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So I bought into the hype and got a Microsoft Surface Book. Heck, I had it on preorder! But now I’m returning it. For those of you not in the know, here’s a nice video of what the Surface Book is, essentially a high end tablet/laptop hybrid. I’d had aspirations of it becoming me primary mobile digital art tool. I currently have a bare bones refurbished Asus tablet for on the go art, but it is a years old machine that can’t even run the latest version of Photoshop smoothly, and only has a 32 GB internal hard drive (24GBs of which are taken up by its Windows 7 OS). So I was/am in the market for a new portable art device. The problem is, the Surface Book does not feel like a Wacom device. I have a Cintiq as my primary digital art tool, plugged into my desktop. It’s wonderful, and drawing on it feels very natural. When I got the Surface Book on Monday, my initial impression was “yeah, i can use this to art!” But after trying to draw the current comic page, I became acutely aware of an issues that I’d had with a previous non-Wacom device, the Yiynova MSP19 (which I had accidentally purchased at one point when I’d meant to get the much better MSP19U a couple of years back).

Basically, the pressure sensitivity for the Surface Book seems to be directly tied to the amount of force applied to the pen. Maybe there is more to the tech, I wouldn’t doubt it, but when I put the tip of the Surface Book’s pen on the screen, and wiggle it back and forth without applying any direct pressure, it does not make a mark. Comparatively, if I took a regular 2B pencil and put it on paper and wiggled it back and forth, it would leave a light line. This sounds like a minor thing. After all, who doesn’t apply pressure to a pencil when they draw? But I draw with a lot of light, rapid marks. I found that often the beginnings and ends of my marks wouldn’t even appear, leaving a truncated line as I drew, or some strokes wouldn’t appear at all. When it came to inking, it was even more frustrating because I had to significantly slow down how quickly I worked, consciously thinking about where I wanted each ink mark to begin and end and to apply the necessary pressure. I visited the parents’ for Thanksgiving, but when I came home, after having struggled all weekend with drawing a single comic page on the Surface Book, I knocked the inking out in under four hours on the Cintiq. The difference in pressure responsiveness was like night and day.

Any time I try a digital drawing device that is not specifically Wacom technology, it trips me up pretty bad. The Surface Book itself is a powerful machine, durable and light weight and it looks good, but it’s expensive and if you can’t use it as an art device, you might as well spend the money to just get an even beefier laptop, or a really nice tablet. I’ve never used Windows 10 before, but it’s a pretty slick looking OS, barring the occasional glitch or crashed program, which is frustrating for a supposedly top of the line device.

So would I recommend the Surface Book? I honestly really wanted to love the thing, it seemed like the kind of dream device that could act like a portable version of my desktop. But I can’t draw on the thing like I can on my Cintiq or on paper, and it bums me the heck out. I’ve troubleshot every possible solution, and looked online for other people complaining about this issue. It seems as though very few others have this same problem with the Surface Book’s pen pressure, so maybe the problem is specific to me. But for any other artist feeling like dropping a pretty penny on that shiny new Surface Book, this has been my word of caution!

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  • KungFuKlobber

    Did he HAVE to rub his blood on the kid’s clothes as he died? RUDE.

    • Sunwu

      “uhhh…look ambassador I know you’re dying and stuff but…you don’t have any contagious blood diseases do ya?”

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      Dick move, ambassador!

  • Kid Chaos

    Well, at least the ambassador is impressed. I wonder…if the Senshin clan learns about the guns, will they perform a preemptive strike to stop the Wataro before they can hear up? Hmmmm… 😯

  • Leo

    So… Pretty much the opposite effect than the one Genchu thinks would happen with the Wataro buying the guns. Or what he was thinking of selling them, anyway.

    • SKy

      They’d still strike first. They wouldn’t give the others another chance of buying some as well…

      • Thiago Kurovski

        Are 60 guns doing a lot, realistically? Hundreds of muskets with enough gunpowder (and some ammunition) are quite disruptive, but a few dozen aren’t going to make a big difference.

        Now, if Ricarrrdo (I refuse to emphasize the first syllable! The middle syllable is the one and only emphasizable syllable of Ricardo!) had some rifled muskets (for sniping commanders, that could be quite disruptive…) or even better, some cannons in his barge, that would be something!

