EDITOR'S NOTE: Ron2k_1 of Belize City, Belize posted this very detailed review of the Wacom UP-911E pen over at the TabletPCReview forum and his post inspired me to order it so I could compare it head to head with the discontinued Axiotron Studio Pen (see my review "I have a new favorite tablet pc pen and you can't have it" Don't know why I'm really proud of that bitchy headline).

My pen should arrive within a week or two and I'll post my findings as soon as I can.

In the meantime, I asked Ron's permission to reprint his article and amazingly detailed photos here. The UP-911E is expensive at $90-and-up from third party Japanese sellers on ebay, but I am fond of bigger pens and you may like its size better than the only other two-button pen currently available, the Fujitsu T5000. 

The Wacom UP-911E

The Wacom UP-911E

GUEST POST by Ron2k_1, reprinted by permission from this TabletPCReview forums thread.

So I finally got a chance to go to the post office to clear my UP-911E Pen.

It all started after searching and searching for the ever-elusive Axiotron Studio Pen every digital artist out there venerated. I found the following website for reference and started looking for its closest match: Wacom Asia Pacific | Pen Compatibility

So, if you're still reading, here are my observations.

First, my lot of pens for visual reference if anybody else have any of my other pens:

Left to right: UP-911E, Bamboo Feel IT Carbon, Motion Computing, Surface Pro, Fujitsu Lifebook 5010, Lenovo x230t, Galaxy Note 2 pen

Left to right: UP-911E, Bamboo Feel IT Carbon, Motion Computing, Surface Pro, Fujitsu Lifebook 5010, Lenovo x230t, Galaxy Note 2 pen

And here are the specs of the above pens (Profile measurements):

First, the UP-911E as it is a very irregular shaped pen:

And for the others (Tried to keep in 16ths of an inch; 8/16 is 1/2 and 4/16 is 1/4 and so forth):
Pen-------------------------------Length------------Width (Profile)
Motion Computing-------5 12/16----------------7/16
Bamboo Feel Carbon--5 15/16--------------13/32
Surface Pro-------------------5 8/16----------------5/16
Fujitsu Lifebook-------------5 4/16----------------6/16
Lenovo x230t----------------5 2/16----------------6/16
Galaxy Note 2----------------4 7/16----------------4/16

I'm really not sure if the nibs used by the UP-911E are standard or not. I guess the only way to know is to buy a few and try them. But at least I can notice that the nibs used by Fujitsu, x230t, motion computing and UP-911E are all interchangeable and at the same length of 1 1/16" and same standard circumference. So if anybody can confirm that any of these pens use Standard nibs, then we can say that the UP-911E uses Standard Nibs as well, which would be great.

Still reading? Artists, this may be of interest to you:
On Photoshop on my Win 7 HP, i7 x230t, the UP-911E is almost as accurate (with very small nib offset) as the most accurate pen I've ever tried - my Bamboo Feel IT Carbon pen.

Here are some screen shots. First, the UP-911E (notice the cursor, not that off from the tip of nib):

Then, the Motion Computing (this one felt pretty bad..):

And finally, the dead-on-center Bamboo Feel IT:

Next, my pressure buildup test done on sketchbook pro. I tried to build pressure consistently with same amount of press with all three pens. The Bamboo Feel seems a bit thicker as it is heavier:

EDIT May 7, 2014: At the request of forum member dream3 in post # 5, I tested the three pens on light stroke mode. I tried several brushes (knife, pencil, air brush) and I had a hard time noticing any difference between the UP-911E and the Bamboo Feel IT pen. I believe that the Bamboo Feel IT is probably infinitesimally more responsive to very VERY light strokes but the weight of the pen may have something to do with it. On the other hand my Fuiji pen and Motion Computing pen require significantly more force to register the same pressure level

Now, here is where the UP-911E scored high marks. This pen is so comfortable to grip and make long strokes with. It is not as heavy as my Carbon pen (28g), or as light as my Fujitsu pen, but it weighs maybe a gram or two more than the motion computing pen, which according to surfaceproartist blog weighs 15g. So this pen weighs IMO around 16g or 17g.

