Even if you've seen unboxings before, you probably haven't see one like this. After a great deal of justification, I finally picked up the new 12-inch Retina Macbook. It's thin. It's light. It's only got one port.
We love old, retro gadgets (and gadgets with unique and interesting designs), so this feels like a love letter made just for us.
These are early(ish) impressions of the Samsung Ativ Smart PC 500t. It runs on a 1.8 GHz Atom processor, 2GB RAM and 64gb of storage. Um … specs, specs, specs … you know what? This is Touching Gadgets -- commentary and opinion from a creative professional in Orlando -- NOT A REVIEW!!! If you want benchmarks and other such minutiae, I’m sure you know where to find it.
The relevant details are that this is a big, thin, 11.6 inch tablet running Windows 8 (full Windows, not Windows RT) and, most importantly, the display sports a Wacom digitizer, similar to Samsung’s Galaxy Note line (this device comes with an S-Pen and there’s Windows versions of Samsung’s S-Note software available for download, but for some reason they left the “Note” branding off the device).
There is a microSD slot that’s filled with 32 gigs of storage that I’m not really using. The 64GB internal storage has a fraction available to the user -- but it’s not that big of a deal to THIS user because I bought the device for a very specific use -- drawing and illustrating. AND to lean Windows 8 so that I could teach it to others for my consulting business (I can safely say this particular goal has been achieved -- I’m now familiar with Windows 8 and in my professional opinion: stay away).
And then there’s the USB port. Which is a bone of contention because it doesn’t actually work and I haven’t felt like sending it in for warranty service because -- although it’s annoying -- a non-working USB port doesn’t actually affect my primary use of the tablet.
There is a keyboard dock that compliments the the Samsung Ativ but I didn’t need or want it. I bought the tablet as an open-box item from an Amazon retailer (which explains the USB failure) and saved about $200 off retail. Also, in my obsessive research on this tablet, I read that the keyboard dock (as seems to be the trend with keyboard docks) was somewhat half-baked and glitchy. Your research and conclusions may vary.
Yes, this is Touching Gadgets and I’m a bonafide gadget slut. The Samsung Ativ 500t was purchased not only as a single-use device (drawing) but it’s also a supplementary tablet to my iPad mini daily driver (which sucks for drawing, at least in comparison to a regular iPad).
The Samsung Ativ as a Sketchbook
The drawing software I’m using is the full Windows version of Sketchbook Pro. And by “full Windows” I mean that it’s a regular desktop application, not an app that lives in the new tile-based (don’t-call-it-Metro), touch-friendly Windows 8 interface. Since it’s the full, big-boy version of Sketchbook Pro, it’s incredibly robust, doubly-so courtesy the Wacom digitizer and S-Pen with pressure sensitivity.
But perhaps -- JUST perhaps -- it’s all TOO robust?
Certainly one of the allures of the Wacom digitizer is that it allows the use of a precision point on the stylus -- as opposed the big fat nub on typical iPad styluses. And yes, the finer point is great. But the pressure sensitivity that comes with it, as I’ve quickly learned, is a little unnecessary for my personal art style (which I’ll explain a bit more in a future post).
Another reason why it’s all too robust is explicitly UI/UX. Sketchbook Pro is a desktop app, running in the Desktop environment, running on a touch-enabled tablet, with pen input. Most of my struggles with this tablet (aside from updating Windows. And updating Windows. And updating Windows) has stemmed from learning and adapting to an entirely different workflow than my typical process on my iPad.
Some other frustrations:
- stabbing at the file/save-as or other menu options in Sketchbook Pro. With finger or pen, there’s always a fear that I’ll hit the wrong option.
- Brush size puck is finicky. Usually takes two or three attempts to adjust it to the desired diameter.
- Yes, there’s a bigger screen to work with (than an iPad) but since it’s a desktop app, there are more tools and palettes that need to be shuffled around your canvas
- Wacom digitizer is a little spotty on the edge. This doesn’t impact the process of actually drawing, but it makes those aforementioned file menus extra challenging.
And of course, this speaks to the experience of the tablet as well -- running alongside (or rather, inside) the new UI of Windows 8, the whole user experience feels like it’s been slapped together using bits and pieces from three or four different platforms. When all I’m trying to do is sketch out a panel for a comic strip, it gets overwhelming. Even for a gadget slut like myself.
