The racing glove inspired pin cushioned back of the Asus Nexus 7 is the most luxurious tablet we've ever fondled.

The racing glove inspired pin cushioned back of the Asus Nexus 7 is the most luxurious tablet we've ever fondled.

The Verge is reporting this morning that Asus is readying an 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet with Wacom digitizer. The device will supposedly feature an Intel Baytrail Atom processor, 1280 x 800 display, 2 GB of RAM and 32- or 64 GB of storage.

This should be a great device for One Note or doodling on the go. But its true usefulness will be hampered by the mismatch between new Windows hardware and software development.

I like small tablets for casual gaming and media consumption. But ironically, after the dismal start of Windows RT, manufacturers are determined to cram full Windows 8.1 desktops into the smaller form factor.

I'm convinced this is a strategy that will fail as consumers discover what a miserable experience the desktop is on a tiny display.

The only thing that can salvage this situation is the development of a new breed of Windows store  applications (Metro) that are actually useful compared to the majority of what's currently available.

It's criminal that more than a full year after the release of Windows 8, Adobe has yet to release anything more capable than Photoshop Express or that Autodesk hasn't moved Sketchbook Pro onto the Windows store.

Without knowing any sales figures, it appears that Surfaces are doing well this holiday season, as is the Dell Venue 8. Based on its price and premium pen support, I suspect this Asus tablet will sell well too.

Will this groundswell of new users be the push that developers need to get their butts in gear? 

 

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AuthorRick Rodriguez
Categoriesnews, opinion
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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: http://surfaceproartist.com/blog/2013/11/14/the-real-dealbreaker-for-sony-vaio-flip-15a-frequent-loss-of-pen-touch-control 

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ORIGINAL POST

To try to settle the Wacom vs. N-Trig contest once and for all, I decided to pick up a new Sony Vaio Flip 15A convertible laptop to test out. (Please pardon the grainy images accompanying this post; I was in too much of a hurry to get this story written to worry about lighting.)

On paper at least, this thing destroys a comparably priced Surface Pro 2: 15.5" full HD display, fourth generation (Haswell) Core i7, 2GB dedicated video RAM, discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 735M, 8 GB RAM, and 1TB (5400rpm) + 16GB NAND flash hybrid hard drive. Maximum battery life is decent at 5 hours. 

My first impressions: the screen is huge and display is gorgeous with rich, saturated colors and excellent contrast. The black surface is a fingerprint magnet so it will be difficult to keep the Flip looking pristine. The screen flipping is very stiff and somewhat awkward. It's certainly not fluid to switch display modes.

At over 5 lbs, you risk injury trying to hold this in one hand. Perhaps you may be able to cradle it under one arm, but even so, it is a brick

The fan is LOUD and I haven't done anything with it yet besides installing a hideous number of updates for an operating system less than a month old. (UPDATE: Ack! Just realized this thing ships with Windows 8. An update awaits.)

The big question mark is the N-Trig digitizer. Users are reporting that the technology has been vastly improved in the last year, but I'll try to run tests side by side with the Surface Pro's Wacom digitizer to get a better sense of its strengths and weaknesses. 

It's interesting to see Sony positioning its products to compete so effectively on price. I believe it's the first time I've ever seen the company do this. I've always avoided Sony devices because I'm unwilling to pay their markup.

Or perhaps the pricing seems fair due to the high cost of Microsoft's peripherals. 

Undercutting the Surface Pro 2 8/256 configuration + type cover + mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter by $170 and adding a much larger screen, faster processor, and four times the storage, the Flip 15A is priced extremely aggressively at $1249 + $40 for the stylus.

And the 13- and 14-inch versions of the Flip family begin as low as $899, 

With a display as large as this, I could see foregoing a separate tablet monitor, assuming the N-Trig delivers. Stay tuned! And if you have any specific questions you'd like me to investigate, please ask away in the comments section below.

  Although this is definitely a Flip PC, Sony creates a little bit of confusion by also labeling this as a Fit 15A. The previous generation of Fit laptops did not have active digitizers.