        • SKy

          Sure, hundreds would be better. You can cause quite some havok with just 60 though.
          Let’s just say only every third shot hits (which imo is very pessimistic considering that you shoot at an entire army). That’d be 20 killed/badly wounded enemies in one volley. Now give them about 2 minutes to reload (again pessimistic – if they trained enough that could be well under one) and fire again. You’d have 100 kills/eliminations in 10 minutes – and the battle just started.
          A normal soldier can be happy to kill more then one person before dying himself; the gunmen surpass that within a few minutes without real danger for themselves.
          Another big factor is psychology: Imagine you didn’t know about firearms and then you suddenly hear a loud bang and the entire front row of your army just drops dead without a visible cause… That demotivates…

          • Xinef

            I’d consider horses to be of particular interest. While obviously war steeds are trained not to be intimidated by the chaos and noise of battle, they may still be frightened by gunshots. Thus Wataro could deploy archers more readily, without them being threatened by enemy cavalry.

          • Thiago Kurovski

            That’s good thinking. Psychologic effects are probably much more important than physical in this case.

          • Thiago Kurovski

            AFAIK muskets have much worse performance than that. The third shot would probably impossible to aim.

            OTOH, nobody in the Senshin army knows how these things work and how to fight a force armed with guns. They will probably be worth more in the confusion they will cause than anything else.

          • Leo

            I imagine Japan has some of their own gunpowder. I mean, China’s right there. Although I don’t know enough about ballistics to tell if the gunpowder you put in cannons is the same you can put in rifles, I admit…

        • Da’Zlein

          Who says they’re not rifled? The shots we’ve seen him take seem awfully accurate for a smooth-barreled gun, and rifling was invented before breech-loading… Not to mention that with 60 guns, they may be able to figure out how to make more, bringing firearms to the forefront of the war…

          • Thiago Kurovski

            Yes, if they reverse engineer the guns, produce them in large numbers and figure out usage, they will have a decisive advantage, no question.

          • Thiago Kurovski

            His weapon seems to be a matchlock. Were those rifled?

            OTOH, reverse engineering and building matchlocks is probably very easy.

        • Leo

          Actually, in Latin-based languages, the initial R is the one that has to be rolled. At least in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, if you want to roll an R that’s not the initial one, it has to be a double R (carril, for instance.)

          So yeah, it has to be Rrrrrrrrrrricardo.

  • endplanets

    Aw man, ambassador dude dying is sad because he suddenly became way more awesome. He doesn’t let getting struck by magic-science distract him from doing his job.

    • Xinef

      Also another page where Eijiro is kinda likable too.

      • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

        By the end of the comic, who knows how likable Eijiro will be!

        • pydsigner

          I feel like he’s learning that life is a lot more complicated than he thought.

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      He had to die to reveal his true character!

  • charles81

    Don’t stop not dying!
    Don’t stop not dying!
    Don’t stop… DAMMIT!

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      Well if it was easy advice to follow, everyone would follow it.

      • Xinef

        Except people who like a challenge. If something is too easy, they won’t do it on principle.

  • http://www.heartofmillyera.com/ Jana Hoffmann

    So do you think you’ll try the Windows Cintiq Companion then? I bought the Android Companion Hybrid and have been super disappointed in how trimmed down the available apps are functionality wise. I wish I’d saved a bit more and paid for windows one. And I’m a Mac girl! :p

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      I’m definitely curious about the functional difference between the tablet OS companion and the Windows OS companion. I’d likely spring for the full Windows version, too. The tablet hybrid certainly has the less scary price tag, but considering the price of the Surface Book, I suppose I’m a hypocrite to be bothered by the price. Then again, the Surface Book was a very powerful laptop, while the Cintiq Companion 2 is nearly the same price without being as powerful a machine. Of course it also probably feels great to draw on, which is a major purchasing factor.

      • http://www.heartofmillyera.com/ Jana Hoffmann

        I had in my mind that I’d be able to use dropbox to go seamlessly between my mac and my tablet but none of the desktop applications files are supported on the tablet without flattening the layers, if importing/opening desktop files is supported at all. :S

        I’d be totally interested in your thoughts in the Windows Companion if you try one out. I’m thinking about selling mine and getting the windows one when they release the next version.