Here are some screen shots of how it looks in your hand. Note that I'm not a leftie, but was forced to awkwardly hold it that way as I needed my right hand to take pictures:

Now for note-taking, I gotta say that my Carbon pen still reigns supreme. I can make short strokes and draw letters better and more comfortable and fluidly with my Bamboo Feel Carbon than any other pen I've tried; even my newest addition UP-911E. Here are the results:

On my Galaxy Note 2, nothing beats the stock 4.5" pen. I remember reading that the digitizer on the Galaxy Note 2 were slightly different than the standard Wacom digitizer.

To wrap up, this pen cost US$90 from a Japanese supplier (which reminds me, I need to leave him some feedback) on ebay. It arrived super fast and in a very secured outer package. I didn't take pics of that package but I took pics of the inner package which is the UP-911E box that is labeled Cintiq on the outside:

Contents: Regular hard white nibs, rubber grip with no aperture for side button, Pen Stand, spare side button. That's it, no nib removal ring or additional nibs...

Contents: Regular hard white nibs, rubber grip with no aperture for side button, Pen Stand, spare side button. That's it, no nib removal ring or additional nibs...

If you notice from above it even came with a little stand:

If you were brave enough to read all that and still have questions, just shoot them up (at the original TabletPCReview forum thread located here).

I won't waste too much virtual ink on this review because it's very likely you won't be able to get your hands on this device.  But in the event you ever come across someone selling an Axiotron Studio Pen, my advice is simple: buy it! 

Axiotron was the company that first brought the Modbook to market in 2007. Modbooks are Apple MacBooks modified with Wacom touch screens. They're wonderful devices but very expensive.

Axiotron closed up shop shortly after the release of Apple's iPad. One of its founders Andreas Haas revived the concept and now markets the devices as Modbook, Inc. Unfortunately, the new Modbooks use a very basic tablet pc stylus I reviewed here.

The original Axiotron Studio Pen was much closer to the high end pens Wacom produces for its Cintiqs.

Plain Jane wrapping is nothing to write home about, but I include it here to show the model number of the pen I am writing about. Hopefully it will aid in your future online treasure hunts.

The Studio Pen is signficantly longer (6.2 inches) than other tablet pc pens. The Modbook Pro Digitizer Pen is 5.6 inches, the Motion Computing pen is 5.8 inches and the capped Wacom Bamboo Sylus Feel is 5.95 inches.

The Studio Pen is also flared, so it's approximately .10 inch wider than all the other pens I've tested at its thickest point. It has a dual button rocker with a large, comfortable rubber grip that's at least .25 inch longer than the grip on the Motion Computing pen.  And last but not least, the Studio Pen features nice big eraser tip.

The Axiotron Studio Pen (center) is the largest tablet pc stylus I've tested. Its replacement, the white Modbook tablet pc pen is extremely generic and too light and small for my tastes. The closest pen still in production is the Motion Computing stylus (second from bottom), but its grip and single button are much smaller. The Wacom Bamboo Stylus Feel Carbon is pictured at the top and the standard Surface Pro pen is at the bottom.

I found this pen used, so I'm not sure if the nib assortment was standard, but my pen came with a large array of hard, soft and flex nibs and even a replacement button and grip.

The Studio Pen package I bought used included a large assortment of replacment nibs, two extraction rings, a replacement button and a replacement grip. 

The pen is slightly lighter than the Wacom Feel, but its heft feels almost perfect to me. 

I can't find a reason to complain about the Axiotron. I'm just happy that I get to use it on the Surface Pro and my other Windows 8 tablets. Let's hope Wacom or Modbook see fit to offer something similar in the near future.

UPDATE: Reader Pat pointed out in the comments section below that the Axiotron is slightly less accurate than the Wacom Bamboo Stylus. I hadn't noticed this to be the case until I ran a side-by-side test. The slight offset of the cursor to the nib isn't terribly distracting and I quickly forgot about it as I began to draw. The only time where the accuracy becomes an issue is in targeting very fine points in the UI. As I mentioned in my response below, hitting the ultra-narrow scroll bars in Manga Studio is difficult with any pen, but nearly impossible with Axiotron.

