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Adobe MAX 2014
Quick Take 01: Microsoft Surface By Ko Maruyama

This week was the kickoff of Adobe MAX 2014, which seems to be the most concentrated convergence of Adobe creative users from around the world.  In this series of articles I'll just present some notes from the convention and my experience as an attendee, a user, a community leader, and a professional user of their software and services.

In this installment, I'll give a few words about the Microsoft Surface Pro 3.  I may be the wrong candidate, or the perfect candidate to write about this, because I am a Apple/Mac fan, but I'm going to write this piece, and a few to follow on the Surface Pro.

Each MAX, Adobe has kicked off the conference with announcements of big changes that come to the software.  During the previous MAX, attendees got news of the change to subscription licensing which has become very popular since then.

This year, Adobe and Microsoft surprised the audience of nearly 7,000 by offering each attendee a new Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

YES. Everyone was very excited to have some new hardware - and a super gift in addition to a year's subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, but as the keynote had revealed, there was software that would make us happy about the hardware for more professional, creative reasons.

I'm a Mac guy.  I have several iPads.
I have Adobe mobile apps that run on iPhone and iPad.
But when I got home and set up my Surface Pro 3, I was really surprised to find out (1) it was pretty painless to set up, (2) it's a fairly significant computer, (3) it's got pretty good resolution, and (4) it's fast.
YEAH YEAH.  I know there are all the PC people out there who are going to say that they've been telling me all along.  My friend Natalie has been cranking out ZBrush sculpts on her Lenovo tablet for over a year.  But I never had a compelling reason to get a PC tablet.
PHOTOSHOP AND ILLUSTRATOR ON WINDOWS SURFACE PRO 3
The cool part about this Surface is that it is a real OS.... or at least it does a good job faking one.  I am guessing that the plan for Windows 10 will be that it's the same as desktop right?  But for now, it's an OS that supports touch on a tablet and runs my favorite design software: Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.
The new versions of Photoshop and Illustrator with their touch interfaces are EXACTLY WHAT I WANT ON A TABLET.  I have a half-baked version of Photoshop on my iPad which I was relatively happy with, until I used the REAL Photoshop on the Surface. (I even opened up Adobe After Effects and created a small comp on the Surface).
I can't escape work.  Even on vacation. Even if it's "just a little work".
It's only day 2 with the Surface, and this article is the first REAL thing that I've created with the tablet, but I've already said on more than one occasion, this is my new "take it with me" computer.
PROS & CONS
It was free with my paid conference ticket, so take these with that in mind. PLUS, I have only used it for a few simple tasks.  I'll follow up before the end of the year with a wear test.

PROS:
It is really light.  I'm comparing it to my Macbook Pro or Macbook Air.  It's about the same weight as my iPad 3 in a leather case.
It does what I expect a PC to do: Run applications (not mobile apps)
Detachable keyboard is a plus (iPad has one too) but it integrates nicely into the machine. The keys have a pretty nice feel to them, and there's a good bit of room for your wrists while you type.
Kickstand on the machine means I don't need to put it in a heavier case.
Stylus. Comes with a two-button pressure responsive stylus
It runs applications.  I've got to say it twice, because it's really a big thing.  Apple users - professional Apple - users will take note.
CONS:
It's otherwise expensive? Well... It's not ridiculously expensive for a laptop, but the Surface+the keyboard is slightly more than what an unlocked iPhone would cost. wait. what? I suppose I should pit it against a Macbook? but Macbook doesn't have touch screen.
I'm not really happy with the keyboard's touchpad.  I may be able to tweak it a little bit, but it does seem very sensitive.  Occasionally, the keyboard won't work unless I poke the screen with my finger or the stylus.
The kickstand needs some kind of lock.  It has tipped over on it's back with a thud twice tonight.
The OS is still foreign to me, and perhaps PC people love switching back and forth from WIN7 to WIN8, but the user experience seems so bizarre.  Obviously, you can tell when you've left Kansas for OZ when everything goes full screen, but dang.
BIGGEST PRO:
This runs the new Photoshop and Illustrator interfaces.  (And, if you put any hope into the announcements at SNEAKS, there may be other candidates for this in the future)

BIGGEST CON:
So far, the biggest hardware complaint I have is the power supply.  I've never had a Windows phone, but I certainly doubt that the power brick and ridiculous plug that attach to the Surface are similar to the phone charger.  COME UP WITH SOME KIND OF UNIVERSAL.  I won't be able to charge the Surface anywhere without the Surface power brick and cable.  It's not any kind of conventional USB, and it's too big to pack around with you.  The power charger really limits the mobility of the device.  Yes - you need power on a iPad too, but I can plug that into a automobile to charge it.  I can purchase an adapter or charger in a grocery store.  This brick has no interchangeable parts.
Yes, there are other ports on the Surface I haven't investigated.  But like I said before - I may not be the right person to review this.  I'm a designer and animator.  I want something that I can work with.  So far, I'm liking it overall.
I'll try to write some more reviews, including some After Effects, Photoshop, and CINEMA4D (3D software) pieces using the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and let you know how it goes.


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Ko Maruyama is a freelance animator in Los Angeles.  In addition to working on film and broadcast animations, Ko teaches at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design - focusing on motion design.  When working, writing or testing software allows, you can find him lending a hand in the After Effects board and lurking among the Cinema4D, Visual Effects and Photoshop posts within the DMNForums.
 





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