Below is a video of me talking about my Surface Pro 2 and Tablet PC’s in general. I’ve been using them since university and have thoroughly enjoyed the experiance of working straight on-top of the screen, instead of using a traditional usb graphics tablet. The versatility of a device like the Surface Pro is also a big selling point. Underneath my video you can see my review from Reddit – with an update
Surface Pro 2 Review: (Originally September 2015)
Before I had my SP2 I used my Motion Computing LE1600 which I purchased during my second year of university. This Tablet PC did the majority of my last year and a half of my illustrating on it. It wasn’t perfect but I’d bought it cheap off eBay, I had to buy a stylus for it and get a high speed SSD that’s used in Macbooks to really boost it. It ran amazingly well considering it’s age and low power.
Picking up a Surface was a random idea I’d had when I knew I was going to leave my graphics/marketing job to be a freelance illustrator, I’d spent a month looking for tabletPC’s that were closet to a Wacom but were more multifunctional / practical and modern compared to the LE1600. I’d looked at a few of these transforming laptops but hadn’t really came across one that seemed to have positive reviews or in my price range. Surface Pro 3 was on the cards but with a bit of research it sounded like the SP2 was better for drawing on and playing games, plus it was cheaper. I’d managed to get a hardly used SP2 on eBay with type cover for £440 – I wanted to pay more as it was in better condition, included a pen and type cover, and was a physical person, not a refurbished shop, so I felt like I got a better deal.
After getting the SP2, there was a moment of regret, the screen wasn’t as big as the LE1600 (though the same size in inches, the LE1600 isn’t Widescreen), the resolution for the screen size made it quite difficult to read and use with the stylus especially with the photoshop menu being tiny. Then there was the pen jitters when drawing in photoshop… “What have i bought?!” i thought, despite it’s power, as a drawing/illustrating device it seemed to lack in – what felt to me, fundamental areas for making the experience easy and usable, especially when using the device for 6 hours a day.
I decided to start researching and playing around, I didn’t find any real solution online for the Pen Jitters, but I felt it could have something to do with the resolution of the screen, the DPI was probably quite high with a device like this, a lower resolution could help increase the accuracy of the pen in theory. With each step down it seemed to make a difference, FINALLY, I found a sweet spot where it was perfect. 1360 x 768. There were no Jitters here, the pen worked as well as It did on the Wacom screen powered LE1600, and better due to the extra performance. I’ve been using this resolution ever since, though Windows 10 and the driver update seemed to have fixed it, there was still the fact the screen was too high res to comfortably read for hours a day, plus the smaller UI in photoshop and other apps.
Any other issue didn’t seem quite as big now I had it at the right resolution and fixed the jitters. One thing I felt I lacked though was the extra stand position the SP3 had, making it really good for drawing without being flat, which isn’t always the best way to draw, even on paper. Because I’m partial to keyboard shortcuts and paths/shape tool I felt getting a bluetooth mouse would be great – I got the sculpt comfort mouse from Microsoft as I felt it should work well, and it seems to!
When i bought the mouse, it came in wedged shaped packaging… No idea why, but there was an inside piece of card that made a really good wedge for my SP2, after replicating a simple version of the same size that I can collapse and put into my bag, I’m set for any situation.
The device is great to draw on, it’s fairly compact, not particularly heavy, and contains a Wacom Screen with a nice sized stylus with everything but tilt support, the only thing I really worry about is loosing the stylus, though its magnetized it can be knocked off, I feel the SP3 has gotten the better deal in terms of pen holding and kickstand. But these are small preferences that probably effect me, more than others. You can’t really go wrong with a Surface Pro, having an Intel Processor, at least 4GB of RAM and a Pen will get you doing the illustrating you need. I also recommend buying ArtRage Touch from the Microsoft Store as a nice little app for a sketchbook approach doing your rough ideas. It’s around £4. Things like a Mouse and the typecover are not necessary, but will help your productivity and allowing the device to be used with more options, making most actions quicker.
As for my illustrations, I’ve been doing a commission for a shared workspace I use in my local city, Sheffield – kinda Editorial stuff for an members guide, they’re practically all done except two which are almost. The illustrations were done mainly with a mouse however, some aspects were drawn or using the pen, but most were done with a mouse (I can assure you the stylus works fantastically for drawing, just these editorials were more design illustration) You can find the selection of illustrations on my website: Here
But I spent a couple of hours doing a self portrait because most illustrators seem too for social media, which used the pen more Twitter Post
I’m still using the Surface Pro 2 for illustration, the performance is good enough that I can do half of my work on it – though I tend to rely on the drawing aspects with it and if I know it’s going to be a big job, i’ll head over to my Desktop which has more RAM. Working with textures is one of the things that slows Photoshop down for me, so having a good balance between both devices and usage is really what helps me work better. I’ve had my eye on upgrading to the Surface Pro 4 i7, or even the Surface Book (Which would probably be overkill for me tbh). But I’m pretty happy with the performance of my Pro 2.