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I found a gem of a book at Basheer Graphic Books a few days ago and it happens to be published by them as well. The boss told me that they publish translated books occasionally and this looks like one of them.
Hand Drawing for Landscape Design: Basic Training is a book of tips and techniques for rendering landscapes. It covers natural as well as urban landscapes and people.
What led me to buy the book are the beautiful examples included. I love the quick, loose and bold style of the examples. There are sketches as well as coloured sketches, some looked like marker renders and some like watercolour. Regardless of the medium used, the sketches look so nice. There are plenty of details whenever needed and the textures created by the pencil, pen or paint look great.
The drawing tips are written in Chinese and English. These are quick tips to help make your sketch read better. Things like how you should draw trees, how much details to put, how to simplify, when to use white, how to render skies and more. The drawings kinda look like architecture renders but there is definitely more texture here.
The first chapter talks about hand drawn art in today's digital age and how it still plays an important role in illustration and communication. After going through the book, looking at the examples, you should be able to see why hand drawn art still has the allure.
I can't remember how much I bought the book for. It's not too expensive. Should be around S$25. Grab it while stocks last. It's a great book for those into urban sketching.
(flip-through) Hand Drawing for Landscape Design: Basic Training - YouTube
Apple has just released the 2018 Macbook Pros and it's quite a significant upgrade over their previous generation. There are now quad-core options for 13-inch models and 6-core options for the 15-inch ones. I was so close to getting a new Macbook Pro when I saw Dave Lee's video of him running his i9 6-core 2.9Ghz model in a refrigerator. That video totally wiped out all my temptation of upgrading to one.
Why I'm thinking of upgrading
I'm currently using a 2013 Mac Pro quad 3.7Ghz and a 2015 Macbook Pro quad 2.5Ghz. The Mac Pro is the workstation that I use to edit and export most of my Youtube videos. A few days ago, I exported 70 minutes worth of 4K videos on the Mac Pro and it took me 5 to 6 hours. It was a long time. The 2015 Macbook Pro with its Quick Sync hardware encoder can export the same videos in a fraction of the time.
Here's the thing, when it comes to editing videos, both the Mac Pro and Macbook Pro are equally fast. When it comes to exporting videos, the Macbook Pro is significantly faster. But I don't use the Macbook Pro often for my video editing work mainly because the Mac Pro is on my desk. The second reason is because while the Mac Pro is exporting video, I can spend the time doing other stuff, like editing photos or writing for my blog.
Why I'm no upgrading?
When it comes to technology, I only care about two things. Whether the new technology is able to help me save time and money. And what can I do with the time saved.
Even if I upgrade to the new Macbook Pros by selling the 2013 Mac Pro and 2015 Macbook Pro, I won't be able to create more content.
My workflow involves editing videos for Youtube everyday. I spend hours editing videos and exporting them. Even for this intensive workflow, I can't say that processor speed is the bottleneck. As mentioned earlier, while the video is exporting, I can always do other stuff.
If my workflow a processor intensive task to be completed before I can do anything else, then it's a clear case for me to upgrade. But that's not my workflow. For example let's say my workflow involves rendering 3D scenes for interior design or architecture. In order to get the best lighting in the scene, I have to render the scene several times, each time changing some variables. Each new render can only be done after the previous has completed. And during the render, it would be disruptive to do some other stuff. That's when having really fast processors really will help get work done faster. You can have more time for yourself as a result. Not just that, it will help get more work done.
Should you get the Macbook Pro for graphic design?
The Macbook Pros are more than powerful enough for graphic design. The dual-core models are sufficient for graphic design. Quad-core models are overkill.
If you're going to be running Adobe software, you can consider Windows laptops too because they can run Adobe software as well. Regardless of Windows or Mac, when you're running the same software, the user experience is going to be quite similar. Photoshop on Windows can do what Photoshop on the Mac can do.
