Love letter to the pen..

Discussion in 'What Tablet PC Should I Buy?' started by Landis, Dec 14, 2020.

  1. Landis

    Landis Pen Pal - Newbie

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    I put some thought into where I should post this..I chose here, not just because I’m in the market for yet another tablet and am of-course looking for suggestions, but also because you all know the pain. The “which tablet should I buy” is more poetic to those of us who have been around for a while, and this is not just me asking again myself..but it’s also a sort of love letter to this whole mobile digital art vicious cycle from which there is seemingly no escape.

    For starters, I am a lonnnnnng time follower of TabletPcReview and proud creator of some of my own Frankenstein tablet rigs as well as an early adopter of more “science project” laptops than I’d like to admit.

    This is a long passionate post that comes from deep down inside of my hollow pen loving soul so if your someone like myself who lives and dies by the pen then get cozy..this post is half conversation, half therapy.

    Here goes.

    Like just about anyone who eventually stumbles upon this site, I’m a bit obsessed with the tablet pc idea..yep. So much so that it does me a great disservice everytime I go to buy a new rig. That’s right. Everytime. I overpay AND sacrifice many specs just to hold on to that notion of having a teeny tiny little digital pen. Little thing. 2 buttons on the side (hopefully)..lucky if both buttons actually work. It’s soul crushing. But hey, atleast I’m aware of the problem. It all started with the HP TM2..had it..built a custom button strip of keys and even sawed the key strip circuit board so it fit the back custom epoxied laser cut plate that I designed for the rig..the mechanical buttons clicked like hell with every button press but I didn’t care. It was the only way. And I was so proud. Then the Surface Pro 2 came into my life. Loved it. Oooooeeeee. EMR. Need I say more. I had used Wacom tablets for yearrrrrrs leading up to that little surface so I was in heaven. That said it was the olden days so tech was still a bit chunky but boy oh boy I felt like a grown up with that Surface Pro 2 while out in public..AND.. with a 3rd party pen AND the Art Dock onscreen buttons it..was..unstoppable. I ran that little guy into ground.

    Then the Surface 3 came out, Microsoft bought ntrig..let’s just say back then Ntrig wasn’t as good as it is today so naturally a piece of me died inside when Microsoft made that move. However, along came a good ol’ Developer (Justice) that made a little app called Tablet Pro..saved the day with his Ntrig Art Dock equivalent AND ability to not only customize the Ntrig pen side buttons, but also incorporate hover click functionality!!! For the love of all things, HOVER CLICK!! It was a thing of beauty. This man was an angel sent down to earth for us tablet geeks. I snagged a fully loaded Surface book and did some serious damage in those days thanks to Justice.

    However, the Surface book ran its course. I needed something much beefier than Microsoft’s adorable attempt at offering a dedicated nvidia gpu which was no longer keeping up with me..so..I snagged a Thinkpad P51 BEEEEASSSSST of a laptop that truly was a desktop-ish replacement that killllllled my back carrying it through the airport (man that thing made me miss my thin little “underpowered” surface book). BUT!...this Thinkpad tank had a pen! Ahh yes..the beloved pen. The anchor that keeps us from ever getting above water to gasp for air like the rest of the humans..the normal everyday people that can passively swoop into their local bestbuy and simply be happy with their purchase. Would be so nice..to not care about the quality of the pen AND the specs. Anyways, back to the Thinkpad SUV..it was super powerful (64 glorious gigs of ram, Quadro GPU, just great)..but what inevitably sucked about that powerhouse rig was the lack of pen customization, support, whatever you want to call it. I never even figured out what digitizer was on that thing. It wasn’t Ntrig but I couldn’t get a Wacom feel driver to install no matter how far I rolled back. Even Lenovo’s own pen settings app wouldn’t install on that particular laptop model but the pen did work..and it worked great..I just couldn’t customize it..one button did nothing in most programs and certainly no hover click. Pffft. No way. I reached out to Lenovo..no response. That pen not being “decent” had left this aching feeling in my stomach every time I sat down in front of that laptop..which was every day all day. It was so close to being perfect regardless of being too heavy and not having a screen that flipped all around like the fancy 2 in 1’s you see on every shelf as of right now..and..that Thinkpad allowed me to go to town in Maya and zbrush without breaking a sweat..well..I did because despite the fans kicking in the room would go up 15 degrees but man that thing was diesel. One technique I did “develope” by having a laptop with a pen was that I’ve gotten away from having to detach screens or anything close to that since having the laptop form factor (with the surface I’d flip it around, detache the screen, all the cool stuff you see actors doing in the commercials..it was great). But sketching on a laptop for so long I got to the point where dare I say I didn’t miss that. In fact that isn’t something I at all need when looking for my next rig. I’ll sit a slab on my lap and reach over the keyboard as long as the pen is decent and the GPU is smokin’.

