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Wacom Full Circle... Well, Sort Of


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This is an advice posting, but I'll try to make the journey to the question a little diverting.


I'm a casual scribbler. I love drawing; love comic books, but I've never derived an income, it's always just something I've done to have fun.


I spend most of my time in IT in one form or another. I have some graphic design experience (studied it 20 years ago)... Purchased my first Wacom tablet for some crazy amount of money, but I could never get past the cognitive dissonance of drawing on a surface while watching the screen somewhere else.


At one point I owned a Cintiq 12x? the little one... I replaced it with a first gen iPad, because I can't sit for long periods at a desk (busted spine) and I don't like being tethered in general.


I fell in love with Adobe Ideas. Being able to freehand vectors (Macromedia! Woo!) and apply lighting effects via semi-transparent layers: Awesome.   


Then I repaced the iPad with an iPad 2 for the additional grunt and cameras (Facetime my folks).


Until the ipad 2, I drew with a stubby Wacom bamboo stylus. The end of the first gen iPad started a journey of disappointment as I went on to purchase and become disillusioned with around 15 different styluses.


A combination of no palm rejection and no decent Initial Activation Force (IAF - a term that describes a problem I've always had but couldn't articulate)... At the end of the iPad 2 era, I was mostly happy with a Maglus.


Then along came the iPad Air. The change in display tech (in the Air) made all my existing iPad styli mostly useless, including the Maglus.


So I splurged on a battery-powered Evernote(branded) Bluetooth fine point stylus... And spent the next 12 months getting angry at it (because it was mechanically faulty and I didn't gather up the guts to confirm/replace it).


Eventually I did, and the replacement is okay... But in the meantime I picked up an Apex - no Bluetooth, still no pressure sensitivity...  But all I cared about was IAF and having a non-stubby tip. If I'm writing notes in a meeting or just mucking around, I want every contact between pen and display to register, not some: It's irritating to have to 'rewrite' letters because the hardware didn't register the strike-though on a 't'.


I gave up drawing on the iPad air. I still co-draw stuff with my 4 year old daughter, but we mainly use our fingers (Artrage+finger painting = fun).    


Then this year, I was looking for a cheap windows 8 tablet to install Steam, so I could stream/play PC games on the couch while my wife watches bad TV.


I picked up an Ausus VivoTab Note 8 (32Gig) for $200 on Amazon, funnily enough, because it has Wacom tech in it. 'Turns out I really like scribbling in OneNote. The lines look lovely and it seems like you have an infinite canvas size(?) - you just keep drawing and scrolling.


I purchased a $40 copy of Manga Studio, because I miss layers.


When the Wacom tech works, its... Fantastic. I don't mind the little stylus; a couple of days a week I catch the train to work (cycle most of the time) and I can knock out a few quick sketches.


I'd forgotten how much joy I derive from it.


But then: On the AVN8, the stylus goes nuts along one corner, and every now and then a 3cm area on the stylus will 'go dead' - usually fixed by a restart of the device - but annoying when it happens. I've read enough forum posts to know that there's no such thing a working AVN8, just varying levels of not working, so replacing it isn't really an option.


My question:

Do I spurgle on a SP3? Sight unseen, Do you think I'll get annoyed by the increased IAF required?


Do I go look for a SP2? Do I run the risk of getting one with dodgy Wacom tech in it - Until the AVN8, I didn't know there was dodgy Wacom tech- is there another Manufacturer I should consider? My requirements are:


be a capable Steam Home streaming client

be light (relatively)

Not have a resolution so high and a screen so small that I can't make out anything

have 6+ hours battery life

Not be crazy expensive

has inking tech that will register fine touches (see: fast notetaking)

not have dodgy corners or dead spots, temporary or permanent

Have nice (Agnes Nutter nice I mean) software.


Please note that my life doesn't depend on a perfect solution, I do fine as a low level Database administrator. I just like drawing (even more than playing videogames I finally realise)


Thanks btw for existing, Surface pro artist. The recent stuff about the N-trig hub software is very informative.



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I think you'll be very happy with the Surface Pro 3 and Manga Studio/OneNote. Despite the higher IAF of N-Trig vs. Wacom, the former isn't subject to the issues you saw in your AVTN8's digitizer. And if you adjust your pen pressure curve in MS5, you will barely notice the difference.  If money is an issue and you can find a Surface Pro 2, I'd recommend it as well for casual art, but it's pretty clunky as a tablet, especially compared to the iPad Air.

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I made it to a store, but it was a failure due to a): The device not being charged initially( so I browsed the DVD section for 5 minutes waiting for it to be so), only to hit B): The pen wouldn't work.


The SP3 generated a message stating the pen setup was incomplete and that it needed to connect to the Internet. The store attendant said that none of the windows machines in the store were allowed to connect to the Internet... So my trip was over.


Trip wasn't a total bust: picked up a copy of Justified (season one) as a birthday gift for a friend, and the baby strapped to my chest enjoyed the adventure... A bit bummed out though as opportunities for these kind of exercusions are rare.


There's one other store I know that sells them; getting there is going to be tough. Maybe next weekend. :)

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So my story ends on a downer. I've been to three stores (Jbhifi in the perth cbd, one in Midland and a Harvey Norman in west perth). None had working pens, which is to say the AAAA battery was dead and staff were either unwilling or unable to replace them. A Harvey Norman rep told me the 'batteries drain really quickly'. Is that true? I know AAAA batteries aren't off the shelf items in western Australia, but if you're goin to the trouble of giving the surface pros a prominent display in your store, is it crazy to think they'd be covered for batteries? Sheesh.

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Very odd. Perhaps the batteries drain quickly in a retail environment, but the pen I started using in June is still going strong on its original battery.

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Perhaps. I read somewhere N-trig pen life is generally anywhere between 9-12 months (which is amazing). It's a shame there's no Microsoft store in Western Australia, but it's understandable given the spread-out population distribution (and comparatively small size).

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Woo! Managed to find a store near one of my office locations that had working pens... Mostly. None of them had working OneNote buttons, but the pens registered on the screens.


Drawing was interesting/great. I had no problems with the initial activation force. To get max line darkness I had to press hard enough to distort the screen, but that should be sorted with the new surface hub software. Increased screen real estate was lovely.


I'm sold, basically. But my experience today did leave me with some questions. For starters, the i3 model seemed fine. In fact, the i5 model had some weird pen activity where it was registering strokes even though the pen was a cm away from the screen. The i5 screen also seemed... Lines in OneNote seemed fuzzier(?) I know, it sounds odd, but the i3 and i7 just seemed to have a sharper line work.


It's a toss up then, between the i3 and i5. I think I need to hunt around these forums a bit. I suspect someone has probably checked to see how well various drawing apps run on each model...


So it's either the i3, and I get a SD card for whatever extra stuff I need, or it's the 256 i5 (and I hope the line fizziness was just trick of the light). The i3 is about two thirds the cost of the i5, which is a factor I value.


I've also read that the i5 and i7 more closely resemble the i3 under sustained load due to thermal management constraints. I need to find out if an i3 with a Intel 4200 gpu and 4gigs of ram is going to have any trouble with drawing programs that offer layer support.


I'd give anything for a windows 8.1 copy of Adobe ideas... If OneNote had layers and layer transparency... That'd be something special.

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