The main reason to get a Mac is for Mac OS and to use software that can only be used on Mac OS. In my case, I use Mac because I use the video editing app Final Cut Pro which only runs on Mac OS. And the reason why I use Final Cut Pro is because it exports videos significantly faster compared to Adobe Premiere Pro. If Final Cut Pro can run on Windows, or if Premiere Pro can export videos faster than Final Cut Pro, I would have switched long ago. The saving grace for Apple computers is their OS and software.
Should you upgrade?
Ask yourself these questions.
Qn1. Are you going to be able to save more time with the new Macbook Pros?
Qn2. Are you going to be able to get more work done because of the time you saved?
My answers are yes and no. Even though the new Macbook Pros are fast, extremely fast, I can't get more work done with the time I save with them. Right now, I am not making more videos that I can export. And I'm making videos every day.
If your answers are yes for both, then it make more sense to upgrade. The performance improvement is significant from dual-core to quad-core, and from quad-core to 6-core. Even with the throttling that so many people are complaining about on Macrumors and Reddit, you're still getting a jump in number of cores, so the improvements will be there.
Which model to get?
For graphic design, visual content creation, the dual-core models are more than good enough. Don't get the 128GB model though because the real storage after formatting is as follows
That's not including storage space you need to install Mac OS and the apps you use. If you want something to edit photos with, note that 16MP RAW files are around 20MB each or even higher nowadays. If you show videos, 1080P or 4K, they are going to take up a lot of storage.
Quad-core models are good for those who need to run processor intensive task, such as video editing or rendering 3D models.
For those who are really squeezed for time, for people who need to run their processors for extended periods of time, get the 6-core options. Apple offers 6-core options in i7 2.2Ghz, i7 2.6Ghz and i9 2.9Ghz. Based on what I've researched so far, the i9 model seem to generate so much heat that it throttles to the point where it can't even maintain its base clock speed. I can understand and accept that the i9 processor cannot maintain its turbo speed of 4.8Ghz for extended periods of time. But for it to be unable to maintain its base clock speed is ridiculous and unacceptable, especially when you're paying the price for that performance. Right now, it seems that the 6-core 2.2Ghz is the only model that's meeting expectations.
Regardless of which 6-core you're getting, you're still getting significant improvements because of the core count increment. But the 6-core 2.2Ghz seems to be the one that's worth the money.
So that's my take.
I wanted to upgrade but the upgrade won't improve my workflow. I'll upgrade eventually. Maybe when the new Mac Pro arrives in 2019. And let's hope Apple won't mess up the new Mac Pro.
Today's review is for a product that's not out in the market yet. It's the new pen display from Parblo. This is the Parblo Mast22, a 21.5-inch pen display, a monitor you can draw on, a Cintiq alternative.
The review unit that I have is still a prototype but it's working pretty well hence this review. The drivers are still currently under development though, and as such has limited functionality.
Since the unit I have is a prototype, expect updates to this review in the future.
The Parblo Mast22 looks sleeker compared to many of the 19 to 22 inch pen displays that I have reviewed before. The screen is now significantly thinner.
This display feels like a large tablet with feet. The side profile is barely the width of the nail on my thumb.
For some unknown reason, there are two sets of feet installed onto the stand. In the photo above, one set is right beneath the bottom of the monitor base (left). The other is on the right.
The feet beneath the monitor base is not locked down and is movable. Because it's moveable, sometimes when I move the monitor, the feel would deploy in a position I did not want. I've seen pen displays with two set of feet too, but they have one locked while the other is adjustable.
Here's another photo with that feet flipped to the back.
The monitor base feet doesn't adjust the angle of the monitor, the back feet does.
In the photo above, the monitor base feet can be seen. If you flip that feet back, the monitor will be resting on its bottom edge.
That's the movable feet I'm referring to. Having the rubber attached to the monitor base would be better.
The back of the monitor is flat throughout except where the stand is protruding out.
I'm not sure what material the body is made of but it is extremely solid. It feels as hard as metal but when I tap my fingers on it, it feels a bit hollow. The surface is matte and the finishing is excellent on the front and back.
The ports are on the left and the cables come out from that side. This is a great improvement over cables that come out from the bottom.