    So, with that in mind..

    The time has come..I’m in the market yet again. And I already have that lump in my throat..that upset stomach.. (and trust me I’m a super upbeat “glass is half full” kinda guy)..but..I have that feeling that I just know I won’t find what I’m looking for. Regardless of budget. There is always something lacking. Always. The pen. The buttons. The lack of software customization..OR..those things miraculously end up actually being tolerable BUT the pc itself is vastly underpowered.

    We’ve all been there (well some, I know the site is a mix bag of folks and some just want to sketch..but for those of us who need power you know what I’m talking about). You want pen support but you don’t want it to be a skimpy little hobby tablet. I need a full OS. I run Maya, zbrush, and Unreal..not just photoshop. I’ve had quadro cards, and game cards. In the end all I want is a good gpu and decent pen support. Certainly not an iPad with Apple Pencil that has no buttons (of-course I own both of those despite it not being even remotely close to what I need/want). I don’t want a single button Wacom tease (looking at you HP zbook..which I also have sitting on the desk). Oh man Zbook, you were so close. So close. The physical onscreen hardware side keys. EMR digitizer..beefy specs..the hardware itself gorgeous and not some embarrassing chassis that you settle for to get the other things you wanted on the list..but instead it was beautiful..butttttt ofcourse there was the pen..having just a single button was tragic. Just tragic. Why. Just..why. Just couldn’t help themselves to leave it like a typical Wacom pen. Man. So close. Regardless, like we all do, I desperately searched the inter webs like a pathetic soul and found a 2 button pen that would work with the zbook ..annnnd yet still no driver support for that second button since HP had/had their own flavor of the Wacom driver. Good times. Sigh.

    So, here we are. What’s the lay-of-the-land for us tablet pen folks that need power and are willing to pay twice as much for half of the specs you’d get from any common gaming rig JUST so we can get that little stick to work on the screen? And by the way, by power I mean RTX which I sadly need for unreal raytracing that I actually do use, not just being greedy. But it doesn’t matter.. I’m no fool..I know I’ll never find a proper RTX 2080 “super” based laptop with a decent pen/digitizer solution. No no no. I’ll happily take any flavor of RTX..even just a little ol’ 2060 Max Q..don’t get me wrong I’ll pay for the price tag of that fully fledged 2080 but I’ll walk away with grandmas version of the 2060 AND I’ll grin while doing so as long as I can get a decent pen.

    How about one of those slick 2 in 1’s you say?! Sadly the Lenovo Yoga (and all other 2 in 1’s) tap out at Geforce 1060ti ..soo close..almost there..righhhht at that tipping point..they will get there.

    So..where does that leave us? After scouring every inch of the web..well.. I’ve found 2 options..

    The Acer ConceptD’s (7 & 9..yes 3 as well but regardless of MPP vs EMR discussion I need the RTX). There also is the Asus Pro Duo (yes Ntrig but you can bust out Tablet Pro thanks to Justice and fake it to make it). Both brands rigs offer RTX. Ofcourse I’ve read that there is no customization of the EMR pen on Acers per Acer themselves..because unless you haven’t been paying attention..that’s how this story always unfolds..however..I read a few people say that Tablet Pro will actually allow you to customize the buttons of the EMR pens as well?! I need to ask Justice to confirm but if any of u out there have tried this please let me know. Otherwise there is Asus Pro Duo which is a year old and looks like a battery hogging back breaker (but with a great dual screen science project that actually works). Yes the rig is Ntrig but again, atleast hover click and 2 buttons via Tablet Pro.

