My take on the latest Digitizer Technology available as of May 2014

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by dceggert, May 7, 2014.

  1. dceggert

    dceggert Owner of a TabletPC Museum Senior Member

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    Obviously this list would change depending on what is available in the market place but as of now this is my take on what is available and how they operate:

    Wacom - the prime active digitizer that can also have an additional touch layer added to the top of the screen to provide multitouch and pen input at the same time. There is no battery in the pen as the powered sensor grid is located below or under the LCD in the device.

    N-trig - this is a dual screen input system as well (pen and touch) with the pen containing a battery and the sensor grid in the device which is not powered. The system is presently at v3.5 (or maybe 4) and is contained only in the Sony devices at this time but just went out of production on the Fujitsu Stylistic slates.

    Atmel - the first of the 'active capacitive' digitizers where a powered pen called a 'MaxStylus' interfaces with the touch sensor to provide pen input. Atmel is actually pretty big in the touch screen sensor panels in cell phones and phablets. Most of the devices where touch input is considered to be very 'smooth' they have Atmel sensors. Version 1 of the new optional stylus input was in the Motorola XOOM and the stylus used a AAAA battery. Version 2 was in the HP Elitepad 900 and used a AAA battery. The new version 3 is in the HP Elitepad 1000, Professional Tablet 610, and Elitebook 810.

    Synaptics - a newcomer on the market for touch panels and pen input. The system is similar to Atmel and called an 'active capacitive' system. This is presently at version 1 and is available in the Dell Venue Pro 8 and Pro 11. The pen uses a AAAA battery.

    Now for my take on the operation:

    Scale for the following is 1-10 (I know, not very computer of me but I don't want to call anything a zero...it is just a subjective scale) where 1 is terrible and 10 is beautiful. Also, the observations are based on my Fujitsu T731 (Wacom), HP 2730P (Wacom), Fujitsu Q550 (N-trig v3), Fujitsu Q702 (N-trig v3.5), Dell Venue 8 Pro (Synaptics v1), HP Elitepad 900 (Atmel v2), and HP Elitepad 1000 (Atmel v3):

    Wacom - 8 - The Good - the pressure capabilities for art, no battery in the pen, good overall performance, nothing to go wrong in the pen as far as corrosion or connection issues (read below); The Bad - screen graininess, digitizer is located under the LCD giving a degree of 'depth' when you use it, inacuracies on the edges and in the corners, transition between touch and pen is not smooth and is the subject of most of the criticisms of 'laggy' performance.

    Atmel v3 - 8 - The Good - pressure works great for note taking and sketching and may actually work well enough for art use too but we will not know until someone tries it, good overall performance, inking is smooth and looks good, screen looks outstanding, accuracy is good everywhere on the screen, transition between touch and pen is smooth and has no perceived lag; The Bad - battery in the pen but it is at least a AAA size, Atmel v2 pens had long term issues with internal corrosion (the durability of the v3 pen is TBD but there were significant internal changes).

    N-trig v3.5 - 7 - The Good - pressure works but has been rejected for art use, good overall performance but the inking lines are smaller than Wacom and/or Atmel v3, durability has been proven to be much improved over N-trig v2, long battery life in the pen, screen looks good, accuracy is good at the edges and in the corners; The Bad - AAAA battery in the pen (expensive and not on every battery tree at the corner store), tapping noise is louder than Atmel v3 or Wacom, transition between touch and pen is not smooth and is the subject of most of the criticisms of 'laggy' performance.

    Synaptics v1 (based on my A01 Feb 2014 pen on my Venue 8 Pro) - 5 - The Good - pressure works for note taking and sketching but is likely to not be good for art work due to inking variabilities and other inking issues, not as good overall performance due to wide variabilities in reported quality, inking lines are heavier than Wacom and/or Atmel v3, screen looks great, accuracy is good at the edges and in the corners, transition between touch and pen is smooth and has no perceived lag; The Bad - AAAA battery in the pen (expensive and not on every battery tree at the corner store), connection issues inside require constant fiddling to keep the pen workng. As a proof of concept this system may be good with a new pen design but a better pen is not yet available [Note: A02 March 2014 build pens are reported to be arriving now but the performance appears to be inferior to the A01 February 2014 pen].

