Laptop with Wacom, Win7 Tablet, or Convertible Tablet PC...

Quick version: I need a new computer, and it’d be great if I could easily sketch on it, which would point to the Asus Eee Slate or other tablet, but it would be my only home computer, which would point to a convertible laptop (tablet PC). Which form factor would be best for both? And which model? Or should I go cheap and just get a laptop with a Wacom?

Long Version:

Background: I was about to buy a Wacom tablet (possibly just a Bamboo) for my aging laptop, though maybe considering an iPad or other tablet, then the laptop died a noisy death. So now that I have to buy the whole shebang I’m reconsidering what to buy. I don’t do any design work at home now, so my requirements for a home computer aren’t all that steep, but I’d like to be able to sketch for fun/practice very well on it and be able to edit my portfolio (probably the most demanding thing I’d do these days). And if somehow I do end up doing design work on it I’d at least like it to not be pathetic. So my basic requirements are:

  • A full OS (likely Win7) since it will be my only computer
  • Pressure sensitive touch input
  • Enough RAM and processor speed to handle portfolio editing
  • Not so pathetic that it couldn’t be used for mild design work in a couple years (including light CAD)
  • A 12+ inch screen

So I’m trying to determine if I should get A) a regular notebook plus a Wacom Bamboo or Intuos B) a Win7 tablet with some decent muscle, or C) a tablet PC (Convertable Notebook/Tablet with the rotating screen, damn overuse of “tablet” makes things confusing), all of course limited to those with pressure sensitivity (though I’ve seen decent results from just an iPad 2 in the doodling thread, if I’m going to make this sort of investment I’d like to go all the way). Then of course I have to figure out which model from these categories. My thoughts so far:

A) A regular notebook plus a Wacom Bamboo or Intuos

This is the least enticing option for me, and would probably only go with it if the combined price was amazing. I know I could get more bang for the buck on the internals, and this is the least mysterious of the options (I’ve used an Intuos with a laptop), but the big drawback for me is I can’t see myself sitting on the couch or in bed sketching with it (or editing photos or whatever). And that seems like a big benefit of the other options.

B) A Win7 tablet with some decent muscle

I wasn’t thinking of this originally, but this discussion and other mentions got me thinking it could be a good option. Right now the only model that I’ve found to fit the bill is the Asus Eee Slate Ep121 (the one from the discussion, also here); if anyone knows any others I’d be interested.

I’m a little concerned that the stand setup for using the keyboard is a little unstable, but I guess if I need to do a lot of typing I’ll be at a desk/table anyway. Then I again I’m currently sitting on the couch typing this on a laptop. I guess I’m still a little unsure about going nearly all tablet for my home computing (looking down so much seems weird/bad), but feel free to sell me on it.

The attractive part to me is that it seems like it could be even a little more portable than the convertible tablet PCs, and a little easier to hold and to casually have on the coach, etc. But I don’t know if the Eee Slate is really slim and light enough to feel more like a sketch pad than a hot and heavy computer. It also has a tiny HD, but it’s fast since it’s solid state and I already have an external HD which can probably supplement it well enough. And no internal CD Drive, but I guess that may not be a big deal. Fwiw it also has a geeky coolness factor that I’m doing my best (unsuccessfully) to not be affected by, besides having great reviews.

C) A tablet PC (Convertable Notebook/Tablet with the rotating screen)

This is what I was originally thinking. I can probably get a more powerful computer with this option, and the keyboard use is certainly better. I also might be able to upgrade it in the future. I thought I’d be able to get better graphics as well, but it seems almost everything I look at just has Intel HD Graphics 3000. A real downside for me is the price, since they all seem to be around $1500 to $2000, while the Asus Eee Slate is only $1200. But assuming I could get a decent Convertable Tablet PC for that price, the big question for me is whether it’d really be convenient enough for me to pick up and sketch occasionally on the couch etc.

It can sometimes be a pain finding first, convertible tablets (they never have their own section), and second, ones with touch sensitivity (not really an option to select by, and how did “active digitizer” become the proper term for it?), but some options I’m looking at right now are:

Any recomendations on or additions to the above list?

Still, the biggest question is what form factor would be best for a combination 1) Sketching, 2) Graphics & Portfolio work 3) various internet browsing, everyday computer things, and 4) typing intesive work. Any help figuring this out would be appreciated.

You won’t find anything these days with dedicated graphics in the tablet form factor, so any CAD stuff you want to do will be pretty limited. In reality, desktops are so cheap and capable these days it’d be hard to not recommend spending less on the laptop now and if you need something in a few years spend $300 on a desktop that’ll easily handle 3D work.

