The tablet wars heated up another notch on Tuesday with the announcement of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4.
Unlike Apple’s lauded iPad Pro and Apple Pencil combo, Microsoft’s Surface Pro is a fully functional computer that runs Windows 10 and can handle full versions of any popular animation-oriented application from Photoshop to Toon Boom to Maya. Microsoft also claims that Surface Pro 4 runs 50% faster than the Macbook Air.
The accompanying Surface Pen is battery-operated but lasts an entire year, has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity (a significant improvement over the Surface 3’s pen), and ships with interchangeable tips to replicate different styles like pencil, ballpoint pen, and felt tip.
The Surface Pro 4 itself weighs 1.7 pounds, can accommodate up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage, and has the thinnest glass — 0.4mm — of any tablet on the market today. Its 267-ppi 12.3″ screen is packed with over 5 million pixels.
Microsoft also announced the more powerful Surface Book, a laptop with a detachable screen that can function as a tablet.
Having spent time with the Surface Pro line, this update appears to be more evolutionary than revolutionary, and that’s perfectly fine. The Surface Pros have already proven themselves to be a more-than-capable tool for industry artists, as Superjail! creator Christy Karacas explained in a review. The latest refinements continue to keep Microsoft at the forefront of the graphic tablet market.
In the portable market, not only will the Surface Pro 4 compete with the Apple Pencil and iPad Pro, but Wacom’s Cintiq Companion tablet, which remains the standard-bearer with a battery-free stylus that has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, interchangeable nibs, and tilt recognition.
So which one should you buy? Each of these tools has its strengths and flaws, and it’s up to each artist to figure out what works best for their workflow. The bottom line is that digital animators have a growing — and unprecedented — range of options available to them. As long as the tablet market remains competitive, the creative community will benefit from more affordable and improved tools.
The Surface Pro 4 series starts at $899 and will start shipping on October 26.