Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A few weeks ago I purchased a Fujitsu ST5112 from my friend Rich Doble. I have been thinking about buying a tablet PC for a long time, but I never knew which one to get. Time passed and for one reason or another I kept putting off doing my research. Someone else already wrote a very thorough review of the ST5112, but there are a few things I wanted to mention. Here are the specs:

Fujitsu ST5112
Intel Duo Core 1.2GHz
1 GB Ram
80 GB
12.1" XGA 1024x768 indoor/outdoor display
9 Cell 10.8v 7800 mAh battery
3.5 pounds

The first thing I decided to do after I got my tablet was to upgrade the Ram from 1GB to 4GB. Unfortunately when I got my Ram in the mail it was defective, so I had to send it back for a replacement...which hasn't arrived yet in the mail. That being said, Photoshop still runs pretty well with only 1 GB of Ram. I usually work at 300 dpi with several layers, so it can be a bit slow when flipping my canvas but it isn't too bad. I tried running CS4 but it looks like it won't run with only 1 GB of Ram, so I had to fall back to CS2.

The next thing I realized was that I had no keyboard or Nostromo to use in tandem with the pen. When I paint I constantly resize my brush with my Nostromo. I also use it to color pick, switch between brushes, flip my canvas, and to undo/redo. Being forced to use only a pen, my painting efficiency has dropped considerably. I was able to solve a few of those problems by rearranging my workspace in Photoshop. I keep the on screen keyboard open at all times so that I can use the [ and ] keys to resize my brush. I then downloaded the Wacom tablet pc drivers so that I could remap my stylus buttons. I made it so that the lower button is bound to alt (so that I can color pick) and the top button is bound to right click (so that I can open my brush menu). On the right side of my screen I have the layers and history open. Instead of hitting undo/redo I can just click through my history. Above that I have the navigator window, which I can use to zoom in and out and move my image around. This is done more easily when you paint in full screen mode (f shortcut key, or by clicking the middle button of the three buttons that are on the left side of the screen on the tool bar under the color picker).

As far as the pressure levels go, I can definitely see a difference between this and an Intuos 3. I am not sure what the exact pressure levels are for the ST5112, but I think it is probably similar to the Wacom Graphire tablets which are 512 levels of pressure, as opposed to the Intuos 3 which has 1024. I also find that sometimes when I tap the screen, like when I color pick, it doesn't recognize the tap. One way I got around the pressure sensitivity issue was that I had to lower the opacity of my brushes to 70%. Lowering my brush opacity allows me to build up my opacity more slowly since I can't paint as delicately as I can on an Intuos 3.

I have the extended 9 cell battery, which is rated for 9 hours of use...but I highly doubt that is 9 hours of Photoshop use. I think 5-6 hours of running Photoshop is more likely. Still, that is a lot better than most laptops. I think my other laptops only lasted 2 hours or less while running Photoshop.

The stylus is a little bit of a disappointment. It is much smaller and thinner than the Intuos 3 stylus, which is to be expected since it is made to be portable. The buttons are a lot higher up on the stylus, which I don't like because it is a lot harder to click the buttons while you are working. I dunno, maybe I need to do finger exercises in order to increase my flexibility.

The viewing angle on the ST5112 is actually pretty good. I think it has around a 160 degree viewing angle.

PaintTool SAI
PaintTool SAI is a lightweight painting program that is very similar to Painter. The thing I like the most about SAI is the UI. It seems like this program was designed to be used without the aid of a keyboard. All the commands you need are easily accessible without having to go through drop down menus. To the left you have your color picker, brushes, brush size, opacity, etc. On the right you have your layers and navigator. On the top bar there are undo/redo buttons. I actually don't need to keep the on screen keyboard open, which frees up a lot of space (I only had the on screen keyboard open so that I could take a screenshot). The other great thing about SAI is that it is great for sketching. The brushes feel very nice and you can draw very fluidly. SAI has the ability to open PSD files while keeping the layers intact, but some of the layer modes that are available in Photoshop are not compatible with SAI, like soft light.

The Docking Station
You may notice that the ST5112 has no optical drive, which is why the docking station comes in handy. The docking station is a must if you work at home for long periods at a time. You probably won't want to hold this in your lap for 9 hours, so it is nice to be able to dock it and use it like a Cintiq. You can also plug in a keyboard or Nostromo to use while at home to increase your efficiency. When it is docked you can rotate it from portrait mode to landscape mode. The screen will automatically switch back and forth when it is rotated, kind of like an iPhone. When it isn't docked you can click the rotate screen button that is on the side of the ST5112. You can also adjust the angle of the docking station. Aside from the optical drive, the docking station also has 3 USB ports, an AC port, and Firewire.

The ST5112 is definitely something I would recommend if you plan on painting outside a lot. Despite the problems with pressure sensitivity and the considerable hit in efficiency due to the lack of a keyboard, the ability to paint on-the-go is worth it. Carrying around a laptop and a big Intuos 3 tablet was a bit cumbersome. The extended battery life also means that I don't even need to carry around the AC adapter, which is awesome because finding an open outlet in public places can be a pain. I am incredibly happy with my ST5112, I am not sure why I waited this long to get one!

4 Comentários:

Andrew Olson said...

Something you could do to get around the color picking/tapping issue would be to bind your color picker to Alt/Click, so when you hold your color picker button it will sample whatever you're hovering over. It actually feels more precise to me.

Krystyl said...

Great review! Really helpful

Crooked Fat said...

you can use a portable usb keypad, and install keytweak to customize your keys like turn key 7 into Alt etc... its easy and all u need is to bring a small keypad around so you wont need the virtual keyboard.

Danny Araya said...

Try using it with the pencil tool in Sketchbook Pro. It's almost an entirely different experience!

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