This first post in a series is written for quilters who want to use a tablet to draw with, design quilts, applique, and whole cloths, digitize in Art&Stitch, or perhaps just like the things I create with tablets and want to learn how to do it, too. If you are new to tablets, or curious about the things you can create with them, please read this post.
I first covered “Buying a Tablet PC” in a previous post about 2 years ago, but it is now rather outdated. The tablet market continues to evolve at a rapid rate, so it is time to write a new series of posts about Tablets.
Let’s start with the first decision a quilter should make- what operating system will best meet their creative and design needs?
Introduction to Tablets- Operating Systems
Many quilters do not realize that there are many types of devices being marketed as a “tablet” in 2014. It is important to understand that not all tablets will allow you to use your favorite illustration, photo editing, and digitizing programs either. This brings us to the reason why- the operating system of the device, called OS, for short. In order to choose the right tablet for you, you need to understand the differences between Tablet OS.
iOS- Apple iPad’s proprietary Operating System- Apple introduced the first iPad in April, 2010, featuring their OS, aptly titled iOS, which ran applications, called “Apps” for short. While I love all my apps, and own about 30 drawing apps, the largest downside is that for more serious artists and designers, an App is a very poor substitution when compared to a comprehensive program like Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel, etc. There are some serious limitations to what an app can do.
A question I often receive is “Can I use my iPad or iPhone to draw on quilt photos like you do?” The answer is yes, but it is very cumbersome, and you need to be a bit tech savvy and know your App. I can even share how in a later post, if I receive enough interest comments asking how this is done. 🙂
I tend to do more complex drawing and design work, which is too challenging for an application. This brings us to the next device that competes very successfully in the iPad tablet and iPhone market- the Android OS tablet.
Android Operating System- Android open source OS was developed to compete against the iPhone (and later iPad), and many legal dollars have been spent on the question of whether there has been copyright violations by Google, who purchased Android in 2005. As with the Apple iOS, Android also uses small Applications, called “Apps.” Just like with the iPad, there are significant limitations in using apps compared to comprehensive programs like Photoshop. There are just no comparisons for more serious digital artists, which leads us to the type of tablet I use:
PC Tablets– PC Tablets are a generic term for a larger tablet computer with pen enabled display that runs Microsoft Windows 7 or 8 (or 8.1) operating systems. I own a sub-category of the PC Tablet, called a “Convertible” or “Tablet PC Convertible,” which looks like the image on the left. It has a Wacom enabled screen, which allows me to design with a stylist pen right on the screen using any number of large, powerful, comprehensive programs. The screen swivels, as shown in the picture and can also click into “notepad mode” if I want.
The convertible is also a laptop (or ultrabook), and used as such when I am not drawing digitally. As for my OS, I do prefer using Window 7 over Windows 8 OS, and I guess I am not alone, since Windows 8.1 has added back some Windows 7 features including the familiar desktop, working with a mouse and keyboard, and more. I will freely state that I do not like Windows 8, but plan to try 8.1 out.
I have purchased 3 tablet pc convertibles over the last 10 years- a Toshiba Portege, an HP Tmt2, and now my 2 year old Fujitsu T901. All models listed have been discontinued, and convertibles are becoming harder and harder to find. Luckily, you can easily purchase refurbished models on eBay and similar websites for a fraction of the price sold new. Digital artists love convertible tablets, and will continue to buy them as long as they are sold in this changing technology market- which they still are.
To give you an example of what my tablet PC convertible can do, on the right is a digital drawing completed in Adobe Illustrator for a class I took last year. (Homework was to render your TV remote as digital art) If you are a serious 2-D artist, draw frequently, and have the budget, a convertible PC Tablet like the Fujitsu T902 or the newer T904 would be my current #1 top pick.
The next sub-category under PC Tablet is the “Slate” or “Tablet PC Slate.” These are lighter, slimmed down computing devices that do not have a standard keyboard. PC Slates that have detachable keyboards are called “Hybrids.” Some models of slates may also feature a virtual keyboard. They are convenient, portable, fun to use, and you can find slates that run Windows 7, 8 and 8.1. The downside is often the price, and the base price often does not include memory upgrades, added keyboards, extra stylist pens, or external hard drive storage; all three which I recommend.
I also recommend that if you plan on buying a PC tablet slate, be sure to get a hybrid with an attachable keyboard, largest memory storage available, with also an external hard drive for extra file storage. Windows 7 or 8.1 would be my personal preference, too.
What is the difference between the Tablet PC Convertible and the Tablet PC Hybrid? The hybrid has a detachable keyboard while the convertible’s keyboard remains attached.
Why is Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 your operating system of choice for your Tablet PC? A comprehensive operating system like Windows 7,8 or 8.1 allow the end user to install and work with large design and editing software like Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Art&Stitch, Core lDraw,or whatever software you work with. Many quilting artists also work with video editing software, which also need Windows OS.
Why haven’t you listed Apple’s MacBook OS? The only way to get tablet functionality with a MacBook is to also use a plug in tablet peripheral (like Wacom) with your computer. If someone owns Apple products exclusively, then I suggest a Wacom Cintiq tablet plug-in for them, the size will be based on their budget.
What About the Wacom Type Tablets? Wacom is a company which makes a wide array of tablet related products. From their penabled active digitizer, which many brands of tablets being sold use, to tablet plug-in peripheral devices (ie. Cintiq, Intuos, Bamboo, etc) sold under the Wacom brand, to their Inkling digital pen which captures your pen strokes to upload to other programs. Recently, they introduced their own Windows 8 slate tablet, too, called the Cintiq Companion.
I will address plug-in peripheral tablet devices in a future series post.