    Atmel v2 - 3 - The Good - works for limited inking and makes a good mouse replacement while mobile, screen looks great, transition between touch and pen is smooth and has no perceived lag; The Bad - inking variability and corrosion issues inside the pen make this not recommended for anything other than basic note taking.

    Two additional observations; if Synaptics makes as much of a stride with an eventual v2 when it comes out as Atmel made from v2 to v3 then it will be a great alternative. Also, if the long term durability and battery life of the Atmel v3 is as good as the N-trig v3.5 then this system may move to a '9'! Am I kidding? No, I am not! The only unknown about the Atmel v3 so far is the art use performance potential. Once that moves into the light we should see a new bunch of reviews.

    Enjoy!
     
    luminoso, ron2k_1, demandarin and 3 others like this.
  2. WuBoy

    WuBoy Scribbler - Standard Member

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    One thing I think would be helpful is if you brought cost into your analysis. Is there enough information to determine which is the better buy, as in, the best performance for the money spent?
     
  3. tijo

    tijo Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    Wacom is the most expensive one, period. If all you do is note taking, then N-Trig and Atmel may be more cost effective, but that may change depending on how ofteny ou have to charge/replace the battery.
     
  4. Mesosphere

    Mesosphere Geek. Senior Member

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    With Wacom, you've said this before, but I don't perceive any of this touch/pen lag. Also, what graininess are you referring to, and why does this have anything to do with Wacom?
     
  5. dceggert

    dceggert Owner of a TabletPC Museum Senior Member

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    For years I could never understand the 'lag' excuse the self proclaimed expert reviewers used to levy against all Windows TabletPC's until I used my daughters Kindle. Up to that point I was used to using Wacom multi-touch and N-trig panels. Obvioulsy the Kiindle was touch only but what it did was highlight the response of the screen movement to the touch input. In addition I also used to just use the device and did not care if there was a microsecond of time between switching from pen to touch or the other way around. To me 'lag' is when you have a single core Atom and you want to watch a video and it will not play without stopping.

    Then I used the Atmel system on the Elitepad 900 and touch on that is like the Kindle. When I was doing research into these devices I then found out that many Android devices use the Atmel digitizers (Kindle may even use it as well, not sure) so it was not so surprising that it worked so well. I started to see the benefits HP was after and it was not all cost related like originally assumed. Of course pen performance on that system was pretty low so it was not really recommended for note takers except I did use it for that for 8 months...not too bad. Using my Q702 recently, however, caused me some frustration so I apparently got used to its fluidity.

    One interesting device that got me thinking was the Samsung Galaxy note 10.1 which solved the touch issue with a very interesting method; the best of both worlds. The Galaxy Note 10.1 used a Wacom digitizer under the LCD in the standard configuration, but also an Atmel touch sensor layer over the LCD. What a fantastic solution but likely the most expensive way to go. You get the best pen performance and the best touch at the same time.

    I am not sure what the screen looks have anything to do with the Wacom but my Wacom devices have always had this. It may just be that it is because I have not had a Wacom machine in my hand newer than the T731. Things have come a way since then...
     
  6. jhoff80

    jhoff80 Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    According to the teardowns, the Surface Pro uses Atmel touchscreen controllers as well, so it would seem that it's not just Samsung who does this.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2014
  7. JoeS

    JoeS I'm all ears Senior Member

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  8. tijo

    tijo Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    If I remember correctly, the TPT2 also had atmel hardware for the capacitive touch input.
     
  9. stoneseeker

    stoneseeker Animator and Art Director Senior Member

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    A small correction: Ntrig is not just inside Sony. Acer currently uses Ntrig as well. (R7)

    Nice list and feedback!
     
  10. tijo

    tijo Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    Historically, the Latitude XT series also used N-Trig at some point.
     
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