Surface Pro 3, Digital Art and Conquering the Universe

Ok, so maybe this is really just about the first 2 things…

I’ve noticed there’s been a lot of search traffic lately to my site for Surface Pro 3 + Digital Art + insert synonyms.  Maybe people are researching last-minute Christmas gifts, or writing some last-minute Christmas lists, or something else for whatever other holiday around now where people get cool stuff.  Whatever the case, it seems now is a good time to give a review after I’ve played with my Surface Pro 3 for a few months.

To give an idea of where I started — I’d never created any digital media before.  Not really.  …at least not to the scale of the real paint paintings I’ve spent months or years on.  I’m an accomplished artist, but going digital was a scary and completely alien universe.  So, of course, I was set on conquering it.  Like a boss.

Boss, Mouse, Whatever

I finally decided on the Surface Pro 3 as my gateway drug for a few key reasons:

  1. Despite the reportedly unparalleled performance, the Wacom Cintiq Companion is comparatively clunky and not built for several hours of public transportation every day, plus it’s even more expensive.  Later in my research, I learned that users found the Cintiq’s screen would get hazy from scratches after a while of use, but SP3 has Gorilla Glass.  Not Gorilla Glass 1, not Gorilla Glass 2 like on my Galaxy phone, but instead, No Screwing Around Gorilla Glass 3.
  2. Apple doesn’t make any product like this yet, so no contenders there.
  3. Every other product, despite advantages did not compare to performance overall.

The only real sticking point left was the flimsy keyboard cover on the SP3.  I was afraid that when the bus or train I was on rolled over a body, the machine might detach itself from the keyboard on my lap and go flying.  Now that I own it and have used it a while, I know this is a real concern (more for the computer than the bodies, but only slightly).  After spending hours researching covers and trying to visualize the bus thump-thumping over a carcass with the SP3 on my lap, I decided on this – the ESR Intelligent Series Case:

I theorized that as long as I kept the keyboard firmly against the case when open, nothing should go flying*.  The clips around the screen are surprisingly snug and don’t get in the way of buttons, ports or swiping motions around the perimeter like a lot of the other cases did.  Another bonus: the pen is also a lot less vulnerable tucked away inside the case when placed on top of the screen instead in the hanging-offy-in-the-wind tab Microsoft gives you.  The only noteworthy drawback is you can’t access the micro SD slot on the back of the machine, but it was a small price to pay.

*Use this shit at your own risk.

Here is an exceptionally clear photo of the case and SP3 in action:

Photography Skillz Set to IHaveAFluThisIsGoodEnough Mode
Photography Skillz Set to IHaveAFluThisIsGoodEnough Mode

I ended up choosing the Core i5 with 8 GB RAM.  The 4 GB would have probably been just fine for learning to digital art and word processing/browsing type stuff, but I wanted this thing to last a while.  I also wanted the option of being able to run optical simulation software at some point, and for that 4 GB would be a sad, paltry excuse for adequate processing power.  I’m an experienced pc murderer, so I know, having driven more than one machine into the ground with optical software.

Next post will be on my adventures with actually trying to use the thing with Adobe Illustrator and such.  Spoiler Alert: It’s proven to be a great little wonder-machine but I definitely have some tips I’ve learned the hard way to help you avoid headaches and fury.