at a 24" 1920 x1080 screen connected to a desktop to animating on a 1600 x 900 13.3" device. At first it will feel cramped, and you will have to zoom in and out more often to redraw hands, arms and what have you. At first, I used an old cintiq (15x uses the same wacom pen as tabletPC's, so I could use them both together at the same time) attached to it as well when I worked at home so I could have more screen space, which was nice for adjusting, but now I never do as I don't really feel I need the extra space. I have completely adjusted.


    1.) MOBILE!!!

    You can work from ANYWHERE. I can work from a friends house, while travelling for christmas, or on "vacation". I have gotten substantial work done on planes, in airports, in coffee shops, outside, inside, and in space. ok, maybe not space yet. It is highly liberating and fun.

    2.) Drawing and inking

    Just like moving to a cintiq, your lines and inking will be so much better then on a intuos, no matter how used to it you are. When animating a show that requires a lot of redraw, I have saved a but-load of time with this. When I draw a new arm, or ink a good line it is right the first time. No more draw-undo-draw-undo-draw-undo-draw.... It's just that much easier to draw on screen, and I didn't believe it would make a difference since I was so used to the inutos. But it does, oh it does.

    3.) Presenting work to clients

    Much easier. You may never need this in animation, but in illustration it can be very nice to meet a client and sketch in front of them or show them your work on the fly.

    4.) SO. MUCH. FUN.

    Let me know all your questions. Would love to know what type of animation you do and what shows you've worked on.
    For an idea of what I use it for, I mostly animate children's 2D TV shows in Flash:
    -Razzberry Jazzberry Jam
    -Busytown Mysteries with Huckle
    -Big Bear and Squeak
    -etc etc a bunch of other simple childrens cartoons.

    I also have done many backgrounds and illustrations for online games, animation and advertising. The T902 can handle it all so far.

    If you do go with a T902, and you use demanding software, I would recommend the i7 over the i5 if possible. It's probably not the most important upgrade, but the extra little buffer is nice in After Effects and Flash which are total CPU hogs.
    - Adding 16 gigs of RAM is cheap and easy upgrade that will guarantee you won't run out of memory in large files.
    - Adding a SSD instead of HDD (solid state instead of an oldschool spinning harddrive) will make everything faster. Nice for photoshop work too.
    - If your on the go a lot, get the modular bay battery. It is a spare battery that adds an extra couple hours to the battery life which is a huge bonus when travelling.

    Hopefully this info helped. I had originally planned on making a blog post T902 review as an artist but I just haven't gotten around to it. This info should be sufficient though.
    Tell me more about your work, and why you wanna make the switch to TabletPC!
  6. Deannerbug

    Deannerbug Pen Pal - Newbie

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    I can't thank you enough for such an in-depth reply! This is a huge help, you've provided a lot of useful information for me! It's wonderful that you're able to use your T902 exclusively and take it with you everywhere you go. It sounds so liberating! How long do these Tablet PCs generally last?

    You're right, I intend to mainly use Photoshop and Flash, with a little After Effects here and there-- you mentioned getting a few upgrades to help everything work faster and handle large files and CPU monsters like those programs. For the sake of curiosity, with just a standard out-of-the-box T902, how much do you think those programs would slow it down? I'd like to get the upgrades, but they may need to be spaced out a bit.

    Fortunately I'm very comfortable using a Cintiq as opposed to a Wacom tablet, because I use a Cintiq at work, so the biggest transition from working on that to the PC for me will be working on a smaller screen, which I'm prepared to take on since, as you said, the lines will be so much better than using a normal tablet. I have something called a Monoprice tablet at home (I sheepishly admit I've never owned a Wacom anything), and it's been good to use in Photoshop for coloring, but I never learned to love actually sketching and drawing with it because I hated the lines. I could never get over the disconnect I felt from moving my hand on the tablet but looking at the monitor, which is another reason I'd like to get a PC I can draw on the way I use paper. I've read some reviews that the T902 will sometimes freak out when your hand is on the screen while you're drawing, like the touchscreen capability and the stylus reader get confused? Have you ever had a problem like that?

    You've been able to work on a bunch of things, which is so cool! Truthfully, I just completed my first year working as a professional 2D animator; I graduated from college around this time last year and was hired by a studio in NYC that I'm still working at now, where I do animation pieces for Mad TV on Cartoon Network (which is a mixed-bag show, but I tend to always work on the 2D drawn animation), as well as side projects for other clients. Even though I'll probably have Flash on my Tablet PC for a while at first, I'm almost always using Toon Boom Harmony at work (which was a new program at the studio when I started, so I had the opportunity to just play with it and basically teach myself). I'd love to eventually have some version of Toon Boom too for personal animation, which is primarily what I'd like to use a Tablet PC for, as well as personal illustrations, sketching like it's a digital sketchbook, and maybe even doing some freelance work if I'm able to take that on. Initially I want to use it to just keep my skills sharp and animate on my own time and do personal work, and hopefully branch out to working more as a mobile animator as you have been able to! And once again, thank you VERY much for your help, I'm so glad I found this thread.

    If you'd like to see my work, here's a link to my constantly in-progress website, where my reel in particular needs a serious update haha: Peace Love Animate Or my Tumblr that has my most recent drabble: Deannimation
  7. stoneseeker

    stoneseeker Animator and Art Director Senior Member

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    You got plenty of talent, and I'm sure you'll make it far in no time! I really like the way you draw girls in particular, it looks effortless and they have a certain 'adorable' quality that not everyone has the knack for.

    The cursor freakout thing: Yep, it happens. Very rarely mind you. (3-10 times per 8 hour day maybe if I'm just painting) BUt more frequently if I'm animating in Flash for some reason. Still, I got used to it, and is NOT a deal breaker. It would be the number one thing I would appreciate fixed though. There are other owners here hard at work trying to figure it out.

    I'm hoping this baby all decked out will last me at least 4 years, maybe 5. I've heard of longer, but I don't want to get my hopes up. I do use it A LOT, so I think I may be putting it through more than the average user.

    The way to get it would be to find the cheapest configuration you can, (either refurbed or new) and just add those upgrades yourself like I did. Adding your own ram is cheap, and you should install at least 8 gigs for animation. 16 gigs would be preferred. The stock HDD would be fine to use for as long as you need, it will just make a dramatic difference in speedyness when you can afford to put a SSD in, but they are expensive so you can do that later down the road. It is the easiest stuff to install yourself, it's made for it, unlike the new closed slates that aren't intended to be upgraded.

    For your line of work and level of talent, you should only get the best if you are in need of a mobile solution for animating on the go. The T902 might be a pretty penny, but its worth it when you can work on it comfortably. I claimed mine in my taxes this year and got a $1000 of it back anyway, so it can be done for your business if you do freelance stuff too!

    GLad I could help, don't hesitate to PM me if you have any quick questions too. Now I gotta get back to work!

    Oh, if you do get the T902, please share some of your work done on it with us, it's always nice to see other artists using the tablets we love.
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