Mark Hammermeister

My New Surface Pro – An Artist’s Review

Category : Portfolio · No Comments · by October 9, 2014

Surface Pro Sketch

So recently I went looking for a portable solution that I could draw on like my Cintiq 21UX that was still small enough to yank out at a coffee shop. I considered buying myself a Wacom Cintiq Companion, but I ultimately decided it was just a bit too pricey for a device that I really didn’t know how much use I’d get out of. I decided instead to get a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 and, the short version is, I absolutely love it. The long version is as follows:

I knew what I wanted from a tablet going in: something that was pressure sensitive, that could run Photoshop and Sketchbook Pro (my number one and two most used apps). The Surface Pro is a full-blown PC laptop mixed with the best elements of a tablet. As a dedicated and long-time Mac user, I didn’t know how well I’d adjust to a Windows machine, and I must confess I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I know Microsoft has gotten some grief over Windows 8, but as far as using it on the Surface Pro goes, I find it to be a smoothly operating and highly intuitive user experience.

Microsoft has released a Surface Pro 3 recently, but I opted for the SP2 partially because I could get one quite a bit cheaper than the 3, but also because SP2 uses a Wacom digitizer for pressure sensitivity, whereas the SP3 uses N-Trig technology. According to the specs, the Surface Pro 2 with Wacom technology has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, whereas the Surface Pro 3 with N-Trig has 256. I know, to some degree, the pressure sensitivity levels are just marketing speak, and I’d be curious sometime to compare how it feels to draw on the Surface Pro 3 compared to the 2, but for now I decided to stick with my tried and true Wacom tech.

My Surface Pro 2 has 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB solid-state internal drive and in the week-and-a-half that I’ve been using the device it has proven more than capable of running anything I’ve thrown at it. Photoshop CC runs like a dream. I haven’t experienced the least bit of brush lag yet (though I suspect I probably would if I had a hundred layers open, but then again, my Cintiq lags when I do that too). Autodesk Sketchbook Pro works even better, in many respects, because now I can actually hold the tablet it my lap just like I’d hold a paper sketchpad and draw to my heart’s content.

The 1920 x 1080 screen resolution is absolutely gorgeous and is easily one of the clearest screens I’ve ever seen on any device. One drawback I do find is that the resolution is so high that the menus in some apps like Photoshop can get very tiny unless you go in and tinker with the app settings. The 10″ screen is a little on the smallish side and it’s taken some getting used to drawing on it when I’m so used to drawing on my comparatively giant Cintiq screen. I’d be curious to compare it against the 12″ screen of the SP3, but that’s for another day. Also, the glass itself is an extremely slick surface (no pun intended) that doesn’t have quite as much “tooth” to it as my Wacom screen does, so the pen does have a different tactile quality to it than I’m used to.

As for the Microsoft Stylus itself…well, I really can’t say. The device I got was a refurbished model that didn’t come with stylus, so I went ordered myself a Wacom Bamboo Feel Stylus, which I felt was probably the right way to go since I’m still so used to Wacom tech.

The Surface Pro 2 is built with a nifty kickstand in the back that adjusts to two angles, which is especially useful when you realize the device weighs about two pounds, which may prove to be a bit heavy for some people to be holding up for a long period of time. One thing I would chide Microsoft on is not including the Type Cover with the Surface Pro. The magnetic keyboard that snaps on and off is a brilliant idea and is absolutely essential to have if you get one of these devices, but the drawback is you have to spend an additional $120 buying it separately.

All in all, I really have very few complaints and the few I have are more than overshadowed by how much good I have to say about this device. If you’re an artist looking for a portable drawing solution and the Cintiq Companion is out of your reach, you really won’t be disappointed with the Surface Pro.


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