iPad vs 2-in-1 laptop/tablet
December 31, 2013 6:41 PM   Subscribe

My wife wants to buy a laptop that also converts to a tablet. She needs a good typing laptop for work (15 inch screen, nice keyboard) but she also dreams of using the tablet portion for sketching (like they do on Project Runway). She is not an artist; she just wants to draw a bit. I am concerned that the laptop/tablet combo will be less than ideal. I have heard that these tablets are not as sensitive as an ipad, and I am wondering what software she would use that would be better or as cheap as a $10 app. I think she should get a cheap laptop along with a used iPad. Does anyone have any firsthand experience one way or another?

In theory, couldn't I get a $300 laptop and a $300 iPad and still be better off than a $600 laptop? Or should I just suck it up and get her a 2-in-1 that is around $600-$800?
posted by yet.another.boston.question to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have the samsung windows convertible - one of the ones which comes with a wacom pen. It's way, way better than an ipad for sketching and stuff, since you get the full pen sensitivity. I don't notice any sensitivity difference between the touchscreen on this and my ipad, but I admit I use the pen more than my fingers.

If you were going to try this with a tablet, for sketching the samsung note would probably be more appropriate, for much the same reason - there is almost no comparison between the capacive fake finger "pens" and a real wacom style pen.

One thing to note is that the cheap convertible tablets are atom CPUs, which while faster than an ipad, are signficiantly slower than grown-up PC cpus (by a factor of about 3:1 or so). There are convertibles which have "real" cpus in them, but these are in the $1000 range or so. For some sketching though, that might be fine!

Also: you're unlikely to get a nice tablet in 15" around that pricepoint.... most of the convertibles around that pricepoint are 10" or 11" screens. That too might be fine (I'm currently typing this on an 11" laptop), but my sister did notice a world of difference when she moved from drawing on a 10" screen to the 14" sony vaio tablet.

On edit: Fresh Paint comes free with windows 8, and is also worlds better than most ipad apps.
posted by jaymzjulian at 7:24 PM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Among other things Jaymzjulian has mentioned here, the "no comparison between the capacitive fake finger pens and real wacom style pen" , I would disagree with that.

It depends on what you doing really. You won't really attain the same precision you can with a wacom style pen. Maybe for "just wants to draw a bit" it might be sufficient, but not in the longer run (IMHO)

Also, the cheap convertible tables with atom CPUs are generally good enough for most people. It depends on what you come to expect. If you think it is a "tablet", you will use it as such (one app at a time, no heavy multi tasking etc) .. but if you think of it as a "computer" .. you will be sorely disappointed. In other words, open the 10th tab in Chrome and you will feel it.

If you are using the "tablet" part of it solely for drawing, I would recommend a regular laptop with an add on wacom tablet. No touch screen stuff, just a plain white board (or some other color :)) for her to draw on.
posted by harisund at 9:26 PM on December 31, 2013

Couldn't she get an iPad with a wireless keyboard? That would put you at iPad + $70, and if you got the data plan, it actually gives you more flexibility with internet.

I use my iPad with Paper53 for my own (not very precise or technical) drawing. Mostly that's brainstorm diagrams, mock-ups/sketches, and simple illustrations. The link I gave you has a gallery of what people have done with it.

Now, I'm also Mac-biased, but I do have a wacom tablet and find that I much prefer to draw with my finger or a small stylus on my iPad than use that. It is more precise, but it's just bulky and challenging to handle for me (I also have nerve damage in my hands, which definitely complicates life). I am a teacher, and I make educational videos, so I use the tablet for annotating text/my desktop during videos.

I actually got by with only my iPad on numerous occasions, and other then high end video, I prefer using that. And with a wireless keyboard, you get the best of both worlds. I would take what you save on only buying one device and get the data plan one though.

And of course, YMMV.
posted by guster4lovers at 11:03 PM on December 31, 2013

Yeah, that's pretty much the perfect use case for a Surface Pro.
posted by Sebmojo at 11:56 PM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

FWIW, I picked up this $139 tablet literally on a whim at Radio Shack while bored out of my head waiting for a SIM to be activated. Rarely have I been more delighted with a piece of technology - I mean, I love reading on my Kindle and my Samsung Galaxy phone is really nice, but this is just such a fantastic thing, filled with wonders and just such a wonderful form for use. I use it for drawing and sketching and there are a wealth of highly-rated drawing apps on Android. You can use any stylus with a touch-screen.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:56 AM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes. Surface pro. That's the exact pitch. No need to buy the 2. Just get a surface pro gen 1. You can even get less storage since it's got a micro SD slot. I swear by mine.

It's got a built in wacom thing and comes with a cool pen that supports erasing, selecting, and is pressure sensitive (push harder equals darker line) and as mentioned windows 8 now has this really awesome tool called fresh paint. It's really impressive. Another surprisingly good place to sketch and have it sync automatically etc is the free ms onenote. It does an amazing job of using the pen.

