Thursday, December 8, 2011

My choice for a photographer's tablet.

So no more than a few days after posting my thoughts on the Kindle fire, here I am giving my initial thoughts on another tablet, the Samsung Slate 7. If you haven't heard of this device, it's a 11.6" tablet powered by a Intel core i5 processor with 4gb of ram and a 128gb SSD running (what?!) Windows7. The display is both touch sensitive and capable of pressure sensitive pen input via wacom technology.

So before I give you my initial thoughts on the device, it'd be useful to know what drew me to this purchase. l wasn't looking for another tablet , the kindle fire is performing that limited use case well. Rather, it was the promise of a full-blown PC capable of running REAL apps like Photoshop, Lightroom, a real browser and doing REAL productive work in a super small form factor that got me interested. But as a photographer, It was the allure of the wacom powered pen input that would allow me to draw right on the screen just like the Cintiq's I've been lusting after for years that actually made me hit the 'buy' button.
So what are my thoughts so far? Let's see.

Pen vs. Touch: Well everything you may have heard about Windows7 being terrible with touch is absolutely true, and while the hardware is very responsive the OS just doesn't know what to do with it. And while Samsung makes an attempt at putting a touch enabled launcher on top of Windows with a couple of touch enabled apps, it's a futile attempt at making this tablet something it's not; which is, anything remotely competitive to the Ipad. All this being said, its pen interface is mature- and it's winning me over. The handwriting recognition , even without training it, is amazingly accurate with my writing style. In fact I wrote this whole post using it and found it much better than pecking at a virtual keyboard. The accuracy & precision of a stylus just can't be matched by one's finger and the added expression enabled with pressure sensitivity is just awesome when using Photoshop or Painter. Steve Jobs may have been right that 'people' don't want to use a stylus, but as a photographer / artist, I've 'seen the light' and couldn't imagine going back to finger painting.

Screen: While not the gorgeous IPS display of the Ipad, the display is bright, vibrant, and has sufficient viewing angles for typical single user close up tasks like writing & painting where you are typically working at a consistent distance and angle to the display. Since this is a Windows box, I can use my Eyeone display to properly calibrate the screen and get some consistent results when editing my photos (+1 for the Windows tablet) The ultra-wide aspect ratio of the screen sort of forces you to use a landscape orientation, which works out perfectly in Photoshop allowing your panels to dock on either side and still allow enough room for an adequate canvas. For some reason the screen rotation is obnoxiously slow sot usually leave it locked. I have to believe this is a software driver issue because there's no way hardware Sensors could be this slow.

Performance: I heard the Core i5-2674 processor was throttled for thermal envelope reasons and may never reach its full Clock rate of 1.6GHz or 2.3GHz in Turbo mode yet the system is very responsive and has enough horsepower to smoothly track the artist brushes in Photoshop without any appreciable lag between pen & stroke. If you put any value in the Microsoft experience index, this system scores a 4.2, but this low score is due to its Aero Performance score, all other values are in the mid 5's, and the SSD scores a blistering 7.5 which may account for the system's sub 30 second boot times. Photoshop start up times are also much quicker than on my SSD equipped desktop.

Conclusions: I was originally skeptical and ready to pack this thing back in the box to send back but as I used it, even with all the touch unfriendly aspects of Windows7,it has really won me over. I truly feel this is a powerful media creation tool, not just another neat gadget as I view the Ipad as - and I'm positive the release of Windows8 will just make things better. I know this thing isn't for most, but when I consider that this has all the power of a laptop packed into a sleek tablet, for me, it's a keeper.