Speaking of cables, these are all the things included in the box
USB cable for display-computer
2x USB charging cable for pen
Power cable and adapter
8 replacement nibs and nib remover
Microfiber cleaning cloth
Travel adaptor for the power cable
The matte screen protector that's already applied has a nice texture to draw on. It's an anti-glare screen protector so it diffuses reflected light that you see. Note the nice rounded corner.
The screen protector is not pasted perfectly though. There are some little gaps where it does not stick to the screen properly. I'm just nitpicking here. I notice at the top, the screen protector protrudes slightly so be extremely careful when handling that part when adjusting the angle of the display. You do not want to peel off the screen protector accidentally.
The bezels are big and uniform on all sides. You can rest your hands on that area while drawing. The thick black bezel also frames the screen nicely.
Resolution of the display is 1920 x 1080. The pixel density is certainly not as high compared to 1440P screens but it's not a deal breaker. You can definitely see pixelation in fonts and user interface. I'm not too bothered by it. It's still a decent resolution to work with.
There's some issue with the screen that's not apparent when you are looking at it straight.
When the display is tilted, I noticed some shadowy effects at three places along to the edge of the lit screen. I suspect it has got something to do with the backlight electronics. Not a deal breaker again. It is what it is.
The menu control buttons are located behind the display at the bottom right. It's actually not easy to get to the buttons even with my thin fingers because the feet doesn't lift the monitor's base high enough. Best way to get more space for your fingers is to lay the display down.
One of the buttons is menu/enter, there's a left and right, an exit and the power button. Navigating though the menu is not easy but thankfully you just have to do it once.
In the display menu, there are two settings that control the brightness, namely Backlight and Brightness. The one you want to use to change the brightness is Backlight. If you adjust the brightness, it actually blows out the contrast. Before I colour calibrated my screen, I set Backlight to 100% and left Brightness and Contrast at default 50%. You can also choose the gamma and colour temperature.
That green power light is quite bright but it's facing the back. Whew.
The Spyder5Pro colour calibrator I used measured 100% sRGB, 75% NTSC and 81% Adobe RGB. Colour accuracy is quite good. When I messed up the Backlight settings, I was only able to get 93% sRGB and the colours looked weird.
The default colour profile should look fine so you may not need additional colour calibration.
That's the pen and the stand. The rubber grip is huge so no matter how you hold the pen, you'll be holding the grip. Build quality is solid enough and the weight of the pen is just nice.
The pen display supports up to 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity.
This pen requires charging because there's built in battery. The good thing is two pens are provided. So while you're charging up one, you can use the other pen.
Hidden within the pen stand are 8 replacement nibs and the metallic nib remover.
As mentioned earlier, the driver is still in development stage so there's not a lot of features.
You can adjust the pressure sensitivity and assign some functions to the side buttons. That's all.
If you use dual monitors, you can assign a Toggle Display function to switch the cursor to the screen you want.
This pen display has cursor misalignment issues. For some reason, the cursor will stray from beneath the tip when it's near the top, at least that's the case for my unit. When the pen is in the middle or bottom of the screen, the cursor is always directly beneath the tip. And because there's no monitor calibration yet, this parallax issue cannot be fixed at the time of this review.
I refer to this problem as a misalignment rather than parallax because it's not really parallax. The glass surface is very close to the actual screen so parallax is minimal.
Having said that, I did not have any problems drawing though. As for accuracy, as long as you can see the cursor, you can still control it so it's not a big problem. I can still join my lines perfectly, just that I have to be more careful, that's all.
Graphic app performance
Here's the Mast22 performs with different graphic apps
Photoshop (Mac) works well. There's pressure sensitivity and the strokes taper well.
Medibang Paint Pro (Mac) works fine.
Krita (Mac) works fine.
Clip Studio Paint (Mac) works fine.
Pressure sensitivity does not work with Adobe Illustrator. When I install Wacom driver to get the pressure working, the pen would sometimes stop responding.
Overall performance of the pen display is quite good. I could get the strokes to appear the way I want them to. Pressure sensitivity is good. There's non of the micro-jitter when drawing lines, unless you're drawing really slow.
