The Virtual Tablet app is available in both the Windows and Google Play app stores.

The Virtual Tablet app is available in both the Windows and Google Play app stores.

I'm often asked whether a Surface Pro or other Windows penabled device could do double duty as a virtual Wacom Intuos or Bamboo tablet . Although remote control of a desktop pc is possible from any tablet, including iPads, I hadn't found a setup that didn't lag or that properly passed along pen pressure until today.

Virtual Tablet from Sunnysidesoft is the first Windows or Android app I've come across that comes close to duplicating the functionality of a pen tablet over wifi.

In my tests with the Windows app running on the Asus Vivotab Note 8 and the Android version running on the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, I was able to draw effortlessly on my desktop copies of Manga Studio and Sketchbook Pro. Lag on those two apps was barely perceptible and pressure range is excellent.

I also tested Virtual Tablet with Photoshop, but pressure information is not communicated. According to the developers' website, "(This is) because Adobe applications use different device driver for supporting pressure sensitivity. We are developing a new driver for Photoshop right now. However, we can’t promise when it will be ready." Dreaded Wintab requirement strikes again! 

The reason Virtual Tablet performs so well may be that unlike other remote control options, it doesn't attempt to reproduce your target screen on your tablet. You'll only see a bounding box representing your target screen. You can pinch zoom in and out of the target area and lock it as well. UPDATE: These are Android-only options. The Windows version only allows full-screen or a default size that leaves a title bar. This is unfortunate because it's easier to reach icons on the sides and bottom of the screen when you reduce the size of the active window slightly.

As you hover around the tablet screen with your pen, your cursor will move on your desktop screen. The pen pointer was displayed as a small pixel on my display. I assume that's a Windows system setting, but I was unable to find the spot to change it. Because the pointer is so small on my 1920x1080 23-inch monitor, it was easy for me to lose sight of it at the top and bottom of the screen. It would be nice if the app offered some way to temporarily change the pointer while in control.

Besides providing even greater functionality for your mobile device, Virtual Tablet makes it possible to control software that would otherwise be incompatible. For example, The Foundry's Mari requires an NVIDIA or AMD graphics card with at least 1GB of RAM. But I was able to paint in the application from the Note Pro. The same should be true for Mudbox and any other app that is problematic on Intel HD graphics hardware. (I can't vouch for pressure sensitivity in Mari because I'm not familiar enough with it to test it properly.) UPDATE: I finally found a meaningful use for my AVTN8. It's a great input device for Mudbox on my desktop while Autodesk continues to grapple with Intel HD graphics compatibility.

To use Virtual Tablet with your desktop, you first need to download the free server application for either Windows or Mac (eraser tip functions are not yet supported in OS X).

Compatibility information from the developers website:

VirtualTablet requires devices with “pressure sensitive stylus pen with hover mode.". As far as we know this functionalities only available with Wacom Digitizer Stylus technology (Samsung Galaxy Note series, few ASUS tablets, and most of Windows Tablets are based on this pen).

Usually capacitive touch pens don’t support pressure sensitivity and hover mode, even though it seems like ‘stylus pen’. This capacitive touch pens are just same as using your finger. Therefore it is not supported by VirtualTablet.

Supported: Galaxy Note series, few ASUS tablets, Windows Tablet(MS Surface, Slate 7, ATIV, ASUS Eee Slate, etc.)

NOT supported: Galaxy Tab, ASUS tablet, Nexus Tablets (Nexus 7, 10), HP TouchPad and other usual tablets & phones.

Virtual Tablet is available as a free trial, but for only $1.99 for the Windows Store version and $1.86 for Android, it's an absolute no-brainer.

Virtual Tablet requires a free server application running on your Windows or Mac desktop.

Virtual Tablet requires a free server application running on your Windows or Mac desktop.

This brief review may seem a little out of place for a site dedicated to the Surface Pro and other Windows tablets and convertibles. But if you've read enough of these posts, you'll know that I'm fairly tech agnostic. Like many of you, I'm willing to look under any rock to find the ideal device to satisfy my creative urges. 

When the iPad was first introduced in 2010, I was primed for just such a content consumption device. But the touch interface and the many pens and art apps that were eventually released for the iPad hinted at a greater opportunity: the possibility of producing real work on a tablet. 

The Surface Pro and other Windows 8 devices I write about here have largely addressed the working side of the equation. But that productivity has come at a price: added thickness, weight, heat and shorter battery life. And truth be told, Windows 8 has yet to deliver the diversity of entertainment apps and the couch surfing elegance of iOS. 

The Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 and its tiny S-Pen. It includes an extractor and five replacement nibs.

At first glance, the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 appears to be the tablet I always dreamed possible: roomy 12.2 inch screen, 1.45 mm thinner than the iPad 3 and only 100 grams or .21 lbs heavier. And to top it off, an ultra high resolution display (2560 x 1600) with a Wacom active digitizer. 

Clearly, the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is designed for the power tablet user and at $749 for the 32 GB model I've been testing, it's not cheap. But compared to the pricing of the 32 GB iPad, a $150 premium seems reasonable for the additional screen size and Wacom tech. 

Battery life is outstanding (at least 10 hours) and the fanless tablet is still very cool to the touch. The faux stitched leather back has been ridiculed by some, but I personally think it feels great in my hands. I saw one review criticize its weight and just had to laugh. If this is heavy, what does the reviewer think of the Surface Pro? 

