I still rock a Surface Pro 4. I may upgrade to another Surface device in the future, but that’s still very much up in the air, considering Microsoft’s effort to minimize Windows and puts its biggest focus on Azure.
Recently, I’ve been testing different configurations for digital sketching, i.e., drawing directly on a tablet instead of a physical notepad. The majority of what I’ve been drawing has been done on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet running ArtFlow and using an Amazon Basics stylus. This has worked surprisingly well. Here’s a recent example:
I use the Surface Pro 10 during the day for work and started feeling a little bad that I just shut it down at the end of the day and pick up the Amazon tablet. I’ve actually made a conscious decision to do this in the past. It allows me to break away from work at the end of the day and just enjoy some screen time on a non-work device. I’ve even gone as far as to NOT install email on the Fire HD 10, to ensure I don’t get sucked back into work during my, end of the day, relax time.
Still, with all the talk about Windows ink, I thought the drawing experience might be better, and how better to experience a stellar drawing environment than to snag a highly rated stylus for the Surface Pro 4 and use that.
I found Wacom’s Bamboo Ink stylus on sale, so I started there. Wacom has a good name in this area, so I didn’t think I could wrong.
The Bamboo Ink stylus is a pleasure to hold. If you’ve ever doodled or drawn with pencil or pen, this stylus feels very natural. It connected quickly and easily over Bluetooth with the Surface Pro 4 and I was off and running. It took longer to figure out which sketching app to use. I finally settled on Sketchable Premium from the Windows Store. This is a great app and definitely worth paying the additional $20 for the premium version.
Drawing was each and I really like the Windows Ink capabilities. I kept accidentally hitting the buttons (there’s one for right-click and one for erase) when I’d squeeze the stylus, but I suspect its because of the way I actually hold a pencil. Still it was a bit frustrating and having to constantly manage my finger placement disrupted my focus.
It also took me a bit to get used to the menu system of Sketchable before I was able to produce my first sketch.
Here’s an example using the Bamboo Ink on the Surface Pro 4 with Sketchable:
Is “inking” for sketching better on the Surface Pro 4 with a more refined stylus? Not necessarily, I don’t think – but the palm-block technology is definitely key. Is the Bamboo Ink stylus better than the one that comes with the Surface Pro 4? Not really. It does offer a more refined feel in that the weight of the Bamboo is more pen/pencil-like, but the Windows 10 inking technology works well with either one. The Bamboo version costs more, and there’s hundreds of other 3rd party inking options for the Surface Pro inking.
Truly, for drawing, its about understanding your medium. As you can see from the sketch examples, there’s very little difference between the quality of the sketches. Sketchable and AirFlow work just about the same and offer many of the same features.
If you want a stylus for drawing that feels like an actual drawing utensil, the Wacom version is pretty good, but I’d only recommend it if you can find it on sale. I’m going to venture out and start testing some of the other 3rd party inking styli and report back.
The stylus is available from Amazon for around $45: Wacom Bamboo Ink Smart Stylus
Compatible with Windows 10 pen-enabled devices (MPP/AES)
Built for Windows Ink
Ergonomic triangular design and soft-touch surface
Bamboo Note app
Three different nib types – soft, medium and firm
(Tap or click each image for a larger view)
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