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posted by janrinok on Saturday October 29 2016, @03:21AM   Printer-friendly
from the ms-goes-mac dept.

Microsoft has launched the Surface Studio, a 28-inch all-in-one PC reminiscent of the iMac but with touchscreen capabilities and other accessories for "content creators":

The thin aluminum 28-inch Surface Studio desktop PC that Microsoft trotted out here Wednesday isn't going to make it into most homes anytime soon. Not at $2,999 to start, and on up to $4,199 if you don't hold back on the specs. If you simply must have it, Studio goes on preorder today; it'll be available in limited quantities by the holidays. There's no question this innovative machine, which at that price is clearly aimed at business users and a more affluent subsegment of potential home buyers, is well worth paying attention to for the way it can leverage the "early 2017" arrival of Windows 10 Creators Update.

At first blush, the design brings to mind Apple's iMac, though the differences are apparent soon enough, and not just because Surface runs Windows 10 and Macs run macOS Sierra. For starters, you can push down on the Surface Studio and via its zero-gravity hinge, angle it at 20-degrees and effectively turn it into a drafting surface. When upright you'd likely use it for more typical Windows computing.

And since Surface Studio like other Surface computers uses a Windows 10 touch-display — Apple hasn't brought touchscreen capability to any of its Macs, and I'm not banking on that happening when it holds a press event for new Macs on Thursday — you can also draw or write directly on the screen using a special Surface Pen. It boasts 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity plus an eraser. Microsoft has also unveiled a hockey-puck shaped accessory called Surface Dial along with Surface Studio itself. You can rotate the puck to summon tools and zoom in on and manipulate objects on the screen; it takes advantage of a radial menu. You can directly place Surface Dial onto the the Surface Studio surface, or use it off the screen.

Also at Ars Technica,, and PCWorld.

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Marand on Saturday October 29 2016, @02:03PM

    by Marand (1081) on Saturday October 29 2016, @02:03PM (#420109) Journal

    Some prefer normal Wacoms or equivalent tablets: no hand obscuring anything, no scratches (IIRC some Cintiqs had that issue in serious way) or grease to get rid, not eyes at short distance of work or not crouching over, no all in one that must be replace if any part goes bad even if the rest is fine. You can even get "paper feedback" by just placing cardstock over the normal tablets.

    I have both types on my desk right now (though the pen display isn't a Cintiq), as well as one of Samsung's Galaxy Note tablets (the 12" one from a couple years ago), so some thoughts:

    (Note for clarity: I'll be referring to cintiqs and similar as pen displays, standard types as tablets, and I'll attempt to distinguish clearly between graphics tablets and tablet computers)

    • The hand obscuring problem of pen displays and tablet computers like the Note and Surface is overrated in my experience.
    • Using a pen display lets you more accurately target areas of the screen, such as for UI interaction. Good calibration is important but it's a huge difference to be able to just poke UI elements or drop the pen exactly where you want it.
    • In contrast, a tablet requires a more mouse-like interaction, where you move your hand around to get the cursor where you want it. it's not as natural.
    • The previous point also affects making consistent, correct movements such as brush strokes. It's a lot easier to get a motion right when you can see your hand and the pen interacting directly with the screen. Using a tablet is more hit-or-miss and a lot more undo-prone.
    • Your mentioned scratching concern with pen displays is mostly overrated, though if that's a fear you can put some sort of protective surface over it the same way people do for phones.
    • You don't necessarily need cardstock over a tablet to get that feel, some of them have surfaces intended to provide similar feedback. Wacom's Intuos4 (the tablet I have) touted this. It has a good feel, I'll admit, but...
    • Unfortunately, a rougher, natural surface can wear nibs down insanely quickly. This was a major complaint with the Intuos4 line, in fact, and I've found I prefer the slick, low-friction glass/plastic feel anyway. So when I use it, I use the lower-friction plastic nibs instead of the rougher, more natural ones.
    • While scratching is mostly overrated* (as I covered already), it's not just a pen display problem. Tablets can scratch too, which was another complaint about the Intuos4's rougher surface. The Intuos4's surface caused heavier wear on the nibs, which could, if not evenly distributed, sharpen the nib and potentially gouge the tablet. The Intuos4 is probably the most-maligned tablet Wacom has shipped due to nib wear and scarring problems, yet the one I have is still fine years later.
    • Hunching over the screen probably indicates you need to rethink your setup, because that's not a requirement of using a pen display. Get a monitor arm, prop the thing up, something.
    • Greasy screen is easily mitigated with some kind of glove. You can do anything from cutting the fingers or tips off a cheap pair to buying one specifically used for this sort of thing, like this []. A glove also helps mitigate extra friction from skin against the surface of whatever you use (tablet, pen display, or tablet computer)
    • A bigger issue with pen displays is the heat the display gives off, honestly. But even that isn't a big deal in my experience.

    Something of a tangent, but tablet computers like the Note line and the Surface (and whatever that iOS device is in the same niche) are an interesting sort of hybrid approach. The ones with 10" screens still feel a bit small to me, but I really like the Note Pro's size (12.2" display) and how easy it is to carry around and use in ways I wouldn't even consider trying with a tablet or cintiq. Tradeoff is a less powerful system and an inferior software ecosystem, since the selection of pressure-sensitive applications is much worse. Not that what's there is bad, it's just a less-evolved market and it also hurts not having extra hardware buttons, keyboard shortcuts, etc. You could use a Surface and use the same software, but I believe that ends up being a huge battery-life tradeoff.

