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An Ultrabook for Animation

If you want a portable tablet pc for Toon Boom animation, here is very interesting option: The Samsung Ativ SmartPC Pro 700T.
First: This is not designed to replace your desktop PC with a Wacom Cintiq or tablet interface. You will always need the horsepower and precision of a good workstation with a high quality graphics and drawing tablet.

But what about being away from your desk? What if you want to sit on a shaded porch and draw? Perhaps you are killing time in an airport or doctor’s office when a moment of inspiration strikes. If you need something for those moments away from your desk when you want to produce material instead of simply consuming content, this is the machine for you!

The basics: This is a 1080p resolution tablet that inserts into a keyboard or runs alone. The operating system is Windows 8 on an Intel core i5 processor. The surface features touch AND A WACOM SURFACE WITH A PEN!

When inserted into its keyboard, it looks and feels like an Ultrabook or a slightly heavier Macbook Air.
So, here is the bottom line:

Why is this great for Toon Boom animation?
1. Wacom screen and pen allow you to draw directly into Harmony or Animate software.
2. The Samsung 700T is the only detachable tablet with “wintab” drivers to allow you to use other drawing software. (Note: Harmony and Animate from ToonBoom do not require these drivers.)
3. High resolution screen gives lots of workspace even for a small space.
4. Decent pen accuracy. Some have complained, but I see no issues.
5. Compact and 5 hour battery life (I got a bit more in my use).
6. At $999 you will not find anything like this on the market for animating.

Why would you pause and be unsatisfied with this?
1. ToonBoom Studio does not work well on this machine.
2. Earlier models had a finicky keyboard attachment which seems to be fixed in current models.
3. A high resolution screen requires more graphics power. Complex scenes in Harmony with complicated backgrounds or sets had to be “dumbed down” to do lip-synch and action refinement. This is easy to accomplish, though it reminds you the device is not a powerful desktop.
4. The pen is small and should be used only as a backup. Spend the extra $35 and get a bigger Samsung pen.

Other considerations:
1. Windows 8 is less frustrating on a touch screen, but is still a tough transition from Windows 7 or earlier.

Other models to consider
1. Surface Pro from Microsoft was actually the favorite from the Toon Boom staff. The included pen is better and they reported better accuracy. Note that other reviewers have disagreed on the pen accuracy issue. Surface Pro does not have “wintab” drivers, which is not a Toon Boom problem. Surface Pro is a bit more expensive.
2. The Fujitsu Tablet PC’s are good (T902), but have lower resolution and are a lot heavier. The Lenovo X230T tablet PC is also excellent, but is heavier, more expensive and has poor edge accuracy with the pen. In general, traditional tablet PC’s without a detachable screen can cost twice as much as the Samsung or Surface Pro.

When the Macbook Air and later Windows Ultrabooks were introduced, my comment at the time was: Very cool! It still needs a pen, Wacom screen and more robust graphics to be perfect.

The latest release of Intel integrated graphics is now sufficient to run Toon Boom software. Now, the Ativ Smart PC Pro 700T from Samsung and the Surface Pro from Microsoft finally adds the Wacom screen and pen.
A decent portable animating platform has arrived!

Additional work with Toon Boom Harmony and Studio has revealed a work around for much better performance on this Samsung tablet. This should work for Animate and the other Toon Boom products, too.

First, go into the Toon Boom software preferences and uncheck the box for “wintab” support. Close the program.

Now, you have two choices: Temporary or “Permanent.” You want to disable the Wintab drivers from Wacom. Both are reversible. Do not let the “Permanent” label frighten you.

Temporary Method:
1. Go into the “Task Manager.” You can get in by hitting “Control-Alt-Delete”

2. Enter “Services” tab

3. Find “TabletServiceSD” and “TabletInputService”

4. Right click on these two items.

5. Select “stop”

The disadvantage with this method is you must repeat this every time you start up your machine.

Permanent Method: Again, this can be quickly reversed if you need Wintab drivers. This simply uninstalls the drivers from Wacom.

1. The Samsung “SW Update” lets you manually save the drivers on your hard drive. Manually save the “Digitizer Driver.” This is in case you change your mind and want to reinstall the drivers.

2. Go to program uninstall and uninstall the drivers that have the Wacom name.

3. Restart your computer. Do not panic when you realize your pen is dead. Once you have the restart, your pen is back with the Windows drivers working.

4. Now all Toon Boom programs, with Wintab disabled, work great, great, great! Incredible pen accuracy! Amazing responsiveness!

5. To reverse the process, just reinstall the Samsung Digitizer driver.

Additional points:

1. Do not rush to the Wacom website and try and install the newest drivers. They are not optimized to work with the Samsung device and my experiences have gone badly with these.
2. Samsung SW Update will prod you to reinstall the digitizer drivers. Don’t do it if you like how things are working.
3. Interestingly, Surface Pro from Microsoft made no effort to provide Wintab drivers. This explains why Surface Pro cooperates better with Toon Boom out of the box. Samsung, in its efforts to provide better service, actually made the Toon Boom products malfunction.

Oh, well…..


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