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I first covered “Buying a Tablet PC” in a previous post about 2 years ago, but it is now rather outdated.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.