The box contents are pretty sparce: the Flip, a power supply and power cord and a few thin manuals. 

In laptop mode, the Flip features a spacious, backlit full size keyboard which a very large trackpad.

In tablet mode: if you've seen one tablet, you've seen them all. Very little distinguishes the tablet screen from others, except the sticker in the lower right corner illustrating the various operational modes and a smaller than usual Windows home button in the lower center.

The  switch at the top of the keyboard releases or locks the screen in place.

The right side of the keyboard has a headphone jack, SD slot, USB 3 port, Ethernet and power button.

The left side contains the power jack, fan vents, HDMI out, and two USB 3 ports.

The Sony Active Pen is sold separately for the 1920x1080 Flip 15A. It is standard with the 2880 x 1620 version, which retails for $550 more.

The newly restyled Active Pen retails for $40 and has a very nice finish and decent weight. It's much closer to the Wacom Bamboo Stylus Feel than the standard Surface Pro pen. Although I would prefer a slightly larger stylus, it is much better than I had feared.

The 15.5" Vaio screen looks massive compared to the Surface Pro's.

In tablet mode, the Flip 15A is more than twice as thick as the Surface Pro and weighs twice as much too: 5.05 lbs. vs. 2.56 lbs for the SP2 with Type Cover 2.

 UPDATE 2: While you're waiting for my review, take a look at this video review of the VAIO Flip 13 by Lisa Gade of Mobile Tech Review. It's a very in-depth look at the device and is applicable to the 15 as well.

Lisa Gade reviews the Sony Vaio Flip 13A Windows 8 convertible Ultrabook and tablet. The Flip is available in 13, 14 and 15 inch sizes and we look at the smallest model, with a base price around $1,000.

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AuthorRick Rodriguez
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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."

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AuthorRick Rodriguez
CategoriesWindows tablet

As we wrote in previous articles, updating your Surface Pro to Windows 8.1 will delete the Wacom Feel IT drivers. 

For most users, simply installing the latest set published by Wacom on October 7 will restore pressure sensitivity in Photoshop, etc.  And for applications like Manga Studio or ArtRage 4, the native pen drivers may be all you need.

However, we're starting to hear from several users who say the update has killed pen control altogether. 

The problem appears to be related to having a keyboard cover attached while updating. I use a bluetooth keyboard with my Surface Pro, so I haven't experienced the issue. 

Here is the trouble thread from the Microsoft community http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/surface/forum/surfpro-surfupdate/surface-pro-windows-81-final-update-pen-doesnt/5e0cee89-c243-4afa-bbca-55a3ad471a2c 

If you have experienced this issue or have found a solution, please leave a comment below. 

UPDATE: Before updating to Windows 8.1, it may be beneficial to completely remove the Wacom drivers from your Surface Pro. This link contains useful information for how to thoroughly delete any files from your system: http://forum.wacom.eu/viewtopic.php?t=7926 

UPDATE 2:  Working with Facebook friend Paulo Dekkers this morning, we were able to get Windows 8.1 updated with pen support working.

Paulo made sure to delete the Wacom preferences file and then uninstalled the drivers (as described in step 1, here).  

The remaining steps were performed with the keyboard cover disconnected! 

It's probably not necessary for most users, but Paulo reverted to Windows 8 using his original backup media. He then confirmed that the pen worked correctly with the native drivers. 

Paulo then ran the Windows 8.1 update and the native drivers work fine with both the keyboard cover off or connected. 

I haven't heard whether he intends to reinstall the Wacom drivers, but it shouldn't be a problem. 

This procedure is similar to one performed by Twitter follower @JohnSlaughter, so there definitely seems to be some issue that is a combination of the Wacom drivers not being deleted entirely and the keyboard cover being connected during the Windows update.  

Let us know if this resolves your issue or you spot any other issues with your update.

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AuthorRick Rodriguez
Categoriesnews, Tips
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UPDATE October 16:  The problems with latest set of Wacom Feel IT drivers for the Surface Pro and other penabled tablet pcs are apparently caused by issues with upgrade installations.

