Sunday, November 30, 2014

Product Review - Surface Pro 3

I recently was given a Surface Pro 3 to try out, to see if it was a step up from your standard drawing tablet. During the course of the week I had the Surface, I did all of my drawing on it instead of my Huion (if you're interested in that review, it can be found here).

Let me begin with what you get in the Surface Box. You receive a power cord, a wireless pen, and the Surface itself. The Surface runs Windows 8 and does not come with a keyboard, however there is one sold separately. Out of the box I already ran into an issue. For some reason the Surface was already on! I'm not sure why this was the case as I was the first person to open the box, but I feel it should be mentioned. The next issue I ran into was with the pen, for some reason when I went to the bluetooth options on the Surface, it would detect the pen but not connect. The pen still worked, but seemed to lag a little bit. Later on I did get the pen to connect, but I still felt like it was slightly laggy.

The Surface Pro 3 Box

The Included Pen (note while it does have two hotkeys on the front, I was unable to map them to any Photoshop shortcuts)

The device itself was quite nice. It wasn't super heavy and the adjustable stand on the back was a nice feature. I also liked the power cord as it was similar to my Macbook cord, where it worked no matter what way you plugged it in. The device had a nice finish and the screen was quite clear.

The Surface front

The back of the Surface

The kickstand

The two programs I installed on the Surface were Adobe Photoshop CC and Mudbox 2015, however, I was only able to test Photoshop as for some reason Mudbox never opened. I was really disappointed by this, as I had hoped to try some sculpting on the Surface. With Photoshop, I tried to work without using a keyboard, as I didn't have the accessory. I found this incredibly frustrating as it slowed down my workflow immensely. Eventually I caved and plugged in an USB keyboard into the single USB port on the Surface, which sped up the process, but also made the device less portable.

Once I began to draw with the Surface, I was pleasantly surprised at the pressure sensitivity. It was nowhere as good as my Intuos tablet, but it was much better than I expected. I did have to press fairly hard for the device to work, so it made faint line work a bit difficult. I was able to do some decent sketching with the device, but overall I found that it took me longer to draw things as a result of the pressure issue.

An example of the pen pressure

All in all, the Surface pro is a nice tablet for general use I used it for some basic web browsing, and played some music off of it and had no issues. When it came to using this as a digital sketchbook however, I found the device was severely lacking. No matter what I did, I just couldn't seem to find a decent way to use this over using my Intuos or Huion. I enjoyed the tablet as a tablet, but I don't think I could recommend it to someone as an alternative to a traditional drawing tablet. As a tablet I would give it an 8/10, but as a drawing tablet I'd have to give it a 5/10.

Thanks for reading and enjoy!



  1. Hi Josh.nice review :) .. Im a fellow artist (greenviggen in deviantart) .. if u pleas.. can you tell me if there was a brush lag while you were painting in photoshopCC ? with intuos its barely none .. with cintiq there is some .. veeery little .. how was that with the SP3 &ntrig pen ? ..

    1. Thanks Finn! Yeah there was definitely some lag with the SP3, which made it very frustrating to use. I would recommend a normal drawing tablet over this any day of the week.