A while back, a reader asked  about replacement nibs for the Surface Pro pen.  I hadn't considered the question until that moment because many months ago I had replaced my standard pen with a Wacom Bamboo Stylus Feel - Carbon (a name only a Japanese company could bring to market).

Unlike the standard stylus, all replacement pens come with extra pen nibs. In addition to the Carbon, I've purchased three other Surface Pro compatible pens and I had assumed all along that  the nibs were interchangeable. That assumption turned out to be incorrect. 

The standard Surface Pro pen's blue nib (center) doesn't match either the older wider nib above or the shorter Stylus Feel nib below.

The older Samsung and Wacom stylii I reviewed here have a wider diameter and don't fit in the Surface Pro pen's barrel.

The nibs for the Bamboo Stylus Feel pens are the correct diameter, but almost imperceptibly shorter in length.  Before realizing this, I put a Feel nib into the Surface Pro pen and had a devil of a time pulling it out again.  I've seen some posts on the TabletPCReview.com forums state that the nibs are compatible. They are not.    Take my word for this, DON'T TRY IT AT HOME!

Searching the Microsoft online store turned up no replacement nibs for sale.

Recently, the official Microsoft Surface blog posted a feature dedicated to the Surface Pro pen that included a new email address for "like-minded pen enthusiasts." I wrote asking for advice about nib replacements. Last night, Microsoft's Markus Weickenmeier, whose title is Manager - Surface wrote back confirming that Microsoft doesn't sell nib replacements.

So when your nib wears down (and it will), the only Microsoft solution is a replacement pen for $30. 

My advice is to pick up one of the available alternative stylii and store the standard pen as a collectible or for when you pass it along on eBay or Gazelle. Although the alternatives cost the same or more, they feel better to write and draw with and come with several replacement nibs. And when you run out of those, additional sets of five nibs cost only $5 - $10 direct from the Wacom Store. 

Wacom Customer Care overview of how and when to change the nib of a Bamboo or Bamboo Fun pen. The tips provided here apply to Surface Pro compatible stylii as well.


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After writing my review of the two Wacom Bamboo Stylus feel replacement pens for the Surface Pro, I honestly thought the debate was settled: those two options are clearly better than the standard pen that ships with the Microsoft tablet and it's really a personal/monetary call as to which you decide to buy.

Therefore I was a bit surprised this week when cartoonist Joel Watson, creator of HijiNKS ENSUE (gotta get that capitalization right!) tweeted his displeasure with the Surface Pro ("I want to redesign nearly every aspect of it") and the Wacom Bamboo Stylus in particular ("That one's awful.")

As I remind every reader constantly, I'm no artist, so I really wanted to understand what a professional found wrong with the pens. There was no sense trying to change his mind about the Surface Pro because I agree with most of his complaints; I just believe that warts and all, the Surface Pro is still the best "poor man's Cintiq" on the market. 

@hijinksensue's complaints about the Wacom pens rang true to me: "can’t find the button without looking at it, no eraser and the textured tip has too much resistance." 

He suggested I look at the following pen options, two nearly identical options built by Wacom and Samsung respectively for the prior generation of Series 7 Slate pc's. 

The generically named Digitizer Pen Stylet and Penabled Tablet PC Eraser Pen ship in suitably generic packaging.

The generically named Penabled Tablet Pc Eraser Pen (Model UP710E) by Wacom sells for $27 on Amazon.com. It features a pressure-sensitive tip, a single-side switch and a pressure-sensitive eraser. The pen is 5.5 x 1.5 x 0.5 inches  and weighs 1 ounce according to the product specification page.

The nearly identical  Samsung Electronics Slate PC Digitizer Pen (AA-DP0NE2B/US) sells for $34.58. The product specs page says that this stylus is 7.4 x 2 x 0.7 inches  and weighs 0.5 ounces. One or both of these descriptions is clearly wrong, as the pens are the exact same length. It's possible that one weighs more than the other, but the difference is too small for me to notice. From tip to eraser, I measure the pens at 5.5 inches long.