  • Bram Weinreder

    I’ll get help… after the guns are safe :)

    My girlfriend is a graphic designer and we’ve looked into portable products as well.
    Solutions to consider: the Cintiq Companion (benchmark product, need I say more), the Surface Pro (second on my list), the new iPad with ultra-intelligent and ultra-expensive pen, and the budget solution Lenovo Yoga.

    I haven’t seen any pen performances firsthand, but the Cintiq is the goto solution. The Surface 3 is comparable in terms of hardware but I don’t know how well the screen responds to the pen, the iPad with pen is supposed to be nextlevel in terms of precision and intelligence (but according to a review recommended by a known artist, it’s not quite there yet) and the Yoga might be unwieldy as it’s basically more a laptop than a tablet. Plus I wouldn’t trust the pen/screen sensitivity more than the other products, but if it does the job it’s probably your most affordable solution.

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      I’ve read that the Surface Pro 3 is the best of the Surface line in terms of digital drawing devices. I’m not sure why the Pro 4 wouldn’t be an improvement, but if I stop by the Microsoft store, I’ll be sure to try the Pro 3 out if it’s on display. Likely what I’ll do is spend half the money I spend on the Surface Book to get a nicer version of my refurbished Asus tablet. The screen is quite a bit smaller than the Book but it is wacom tech and easy to draw on. It’s probably what I should’ve gotten to begin with!

      • Bram Weinreder

        What specific version of the ASUS tablet is that? I’ll have to look into it and maybe see if it’s good for her as well. As long as you can install software on it and it responds quickly then it sounds like a good deal.

  • Flaming Squirrel

    First of all… how DARE you put a sword fight with Genchu in the background? As if anything that involves Gunchu, swords, and fights isn’t a spectacle that deserves a whole twenty pages of foreground attention all to itself.

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      I assure you, Genchu’s sword play will be taking front and center momentarily.

  • LisaCat

    awww lookit Eijiro being all not-a-brat .>)

    I’ve been looking at the Surface Pro 3; my friend had a Pro 2 last year that she was fairly happy with for art. I’d be interested if you have any input on those devices, or if you have artist friends who do? Is there a major difference between the Pro 2 and Pro 3, as far as pressure sensitivity or art program smoothness? Or between the Surface 3 and Pro 3? I run PS CS3 right now, but I just got Manga Studio 5 and hope to play around with that eventually, too.

    • http://www.nn4b.com suburban_samurai

      I wish I could tell you the comparative difference between the Surface Pros, but my only experience with any Surface product was the Book, which, in retrospect, I probably should’ve went out and found a Pro to use to see if I liked it! Although I’m pretty confident, based on Penny Arcade reviews and some other reviews I’ve seen, that the Surface Pro series is easily capable of running the latest version of Photoshop as well as Manga Studio without any lag issues.

  • Sunwu

    I’m taking my first photoshop class this year and trying to get into digital art, there’s so many tablets and drawing programs it’s hard to know where to start.

    • SKy

      Once you go Photoshop you never go back. The few that do are either looking for very specific features or can’t afford a commercial licence…
      And with a wacom tablet you usually can’t go wrong either. Just make sure it’s no Bamboo, those are way too small… You may also want to test a tablet first. I myself have no problem with drawing while looking at the monitor instead of the pen – but some do. Then you’d best get one with built in monitor (like wacom’s “cintiq” line). Those are more expensive but work just like a digital canvas.

      • Sunwu

        thanks sky!! and do you use illustrator to do your art more than you do photoshop?

        • SKy

          Illustrator is mainly for vector images, while Photoshop is based around pixels. If you want to design logos and icons or illustrate stuff in a more technical way, Illustrator is the way to go. I learned both (studied game design for 2 years), but personally I am more into free hand drawing. That’s where Photoshop is better.
          In Illustrator you “construct” your image, Photoshop lets you “paint” it, if that makes any sense. Again, that’s a preference thing; try for yourself which one suits you better. (Or use both. All Adobe programs can easily import each others files)

  • Warcodered

    And that’s the story of how my favorite kimono was ruined…fuck my life right.

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