Microsoft Surface Pro

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  03 March 2013
Microsoft Surface Pro

I recently invested in a Surface Pro to help with my productivity and I am really excited for the potential of the device. I was curious if anyone else is using one and knew applications that fully support the wacom-esque (I don't think it has been confirmed or denied that it's wacom) stylus. So far I have just found a little paint app that is nifty but not as applicable professionally as I want. I did install Photoshop CS6 which works fine though the stylus functions aren't pressure sensitive yet (it is implied to be a feature fix coming soon).

Quote: "Surface Pro uses Windows Inbox Drivers and APIs for the Surface pen, which support advanced features such as pressure sensitivity and eraser functionality. There are a number of apps in the Store that leverage these new Windows APIs and can take advantage of all that the Surface pen has to offer. The Surface pen does work with Photoshop, which runs on Surface Pro, though advanced features such as pressure sensitivity and eraser functionality may not be available at this time. Microsoft is working with the necessary partners to make advanced features of the Surface pen available across a number of applications in the near future."


One specific use I want out of this tablet is a storyboaring platform because of the ease drawing on screen vs a traditional tablet. For now until I find a proper app or adobe implements support I am limited to playing with opacity in layers or rough sketching over my PDFs of scripts to convey shot layouts.

I also recently added office 365 because of the student rate (80 bucks for 4 years). This is a great feature when used on the tablet and home workstation to link notes from on location into the cloud and pull them on the computer though any cloud solution will suffice for the same result.

There are some other interesting possiblities for the tablet since it is full windows 8 and fairly decent mobile hardware that zbrush, maya and other high end packages could be used. I haven't installed zbrush yet though fairly soon I will and see how I like it along with how well the device handles it.

Some cons so far for me were the commonly mentioned design hickup that the stylus storage uses the same magnetic attachment as the charging cable meaning you can't stow the stylus while charging. I am hoping they or a third party create a clip or something to easily resolve that. My other irritation was the cost of the separate keyboard, I did buy one (the slightly more expensive version due to quality and feel). I feel if Microsoft wants to compete in the tablet market they should at least include the keyboard or lower it's cost since it is a very pricey device compared to all other competitors.

So with all that, any other users have or interested in the device? any suggestions for apps or heard any news updates on features or the stylus functionality spreading?
  03 March 2013
I looked into the Surface to replace my 6-year-old Toshiba Windows tablet, but the non-removable battery kind of kills it for me. My Toshiba only gets a couple hours on a charge, but I have four batteries, so if I'm doing a long life drawing session or something I can just swap them out. I suspect the battery life of a Surface Pro after two years of daily use is going to be pretty poor. Maybe they'll release some kind of case with a built-in extended battery or something.

I will probably buy a new tablet by the middle of this year, but I think I'm going to go for a more traditional convertible (Lenovo or Fujitsu maybe).

I really like some of Microsoft's hardware designs though. My 7-year-old Zune is still going strong
Brian "balistic" Prince
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Last edited by balistic : 03 March 2013 at 08:51 PM.
  03 March 2013
Glad you mentioned that, battery life is another common hit against it. So far in my normal usage it has given a decent 4-5 hour range during constantly swapping between apps, internet, video streams, etc. It is a full 64 bit OS so I understand the drain on battery, especially some of the more intense usage I have seen already online such as running Skyrim. For me I don't feel the battery life is detrimental though if I was planning on a day of figure drawing on it I would keep my charger nearby just in case or plugged in.

The technology makes me excited because it is a foundation to be built on, I am still mixed about the drift toward tablets overall though. I certainly wouldn't want windows 8 on my workstation though for a professional mobile device I prefer it greatly over windows 7. Hopefully Microsoft understands this and in future versions maybe just creates a mobile version and traditional version. It's great seeing technology get faster, smaller, lighter, cooler(temp) and battery life increases into smaller spaces. For now I always keep in mind with any purchase like this you can only have so many traits like take battery life+performance+small size though only pick two.
  03 March 2013
4-5 hours battery would be fine for me. I'll buy a Surface Pro as son as I know they will enable presure sensitivity for Photoshop and ZBrush, as pressure sensitivity is my main reason to buy.
Thanks for the tip on office for $80 for students, I think I might go for that.
I like to learn.
  03 March 2013
I remember reading about the Surface Pro and quickly losing interest in it. I don't remember the reason though. If it runs Windows, why do you need specialized apps so work with the sylus? I thought the whole point of it was that you get everything you could be doing on your desktop in a tablet form factor that runs all the software you already own and want to use.