My experience working and drawing with this pen display is satisfactory despite some downsides which can probably be fixed by driver updates.
After using the pen display for hours, it does feel a bit warm throughout. It's about as warm as a mobile phone while it's being charged up.
As of now, there's no indication of the price. If I were to make a guess, maybe US $500 - $600?
The Parblo Mast22 is one of the nicest looking pen displays I've reviewed in a long time. If you want something that works great and looks good on your table, this is something to consider.
Pros and cons at a glance
+ Good build quality
+ Nice looking pen display
+ Matte screen protector already applied
+ Good drawing performance with most apps
+ Pressure sensitivity works well
+ Two pens included
+ 100% sRGB and adequately bright screen
+ 8 replacement tips included
- There's an unnecessary set of moveable feet included
- Pen needs charging
The Mast22 is not out yet. Sign up for Parblo's newsletter to get the latest news on its release.
Special thanks to Lorelle Caulfield Govoni for sending me this review copy.
The story of Robert O. Caulfield is an interesting one. But you really can't tell just by looking at the immense collection of oil paintings featured in this 360-page hardcover.
Here's the biography from his gallery's website:
"Following his parents’ separation when he was in the first grade, Robert O. Caulfield was entrusted to the care of his alcoholic maternal grandmother. He spent the next six years under her tipsy supervision, running wild on the perilous streets of Depression-era Roxbury, Massachusetts.
"Horrified by the neglect he was suffering, Robert’s paternal grandparents adopted him when he was on the verge of adolescence. Overnight, Robert moved from a cockroach-infested hovel to a roomy house in a comfortable suburb on Boston’s North Shore. Despite the middle-class comforts that transformed his life, the wounds inflicted by his childhood would never completely heal.
"A gifted athlete, Robert was a reluctant student who turned down scholarship offers from Harvard and Holy Cross. After a stint in the Marine Corps, he eloped with his high school sweetheart, Marilyn Le Blanc. During the first few years of their marriage, Robert studied art at night in Boston. Those studies ended when the financial demands of his growing family took precedence over his artistic dreams.
"Over the next thirty years, Robert worked his way up from laborer to upper management in a utility company. Working sixty-hour weeks to support his family, he grabbed time to paint whenever he could, exhibited his landscapes locally and sold about five paintings per year. Although Robert sometimes struggled with self-doubt, Marilyn’s faith in her husband’s talent never wavered.
"Marilyn persuaded Robert to take early retirement shortly after one of his paintings received national exposure in Yankee magazine. Together they opened an art gallery in Woodstock, Vermont showcasing Robert’s work when he was fifty-six. Their partnership proved spectacularly successful."
The struggle of being an artist is real. His struggle has made him the artist he is today. I could almost sense some angst, frustration and maybe a little uncertainty. The caption for a self portrait was "Your average, working-class, tortured artist". The description on the back of the book has him wondering if he "had something unique to offer as an artist."
This book covers his life and career from 1930s to 2010s in detail. And despite the struggles and challenges, he was still able to produce an incredible amount of work. That is quite inspiring. The paintings collected in the book are from 1950s to 2017. He paints mostly landscapes and seascapes. Many look like European towns, villages and parks. It's difficult for me to describe his style except to say there's lots of textures. You can check out the photos of selected pages I've listed below.
The highlight of the book for me is his work rate and his love for art. It's an impressive collection.
Marvel Studios is on a roll, no doubt about it. They have their formula for making blockbuster hits. They also have a formula to making fantastic artbooks, which is to pack loads of great art into a thick book. That's what they have done here again.
As with the Marvel artbooks that came before, we get a hardcover and a slipcase again. And as usual, the page numbers has been listed wrongly on Amazon again. There are 288 pages, not 240 pages.
Just like other Marvel artbooks, this is filled with art. Character designs, scene paintings, environment art, interiors, prop designs, schematics, weapons and 3D renders.
There is a lot to see. New costume designs for Ant-man, Wasp, the Quantum Suit, Ghost and Janet. For set and interior designs, they have also included detailed schematics, like top-down-left-right, of the Hank's lab, the Quantum Array and Quantum Tunnel. Schematics include measurements too. That's the level of detail you get. There are of course many illustrated environment artworks.
