July 19, 2007, 11:44 PM
Tablet PC : better than a graphics tablet
Some people could wonder why I have chosen such an image to illustrate my website.
First with aesthetics in mind, a picture for my graphic identity seemed better than a drawing, and what represents more a graphic designer than drawing directly on a screen… It is a photoshopped picture, but the second reason to that is that I actually possess this Tablet PC. I used to be really attracted by Wacom’s top of the range Cintiq tablets, drawing directly on a screen seemed like a great idea to me, much more natural than drawing on an impersonal plastic board while watching the computer screen, much closer to the origins of graphic design: drawing on a paper with a pencil. But I was attracted like a car lover would be attracted by Ferraris, it was a dream I was never going to afford considering how pricy it was. The problem with graphic tablets is that, for graphic designers, as soon as you want a bigger than A5 tablet with pressure levels or with a screen there is only one worthy brand, Wacom. I only know of another brand which makes A4 tablets, incredibly cheap for that size, but when you try it out you realize it cannot be used professionally (faulty drivers, stylus with batteries). That was before discovering some Tablet PCs which because of competition need to have affordable prices, and are using Wacom technology. The same technology as in the tablets, Penabled.
So, for just a bit more cash than a normal laptop, you possess the same functionality as on a Cintiq, you can draw directly on a screen, with pressure levels (only 512 but that’s way sufficient) and you have the advantages of a laptop: you can work with it while traveling. You get the same shortcomings too, there is a slight delay between your stylus movement and the mouse cursor on the screen, but that’s not a handicap when you’re used to it. Be careful though, not all Tablet PCs are equipped with Wacom Penabled technology, especially not the cheapest ones nicknamed “Origamis”, which don’t have as much functionality nor processing power.
Some advises for buying this kind of product : Use a price comparator, and then find an online shop which enables you to withdraw your product in their physical shop. Find an end of series sufficiently powerful with an affordable price. Mine is a Toshiba Portege M200, it is not being sold anymore, but I’m very satisfied with it. On the internet you could find it for three times more than the price I paid. Its processing power is not as good as a normal laptop in the same kind of price range, and buying extra memory for it when you get it is a necessity. It comes with XP installed and I don’t think Vista would be doing well on it, it doesn’t have an optical discs reader or writer, the graphics card is a bottom of range GeForce even though I always buy from ATI, it has an Intel processor when I’ve always preferred AMD for their value for money.
But I’m plainly satisfied with it : its integrated Wacom technology is a huge plus for a graphic designer. It can be used in a Laptop mode, not just tablet mode (with the keyboard turned around under the screen), great because in a software like Photoshop you always need the keyboard for shortcuts. In laptop mode you can of course still use the screen with the stylus, but you also have the keyboard and touch pad in front of you, just like a normal laptop… Unlike Pocket PCs or normal laptops, the screen is extremely solid (thanks to an extra protection layer), you feel as if you were using a normal graphics tablet and you are not afraid of breaking the screen. On this particular model, even though some functions are missing in order not to make it too bulky (no optical discs reader or writer, that’s the main problem, and it can make it a pain in the neck installing an OS as only Toshiba external drives will allow boot up from CD / DVD), it has been made not to really need one, with an SD card reader, possibility of booting up from that kind of card, bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology, a good autonomy and, most of all… an extraordinary resolution for its 12 inches screen : 1440 x 1050. Really useful for graphic design software.