Designing with Tablet PCs

Hi everyone,

I’ve been thinking about taking my design work out of the office and into a coffee shop but have to decide laptop vs tablet.

I know the major disadvantage of tablet is their computing power and limited graphic card capability. But, other than that, what are the other pros and cons of using a tablet for mobile design?

Anybody use Alias Sketchbook on a tablet for documenting ideas? How does this work (or not) for you?

What about 3D modelling on a tablet with the CAD pkg of choice… has that been successful or not?

Thanks in advance,


I’ve tested Alias sketch on a Toshiba tablet a few times now, freaking loved it. Hopefully my company will be switching over since mac has nothing comparable in this zone. Right now I’m using photoshop on a 1.5gz Powerboow with a wacom cintuq monitor. Can’t sketch as good as alias though.

Acer Travelmate 300

1.6 or 1.7 processor
1 gig of Ram

60-80 Gig Hard Drive

Pressure sensative screen.

We run three of them at my office. Works great with Sketchbook Pro. 3-4 of us do not use paper anymore. We do concept sketches and full renderings on it.

It also does a good job running SolidWorks for us.
It is also blue tooth.

I posted a similar thread today. I’m not a tablet user yet, but I’ve been doing a lot of research & want to get one soon. Like you, I strive to be untethered and work through cheap/fee WiFi anywhere and everywhere…

Personally, I’d never use a Wacom tablet and expect good results- I want to draw directly on the screen and try to capture as much of a realistic “feel” as you can get going totally digital. Otherwise, there is a certain amount of “drawing blind” that you need to do as a result of the disconnect between tablet & screen.

I’m looking to get a Motion Computing M1400 tablet PC before '05…

I’m now looking at Electrovaya because of the li-poly batteries. At least 9 hrs of running time for the convertibles and 12+ hrs with the tablets.

The tablets appeal because I don’t think I need anything too powerful. I only plan on sketching and modeling in Rhino, and writing email. Rendering will still happen on the workstation so I just getting un-tethered will be a boon.

I don’t currently use a Wacom so I have to ask: Can I hook up the tablet to my workstation as an input device?


I’m about to jump into the freelance realm and would LOVE it if Apple did a tablet to run Sketchbook Pro.
Oh boy, would I love hanging out by the beach (yes, there is a beach in Toronto!) and do some sketching without lugging all my crap down with me.

I can’t justify having a PC laptop in my workflow at the moment.
plus I freakin’ hate Windows.

Yeah, the battery life of the Electrovaya tablets is better than any other in the industry. One reason I’m still leading toward the Motion tablet is the screen - supposedly it doesn’t have the common viewing-angle problems that you get with most LCDs. And it has a “view-anywhere” option that makes it especially easy to use outside, which I hope to do a lot of in the summer!

Does anyone have any thoughts about going the Slate or Convertible route?

I don’t know about hooking up a tablet to a desktop - but most tablets have a VGA out, so you can hook it up to your big desktop monitor.

On the Apple tip, Mac users may be in luck in the future:

The Wacom tablets hook up like any USB input device, as a cautionary, it takes a LONG time to get the feel because of the “drawing blind” feeling at first, I can do wicked blind contour sketches though.

For those that don’t want to subject themselves but want a quick fix get a Wacom Cintiq monitor - its a flatscreen LCD monitor that you can draw on, they’re great, you just wont be taking it to the beach.

They come in different sizes, available through


I guess I wasn’t clear. I am not interested in a Cintiq.

I’m curious about using a tablet PC as another input device for a workstation, either as a pointing device or over the network. Most of the slates and convertibles use the Wacom technology in their pen interface so it only makes sense to expect that the unit would be capable of emulating an Intuos.

A tablet provides the portability that a workstation does not. The workstation provides the computing power needed for rendering. Put them together and you have a small network that can model and render simultaneously. With cluster rendering available next year for Flamingo V2.0, I hope to end up with a fairly inexpensive set-up that would allow me to create and present work on the run.


probably can. not heard it used for this though. interesting thought.

I have a toshiba m200 (convertible tablet) it is actually quite speedy and has a 32mb NVIDIA graphics card in it. This allows me to hook it up to an external CRT monitor (to get correct colors) and see the same image on the LCD to sketch on. I’m still getting used to this, but it works well. You can get a Keyboard Video Mouse (KVM) adapter and share one moniter, one mouse, and one keyboard between the tablet pc and your desktop.

However, you cannot just connect your tablet pc to your ‘desktop’ computer as an input device. At least not that I’ve heard of.

For more information on tablet pc’s I would vist:

They have some really great forums that helpped my with my buying decision. Especially because it’s very rare to get a hands-on test with tablet pc’s.

That link was great… there was a review of an app called MaxiVista that allows you to use another PC as a second monitor by having it emulate a video card. I’ve just emailed them a question about using the slate as a second monitor for the workstation while still retaining the pen input capability. I’ll update when I hear back.

The other thing is that I’m ambidextrous and have been examining the use of two input devices. Apparently Windows won’t “support” this… must be a bunch of right-handers in Seattle. Even more disappointing, Wacom has not created a work-around for their Intuos tablets. I know, I’ve asked.

So, my fantasy is that many already use keyboard shortcuts so why not have two pointers and two input devices. In this case, mouse in right hand and pen in the the left. I could model and rotate 3D models with the mouse and select tools and icons with the pen.


How do you like the covertible config as opposed to a slate? I was thinking about going slate so I could use a bluetooth or USB keyboard to access hot keys in Photoshop. Any thoughts?

LOVING THE IDEA THAT MAC IS COMING OUT WITH A TABLET. I also heard that Pixar used all g5’s at there studios. I saw it at the apple store when thay were promoting the g5. once they get programs out that can run 3d software windows will be in some deep shit.

these are some great links and alot of good info in this thread. great post.

Okay, looks like MaxiVista does not also allow the use of the tablet digitizer over the network link. Too bad… it would have been nice to be able to use the tablet with my workstation.

Has anybody information on that new Atom-Chip convertible from Compu-Technics? It apparently won an award at the CES.


Pixar runs proprietary software like Renderman and Marionette. also use Maya, LW and some others out there already. what apple lacks is strong support for CAD software. dont think they care. seem more interested in film and music content then manufactured goods creation.

The reason mfg is non-existent on Mac is that all the CAM software runs on Windows. Since design work on the Mac needs to be translated twice just to get to rapid prototyping, most product design needs to happen on PCs. It would be interesting to know what the CAD/CAM/RP workflow looks like over at the Apple design department. It would be interesting to find out which of the iMac, G5, xBooks and iPod designs were tweaked on a PC.


interesting thought. apple designers and engineers using pc’s to do there designs, rather than there own manufactored products the macs. I am also am wondering if anyone out there done any electrical technology based design. like computers. i wonder how the designers for example the PowerBooks got there jobs and wht they are qualified as.

in these forums i never really get a insight from this design community.( the tech designers…)

computers and technology based around computers is changing so rapidly they must have there designers going in circles.

“is that all the CAM software runs on Windows.”

not true. CAD/CAM has been on Unix for years. the Mac OS is now Unix-based. nothing stopping the migration. its why Maya is on Mac now. Irix is a Unix variant. Pro/E runs on Irix. Alias Studio runs on Irix. so do other CAD/CAM apps.

Pro/e is still unix based, check you processes when you are running it. It starts up a virtual-unix prog (xtop.exe) similar to the virtual-pc on the macs. Just not the demand to make mac only versions of the CAD.