The barrel of the Wacom version is slightly wider, which I prefer. The Samsung pen has a clip which the Wacom lacks. Both are significantly smaller and lighter than the Bamboo Feel Carbon and Black. Judging by weight and finish alone, I'd pick the Bamboo Stylus Feel Black because I prefer its matte finish. 

Although they're both plastic, I do prefer the finish of the Wacom and Samsung pens over the standard Surface Pro stylus, whose slick finish and thin diameter just doesn't feel right in the hand. The buttons on the Wacom and Samsung pens are also slightly curved so they slightly cradle the index finger vs. the flat Surface Pro button. 

I absolutely agree with Joel that that the raised button and eraser tips on both pens are a huge improvement over the Bamboos.  I'm either always accidentally pushing the flush Bamboo button or searching for it to activate a feature. I've mapped Undo to the button, but that's mostly because the Bamboo Feels omit the eraser tip. Why do manufacturers make such odd design choices, especially on an $80 pen? Are they conscious decisions meant to protect existing higher end products? 

The Samsung Digitizer Pen/Stylet (left) and the Wacom Penabled Tablet PC Eraser Pen each ship with five nibs and an extractor ring.

Both pens ship with five plastic nibs. Here's where I have to disagree with Joel: I can't appreciate any difference drawing with them vs. the Bamboos with their plastic nibs installed. I actually preferred the textured nibs that the Bamboos also include by default. The tactile feedback is just enough to convince me that I'm not gliding on glass. But it's nice to have the option, which the two less expensive stylii don't offer.

In my quick tests in Manga Studio, I found that Samsung pen's pressure response seemed a little higher than the Wacom stylus. But once again, I can't offer a precise measurement beyond my "feel." That's the odd thing about pressure sensitivity. You can't really appreciate it except when it's missing.

So will I switch? I respect you Joel, but no I won't: I simply prefer the weight, balance and finish of the Bamboos. But if I have a project where I need to have the button and eraser at the ready, I'll have no problem making the switch then.

Between the Samsung and the Wacom, I'll have to go with the Wacom, due to its slightly lower price, larger girth and the lack of a clip, which I find distracting in my hand.

So what do you think? What's your personal preference? Am I right or wildly off the mark? Do you know of any other pens I should test?  I look forward to reading your comments below. 

Never mind the lens distortion: the Bamboo Stylii are signifcantly larger than the standard, Samsung or Wacom options.


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One of the happiest developments that have resulted from my starting this blog is that I have discovered or been reintroduced to a lot of fun and useful software. As even the most casual of blog readers can tell, I am an unabashed software collector. If a creative tool exists, I find a way to justify adding it to my arsenal. 

I first purchased Manga Studio many years ago for my daughter who is a manga fan and aspiring creator. I liked the specialized panel creation tools, tones and other comic-specific goodies the software included, but I never took the time to learn it or look beneath the surface. 

About a month ago, a reader asked whether Manga Studio 5 ran on the Surface Pro. Being the dutiful servant that I am, I upgraded my existing copy to the latest version. 

The software seemed to run very well on the tablet, but that would have been the extent of my testing were it not for the endorsement of a couple of digital comics artists who raved about version 5's improved brush engine. 

Now, it's important to note that despite running this blog, I am not an artist. I grew up loving comics and drew as a kid, but I quickly realized I wasn't good enough to draw them professionally. From the moment I got my first Amiga, I have satisfied my creative impulses with 3d modeling. As the decades passed, I thought I had lost my drawing ability altogether. The most I can ever manage are the loosest and sloppiest of sketches. 

But armed with the Surface Pro, the Wacom Bamboo Feel Stylus - Carbon and Manga Studio 5, I decided it was time to see if I could reawaken the lost muscle memory required to reasonably mimic a professional comic illustration.

It was too much to ask myself to try to create an original drawing while also learning the peculiarities of Manga Studio, so I decided instead to go back to my favorite Silver Age Marvel artists John Buscema and John Romita, Sr. 

