Surface Pro and Windows tablet PC users have an amazing array of great software at their disposal and most of it costs only a fraction of what you will pay for a license from Adobe or Corel.

The tech blog sent artist Oliver Fuh to test a Surface Pro 4 and he wrote up an exhaustive post on his first impressions.

Rather than test with the default apps or Sketchable, Oliver was able to install the PaintTool SAI 2.0 beta. He captured the following video.

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The store staff also allowed him to test the new pen nibs and his findings are fascinating and somewhat disappointing.

2H – the thickest nib of the four, and it’s SUPER slick. The slipperiest drawing experience I’ve ever had on a digital display, and that says a lot, as most of them are pretty slippery. It also feels like the softest of the four. I’d love to use this for super fast sketching, or for drawing extremely long, flowing curves.
H – similar to 2H in slipperiness, but with a much thinner, even a bit harder tip. It feels much more conducive to precision drawing. It’s extremely faint, but I detect just a bit more resistance when drawing with this nib.
HB – I’m can’t exactly recall, but this might be the same as the standard nib that comes with the pen. I haven’t confirmed that for sure though. This feels very similar the standard pen nib, which has a strong, if even slightly rubbery, surface resistance. This, and the standard pen (if they’re not same thing) both feel great for standard note-taking and precision stroke drawing.
B – the most grippy of the four, but only slightly more so than HB/standard. Truth be told, I had a really hard time discerning the difference between this and HB.

You can find the full post over at

AuthorRick Rodriguez
Categoriesnews, opinion
6 CommentsPost a comment

UPDATE: Additional testing of the Flip has surfaced a much more serious issue than pen pressure or fan noise. I must recommend that you avoid the device until the issue is corrected. See this post for more information: 

And in case you're interested, Autodesk Sketchbook Pro 6.0.4 runs well and with pressure sensitivity.

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I had the chance to install two additional applications on the Sony VAIO Flip 15 A this afternoon and I'm sorry to report that neither program runs perfectly.

Paint Tool SAI

Each stroke was created with a different pressure level, to no avail. The SAI UI is crowded and targets are not touch friendly.

It doesn't really surprise me that pen pressure in Systemax's Paint Tool SAI v1.1 doesn't work. This version was released in 2008.

I must thanks Twitter follower Dave Barrack (@grrlpowercomic) who explained that pressure sensitivity in SAI is set on a per brush basis under Advanced Settings, Hard <-> Soft.

Unfortunately, no value from 0 to 200 yields a pressure sensitive brush stroke.

The program doesn't have multi-touch support either, so it's not possible to pan or zoom with one's fingers. Though palm rejection works for the most part, it's still possible to create stray marks with one's pinky or knuckle even though the pen is also in the screen's proximity.

There supposedly are more recent beta versions of SAI available for download, but I was unable to find them.

The SAI interface is also not ideal for a tablet. Even on the Flip's ample 15.5 inch screen, touch targets are very small and need to be selected with the pen tip.

UPDATE: Thanks to Twitter follower Yenny (@Nashoki44), I found the latest beta download for SAI 1.2b5. Unfortunately, that version did not correct the lack of pen pressure.

ArtRage 4.0.6

Pressure sensitivity works well in ArtRage 4.0.6, as does multitouch. Unfortunately, it's still possible for taps to leave stray marks.

Although the latest update of Ambient Design's ArtRage 4 recognizes pressure and supports multi-touch with the N-Trig digitizer, I was disappointed to learn that it's still possible to create errant marks as you draw.

If you need proof positive that pc manufacturers haven't a clue, look no further than Sony's decision to bundle ArtRage 3.5.5 Studio with each Flip sold in the U.S.

I'm sure that retailers display that program when potential buyers ask about paint capability and I'm equally certain that savvy buyers will quickly cross the Flip off their lists based on its buggy performance. Any finger gesture may result in unwanted drawing and sometimes in the middle of a two finger zoom or even a pen drawing, unwanted lines will start shooting across the screen.

ArtRage 4 has been out at least since the beginning of this year and it has far fewer issues. Why Sony chose to package the older version baffles me.

If you can keep your pinky or knuckle from tapping on the screen as you draw, you'll be very happy with the results. Otherwise, you'll need to stay vigilant and frequently use Undo.