Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 16 Review - The Digital Illustration Monster
Posted On: 12/15/2016 - By: Brad Colbow
When it comes to drawing the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro makes no compromises, it is hands down the best drawing experience I’ve had on a Windows tablet to date.
It comes in two sizes 13 and a larger 16. I’ve been using the 16 over the last week and I’ve really been enjoying it. It has a full 4k display that looks great from a distance and even better when you’re directly hovering over it.
Specs: i5 processor, 8gb of ram 256 hard drive $2399 - full specs here
The screen has a slight matte finish, this is mostly to give it a little tooth for the stylus when drawing. It feels pretty good, not quite as good as the texture you’ll find on the Wacom Intuos tablets but just enough texture where you will never feel like your stylus is ice skating on the screen.
The first thing you’re going to want to do when you get a tablet like this is calibrate the stylus. Wacom’s setup makes this easy. Just tap your pen in the center of all the target points and you’re off to the races. You’re going to want to have your tablet at the position that
This isn’t a big deal, you can recalibrate your tablet any time in the settings.
You will hear a lot of illustrators talk about Parallax. That’s the distance between where the tip of your pen is and where the cursor appears on the screen. Often times with these kinds of tablet the further you get from the center of the screen the more inaccurate the pen becomes but even in the far corners it looked pretty spot on to me. This is partly because of the calibration and partly because Wacom has has reduced the thickness of the glass above the screen. So there is very little difference between where your stylus is and where the cursor appears.
Running this through my basic drawing test of drawing diagonal lines or looking for hiccups while drawing circles it passed with flying colors. For all the people who called me out and said the surface pen doesn't wobble when you draw really really slow it was my hand check this out.
Shaky lines aside. for me the part that makes this superior to say using something like the Surface Pro are the hot keys along the side. I love physical buttons. Even though there are apps for windows that give you on screen buttons it’s not the same.
On most Windows hybrid devices I need a keyboard for something, using apps like Photoshop without keyboard shortcuts is like using a car without doors. Sure it works but you really can’t take any fast turns with it. The express keys make this the first Windows tablet experience I’ve had where I can truly go keyboard free for hours at a time.
You probably already know this but it has a touch screen. I got really comfortable using the hotkeys and little ring thing to change brushes, and brush sizes or set one to the control key and then use my hand to pinch and zoom or pan around my sketch. The palm rejection works well, every so often I will accidentally change layers with the side of my hand but I didn’t have any problems with my palm leaning any extra marks on the canvas.
One thing to be aware of is that the screen does get warm towards the lower right hand corner. Not hot but you can definitely feel the temperature difference in that area.
This stylus is the Wacom Pro Pen 2 stylus. Here is what Wacom says about it:
4x more accurate: I can see that
Virtually no lag: depends on the program
Natural tilt support: confirmed
No parallax: nailed it
4x more pressure sensitive: yep
Can I tell the difference? Apart from the improved parallax not really. It feels great, but I thought the old pens felt really good to. I’ve used tablets that have 2000 levels and the drivers stunk and so the pen did to and I’ve used the old Surface Pro 3 pen with only 256 levels and thought it was pretty good. It depends on the apps you’re using and how well balanced the pen is.
It’s kinda like megapixels on a camera, you always want more, but at a certain point light balance and all that other stuff is more important to the quality of your pictures.
I found this pen to be pretty much flawless. I got a great range of lines going from thick to thin. Drawing quickly didn’t create any weird shoestring effects. Drawing slow produced no wobbles at any angle. I could hold a consistent amount of pressure going around curves or drawing circles.
I did find lag but it wasn’t in the pen, it was usually in the app. If I was using a brush that has to render in photoshop it would slow down, but that’s not on the pen.
Adobe Illustrator was kinda buggy on this. Basic strokes lagged in it and it has this weird quirk where when I start using the stylus I lose touch controls until I leave the program and come back, I left a comment in Adobe’s forums about that and they told me to file a bug. Bug report filed!
So far I have heaped effusive praise onto this device, it’s because I really really like it. No hardware is perfect so let's bring on the cons?
Some of these aren't cons as much as they are trade offs. Like the speakers aren't very good. They are kinda echoey and on the back which just makes it sound more distant. If you like crisp sound bring along some headphones.
Like the new Macbooks this device only has USB c ports. 3 of them along the side, there are no standard USB slots. The power charger that comes with the tablet uses one of these ports for charging. If you’re like me and don’t own any actual devices that use USB C ports you’re going to need an adaptor or two. I picked up the cheapest USB dodadds I found on Amazon and they are perfect. Well perfectly sized, if they were even a millimeter thicker I couldn’t plug them both in at the same time because they would be to thick to sit side by side.
There is also a hole along the side for this handy dandy pencil holder. The problem here is that I can’t have anything like the power charger plugged in at the same time the pen is in the holder. It’s a cool idea, just not executed well, would make more sense to put it on the other side or along the top. Or behind your ear. Or on your cat.
I don’t know, This is why i don’t design products.
Several folks have asked me about the fan, the fan on the Companion 2, Wacom’s last tablet was really loud. This is much quieter, I can still hear it but it’s much quieter than say my macbook pro’s fan.
What do you think when you see this number. $2400
That’s what I think too. The prices are kinda crazy high, this is a premium product so you are getting what you pay for a great tablet. I wish, i really really wish there were more configurations. I really want 16gb of ram, for those of you who were on my live stream last week you saw what happened when I had to many things open at once. It totally broke the stream, took a couple minutes to recover after shutting down Photoshop. If I want 16 gb of ram I have to pay another $600.
That extra $600 also gets you a bigger hard drive, a 3d camera and a better processor, but I just want more Ram man.
It also lays flat, it doesn’t come with any kind of stand. Wacom sells a stand that has three settings on it’s website for (wheeze $100)
I had this old UC logic stand lying around and it works great for it, the little rubber doodads collect dirt like nobody’s business but I can set it at a bunch of different angles and it stays.
Another feature of the tablet is the ability to plug it into any computer and use it as a stand alone tablet like a Cintiq, so you can plug it into your Mac at home and use Windows on the go. Or you could plug it into your Windows machine at home and also use Windows on the go. Or you can plug it into Ubuntu at home and write your own drivers. Don’t listen to me do whatever you want, I’m not your dad.
In order to use this as a tablet you’re going to need a USB c port on the computer you’re plugging it into. If you don’t have a USB c port then you will need the Wacom link which you can get on their website for (wheeze $100)
OK, I’ll stop doing that now.
Another thing to be aware of is the size and weight. This is portable but I wouldn’t call it super portable. It weighs 4.5 pounds, after toting around a little android tablet over the last month this feels incredibly heavy. Also the 16 won’t fit in a standard laptop bag, it’s just a little to big. The size is great when I’m at my desk, if you want something more portable the 13 is only 2.8 pounds.
With either unit you’re probably going to want to bring your own keyboard and the power adapter when you’re on the go. Wacom sells its own keyboard separately but any keyboard will work.
I’m getting about 3 to 3.5 hours of drawing time on a battery charge. If you are taking this with you anywhere you’re going to want the power adapter as well.
I don’t see the things I mentioned here as cons as much as tradeoffs that you’re going to make with this device. It’s a premium product. It feels great, it draws great and it works great.
Wacom set out to make the best windows tablet specifically design for drawing and they have done just that.
The price is high, but it reflects the quality of the product you’re getting. If you are an artist and you spend all day with a device like this and you can afford it then I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.