Surface Redux

Let’s get this out of the way: if I had the money I’d buy the Cintiq Companion 2.

Ok, now on to the business at hand.

Those of you who’ve read the blog before will have seen my somewhat instant romance and subsequent falling out with the surface pro. The biggest problem with it? the pen nib (made out of something like .001pence worth of plastic) literally wore down in days. Microsoft sent me some replacement nibs, but buy then (three days or so) of owning it, I’d lost my -already somewhat wobbly-faith in the device as a whole. And given I’d spent £1,099 on the top end Surface Pro 3 (i7, 256Gb, 8Gb RAM) to replace my extant Macbook Pro and Cintiq 12″ device – a system that worked perfectly for years – I knew I’d end up using the mac & cintiq and could no longer justify the money on the surface pro.

So I returned it.

But I still missed it. I missed having a portable device I could do finished comic book work on. I went on holiday lamenting the lack of surface pro (or any decent device). I bought with me the macbook pro and an old graphics tablet that would do the job in a pinch.

But, on holiday and feeling low, I pottered in to PC World and did some calculation and in a moment of weakness I bought another one. This time rather than top of the range, I went mid range – the i5 with 4Gb RAM and 128Gb hard drive, and given the UK/EU exchange rate, I managed to pick it up for £690 (the UK price in PCWorld has it at £739)

I reset my goals, rather than replace my existing system this would work in conjunction with it. Rather than replace my still very good macbook pro, it would replace my old and ropey ipad (which I use at my drawing table for looking up reference, checking email, reading scripts, and so on) – that meant I wouldn’t be doing high end stuff on it (though, to be honest, I don’t do “high end” stuff, but I always feel uncomfortable unless I’m buying as good as my budget allows).

On testing though, what I found, was that there’s NOT a significant different between the £1099 and the £690 surface pros, at least not as far as Manga Studio is concerned. Certainly, if I were to use some of the more complicated natural media brushes that mix colours as they draw I might notice a slow down, but I’m running 600dpi A3 sized images – which are actually way way larger than they need, if I was serious about colour and needed speed, I’d probably reduce those down to 300dpi without any great loss of fidelity when they finally print.

The surface pro has a fan but I’ve never found it to kick in or even get hot when I’m running Manga Studio – in fact, if it does kick in, I’ll usually find it’s because a background app is running (and I’ll boot that app and things will cool down).

I’ve set up drop box on the surface pro, and I store multi story manga studio files on their, which means any edits I make on the surface pro are uploaded to dropbox and available on my macbook pro pretty quickly. (Where the macbook pro then takes care of backups).

Not sure what happens if I try and edit the same file on both, or indeed what happens when they get out of sync – hopefully dropbox will take care of it, but because I’ve set up the files to only open one page at a time (and it saves between changing pages) the worse that’ll happen is I’ll lose one page (but since I work traditionally, that might only mean I’ll have to rescan something and I may have lost an hour or two of edits).

It’s lovely to be able to sit in the living room and do some of the more mundane manga studio tasks (I scanned 11 pages yesterday, dropping each into the correct page on manga studio – granted I had to keep walking in to the studio to replace the page being scanned, but I WAS unchained from the computer desk!).

Oh, and on the pen nib front: I’ve readjusted the sensitivity of the pen so it uses a lighter touch so hopefully I’ll wear the pen down a lot less, though, I wish it was as sensitive as my cintiq which can give a line with just the lightest feather touch, the surface requires some amount of pressure to get any sort of line.


Author: PJ

PJ is a Belfast based comic artist, and has been for some time.