To be fair: there IS a version of Sketchbook that lives within the proper Windows 8 interface. It’s called Sketchbook Express and it’s a port of the Android version. It also works like crap. If Autodesk (Sketchbook’s publisher) were to fully optimize their software for Windows 8, I’m sure drawing on a Windows 8 tablet would be a completely different experience.
CAVEAT: I haven’t had much time to draw. As of this writing, I’m working on two illustrations and the time that I’ve had to draw has been spent more on adapting to the different tool set than actual, productive sketching.
As a quick aside on Windows 8 itself -- OMG does it take a lot of clicks/taps/actions to accomplish simples things. Windows 8, native, is pretty and I DO like the effort, but it’s just utterly frustrating sometimes (okay, most the time). To get into the Control Panel or Task Manager -- or even understanding the difference between the Metro Settings and the Control Panel … seriously, what were they thinking with this thing?
So what makes this an effective digital sketchbook? At the moment, I’m not sure. My feeling is that a good digital sketchbook has to be something that gets out of your way and lets you draw. And it has to be something that’s there when you need it (standby battery life … another shortcoming from Samsung/Windows).
The Samsung 500t is a full-blown Windows PC -- the amount of time spent tweaking and adjusting and getting the computer working the way it’s SUPPOSED to work is exhausting. It’s good for LEARNING Windows 8, but for the artist that wants to sit down and sketch …. no bueno.
Those are my first impressions … and that’s not even getting into the pixel shock I experienced with the Ativ display or the amazing conundrum of Internet Explorer actually performing light years better than Chrome! Much less the culture-shock of NOT having automatic/persistent saving like on my Macs or iPads.
I’ll write more as I have the opportunity. A note on the attached media: this isn’t my best photoshoot, but it’s been a while and I really wanted to hammer it out as quickly as possible. I’ll do better next time, I promise.
I should be writing about it soonish, but my experience with drawing on the iPad mini has been pretty bad. Between the lack of bezel and Apple's touch rejection algorithms, even Wacom's comfortable Bamboo Stylus is a pain to use. (The mini's underpowered processor and paltry RAM also don't help.)
Engadget posted a fairly uninformative hands-on of Wacom's new (dropping in October) Bluetooth-enabled stylus. I like the form factor of the Intuos stylus and the Bluetooth connectivity provides some kind of palm-rejection wizardry, which I would hope overrules the iPad mini's in-built algorithms. Even if it doesn't, this pen on a regular iPad might be a joy to use.
Thanks also to the Bluetooth feature, the Wacom Intuos Creative also features 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity -- but again, as I'll be writing about in the future, it turns out that's not too important to my style of art.
Maybe instead of waiting for expensive accessories to be released, I should give a palm-rejection glove a quick test run. Just as long as I don't have to use it in public, maybe?
We're already well aware of the unified Google+ login/identification on YouTube, but this was news to me today. Google automatically created a Google+ page for my YouTube channel. I haven't delved into it at all (I don't even use Google+) but the writing is clearly on the wall: Google+ is devouring YouTube. One day, our YouTube channel URL's will simply redirect to a Google+ page.
I'm not sure how a feel about this.
Here's some more info I found from The Next Web (this was from April when this program was early-beta):
Once linked, a single Google account can manage up to 50 YouTube channels, though the owner will need to switch between accounts to manage each individually. Google also says that linking accounts opens up new features, including improved video sharing, live Hangout broadcasting and a YouTube tab on Google+.
I'll be sure to light a candle for you, YouTube.
My fingers .... they're itching to touch the new Mac Pro!!!!
This is, in my humble creative opinion, a brilliant piece of advertising. Apple nailed it and it definitely feels like a call-back to some of their more iconic advertisements.
I'm a little scared to find out what it'll cost (ballpark guess: anywhere between $1500 t0 $2500 base). Whatever the cost, I'm ready to touch the hell out of this beauty.
All 6.3-inches of the Samsung Galaxy Mega are officially available on AT&T. $149 on contract, and only $479 off contract. (Yes, ONLY -- that's much better than the $650-$700 they usually charge.) This smells like the slow-but-steady impact of T-Mobile's new business model placing a greater emphasis on the actual cost of the phone.
I want one.
I'm not saying it's small, but I've seen bigger.