MobileStudio Pro (Tech)
Wacom is back with an all new device, the MobileStudio Pro, an all-in-one drawing tablet/computer that will allow you to work virtually anywhere with impressive results. I was able to get some hands-on time with their 13 inch model of the MobileStudio and now I’m not sure I’ll be using anything else. Come inside to check out my full review!
Wacom has long been the leader in digital drawing tablets for artists of all levels, and the choice of many professionals throughout various industries. Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate to get to mess around with some of their most recent releases and they continue to get better and better. As I have started doing more professional work throughout the years, I’ve been able to appreciate more and more the work that goes into the tablets, and figuring out EXACTLY what I need as an artist to produce the best possible work.
That said, so far, all of my drawing tablet experience has been limited to a computer attached one, in which you have to still look at a separate screen in order to draw. It’s the way I’ve been doing it for several years (on different tablets), so I’m not complaining, it just requires a different way to work. When Wacom announced the MobileStudio tablets, I knew I had to try it out and see how, the all in one tablet/screen drawing experience would be. To put it succinctly...it’s pretty amazing, but that’s in no small part to how much awesomeness is packed into the device.
MobileStudio Pro comes in two different models; a 16-inch version and a 13-inch version. My review is based off the slightly smaller one, but they share many similarities. The version I have for review purposes is the 13 inch model with these specs:
• Intel® CoreTM i7
• 512GB SSD
• 16GB DDR3
• Intel® IrisTM Graphics 550
• Intel® RealSenseTM 3D camera and scanning software
It’s an awful lot of hardware packed into a tablet that feels relatively small/light weight. It’s long/wide enough to make working on it easy and natural, but is far from bulky. It’s relatively thin, but feels solidly built. There’s nothing flimsy about it so you don’t feel like you’re going to break it as you’re working.
For the most part, my use with it came from sitting down in the living room with my family and propping it up on a pillow in my lap. I didn’t have any problems working in such a relaxed fashion, as the MobileStudio strikes a great balance in its form. It’s easy enough to use casually and in a more formal (i.e. desktop) setting.
Also in the box is the new Wacom Pro Pen 2, and upgrade over their previous Pro Pen model, that makes drawing more fluid than ever. It packs in more sensitivity and accuracy, while accounting for any tilting in your drawing. In this way, it feels even more like a regular drawing tool than ever before (I’ve used quite a few of their pens).
Because it accounts for the tilt in the pen nib, you can change the shape/angle of your line strokes based on how you’re holding it. It may seem like a small thing, but it’s details like this that blur the line between digital and pen/paper drawing. There are no batteries or charging needed for it either, making it all the more impressive that there’s virtually NO lag.
Seriously, in all the work I did for my testing period, I can’t think of any lag I noticed between the stroke of the pen and what appeared on the screen. When I made a line, it showed up as I was working which makes drawing so much easier. Granted, if you’ve used any of their recent computer tablets (from the Intuos line), there isn’t much lag to be noticed either. Whatever lag is present, is miniscule, and the Pen Pro 2 for the MobileStudio makes it non-existent.
Lastly, I can’t help but mention the case that comes with the Pen. It has nothing to do with making your drawing better, and certainly if it wasn’t there, you’d still be able to use the device without problems...but it’s damn cool. The carrying case is a protective cylinder, so you can store the pen, throw it in your bag and go without worrying, that opens up to conceal the Pen Pro. It’s just really neat. On top of being a protective case, it also holds the spare nibs, and removal tool (built in) for swapping them out. It’s kind of superfluous, but adds to the overall experience of having a MobileStudio.
Being an all-in-one device, there’s a little more setup involved for the MobileStudio Pro than some of Wacom’s other products. It’s a computer, running off of Windows 10, so when you take it out of the box you have to do a bunch of start-up procedures just like you would with any new computer (language, account sign-in, and any updates).
Once that’s done you’ll have to setup the touch settings and Expresskeys the way you want them. The MobileStudio Pro 13 comes with a total of six Expresskeys (eight for the bigger model) on the side, two built into the pen, and a circular “wheel” that can be programmed as well. Each of these buttons can be customized to suit your specific workflow needs. The default settings aren’t bad, but you’ll definitely want to change them up.