The Convertibles are pretty poor these days…they really aren’t suited well for design work, and compared to the Asus are very clunky form factor wise. Fujitsu machines IMO are crap, the Lenovo is nice but does not have a Wacom digitizer, and I’m not positive about that on the HP either. Non-Wacom digitizers are crap and the one’s I’ve used have all had issues with design software like Sketchbook. (Lagged input, non smooth lines, etc). Active Digitizer is a dead giveaway for a non-Wacom solution. Wacom digitizers are passive as they use magnets. Active digitizers use battery operated pens.

The Asus would certainly have some compromises but if sketches and basic work is your main use then it should be good enough. The I5 is fast and the sketching experience will be the best out of any of the other machines. Also, keep in mind the 12" display and resolution will be worthless for graphics and portfolio work, but the EE-slate at least has an HDMI out so you can connect it to a bigger display and use it like a Cintiq.

Thanks for the advice, especially on the active digitizer. It makes more sense now, and does narrow my selection considerably. I had heard of others being less than impressed by non-Wacom pen inputs like the N-trig, so I think Wacom should be a must.

I was in Best Buy today (who has exactly zero convertible tablets) and was reminded of how small a 12" display is compared to the larger offerings in laptops, but it would probably be good for at least roughing things out. I probably would want to hook it to a big monitor at some point though. I also was a little tempted by how much computer you can get for the price if you forgo the touchscreen, which makes me wonder a little if I’m being foolish not just going with option A above and getting a Bamboo or Intuos Wacom with a regular laptop. But it just seems so great to be able to pick it up and draw without any setup with the Eee Slate, or even Convertible Tablet (if I can find a good one). Something to think about I guess…

Drawing on the screen is nice, but as you said it depends on how much of your workflow uses that. If you are surfing the internet 95% of the time and sketching 5%, that screen size will make you go blind. You may even want to consider just getting an Ipad and a capacitive stylus and bundling that with a decent workhorse laptop.

PC Tablets are still very niche, and theres no great solution out there that will do what you want without compromises. In a perfect world there would be a lightweight, well designed 14" tablet with an I7 and dedicated graphics, but we’re not there yet.

Are you sure the Lenovo’s don’t have a wacom? I have an older x60 convertible and really find it nice but not as sensitive as my Cintiq ( 512 levels vs. thousands ) Here’s a review on the X201 which is very complimentary and claims wacom digitizer

An intern here has an EEE Slate, and it’s really improved his output - he came a long way fast with it. It’s nice and very tempting… Another coworker has the HP convertible which looks a lot nicer than my IBM, but feels very plastic

Between the three, myself, I would upgrade to another convertible, probably an IBM. They have great build quality, as a convertible they’re flexible if you’re doing power-points, writing notes, then doing sketches on a trip. With an i7 I would think you could run a CAD program moderately well too, even with integrated graphics (my x60 runs Rhino OK, but heats up)

The big drawbacks I think are that there is no border for your hand to rest when you’re sketching, lack of hotkeys, and that it’s hard to jump between the Cintiq and the tablet… takes a little adjustment between the two. I’ve been planning to CNC a case to handle that first part…

PC Tablets are still very niche, and theres no great solution out there that will do what you want without compromises. In a perfect world there would be a lightweight, well designed 14" tablet with an I7 and dedicated graphics, but we’re not there yet.

Totally agree. Maybe even a 15 or 17 inch…

I think you’re right about the Lenovo. Some more digging and it looks like it does have a Wacom. There’s some funky misnomers in the literature about it being an active digitizer and some other pages were saying it wasn’t a Wacom due to the 12.5" form factor, but I found some other sites saying it is.

So it looks like the Lenovo is also an option, just something to watch out for - very hard to find what digitizer is what these days. Nobody seems to stick their “Wacom Penabled” logos anywhere anymore.

If money isnt a problem for you, you can try looking into the “axiotron modbook.”

I’m honestly not sure if you can even get a modbook for a modern Macbook anymore…looking on their site they still show Mac configurations that were from 2009.

I looked into the Lenovo again as well to confirm whether or not they used Wacom components, which they do, but it was really a pain. Nowhere on the site does it mention Wacom, searching the site did lead me to their forums where people were asking about Wacom drivers, which was a good sign. I thought I’d just check by doing one of those chat help sessions, which was no help. His first answer was “it’s a Lenovo pen,” then after really leading him he said Wacom pens were compatible. To be sure I did ask in the forums and got an affirmative

So this is apparently what I have to do now to be sure that computers have Wacom digitizers because for some reason that escapes me, it’s not listed. Why not point out a big selling point for anyone who will use it to draw anything? And now I’m more confused about “active” digitizers, after one site listed both batteries and having an eraser as signs of an active digitizer, and having neither as signs of a passive one. So Wacom is neither/both? (no batteries, but an eraser).