Highlight of the book is the absurd ridiculous idea of Ant-man. More specifically, the juxtaposition of Ant-man in big and small form in everyday settings. You get the standard artworks of Ant-man riding on ants, insects as usual. The ones I like are the hilarious ones, like small Ant-man standing in front of a squirrel, in the pocket of a wallet, big ants running around the swimming pool, chilling out under a blanket on the sofa, and more. Together with The Wasp, there are double the number of fun and outrageous moments.
This artbook has a serious and light-hearted feel to it. Serious as in the artworks are drawn really beautifully. Light-hearted as in somethings what's drawn can be quite whimsical. It's a really nice artbook for movie fans, concept artists and artbook collectors. Another good one to squeeze beside other Marvel artbooks on the shelf.
This book was borrowed from Basheer Graphic Books for review purposes. You can order the book from them. Check with Basheer on Facebook.
Let me give you the bottom line first. The Microsoft Surface Book 2 is one of the best Windows laptops in the market right now. It may not be the most powerful, may not the most affordable, but as a whole, the design and features it offers makes it a really attractive package.
As usual, my review is from the perspective of a visual content creator. More specifically, my review is written for digital artists, photographers and video editors. This review is for you if you create visual content.
My first impression of the Surface Book 2 is that it's clunky, but in a good way. Both the 13.5 and 15 models feel big and substantial. I'm not a fan of companies that sacrifice functionality for the pursuit of thinness. You can make your laptop thick, but there must be a reason for the thickness. With the Surface Book 2, it's thick for many good reasons which you shall find out below.
The magnesium alloy body feels solid. The matte surface finishing on the body and keys are nice to touch. I definitely prefer this surface finishing compared to the Alcantara fabric on the Surface Laptop.
Keys on the keyboard are excellent. Surface Laptop has a good keyboard but the one on the Surface Book 2 is even better. It's even better than the Macbook Pro (2015) before Apple switched to the idiotic butterfly keys. The travel for the keys here are just right and there's a tactile feedback to each press. This keyboard is exceptionally satisfying to type on. It's back-lit too.
The only downside is there's no Control key on the right side. So if you're using a mouse, or the stylus, and want to access keyboard shortcuts on the right side with your left hand, it would be impossible to reach some shortcuts, e.g. Ctrl+= for zooming.
On the left, the Surface Book 2 has two full-sized USB 3 ports and a SD card slot.
On the right, there's the Surface connector and USB type C (not Thunderbolt 3). I still use a lot devices that use the full-size USB ports so I'm not upset at the lack of USB type C. The port that I miss though is a direct graphics port such as a mini Display or HDMI port. With the Surface Book 2, to connect to an external monitor, either to check colour or to work with a bigger screen, you now need an USB type C adapter.
The screen is as thick as a tablet because it is a tablet. It's like a larger Surface Pro 2017 and it's detachable from the keyboard.
The tablet is much lighter than I expected for the size. The 13.5-inch tablet weighs 719g and the 15-inch weighs 817g. Just for comparison, the 12.9-inch Apple iPad weighs 692g. The tablet may be light but the build quality is solid, just like the rest of the device.
To detach the screen, you have to press the detach button on the keyboard. Depending on the app you're using at any time, you may or may not be able to detach. For example, apps that use the graphics card in the keyboard area may prevent the tablet from detaching so you have to close the app before detaching.
Colour accuracy is good enough for graphic design and photo editing. Should you need 100% Adobe RGB, you'll have to connect to an external monitor.
The touchscreen supports all the usual finger gestures, such as pinch to zoom, pan, rotate. Whether your app can support finger gestures is another question. For example Adobe CS6 and older software do not support finger gestures.
Resolution on the 13.5-inch is 3000×2000 and on the 15-inch is 3240×2160. The aspect ratio is 3:2 so if you're watching 16:9 videos, there are going to be black bars at the top and bottom. For productivity, a 3:2 aspect ratio allows for, in my opinion, a better use of desktop space. For larger monitors or those with extra resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio is alright. For smaller screens, I prefer 3:2 or 16:10 aspect ratio. Also, 3:2 feels more suitable for tablet mode than a wide rectangle.