OS in a Nutshell- First step in choosing a tablet is to consider which OS you want. Do you love and own Apple products and a drawing app on an iPad is all you need? Or, do the programs you need to use run now on Microsoft Windows 7 and you want a ultrabook tablet PC with lots of memory? Each quilter will have different needs based on how they plan to use the tablet.
Which brings me to my next post in this series- What other considerations are important when buying a tablet? I will attempt to make the confusing world of tablets and tablet specs seem a bit clearer. Please click here to go to Part 2.
I should have kept up with the quilt whisper lessons. I thank you for sharing your knowledge on an otherwise confusing and changing technology.
Hi Lenore, I hope to take some of the mystery out of tablets and finding the right one to buy. Let me know if you have any specific questions. Hugs, Carla
Thank you so much for starting this series! I definitely will be following along. I’m loving my Mac book, have an iPad and just bought an iMac computer. I also have a Wacom Bamboo tablet that I haven’t mastered yet. It was only purchased two or three years ago and I recently noticed they seem to be extinct already. LOL.
Hi Ramona, I would like to encourage you to dust off that Bamboo and plug it into your MacBook. You may want to make sure it is tracking properly, so here is the support page for Wacom: http://us.wacom.com/en/support/frequently-asked-questions/.
Btw, I purchased my Fujitsu T901 2 years ago for $2k. It is no longer being sold new, but can now be purchased for about $600 on the secondary markets. Technology moves very fast, doesn’t it?
thanks for the info, Carla. I’ll do that.
Thank you for the detailed info, Carla. I will retread many times and continue watching your series so I can make an informed decision.
Hi Jean, thanks for stopping by. The next post will be on-point for you since you know you plan to purchase. Have you narrowed down your OS yet? 🙂
First of all Carla, thank you for all of your posts, they are extremely helpful. I am one of those people who would love to have your information on the use of an IPad for designing. At the moment I am using IDraw and the Jot Pro adonit pen. I use Art an Stitch as my quilt digitizing program and not as detailed as you are.
Hi Bev, thanks for your comment! I do get a lot of iDraw questions for working with an iPad. May I ask which iPad you own and what version of iDraw you have? I also bought a Jot Pro by Adonit when they first came out. Best stylist now is the Jot Touch 4 by Adonit and it allows you to rest your palm on the screen while you draw, a very natural drawing position. May I ask which PC set up you use for working with Art & Stitch?
Thanks Carla for getting back to me. I have version 2.0 of I draw, and version 7.1.1 of the IPad. My IPad was the second one that came out. Not a mini. My laptop is a new think pad with windows 7, 64 bit. I also have a. Rey old Wacom tablet which I use very little.
Thank you for this interesting post…I will be watching out for you future ones Carla.
Thanks for writing, Joan! I am working on the second post and there is so much info that I may have to split it into post 2 and 3. The goal is to take a rather complex topic and make it easy to understand. Hugs, C
Thank you Carla. I love your digital quilts and would love to learn how you do them. I have a Mac and Wacom Intuos which is several years old. I am considering upgrading to a Wacom Cintiq, but would like to know if I could use it to design quilts like you do. I am eagerly awaiting your next post.
Hi Colleen, thank you for writing. I also have a MacBook and Intuos, though my Intuos has barely been used. The reason is that I do not care to look at the monitor screen and draw off to the side on the tablet. I am sure this is the reason you are thinking of upgrading to a Cintiq. As you know, the Wacom Cintiq allows a pen enabled display which means you can see what you are drawing. That would be a great choice for you to draw digital quilts, paired with Photoshop Elements, which is very affordable software and does so much. It also has an easy learning curve.
My next post is coming along. It does involve a fair amount of research to make sure my facts are current and accurate, plus I like adding visuals, too. I plan to write a detailed post on Wacom Tablets soon thereafter, also a post for budget minded Tablet buyers, and more. Take care! Carla
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Carla, do you perhaps have a chart that compares the three price points and specific models for us. Don’t you just love how I want everything spelled out so that I can say…..’this is the one I want”? Working within a Win 8 or 8.1………..at a mid price point, what would you buy? Can you list everything and what brands?? Something that I can just take to my computer guy and say, “This is what I want.” ? I am a longarm quilter and I love computers, so would want good drawing capability and something that will hold some of my statler designs for comparison for customers.
Love your blog,
Hi Joyce, over the years, I have helped many quilters find the right tablet to fit their needs. Everyone’s needs are so different that a spreadsheet would just confuse people. 🙂
As you read the 4 part article, jot down what your needs are, for instance, what programs do you plan to use or eventually use, what is your budget (midprice to me might be different to you), how do you wish to use the device, and so on. I am planning to purchase another tablet soon for myself and will most likely get a newer Windows 8.1 OS tablet and we are looking at Lenova Yoga, the ones with more memory. I had a chance to play with and review both Surface Pro 2 (it was a heavy clunker by comparison, imho) and also use Google glass (imho, dumb idea).
Write down what your needs are and send me an email through the contact page. I would be happy to point you in the right direction with some choices to consider based on your needs. Happy Quilting! Carla
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I have a SurfacePro3 which I love as light and runs windows based programs. My one complaint is in some programs (i.e., my Artista Emb Software Version 7. The menus and buttons are so small I tend to go back to my 17″ heavy non-touch screen laptop. Any hints on how to correct? Like the new Surface Book but my surface pro is only 1 1/12 yrs old and it is the top of the line surface so need to wait. May go to a HP or Toshiba 17″ touch laptop.
Roberta, I like the new Surface Pro 4. I think I may even get one within the next year. There is usually a shortcut key to enlarge the screen more. I have seen what you mention about a small screen that is hard to see. Try Control + to see if that works. Or spreading your fingers out on the touch screen. If that doesn’t work, I would google the question. Have fun creating! Carla