I'll let other tech blogs quibble about Android's suitability for business use and the merits or weaknesses of Samsung's heavy handed UI choices.  I personally don't care for any flavor of Android I've ever tested, including plain vanilla. Customization is fine, but Android options are out of control. I find the whole experience confusing and redundant. But frankly, that's all very secondary.  

I have two simple ambitions for my ideal tablet: entertainment consumption and digital art creation. No faux office apps for this guy! 

I'm a big digital magazine and comic reader and the reason I've always lusted after a bigger screen tablet is to avoid having to read reduced pages.  

For example, an issue of 3D World magazine is printed at 8.7 x 11.8 inches. To read that on an iPad, the page has to be reduced by 34%. On a Surface Pro, the page width must be reduced by 40%! On the Galaxy Note Pro, the page width only needs to be shrunk 25%. (Page height will fit with only 13% reduction on the SGNP; I'm still pining for a tablet with the aspect ratio of paper rather than 16:9 video). A 9% size increase may not seem like a lot, but when you're looking at fine magazine print it makes a big difference in readability. 

Comixology's Comics app running side by side on the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 vs. the Surface Pro 2. Though only 15% larger, size matters.

It's difficult to justify the $750 price tag for only e-reading, but until Amazon can come up with a larger sized, bargain priced Kindle Fire HDX, the Note Pro 12.2 is the best option magazine and comics buyers. (If you're a Marvel Unlimited subscriber, be aware that the Android app doesn't scale single pages correctly on the Note Pro's high resolution screen.) 

On the digital art creation side, the only widely known app available for Android is Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro.  Coming from the Windows desktop version, however, this edition feels slightly undercooked. Basic settings such as dpi are missing and file handling is a bit of a mystery. For example to load a file, you must first select Gallery which will display previously saved SBP projects. Over on the right side of the Gallery page, you click on a dropdown to select New from image. Then you click on the source directory and finally navigate to your picture. 

Forced to draw with the S-Pen stylus in Sketchbook Pro, I really missed Manga Studio's brush stabilization and the control offered by the replacement pens available for Windows tablets.

Forced to draw with the S-Pen stylus in Sketchbook Pro, I really missed Manga Studio's brush stabilization and the control offered by the replacement pens available for Windows tablets.

Drawing with the S-Pen is very smooth and responsive, but overall I felt a lack of control perhaps due to the tiny size of the stylus. Wacom compatible tablet pc pens will work on the Note Pro, but the pointer doesn't align perfectly with the pen tip. Every replacement pen I tested had the same issue: drawing takes place slightly below the nib, making it next to impossible to draw precisely. 

If you don't mind Sketchbook Pro for Android's quirks, and you have small hands or are accustomed to the S-Pen from other Samsung devices, this tablet is great for sketching on the go. Unfortunately, if you've been spoiled by Windows desktop apps like Photoshop or Manga Studio and/or prefer a heftier stylus, the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 won't quite cut it.

UPDATE: Make sure to read the comments section for a great list of alternative paint apps to try as well as some S-Pen calibration tips. SurfaceProArtist readers are awesome! 

I can't recommend this device for serious artists, but for light doodling and entertainment consumption, it's the best tablet available and I would love to see Samsung take another crack at the Windows platform. 


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AuthorRick Rodriguez
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A report has surfaced on ZDNet Korea that Samsung is having patent issues with the ATIV Q. The Google translation is so wonky that it is very difficult to understand, but two English language blogs, The Droid Guy and  Pocketnow are speculating that this may be the reason why new information about the device has been so difficult to find since it was first announced earlier this summer.

Pocketnow's Stephen Schenck writes "it’s apparently tied to the dual-OS feature that’s one of the tablet’s big claims to fame."

This is also odd, considering Samsung's partner Wacom just this week announced a dual OS tablet, the Cintiq Companion Hybrid.  Are royalty payments partially responsible for the Hybrid's high cost?

We could care less about the Android integration and if this is indeed the issue, we hope Samsung will come up with a replacement device that keeps the 13.3-inch screen size and Wacom digitizer, bumps the Haswell processor to a Core i7, and adds 4 GB of RAM. We won't even mind if they drop the super hi-res screen display down to a standard 1920x1080. And perhaps dropping that screen might bring the pricetag below $1000?

That's all I want in a Surface Pro replacement. Wonder what manufacturer will be the first to make it a reality? 

AuthorRick Rodriguez

You may recall the kerfuffle when Oprah Winfrey tweeted that the Surface RT was one of her "favorite things"...from an iPad. Pretty embarrassing (and I hope Microsoft got its promotional dollars back).

So it was with some trepidation that I decided to write this post using the iOS Squarespace app. Yes, the creation of this blog has been 100% Windows so far, but that doesn't mean I won't need to write something on the run in the future.

And most importantly, we're fairly OS agnostic here. We'll use anything so long as it gets the job done. We fully intend to do head to head comparisons between the Surface Pro, iPad, Nexus 7 and any other device that might fit in a professional or hobbyist artist's toolkit.

And to prove it, here's an oldie but goodie speed painting video from iPad artist David Jon Kassan, who works miracles with his finger tips. We're not worthy.