Saturday, August 21, 2010

Finally! A Tablet PC for Toon Boom

Hewlett Packard's (HP) newest Tablet PC, the "tm2" arrived this year.  It is the first Tablet PC that can actually run Toon Boom animation software appropriately.

In July 2010, HP also released an updated tm2 Tablet PC with faster Intel i3 and i5 processors and an updated ATI graphics coprocessor.
Why is this Tablet PC unique and important?

1. This is the only Tablet PC with an added and switchable graphics coprocessor. This makes it more suitable for gaming (not that I am much of a gamer) and demanding graphics or video applications.

2. Most importantly, for Toon Boom fans, this is probably the only Tablet PC with sufficient horsepower to run Animate Pro and Toon Boom Studio without major compromises.

3. Amazingly, this Tablet PC is half the price of far lesser configurations from other vendors, including the Compaq/HP Business division.

The “tm2” as tested utilizes an i5 Intel U430 processor with an ATI graphics coprocessor, the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5450 . It contains 6 gigs of RAM and was priced at a little over $1000.

Windows 7 Home Premium is the operating system. The tablet utilizes a Wacom digitizer.

Animate Pro installed smoothly.
Three cheers to HP for appropriately configuring the Wacom driver to allow pressure sensitivity in Toon Boom and Adobe applications "out of the box." Other vendors are rarely so considerate.

HP tends to install many programs to help you "manage" the machine. I have not decided if this is helpful or a pain.

Viewing angles and screen brightness have been criticized. I was actually pleased by the display. True, there is some issue with viewing angles in portrait mode, but I found this to be a minor issue. I was surprised at the brightness of the screen. Tablet PC’s present a harsh trade-off: Touch and pen sensitivity mandates a screen overlay of additional hardware. Also, the screen must be reinforced to prevent damage from all the direct pressure.

Perhaps the most aggravating problem that must be mentioned: The tracking pad is very difficult to use. HP keeps experimenting with redesigns and this one is not especially successful . It might be a learned taste.

The keyboard is reasonable and designed to look slightly Mac-like.

The additional ATI graphics card is extremely important. I ran Animate Pro in both Intel integrated graphics mode and enhanced ATI graphics mode. The difference was incredible. Serious drawing lag appeared in integrated graphics mode, even with the i5 processor.

Incidentally, this lag seems to be an issue of the Aero portion of Windows 7. You can dramatically improve performance by switching to "Classic" windows mode that eliminates Aero. Aero is a lot of flash that ultimately adds very little in your day to day computing experience.

Again, there was no lag with the ATI graphics in use.

So, what about the inking and drawing experience? I found screen accuracy and inking to be very enjoyable. The screen is a bit slick, but this was not a problem. The “tm2” has one of the best inking environments on a Tablet PC. I experienced no clumsiness on the edges, which is frequently a digitizer phenomenon seen in other models.

Bottom line: Animate Pro runs well on this machine. This is the best Toon Boom inking environment I have ever found on a Tablet PC.

Is this equal to a Cintiq?

Advantages to a Cintiq and desktop:

1. More screen real estate.
2. Easily accessible keyboard for using shortcuts.

Advantages to the HP tm2:

1. Portable, take it anywhere work environment.
2. Lower price. Depending on the Cintiq, the savings vary from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars.
3. Power equivalent to a desktop.

Battery life was extremely good. I tend to run my laptops at full power, top graphics, "everything revved up" and I was still impressed. When configuring the laptop, the extra battery option was only $50 which makes this a no brainer even with the good battery life.

This is a good buy. I recommend it. The HP tm2 is the perfect complement to Toon Boom Animation software!

2 comments:

Bryan Lorenzo said...

thanks for posting this. im thinking of getting this for my toon boom software.

Sweet Fairy said...

This is so nice and is so helpful. I really like it. tablet pc