Personally, I like to have a key setup for easy brush access, “undo”, and a few other shortcuts I use most often. If you need more customization, there’s also the on-screen radial menu you can adjust and add more shortcuts to. If you’ve used any of Wacom’s products in the past, this part is the same as always and instantly familiar. If this is your first Wacom tablet, it walks you through this process pretty easily.
After that, you’ll need to download your drawing programs of choice. I use Adobe CC, so it was easy to log-in and download the software I wanted. Better yet, with their Adobe Cloud system, it was a breeze to transfer over my brushes, custom color swatches, and templates.
If it seems like a lot of setup before you can get down to work...it is. It’s significantly more involved than Wacom’s plug-in and go tablets that hook to your computer, but it’s not really a bad thing. It’s roughly the same amount of time (or less) you would spend in setting up a new personal computer before you can use it normally. Looking at all that it can do, and the quality of it, the extended setup time isn’t a big deal at all.
That’s all the technical (boring) stuff out of the way, so let’s talk about what’s most important when it comes to a drawing tablet: how it FEELS. The display itself uses and etched glass surface, so on top of presenting glorious high resolution (up to 4K depending on the model and power), this etching gives the surface a textured quality to it.
The added friction makes it (almost) feel exactly like you’re drawing on paper. The sensation isn’t exact, but it’s about the closest thing I’ve ever felt to regular paper drawing than anything else on the market. Normally, there’s a bit of a learning curve when you get a new tablet, as you have to adjust yourself to how the surface feels when you draw. Wacom has made improvements over the years, but even so, most of them still took a bit of time to grow accustomed to before you feel like you’re drawing normally. There was no adjustment period with the MoblieStudio.
Once I got everything setup, I was able to start drawing without any noticeable difference. It felt just like I was picking up a pencil and sketching like normal. For the past couple years, I’ve been fortunate to work for Topps on their various Sketch Card series, which means hundreds of cards drawn traditionally.
Last year, when I swapped back over to digital drawing, the difference between paper and tablet really threw me off. I had to re-learn how to draw on my tablet. With the MobileStudio, I went straight from working on a sketch card to the tablet without a hiccup. It was a smooth transition and really hammered home, to me, how much the surface feels like traditional drawing. It’s something that should make any artist incredibly happy about.
* I never encountered any overheating issues in my testing of the MobileStudio. While it will, understandably warm up throughout use, it never got to the point where I was worried for it...And I used it for several hours at a time.
* As the name implies, the MobileStudio is designed to be...mobile. As such the battery life on the system is passable, but not great. Ostensibly you’ll get 6 hours of life out of the battery when unplugged from the charger, but that drops quickly depending on how much strain you put on the processors. Running a couple Adobe products and working back and forth between them made my battery life cut short by a couple hours.
Again, it’s not terrible, and if you’re trying to get some work done during a lunch break or something, it’s no big deal. For extended sessions, however, you’ll want to have your charger handy.
* The MobileStudio connects to the internet, so you can use it for browsing online, checking mail/social feeds, and includes a digital keyboard for you to do so easily. In this way, it works pretty well for a general tablet, but obviously that’s not its primary purpose and won’t be sustainable as one either. Instead, those features work best when used as other tools for your work.
I enjoyed being able to browse online quickly for reference images that I could use to assist my drawing. It also makes it easy to find new tools to add to your software, while enabling you to easily share the work you’ve done (social feeds, Patreon, or even traditional printing stuff).
* There’s no traditional USB ports on the device, so you can’t plug in just any accessory. This isn’t a deal-breaker by any stretch of the imagination, though. It does come with an SD card slot to make transferring data over pretty easily.
* One of the biggest features (though one I couldn’t fully utilize) is the 3D camera that allows you to scan/track objects in the real world in order to bring them into a 3D workspace. It’s neat technology, but if you don’t work much in 3D, might not appeal to you. Still, it’s a great option to have available as it is never a bad thing to have MORE tools at your disposal.