Hands-on with the Surface Pro 2

If I could sum up the Surface Pro 2 in one word, it would have to be “disappointing”.

After purchasing the Surface and getting my software set up, I started to miss the simplicity of Sketchbook Pro on my Galaxy Note 10.1. One thing quickly became clear – the software I want to use isn’t designed for tablets. Maya and Zbrush weren’t so bad with screen scaling left at the default 150%. Photoshop, however, literally hurt my eyes – its UI looked absolutely tiny at 150%, smaller than Maya and Zbrush looked at 125%. A quick Google search revealed that Adobe’s software ignores Windows’ scaling.

At 10.6″, screen space is a commodity that cannot be wasted. As small as the UI elements seemed, they still took up too much valuable screen space. On a Cintiq, where you have a few programmable buttons, you could at least set up a hotkey to hide and unhide Photoshop’s UI, but the Surface only has one available hotkey – the pen’s side switch.

Pen accuracy was another issue – even after several attempts at calibration, the cursor always seemed to be slightly off from the tip of the pen, at least toward the center of the screen. It was slightly less accurate at the edges, but far worse at the corners. Even Wacom’s driver couldn’t fix this. The tiny UI elements didn’t help either.

And then there was a nasty bug when holding the tablet in portrait mode… seemingly at random, the cursor movement would be 90 degress off – moving the pen up would move the cursor right, right would move it down, and so on. I narrowed the problem down to the keyboard – the bug only seemed to happen if I was folding it behind the tablet. If the keyboard was forward or detached, the cursor moved properly.

I only had the Surface for a day before returning it. That’s how disappointed I was. The Cintiq Companion might be closer to what I’m looking for – larger screen, programmable buttons… But it’s also got a heftier price tag, and I worry that the screen may still be too small to work on comfortably. I’ve been waiting for years for a “perfect” artists’ tablet, I’ll just have to keep waiting.