Battery life is better than reviews state if you have some common sense ( turn the brightness down a little, turn off Bluetooth when you're not using it: hey 2 extra hours amazing!!!)

There in fact ARE apps for it. (Every time I hear how the app store is a ghost Town u laugh. Ya, only 590279 apps. I really need 70 choices in a twitter client not 10... )

For the keyboard you have 4 choices based on money and need. I use the touch cover. Its just as fast as a real keyboard but super thin. If she would prefer a "real" keyboard then get the type cover. It's a little thicker but still amazingly thin for a keyboard at 5mm. Or you can get either of those in gen2 (and will work with the gen1 surface) and the only additional features are slightly thinner and backlit keys.

Seriously. The surface pro is how normal humans require a computing device. Its a normal laptop with the same windows ecosystem until you want a tablet. Even all the ridiculous complaints about the metro start button etc turn into a PERFECT interface when your brain switches from mouse/keyboard to finger/pen.

Good luck. Do let us know what you decide!!
posted by chasles at 5:20 AM on January 1, 2014

The only issue with the Surface Pro here, I think, is that (a) even the Surface Pro 1 plus a touch cover is likely to cost over $600 and (b) the screen is a lot less than 15". You can hook it up to a monitor and a regular keyboard at a desk, but a lot depends on use case. If she wants something she will regularly be using to type on her lap (e.g. if she is a commercial traveller of some kind who does a lot of work in her car), it's a problem. If she does a lot of work in, say, caf├ęs, then a lot depends on how she gets on with that cover/keyboard, and if she needs (for whatever reason) a 15" screen which is accessible on the move it's a non-starter.

That said, it is a really good solution if you want something that can operate as a standard desktop computer but which you can also carry around and draw on - it just isn't a 15.6" clamshell, so there is a question about what it is about a 15.6" clamshell that she needs for work. A Surface Pro might be a very good answer, but it's hard to be certain...

(If the need is for a conventionally styled laptop and a Wacom digitizer, but the screen size and the cost are negotiable, for example, the 12.5" Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga Pen and Touch might be a solution, but it's significantly more money than $600...)

To be honest, you don't get many 15" laptops with detachable screens or twist/fold keyboards - I don't know what they use on Project Runway - because a 15" screen is too big for easy tablet use. It's too heavy to hold one-handed for any length of time, and held two-handed the center of the screen becomes inaccessible to finger input. As such, a cheap laptop (if you can find one with a decent keyboard) and a Galaxy Note, say, might be a good solution if she unambiguously wants both a 15.6" screen and keyboard _and_ the ability to hold something and draw on it. But touch for things explicitly designed for intermittent touch access (rather than, say, being regularly used for professional-level draughting) tend to top out at 13"...
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:45 AM on January 1, 2014

Oh, firsthand experience - I use a Wacom tablet (with pen) for rough sketching on a MacBook Pro - and, honestly, a laptop that is right for work plus a relatively inexpensive tablet may be the best way to approach the problem of needing a laptop for work but having a casual interest in sketching onto a digital screen. Many new 15-inch Windows laptops will have touchscreens at around a $6-700 price point, which could be used for basic finger-scribbling (although it's not a great form factor for anything much more than drawing shapes, because the keyboard is to a greater or lesser extent in the way.

(I would say, also from firsthand experience, that the corners cut to deliver a $300 laptop rather than a $600 laptop might be very noticeable, depending on what her work involves.)

So, the questions are probably "how committed is she to being able to draw directly on the screen?", "how committed is she to that screen being 15 inches across the diagonal?", and "does she need to draw with a Wacom or active capacitive stylus, or would she be happy with the sort of stylus you use on regular capacitive touchscreens?"...
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:48 AM on January 1, 2014

Microsoft is clearing out the original Surface Pro for 599 and gives the option for a touch cover for 50 dollars more. I know it's a bit over your budget but it's something to consider.
posted by Harpocrates at 12:29 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just an update for those checking in: it turned out to be a horrible shopping experience as she was pretty intent on me not swaying her opinions. TLDR: We got an ipad at the last minute.

First, found out that screen size could be slightly smaller. Then, the 2 in 1s were pretty cheaply made, and the chiclet keyboards were really hard to type on. And they were not all equal: some keyboards were chiclet but deeper and nicer.

Several trips to best buy were made. Several times we were on the verge of buying something. Those who mentioned the surface pro were very close: the keyboard is nice, and the pen is incredible. We ended up with the ipad mainly because facetime has higher quality than skype, and the whole family is already using idevices. But: she is keeping her old POS laptop for when she really needs to make tables in word, or use her printer.
posted by yet.another.boston.question at 7:47 AM on January 25, 2014

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