Microsoft Surface Pro Tablet Review by Christy Karacas

Editor’s Note: Last Friday, we posted about how Microsoft has recruited Superjail! co-creator Christy Karacas to promote their Surface tablets. The video that Christy starred in was nicely produced, but noticeably short on details about how he uses it and what he thinks of it. Thankfully, Christy left a terrifically informative comment on that post in which he shared his thoughts about the Surface tablet. With his permission, we are republishing his review below. It’s particularly timely, too, since tomorrow in New York City, Microsoft will unveil the new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets.

Microsoft Surface Pro Tablet Review by Christy Karacas

For people who want to know, I think it’s a great tablet and I have been using it very often during Superjail! season four production. I use it for sketching/thumbing/boarding on the go. The most important thing I’m looking for in a tablet is a natural drawing experience/interface. I use a Wacom Cintiq to make Superjail!, which is great in my opinion, but obviously that’s a big and powerful non-mobile workstation I can’t take with me.

If you download the Wacom driver for the Surface tablet, the pen pressure/sensitivity is great and I’ve had no latency issues—meaning you can draw very quick and fast which I like to do—and the line doesn’t lag behind the actual pen in your hand. This was a problem I had with previous tablets/laptops.

Prior to this, I owned a Toshiba Portege tablet PC, and used it often to thumb/board during season one. The pressure sensitivity on it kind of sucked and so did the speed, but I would still use it as an option when not in the office or out of town. After season one, I stopped using it. (It was also very heavy and huge by today’s standards…haha). I would only work at the office or home and if I thumbed outside of work, I would do it on paper and then re-draw it in Flash which was kind of a pain in the ass. But when boarding, I like to get away from the office sometimes. I love storyboarding in cafes or bars so I can let my mind wander, people watch, get ideas, etc. I work so often I find a change of workspace inspiring and necessary.

As far as ‘negatives,’ I honestly don’t have any. My biggest hurdle was getting used to Windows 8 as I have a Mac at work and still run Windows Vista at home. I wasn’t used to the ’tiles’ system that is the interface of Surface, but it was just a matter of getting used to it. There is an automatic brightness sensor so when I was drawing sometimes my hand would cover the tablet and the screen brightness would change, but I just disabled that setting so it’s not an issue.

I haven’t and don’t think I would use the Surface for full animation because of its screen size (being a tablet) but I wouldn’t really want to animate in a public space anyways. I would want to work in the quiet of my room or studio. But I do really like storyboarding/thumbnailing in active cafes/bars/even the subway-I don’t know why but I get really good ideas in the subway—and for that, the Surface is great. I boarded a huge chunk of the premiere of Superjail! season 4 on the airplane to San Diego Comic-Con. I was able to email the .FLA file to my storyboard team right on the plane directly from the tablet—super convenient and allows me to get work done, send it to the storyboard artists and keep production flowing while I’m away. The battery life also impressed me—better than my iPhone which I seem to have to charge twice a day.

I think iPads look really nice, but they don’t have the pen driver support, only those blunt ‘stylus’ type pen interfaces that I can’t stand. Also, the iPad can only run apps, not true software like Flash which I need to make Superjail! I know there are more and more tablets on the market these days so there are probably going to be lots of new options.

The Microsoft guys approached me and let me play with it, I loved it and agreed to do the video. Also I have to say that I am really sick of Mac constantly updating their OS. It’s really annoying, and for some reason I find Flash runs better on PC. My PC at home has NEVER crashed making this show—not once! But the Macs at work sometimes do crash when we have a really heavy file. Flash really wan’t designed to do this kind of animation, but that’s a whole other discussion.

So yeah, for directors and storyboard artists, or anyone who wants to sketch digitally away from their workstation with a really sensitive natural pen interface, the Surface has worked out really great for me and I love using it.


  • Toonio

    Although I’ll be damned if I use a M$ product, I’m really enticed of using the wacom pen on the surface. However if somebody ports the Disney animation for the Surface, I’m sold!

    And here is the beginning of the next M$ Surface ad campaign (drop the dancing hipsters altogether!):

    Life with the iPad ain’t what it used to be,,,,

  • Daniel Brown

    Surprised he didn’t have a problem with the battery since that was the one fault that kept bugging me during my brief week with the device. Looking forward to seeing what MS has in store for the Surface 2.

    But also interested in how Wacom Companion/Hybrid will stack up against these other pen tablets.

  • Ben

    I’m really curious to see how this goes against Wacom’s upcoming tablet PC. I’m planning to get one or the other, but wont be making a decision till they’re both out.

    • Tim Elliot

      The specs are all out there.

      The Wacom companion

      Intel Core i-7 processor, 8GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 4000. The cheaper version has 256GB storage — $1999.00

      The Surface Pro

      Intel Core i-5 Processor, 4GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 4000. The more expensive version has 128GB storage — $899.

  • JWLane

    From what Christy says about working with Flash, it makes me wonder why the studio just doesn’t use Toonboom. It’s not as robust as some Adobe apps, but the Animate line is good for working out timing and drawing in general. The camera is not bad either. I’m rendering more camera effected shots ‘before’ exporting to After Effects.

  • Tim Elliot

    For ipad users,

    Wacom has a pressure-sensitive stylus (professional quality, 2,048 pressure levels) for $99. http://intuoscreativestylus.wacom.com/en/

    Since I’m already invested in an iPad, this option seems to make the most sense to me.

  • John S

    Totally Agree. Surface Pro is great for storyboards and comics. It runs full versions of Photoshop, Sketchbook Pro and MangaStudio. It is superior to the iPad as an on the go artist’s tool.

  • RozHall

    I’ve been an iPad Artist for years now and have had work exhibited across the globe. I have just started to play with the Surface Pro and are really excited by the possibilities! I’ve just started to use Corel Painter and it makes anything iPad look very limited. Exciting times!

  • punktoad

    The Surface Pro is a tablet computer while the iPad is a phone/pod. Painter on a tablet will be quite exciting. I wonder if Hockney will switch?