Are you saying it doesn't come out of the box with pressure sensitivity? That alone would be a show stopper for me.

I run a Samsung 10.1 Galaxy Note, which is Android OS, but it is the best drawing experience I ever had. It is powerful enough that I do full HD animation, rather than be limited to just sketches, roughs or storyboards. I would have though the Surface Pro should be able to do much much more.
Terrence Walker
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  03 March 2013
Gabe from Penny Arcade got a loaner recently and gave it a pretty good rundown for drawing use:

The whole thing with PShop isn't that it is a different version of the app, it's that it doesn't have internal drivers for the surface stylus, so won't "see" it right now. I think it is more about how PShop is built than any problem with the Surface.

He seems to be pretty jazzed for Sketchbook Pro on it.
  03 March 2013
I was excited about the Surface Pro and then it came out and had only 4-5 hours of battery life and no pressure sensivity in Photoshop and then I lost interest in it. You guys might want to consider the Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro instead ( or wait until after the summer, when Wacom promised to release their own Tablet PC tailored specifically for artists.
  03 March 2013
Ahh out of the box the pressure sensitivity is fine what I was referring to is 3rd party software like your regular windows programs not reading the sensitivity yet. Apps like FreshPaint and Sketchbook work beautifully already with no issues. Here is a quick video I tossed together this afternoon showing me running Zbrush since enough people have asked me how it handles.

The response and feedback is smooth, it can be an immensely powerful tool if they get multi touch functions or other input working with it. Same issue for now though with Zbrush not reading the pressure, decent enough that I will use it to sculpt rough ideas or base meshes.
  03 March 2013
Andrew, are you looking for a windows store app (with the modern UI feel), to do story boards with?

Something that could utilize Charms for sharing, cloud storage (like skydrive), and the ability to do quick markups with say.. PNG files or with video files.. (perhaps being able to scrub them)?

... just curious.
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  03 March 2013
Quote: it is a very pricey device compared to all other competitors

It's not actually... 1920x1080 laptops start at around 1100$ too. If you consider the small size factor, the Surface Pro is actually a pretty good deal.

The 13inch base macbook pro with only 1280x800 resolution is already 1200$. With the surface, you get 1920x1080, touchscreen, SSD drive + Pen digitizer for 100$ less.

A very fair price to improve your workflow I think.
So long and thanks for all the fish
  03 March 2013
Originally Posted by tswalk: Andrew, are you looking for a windows store app (with the modern UI feel), to do story boards with?

Something that could utilize Charms for sharing, cloud storage (like skydrive), and the ability to do quick markups with say.. PNG files or with video files.. (perhaps being able to scrub them)?

... just curious.

Exactly, I don't think anything exists yet though it would be great to draw up a storyboard in a app that could have layers like Photoshop while it saves to a directory on my cloud syncing all content across the board so everyone in a production can see progress. It would be even more useful because on set I can take a pic with the tablet, draw ideas over it and instantly upload to the cloud my idea or progress.
  03 March 2013
The Surface Pro looks really interesting, but I am waiting to buy untill this summer, since Wacom announced their own tablet will be coming out by then.
  03 March 2013
If you have a Windows8 tablet then you definitely want to install the FOSS app MyPaint:

It has been smooth as butter on my old Asus ep-121 and has been really the only app I keep coming back to use the tablet for. Unfortunately, the latest 1.1 version is still Linux only, but will arrive eventually. It will really help the workflow with onscreen panning/rotation, which is the biggest hindrance on a tablet with the 1.0 version.

Pressure sensitivity is fine with Mypaint, as I had installed the Wacom driver, but unfortunately the Wacom calibration tool is only 4 point and is slightly off compared to the inbuilt Windows one. I would rather have the calibration slightly off (mainly as you get towards the edges) than have no pressure sensitivity. Krita is the other FOSS app that is growing in leaps and bounds and has the Mypaint brush engine builtin. Can see it eventually being a full Photoshop replacement for studios with its Linux support and OpenColorIO capabilities.

Hopefully with Wacom working on their own tablet, they will get their driver/calibration act together and this will have a nice ripple on effect to all the other Win tablet makers!
  03 March 2013
Hmm I might try a wacom driver on mine to see if that can at least be a temp fix, any link or reference for what you used that worked?
  03 March 2013
I just downloaded the generic Windows driver from the Wacom site. Checkout this forum first, before you descend into driver hell, as I don't know the specifics of the Surface:
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