Also, the lack of a display larger than 12.5" on anything is really disappointing, and probably means I’ll also be getting a monitor in addition, unless I opt for a regular laptop plus a separate Wacom tablet. A pain, and changes my thinking a bit…

The good news is a ~24" monitor can be had for under $200 these days, so that’s less of a barrier to entry.

Active digitizers generally have batteries, but now that they are combining capacitive multi-touch panels with passive digitizers, perhaps they changed the terminology. Or they’re all just idiots. The eraser doesn’t make it active, all Wacom pens have erasers. The fact that it is actively transmitting a signal is why it’s active (and thus requires a battery). Passive digitizers work based on a magnetic field created by the stylus.

Either way, no one seems to care about Wacom’s except us little old designers, and Wacom expects us all to buy Cintiqs.

The fujitsu t900 tablet is 14 in and has a wacom (as well as capacative touch)… Blaster on the forums uses something like it I think, I remember Googling it when he mentioned it once. It’s kind of a plain appearance though

The T900 is 13.3" so slightly bigger than the 12.5" but still a little smaller than the 14.1" of the days of yore.

Price is pretty high, but it does offer an I7 and dedicated GPU. Though you creep into the $2500 range at that point. That starts to make me say “why wouldn’t I get a 20” Cintiq + a $500 laptop".

So I think I’ve made a decision, I’m going to go with the Asus Eee Slate, an external optical optical drive, and an external monitor. I just have to check the max resolution the Eee Slate can output to the external monitor, then figure out which monitor to get. Here’s my thoughts why:

A regular laptop with an external Wacom is certainly the best bang for the buck and could mean I wouldn’t need an external monitor, but I’m really looking forward to the convenience of being able to sketch right on the computer without any setup.

A convertible laptop could get me a faster processor, and maybe a better video card, but at seemingly maximum 13.3" I would still want an external monitor. And the cost for this is already getting pretty high. Plus the form factor doesn’t seem as nice as the Eee Slate.

Even though the Eee Slate has one of the slower i5 processors (no faster than some i3s since it’s low voltage), the reviews overwhelmingly say it’s still quite fast. And Cyberdemon is right, if I do need a machine with more horsepower in a couple years a desktop is a relatively cheap and easy answer, to which the Eee Slate would be a great mobile complement. And even though it’s smaller, the Solid State drive should be faster for data intensive things like editing a portfolio (64gb is plenty when complemented with an external drive). And 4gb of RAM is good, though I don’t think I would’ve settled for less. Also USB 2.0 is a disappointment (I made sure to get 3.0 on my external HD), but far from a deal breaker. Overall it really seems like a good machine.

Thanks for your help with this, and feel free to try to sway me if you think I’m off on this (until I pull the trigger, then only heaps of praise for my wisdom will be allowed :wink:).

EEE Slate’s are enviable - you’re going to love it! The portability of a tablet is really handy… I used to spend my 2 hr commute to London sketching on the train, in client meetings, and even take it to life drawing classes. One client even asked for a designer to come in with a tablet PC specifically for a project. You’ll get used to the 12in display, it’s really not that big a deal unless your jumping between it and a bigger wacom. I always feel like upgrading and can totally relate to the decision between convertible and slate - it’s a tough choice

Slate: Motion Computing C5 or LS800 / HTC Flyer/ or Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet
Here are a few videos for you:

iPad vs LS800


HTC Flyer

Also check out I’ve been researching this kinda jazz for a while now and trying to keep it under $500 for a budget/travel slate.


Noticed you mentioned the eee slate…

Before you buy (unless you already have) check out the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet :: Set to release August 23

All the slates mentioned can run SBPro except HTC Flyer

That Lenovo is interesting… reminds me a lot of the transnote from back in the day. Glad to see a little more sleek of a look to them too but it’s a shame it’s only android

You need to find yourself one of the dwindling few Toshiba M7’s left floating around with the Nvidia graphics card (we have two and will never let them go…) Make sure it has the Nvidia - you’ll only find owners selling them or refurb’d units but either is the equivalent of gold.

Check out the just announced Samsung series 7 slate. Its got both touch and wacom pen input. Slate form factor, with optional dock and keyboard. Running win7 with 4gig of ram. IF you buy it before Oct 31st at a microsoft store youll get 25% off your purchase.

But being it your main computer, the keyboard may be mandatory for your situation as the on screen keyboard is frustrating to use at best.

The Samsung looks cool, but doesn’t have the muscle we’d all need. Here’s another very similar to it;

And the use of stylus as an afterthought (no storage) is frustrating - certainly it’s because the slate can be thinner without but c’mon, where am I gonna keep my stylus otherwise?