    Too bad there hasn't been a refresh of the Note Pro, it's stopped getting software updates (the wifi version at least has) and there's been no sign of another one of the same size yet :/

    All that said, I use all three semi-regularly and would say that pen display is the most comfortable way to go, with the tablet and Note Pro somewhere behind with different tradeoffs. The biggest problem with the pen display for me is that I also use it as a monitor when I don't need the pen functionality and sometimes it's just not worth rearranging and repositioning things to use it, so I end up grabbing the tablet or Note Pro for quick stuff where I'm less likely to be frustrated by the software or the hand/eye disconnect.

    That's not to say my take on it is the only correct one. Some people prefer tablets to pen displays, possibly because they've spent a long time with them and can't adjust, possibly other reasons. I'd say that if anyone's considering trying a pen display out, either try one first if you can, or look into alternative brands before shelling out on a Cintiq. You can get a proper, full-sized (19" or higher) pen display from another maker for a quarter of the cost of a Cintiq. Much less of a risk when you aren't sure, or just a dabbler. There are trade-offs, of course, so it won't be as polished a product...especially with the drivers. The Huion-based ones seem to be in the best spot right now, but my experience has been that they're still pretty bare-bones on the driver side.

    (Works well in Linux, though, and the Huion/UClogic kernel driver actually works with the Xorg wacom driver, so you can use xsetwacom with it. Huge bonus, since that means you can use xsetwacom's MapToOutput option instead of fucking around with matrix math for xinput's Coordinate Transformation Matrix setting...)

    * I think the scratching fears for tablets and pen displays is overstated because some people are just really hard on their hardware. It's not stonecarving, you don't have to etch your lines into the tablet...

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 29 2016, @06:37PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 29 2016, @06:37PM (#420202)

    After using them, and seeing others using them (it was a studio with 5 tablets), the coordination issue is minor after your brain realizes the thing that moves is the pointer is still you, but not seen. There was no mousing at all, everyone had it in full screen mode, always, no relative or window modes; some even used it for all the computer interaction. It's like driving a car or bike, you don't move the vehicle, you move something, your eyes are elsewhere, and something happens anyway. Human brain gets it quickly.

    The paper trick worked fine with normal nibs and Intuos 3 or older. Studio had from Ultrapads to Intous 3, money was not flowing to be changing things they day they launch and discard things that still worked; you may have heard of "country special prices" (GB, Australia or Latin America are not getting the same deals than USA, and it's not just about import taxes or VAT/GST/etc but also distributor policy). One of the Ultrapads outlived computers and monitors.

    Overrated scratches? Some results of "scratched wacom tablet" image search [] [] [] No big problem in the tablets if the scratch is just cosmetic, but nasty if it can be feeled, or if it is in a Cintiq.

    As for stone carving or bad posture, that is how some roll. So it had to be workarounded or even "unlearned", paper protection or different posture by unlinking input and output and forgetting about traditional penciling.

    But yeah, some people can go with the Cintiq and treat them so they last.

    • (Score: 2) by EvilSS on Sunday October 30 2016, @12:59AM

      by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 30 2016, @12:59AM (#420391)
      Looking at that first link, the scratching appears to be caused by some shitty plastic film Wacom uses over the display. I would hope the MS device is just glass like every other modern touch screen. There is no way a digital pen designed for a touchscreen should be able to scratch glass unless the nib is designed by a moron. I have a windows tablet with a pen and I've never scratched it. It isn't even possible with the way the pen is designed.
    • (Score: 2) by Marand on Sunday October 30 2016, @02:45PM

      by Marand (1081) on Sunday October 30 2016, @02:45PM (#420520) Journal

      After using them, and seeing others using them (it was a studio with 5 tablets), the coordination issue is minor after your brain realizes the thing that moves is the pointer is still you, but not seen

      I wasn't saying that graphics tablets are hard to use. Like you say, the coordination issue is minor, but my point was that it's still there. I used one for ten years before getting a chance to use a pen display, and the pen display still felt more natural almost immediately.

      Sure, that's not the case for everyone, because sometimes people get stuck on doing things one way and don't adapt well, but it's still something anybody that uses graphics tablets should at least try at some point. It's just more natural and a generally awesome experience

      Overrated scratches? Some results of "scratched wacom tablet" image search

      Yes, overrated. I mean that in the sense that it's a fairly rare issue that's massively overblown by a minority of users. It can happen, but it's not that common, and with a few exceptions -- like the Intuos4 nib wear making it easier to cause -- seems like it's more of a problem with how people handle their hardware than the hardware itself.

      Like I was saying with the stonecarving joke, some people are just really hard on their devices, and basically abuse them instead of learning to work with them. If that's the case, yeah, it's probably better to stick with a tablet instead of a pen display so you aren't pissing away as much money when you destroy your device.

      I have a similar problem with keyboards, actually; due to typing speed (>150wpm) and heavy use of spacebar in games, I tend to wear it out on my keyboards. I have to pay more attention to what hardware I buy and sometimes rig up special fixes to get the spacebar working again because it wears out faster than the rest of the board. That's not the fault of the hardware, though, and I just accept I'm not going to be able to reduce the wear on them without slowing down a lot. I think the only keyboard I've used and haven't destroyed the spacebar on is a Model M...