I was contacted yesterday by Wacom representative Mike Bagdanoff.  After asking a series of diagnostic questions, he concluded "You have found an interesting upgrade issue."

Bagdanoff detailed the following two fixes: 

1) in the Programs & Features control panel, find the ISD Tablet entry and select it, choose "Change" at the top of the window and in the "Tablet Preference File Utility" that pops up, select "Remove" in either the "My Preferences" or "All User Preferences" sections. Wait for the window to close on its own and then you are golden.
or 
2) uninstall the Wacom driver completely through the Programs & Features control panel. Then reinstall the 7.1.2-9 driver and you are good to go
I followed the first set of steps last night and as of this morning, the pen jitters have not returned.
 
The only issue I have with the current drivers is perhaps due to their greater calibration accuracy. 
 
I like to use autohide on my desktop taskbar. In prior driver releases, hovering the pen at the bottom of the screen activates and unhides the taskbar. After running the calibration tool, it is impossible to dip the cursor below the screen, thereby making it impossible to unhide the taskbar. 
 
A simple workaround is to use a finger tip, But Bagdanoff suggested I tap just above the two bottom targets in the calibration tool. That worked but it also introduces a shift between the pen tip and cursor that increases as you work towards the bottom of the screen. 

Please let me know right away if you spot any other issues with the 7.1.2-9 pen drivers. It's encouraging to know that Wacom are working to keep the Surface Pro and penabled tablet community happy.

UPDATE October 13: Several other readers and Twitter followers have reported similar problems with these pen drivers.

Thanks to Sam Caraballo for providing the official US link to Wacom's legacy drivers here. Under the Tablet Model pulldown menu, select Tablet PC.

I've rolled my Surface Pro back to version 7.1.1-16, released in July and erratic pen behavior has not resurfaced.

Interestingly, after uninstalling the current set of drivers, I decided to test the default Windows 8.1 settings and found that Manga Studio works perfectly without the Wacom download. Unity 4.3b5, which has always had issues with recognizing the pen's input, worked better but not perfectly. Adobe Photoshop CC did not recognize pen pressure with the default drivers.

UPDATE October 12: Since installing these drivers on my Surface Pro (running Windows 8.1 RTM) I've been experiencing periodic issues. After an hour or so of inactivity, the cursor becomes jittery and erratic. Selecting a menu item becomes an adventure and some clicks are registered multiple times. Rebooting the Surface Pro corrects the problem.

One Twitter follower has confirmed the problem. Anyone else seeing this behavior? I've reached out to Wacom, but haven't gotten any response. 

My advice is to ignore this update until the issue is resolved or to at least make sure to have a backup of the older driver installers, as I can't seem to find them anywhere online. 

If you know where I can download the previous version, please put the link in the comments section below. 

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ORIGINAL POST October 7

In anticipation of Windows 8.1, Wacom has updated its enhanced tablet drivers for the Surface Pro and other penabled devices. The new driver release is version 7.1.2-9, dated October 7. 

Marketed as Wacom Feel IT technology, these drivers enable pressure sensitivity in Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter and other graphics applications. 

According to the driver documentation, these items were fixed in 7.1.2-9 release: 

1. Improved calibration in some OEM tablets.
2. Memory leak with some tablets using pen.
3. Improved sleep and resume performance in some OEM tablets.

Wacom cautions that some OEMs are "releasing new tablet hardware that has not been tested with this driver." We certainly hope they're not referring to Microsoft and the new Surface Pro 2 due out later this month.

Installation on the Surface Pro running Windows 8.1 RTM went smoothly. After running the new calibration tool, I did encounter an issue with Sketchbook Pro 6.2. When I first ran the program, pen strokes were offset by at least an inch from the cursor. Fortunately, downloading and installing Sketchbook Pro 6.2.3 corrected the issue.

Download the Wacom Feel IT drivers here. 

I'll update this post if I encounter any other problems, but please let us know in the comments section below if you run into any trouble. 

Thanks to Twitter follower Joshua Drummond (@cakeburger) for the news tip! 

 

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AuthorRick Rodriguez
Categoriesnews, Tips
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