    Other than that the option is to wait which I hate. My wife has a Lenovo Yoga that I love the build of and even lets you customize the 2 button pen WITH hover click support..but the Yoga specs top out at GeForce..no RTX. I looked at Carbon version on Lenovo’s site..any price range..all brands of 2 in 1’s ..no one is stuffing chintzy versions of RTXs in there but again that’s as of right now. I know some low voltage options are on the horizon ..they gotta be especially with the desktop RTX3000 series now out. So I guess I wait unless anyone has any other ideas or can confirm ConceptD Tablet Pro EMR customization.

    Anyhow, thanks for reading. Love this site. Love the people. It’s not always misery loves company but also a celebration of all of us folks who love the pen. And a good pen. A 2 button pen. That you can customize. That’s all I got for now. Have a good Christmas. Where’s the Tylenol..my back is killing me from that Thinkpad.

    -Landis
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2020
  2. Marty

    Marty Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    If you truly love your hover pen buttons and want a decent-ish workstation tablet with EMR (and money is no object), there always the refreshed MobileStudio Pro 15 with support for the Pro Pen 3D:

    [​IMG]
    That's 3 fully customizable buttons with full DTK driver support for remapping modifier keys with hover. The most of any pen out there.

    I'd say your paying almost triple what the specs are worth (and note the brightness limitations), but you tough it out for what you love, right? I know the feeling... ;)
     
  3. JoeS

    JoeS I'm all ears Senior Member

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    I hope this entire post was written in the ink-to-text panel! :)
     
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  4. JoeS

    JoeS I'm all ears Senior Member

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    By the way, I'm only halfway your epic and awesome post, so maybe you rule this out, but would you consider say an X1 Yoga 4 or 5 (Wacom AES) plus an eGPU? I think these days the TB3 tether can be about a meter long, so you could still enjoy the lightweight drawing experience, while having a GPU enclosure sounding like a jet engine off to the side. Win..win?
     
  5. stoneseeker

    stoneseeker Animator and Art Director Senior Member

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    @Landis I definitely can relate this!
    I would assume the Acer Concept D9 or D7 ezel would be the holy grail for you, but I'm having a hard time understanding the downside... the pen has no driver whatsoever for customization?? Its Wacom EMR, but wont have any ability to customize buttons? That seems crazy. There must be a workaround or hack for that, cause otherwise, its a beast like your old P51 but also features EMR in a tablet friendly form factor. For me its the ultimate Unicorn, (too pricey right now) but that bums me out there is literally no way to map buttons on it.
     
  6. Shogmaster

    Shogmaster Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    Concept D7 Easel is EMR?!? I thought it was AES!
     
  7. JoeS

    JoeS I'm all ears Senior Member

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    User: @Landis
    Member Since: Dec 17, 2015
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    Next message: in about 8 months :p
     
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  8. stoneseeker

    stoneseeker Animator and Art Director Senior Member

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    No, The D7 Ezel is EMR, but users have reported that the EMR implementation has no pen driver for button mapping etc. The Concept D3 ezel however, has a AES pen sadly.
     
  9. starllcraft

    starllcraft Pen Pal - Newbie

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    I have personally tested my windows EMR machines with Dell canvas's dual button pen: Galaxy Book 12, Acer chrome book spin13, and Dell chrome book 7486. You can use the "tablet Pro pen tool" of Microsoft app store to map the keys on my pen

    Conceptd 9 EMR pen is the most powerful EMR pen at present. It has two buttons + magnetic adsorption function , and it should be fully compatible if you can buy a pen separately. The two keys on the pen can be customized through the "tablet Pro pen tool" of Microsoft app store.
    But it can only be purchased from small websites of some suppliers: https://www.zandparts.com/en/Acer-NC.23811.070
    If someone moves it to eBay or Amazon to sell it, it will be more convenient to buy.

    upload_2020-12-18_6-36-26.png upload_2020-12-18_6-37-10.png
     
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  10. stoneseeker

    stoneseeker Animator and Art Director Senior Member

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    wow, thanks, have you mentioned this in the Acer forum thread for those few concept D users here?

    With this information @Landis, wouldn't the Acer Concept D7 Ezel be your beastly unicorn then?? The only downside for you was the lack of pen customization, no?
     

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