Surface Pro + Sketchbook Express.
Verdict: If only it was more affordable.
Surface Pro Hands-On Impressions
I got a hands-on with a $999 Surface Pro at my local Microsoft Store. It was equipped with a red touch cover (nondepressable keys) and an active (wacom) stylus. There is NO stylus slot on the Surface Pro. Instead, on the right is a magnetic port that is used for both charging and attaching the stylus. This is cool in concept but impractical as the stylus cannot be attached when charging nor is it securely held in place. The Surface pro was propped up using it’s built-in kickstand. The screen is fixed at approximately this angle / with the kickstand. I initially felt the angle was perfect for typing but thought it would be uncomfortable for drawing. Surprisingly, I did the entire sketch while the screen was propped up. It was like a mini-easel and the sketching experience at this angle was better than I expected.
The surface pro did not have any art software installed other than Freshpaint. Luckily, it was connected to the internet and I logged into the Microsoft App Store, there I downloaded Sketchbook Express (Free). Once installed, the app loaded quickly. I threw down some lines with low pressure and lots of pressure then drew a bunch of squigglys with varying pressure. I was able to get a good range of pressure sensitive lines and the transitions between the light and heavy lines looked smooth. Satisfied, I began to roughly sketch out my car in red. Only after I finished did I realized, the free version comes with ZERO layer ability. (If there is layers, I could not find it). So, with the inability to draw on top of a new layer, I simply changed the pen color to a darker red and drew in my final lines of my car. Without layers though, it made it impossible to render the car and so I did not do that.
The Surface Pro stylus is extremely light. Like a galaxy note 2 stylus. It has a single button on the side, however it is an UGLY button. The button doubles as the magnetic clip that attaches to the side of the tablet. Again, it is cool in concept but terribly executed. The feel of the stylus on the screen is smooth. It is not grippy. Some may feel that it is too smooth, almost slippery. However, for me it felt right. It feels more like the intuos 3 than the intutos 4/5. Overall the drawings experience was good. If purely for drawing, I would give it a solid 9 with my limited hands-on.
I don’t remember if my palm was on the tablet. However, I did not have to change the way I normally draw. I just drew like I normally did and there was absolutely no instances of stray lines. Also, I was able to do two finger pan and zoom using the same drawing hand when needed.
Unfortunately, the price tag for this wonderful device is far too expensive. Combine that with it’s mediocre battery life of just 4 hours and it becomes hard to swallow. 4 hours is plenty for doodling but for real work, it is not enough.
Other Windows 8 tablets with active stylus.
Thinkpad 2 Tablet: $599 but not worth it at all…DO NOT BUY. Performance is sluggish. The lines could not keep up with my strokes.
Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro: $999 Good performance, good 1080p screen. I think it is wider than the Surface Pro. Hardware is rather clunky in both looks and functionality.