John Buscema rough layout for Avengers, featuring the Vision and the Scarlet Witch

My first inking attempt was over a Buscema rough layout. I quickly realized that this was a bridge too far for a first project. Next, I found a great full page Conan the Barbarian sketch, but I wasn't happy with the quality of the lines I was getting with Manga Studio's default brush settings. 

I almost gave up this experiment at that point, but then I found the Frenden Manga Studio 5 brush presetsThis amazing collection is only $5 and made a world of difference. Suddenly, my pen strokes didn't look quite as dubious.

Frenden Manga Studio 5 brush presets

John Buscema cover for Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #124.

For my third experiment, I decided that I needed to ink over a cleaner, bolder image and the cover of one of my favorite comics of all time leapt to mind: Amazing Spider-Man #121, teasing arguably the most memorable story of all time, "The Night Gwen Stacy Died."

With its big bold Spider-Man in the foreground and its collection of portraits of the supporting cast, this cover was both simple enough and demanding enough to try to reproduce seriously. 

Amazing Spider-Man #121, The Night Gwen Stacy Died cover by John Romita, Sr.

Manga Studio is quite easy to use for anyone familiar with other drawing and painting applications. Not all functionality is immediately available on the toolbar. Many important items like the panel creation and editing functions are contained in so-called sub-tools. This is not ideal for the new user because there doesn't appear to be any way to merely discover them. You need to know what you're looking for and know exactly where to look to find them. In fact, I came across a YouTube review of Manga Studio 5 that erroneously advised users of Version 4 EX to stay away from 5 until the EX version is released later this summer because the panel creation tools had been eliminated!

Another odd design choice is that the software does not appear to have an eye dropper for color sampling. As I was coloring my page, there were various times when I would have liked to bounce between a handful of colors and an improved color picker would have made a huge difference.  CORRECTION: Manga Studio does have an eye dropper, but it's not in the color picker section. It's located in the toolbox. A very odd design choice indeed!

Some Surface Pro-specific observations: the software runs well, but saving and loading to the SD card can be very slow. A couple of times, Windows reported that the software had stopped responding when it was actually just waiting for the SD card to respond. A multi-purpose zoom and move tool like Sketchbook Pro's would be a godsend. The left-right scroll bar is small and difficult to hit with the pen or finger. Overall, the interface is pretty crowded on the Surface display, although it is possible to contract and expand toolbars easily. The Wacom stylus' recessed button is hard to avoid and it occasionally caused colors or tools to swap (I couldn't get the behavior to reproduce every time). Also, the pen will infrequently leave stray marks on the drawing that are nowhere near the nib.  

One function I liked a lot was the ability to rotate the canvas 90 degrees without changing the artwork size this makes it possible to frame up however much or little of the art as required. Also, physically rotating the Surface to whatever angle I needed really brought me back to the joy of drawing on a sheet of paper. 

Don't judge me too harshly.

Don't judge me too harshly.

My final result is by no means perfect: line weights are wrong or inconsistent, my draftsmanship is shaky and my coloring is the pits. I especially rushed the latter because I wanted to get this post published. Despite the crappy work, I think the results are encouraging enough for me to declare that I'm going to keep at it. Manga Studio 5 is the real deal and in the hands of a true artist, it will yield amazing results.

If you're interested in learning more about inking and painting in Manga Studio, Smith Micro offers a series of excellent video tutorials by professional comics artist Doug Hills. The video below demonstrates the inking process. 

New attempt at Conan with stabilization at 50: you might (almost) believe a man can ink.

UPDATE: Further experimentation led me to discover that I was not utilizing one of Manga Studio's most beneficial features: stabilization. The pens I used in the image above only had their stabilization set to about 3, where the range is up to 100. Cranking the value up smooths out wobbly and sketchy lines and results in instantly more confident line art. The higher the setting, the greater the lag so it will be up to you to find a setting that works for you. Quoting Ray Frenden, "(Stabilization in Manga Studio 5) doesn't feel like cheating, it feels like a reasonable step to combat the infidelity of our hardware."  


Another childhood favorite: Frank Brunner's Howard the Duck striking a Conan pose

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Manga Studio 5
Smith Micro Software Inc.
AuthorRick Rodriguez
2 CommentsPost a comment