Also: the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 is another option, and it might be cheaper. I only tried the Surface Pro 3.
Note: this post originally appeared on my other website, Clattertron.
I kept hearing about artists using a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 as a drawing tablet, so I decided to try one out. I was able to play around with a Surface Pro 3 at Best Buy, and again at Staples. I actually went to Staples to try the Surface Pro 3 after I tried Jason’s Motion Computing LE1700 and Steve’s Wacom Cintiq, so I could compare the pen/drawing feel as soon as possible.
I only had about 20 minutes to a half hour experience on the devices before drawing on the Surface Pro 3, but it did not strike me as being much different. Granted, I might not feel the same if I had used either of the two others for a year or more–so your experience could vary.
Not having much else to compare my experience to, I felt drawing on the Surface Pro 3 was great. I was able to do a quick sketch with ease (I’m a fast, sloppy sketcher). Unlike the Motion Computing or the Wacom Cintiq, I was unable to try Manga Studio 5 on the Surface Pro 3. Without Manga Studio, it meant drawing with Fresh Paint and Paint, but each program worked great with the stylus.
Microsoft dropping Wacom technology for this model—which was used for the Surface Pro 2–concerned artists. Again, I didn’t notice much of a difference.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Stats:
Cost: around $999
Surface Pro 3 Weight: about 1.8 lbs.
Screen size: 12”
Screen Resolution: 2160 x 1440
- Processor: Intel Core i5
- RAM: 4 GB
- Hard Drive: 128 GB (Solid State)
NOTE: other models of the Surface Pro 3 feature more RAM, hard drive space, and faster processors–but aren’t in my price range.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Pros:
- Fully functioning computer. A big plus for me, as I would like something I can use for writing too.
- Very light-weight. A great thing for being portable, which is my goal.
- Solid State Hard Drive. Also great for a portable device–no moving parts.
- Excellent pen response while drawing and applying pressure (for darker strokes, etc).
- New technology.
- Allows use of your fingers for tapping and drawing with the pen at the same time: draw with one hand, tap tool icons with the other.
- Built in kickstand makes drawing on your lap or a table comfortable and easy.
- Stylus pen has a good heavy, natural feel to it, and a nib.
- Good battery life. Nine hours or more (especially with the wi-fi turned off).
- Comes with Windows 8.1 loaded.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Cons:
- Comes with Windows 8.1 loaded. Really, any Windows is a con for me, only because I’ve been a Mac user for over ten years. It isn’t that I think OS X is better, I just prefer its simplicity.
- Cost. See next bullet.
- Attachable keyboard Type Cover sold separately, and is $130.
- Type Cover keyboard isn’t the most comfortable, nor is the built-in touch pad.
- Does not use Wacom technology like the Motion Computing LE1700, Cintiq, or even the Surface Pro 2.
- Windows button on the right edge is easily bumped while drawing, which can knock you out of Manga Studio.
- Stylus pen, while nice, isn’t the most comfortable (this is a personal preference thing though). I like thicker pens, which is why I usually sketch with a Sumo Grip.
- No CD/DVD drive built-in means downloading software or using USB.
- Only one USB 3.0 port.
The Surface Pro 3 packs a lot of firepower in a small package: Microsoft sees it as a laptop replacement, not just a tool for drawing.
Drawing Tablet Search Winner: Microsoft Surface Pro 3
The portability and functionality are why I bought a Surface Pro 3 (and by ‘bought’ I mean paying off over the next 12-months with zero interest. Hooray for good credit. Pay your bills, kids).
I decided, if I spent the money on a drawing tablet, I wanted something I could use for more than just drawing and I wanted it to be easily portable. The Motion LE1700 was a great portable drawing tablet, and cheap, but I wasn’t crazy about buying old technology via eBay (and the headaches of setting it up). The Wacom Cintiq offered the best drawing experience, but its portability was zero, and it could only be used with my laptop, not on its own.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 hit all the areas I wanted, so my choice was easy (coming to grips with the cost, however, was not).