Revision 3's Technobuffalo has put together an excellent introductory video to the new Surface Pro 3 pen. Host Jon Rettinger focuses primarily on OneNote, but there are a couple of shots in the video that zoom in to demonstrate the accuracy of the pen tip. Well worth five minutes of your time.

Surface Pen Hands-On  

Surface Pro 3 Unboxing: The Surface Pro 3 is Microsoft's new all-arounder, a device designed for both work and play. This is the company's most recent attempt at reinventing the laptop/tablet hybrid, and the company's message is crystal clear: it's going straight after Apple's MacBook Air.

AuthorRick Rodriguez
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The Surface Pro 3 went on sale this morning and I dutifully pre-ordered a lower end unit. I was planning to buy the entry level i3 $799 model but the Microsoft Store reports that it won't be available until August 31.

So I bought the next size up, the $999 i5/128 GB. That device ships on June 20.

This purchase feels unusual for me because I usually buy the "sweet spot" model, just under the highest end version available.  But in the case of the Surface Pro 3, I'm just not sure that the premium is warranted for the added storage of the $1299 model or the Core i7 in the $1549 or (gasp) $1949 versions.

To be clear, I think the average consumer is going to love the Surface Pro 3 as it addresses nearly every concern I've had with the first two generations. For that theoretical individual, I'd recommend spending the extra $300 for the i5/256.

I got into New York just in time yesterday to attend the last hour of a tech pundit tweetup hosted by Mary Jo Foley. It was a thrill to meet her and my favorite Windows-centric journalists Paul Thurrott and Ed Bott.

Foley and Thurrott were showing off the Surface Pro 3 review units they were given (loaned?) by Microsoft following the morning press conference.

The new SP3 looks a lot like the Surface 2, with its silver vapor mag finish. It is significantly thinner and lighter than the SP2 and the 3:2 aspect ratio is much better balanced and easier to hold in portrait mode.

The 2160x1440 display is crisp and beautiful. Of course it will make software that doesn't handle UI scaling even harder to use. I wasn't able to see the new Photoshop, but it looks like Adobe software won't be an issue.

I'd expected the odd aspect ratio to be exactly like 8.5x11 paper, but it's a bit taller (equivalent to 8x12?). But it's still much preferable to 16:9 in portrait mode and feels less squashed in landscape.

The new pen is a significant improvement over the standard SP pen. I didn't compare them side by side, but it seemed larger and heftier, though not quite as heavy as the Wacom Bamboo Feel. It has two buttons and the large click tip that functions as a remote control to wake the SP3 directly into OneNote.

It's impossible to accurately evaluate the pen's performance or improvements over other N-Trig devices like the Sony Active Pen with the pre-installed software. OneNote was responsive and silky, Fresh Paint was too but my knuckles left the occasional stray marks. I don't fault N-Trig for that, based on my experience with Clip Studio Paint/Manga Studio, it's very possible for developers to deliver perfect palm rejection with N-Trig devices. I'm very curious to test if Adobe gets it right.

The new kickstand design is very interesting, offering no pre-set angles like the first two models. It seems very stable, though I imagine it will always want to slide to its lowest position if you rest your hand on the screen while drawing. Time will tell on that one.

So why did I end up ordering the lower end device?

Lack of backward compatibility with wintab software means I won't need as much storage to install older applications. Without discrete graphics, I won't be doing much 3d or gaming work. Until Pixologic and Autodesk update their applications, ZBrush and Mudbox are out of the question (both require wintab for pen pressure).

So if nothing else, the Surface Pro 3 will be a fine Manga Studio/Photoshop/comics reading tablet. But the limited pressure and software restrictions mean it's not the ultimate pro tool we were all hoping for/expecting. And it means there is still an opening for another manufacturer (Wacom, Samsung, Apple?) to  develop a device that addresses all the needs of the pickiest creative users.

Up to now, I've had no reservations recommending the Surface Pro to all graphics artists. Yes, 2048 pressure levels and tilt sensitivity are very nice and the screen could be larger, but the SP 1 and 2 offered great performance for the price. Now, the recommendation will have to be prefaced by "It depends..."

Channel 9 , the creators of which bill themselves as "five guys at Microsoft who want a new level of communication between Microsoft and developers," has posted two new videos dedicated to Fresh Paint and the new update for Windows 8.1.

The first features Kaushik Barat, a Senior Development Engineer for Fresh Paint and Chad Greene an Art Director as they discuss the new features in the upgrade to Fresh Paint. 

The second video is an interview conducted by Mark DeFalco with Barat, who discusses the updates to Fresh Paint for Windows 8.1 and dives into some of details behind the app. They talk "about the new features, how research becomes code, porting code across platforms and enabling new scenarios with Windows 8.1."

AuthorRick Rodriguez
CategoriesWindows tablet

As a "tech-enthusiast-first / art-enthusiast-second" kind of guy, it's easy for me to get hung up on the bells and whistles of software or hardware.

For example, the few times I've played (very briefly) with Microsoft's Fresh Paint app, it's always struck me as a bit of a toy. 

But in the hands of a talented and experienced artist, even the most rudimentary tool can delivery masterpieces. 

Such is the case with Roz Hall, a UK digital artist who has been working with the iPad for several years. He recently began experimenting with the Surface Pro and Fresh Paint and his results are stunning

Microsoft flew Hall and several other artists to the Surface Pro 2 launch and made them available to tech press for interviews. This is surely a sign that the tech giant sees the creative space as a big opportunity for its tablets. And that should yield some interesting, exciting dividends for all of us.

I, for one, can't wait to see the Blades equivalent of Wacom's Expresskeys. 

Fresh Paint image by Roz Hall

AuthorRick Rodriguez

In honor of techie moms everywhere, we share this blog post from Jenny Komenda, a crafty blogger who used her Microsoft-supplied tablet and the Fresh Paint app to create a special Mother's Day gift.

Never tried a brush stylus. Might help if I knew how to use a real brush. :-)

Never tried a brush stylus. Might help if I knew how to use a real brush. :-)

One of the interesting tidbits in the post is her use of a brush stylus. I'd never seen one of those in action. She doesn't name it in the article, though most seem to be directed towards the iPad. One manufacturer that specifically calls out the Surface and Fresh Pain is Nomad Brush.

In any event, happy Mother's Day and enjoy!

AuthorRick Rodriguez