So this image I did for Anime Conji took almost double the time it would have normally taken me for an image like that, due to making about 90% of it while experimenting on my new tablet PC: a Samsung Series 7 Slate.
For people who might be interested in a machine such as this one for artistic work, I’m giving a very lengthy thorough review with my pros/cons under the cut!
Huge disclaimer first: I am a digital artist. The moment I started taking drawing more seriously was when I got my first tablet. A lot of people say that the difficulty with doing digital work is the disconnect between the tablet and the canvas (screen) but for me, it is the optimal and most comfortable working environment. I’m much more confident with my lines digitally and I am completely dependent on using transform and lasso and magic wand to fix my sketches. I’m very meticulous when I’m illustrating digitally, whereas traditionally I am more rushed. I’ve never been very good at keeping sketchbooks, but I love doing digital work due to the ability to fix things as I go.
During ALA, fictograph basically sold me one of these. Microsoft and Samsung should literally give her a cut of my sale. She had hers at the con and I was floored by the way she was able to use it to draw digitally. When I was working away from my usual workstation over the winter holidays, it was painfully clear to me that I needed new hardware to replace my 5.5+ yr old (8 lb) laptop, which I lugged around together with my Intuos3 tablet whenever I needed to work while not having access to my tower.
The main selling point for me was the amazing portability. At only 2 lbs + AC adapter, the Slate is a full PC and a drawing tablet built in one. I’d be able to take this little guy with me to cons and be able to work while I’m on the road, waiting in the airport on a layover, etc. I’m able to work digitally on pieces while I’m out at a coffee shop, and also able to take a break from my desk and chair and continue drawing in bed or on the floor while my bunny frolics around. It really helps to take that break. Price-wise though, I could have replaced my tower, monitor, AND my tablet… but I can’t bring all that with me in a small travel bag.
The slate runs Windows 7 with Wacom Digitizer Pen technology, which gives it a 1up in my book against the Wacom Cintiq, which is just a monitor that needs to be connected to an actual computer. I’ve customized mine by remapping a bunch of the buttons into Photoshop shortcuts, and disabled/uninstalled like 70% of the bloatware that came with the system, which were designed for casual users who want to use the Slate as an iPad. It also helped a lot to customize the pressure sensitivity curves because the system default really sucks.
The battery life on the Slate is surprisingly good, about 4-5 hours running Photoshop (CS4) and a browser; closer to 5 if you turn off wireless.
To compare and contrast a little more with the Cintiq though, the Slate is far behind in terms of technical capability. It has only 256 levels of pressure sensitivity vs. the Cintiq’s 2048, and the Slate has no tilt support. It’s a poor man’s 12” Cintiq monitor built into an iPad-wannabe that runs Windows. Like the Cintiq, it can heat up a significant amount — enough to make your palms feel really warm and maybe start sweating — but it doesn’t run too hot unless I start playing a movie while working in Photoshop while repeatedly refreshing tumblr.
When I was initially messing around with the pressure sensitivity on Grace’s Slate, it didn’t seem like a huge difference, since my Intuos3 is running at 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity. I was able to make pretty smooth hand-drawn gradients, and sketching felt pretty natural. But when I was able to sit down with the hardware and really use it for detail work, I got so frustrated I wanted to return it. To get the weight on my lines when I ink digitally, I usually use a relatively thick brush (~20-25px for 300dpi resolution images) and draw very lightly for thin lines, then lay it on thick in corners or shadows, which makes inking go quickly. The lack of sensitivity in the Slate was like going from brush tips to pen nibs: no longer able to vary the thickness of my lines with ease, and having to go in and manually create weights. I used the slate quite a few times to do sketches and it’s wonderful, but the lineart was like pulling teeth. I never thought I took advantage of the tilt functionality on my Intuos3, but I really do depend on it for precision inking, and I miss it a lot on this device. My inking time probably tripled, but I’m confident I’ll get faster with more practice.
At 4GB ram and a 128GB SSD, the Slate runs Photoshop CS4 smoothly but with a bit of noticeable drag. This drag gets really bad and almost unbearable when my file sizes start to get really large. At 9x12”+ 300DPI (2700x3600px) and over a dozen layers, it started to lag considerably. The lag starts with half a dozen layers at 12x18”. My workflow usually involves merging layers as I go so I can paint over more easily, so I would like to experiment more on the Slate with painting, since I usually paint on only 1-2 layers. The clean lineart-and-cel-shading look that I tend to default to (out of sheer laziness) requires a sizable number of layers, so I switched back to my desktop when I started using textured brushes to detail the background in the Anime Conji illustration. However, for sketching and for lower resolution images, it runs fantastically.
The display is actually made from Corning Gorilla Glass, which is scratch-proof and I’m told it’s nearly indestructible, but I’m not about to do any tests LOL. The color display is also beautiful. So beautiful that it enhances the hell out of my colors, so trying to get a roughly accurate color profile is difficult (time to make a palette!) The screen is also pretty glossy, which makes it a little difficult to work in very bright, naturally-lit areas. Additionally, there’s no attached easel or stand that can create a comfortable incline, so I just let it lean comfortably on my glasses case when I’m working on a table, or just use my lap.
Despite my gripes, I’m happy with my absurdly expensive purchase and hope to make the most out of it when I start traveling for cons. It’s a portable little device with a decent amount of power. It comes with all of the advantages of drawing digitally — the ability to move drawings, extend canvases, free-transform and skew images to fix errors in proportions or composition, and flip horizontally — while being as portable as a sketchbook. I like the added ability to rotate the screen around for more comfortable wrist movements, as well as being able to put a ruler to the screen to draw a straight line! Does it replace my desktop setup? Definitely not. But considering the super slim profile and lightweight design, it’s a fantastic travel companion, coffee shop friend, and hopefully a good investment.
I named mine Totoro. :D
Posted on Friday, February 3
Tagged as: artist advice huge wall of text rant review samsung slate tablet pc technology text wacom cintiq resource
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- nevereatdirt said: I’ve been using a 13” Toshiba Portége for the past 4-5 years. It’s certainly not going to win any beauty contests, but I’d like to try out a new tablet PC when I get the chance! And I hope that your Slate lasts and works for you as well =]
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- reafu said: Ive thinking on and off about eventually getting the 12 or 21 inch cintiq if I got my own place and learning to sketch and ink digitally. Reading this review shows there are nice alternatives to look at :o!
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- fayren said: Ughhhh you’re making me really want one.
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