The resolution is high and makes everything looks sharp and crisp. If you're still running older software, their user interface may look tiny on high resolution screens. For example Adobe CS6 and older software has really small user interface elements such as menus, toolbars, icons and palettes. So small that it's difficult to click even with a fine tip Surface Pen.
The hinge allows the screen to be tilted at a 45 degree angle.
You can detach the screen, flip it and attach, and fold the screen down to use the attached tablet mode. This give you a slightly tilted screen to draw on and extra battery life because the keyboard is connected. However, the keyboard is now covered by the screen, so you can't use keyboard shortcuts. This is where you may need to get another keyboard so that you can use those keyboard shortcuts. Microsoft should have made the their own keyboard wireless so that it can connect to the tablet instead.
When you close the screen, you can see a gap between the screen and keyboard area, and you can see the keys between. So that part at the connection area is much thicker compared to to the other edge, and also other laptops. The hinge is as thick as the screen (tablet) and the keyboard, and that is what makes the whole thing feel chunky.
This is a touchscreen tablet and it's compatible with the Surface Pen, which is not included by the way. The Microsoft Surface Pen cost US$99. If you want something cheaper, you can find many compatible Surface Pen alternatives selling at less than half price.
If you're using the Surface Pen, the tip has a rubber-like or felt-like material that provides the extra friction that prevents the pen from being too slippery on the glass surface. Drawing experience is good enough for me that installing a matte screen protector on the screen has never crossed my mind.
Both the 13.5 and 15-inch screens are larger compared to the 12.3-inch screen of the Surface Pro. It is more comfortable to draw and write on larger screens. The Surface Pen is extremely accurate. The cursor is always directly beneath the nib and is always responsive. Parallax is not noticeable because the glass surface is very close to the actual screen. There's pressure sensitivity and palm rejection is almost flawless.
The tablet also supports the Surface Dial but I did not have one to test though.
Performance of the stylus when it comes to drawing will depend on the app you use of course. Below are some sample strokes.
Medibang Paint Pro works well. Strokes appear the way I want them to.
When drawing diagonal lines slowly, there's some micro jitter but not really a major issue. If you're someone who draws really slowly, maybe you're drawing portraits, then the micro jitter could still be an issue. But for general drawing purposes, digital painting, inking comics, line art, those would definitely be no problem at all.
Many have complained about the misalignment issue with the Surface Pro when the hand touches the metal body. Thankfully that does not happen here.
Pressure with Affinity Photo works as well.
Krita works wonderfully.
Sketchable is good.
No problems with Wacom Bamboo Paper too. This is the app I use to take notes. The tablet and stylus are able to capture my handwriting quite well. Writing or taking notes is more than satisfactory. There's still the micro-second lag with the letters appearing after the stroke but it's not irritating.
The only downside to the screen is not a hardware issue but something related to software. For some reason, even turning off the auto-brightness feature, the screen brightness would still flicker occasionally. I've went online to search for the reason and it comes down to the power saving mode of the driver for the Intel HD 620 integrated graphics card. This is a very silly problem, one that should be easy for Microsoft to solve so it's a bit disappointing to see that the brightness flicker problem still exist. That's actually my major gripe about the Surface Book 2.
RAM and storage
If you have the budget, definitely get at least 16GB of RAM.
With two graphics app and Google Chrome open, it already uses 5 to 6GB of memory. If you open files, have graphics with many layers, or open another graphics app, you can easily use more than 8GB. Once memory runs out, the system may start to slow down.
As for storage, get at least 256GB if you can. The actual storage space after formatting is as follows:
128GB = 119GB
256GB = 238GB
512GB = 476GB
1TB = 0.9TB
A clean Windows 10 installation takes up 12GB, and apps maybe another 10GB. If you work with RAW photos and video, you can expect storage to fill up very quickly.
The SSD storage is quite fast but not as fast compared to other systems I've used. Overall SSD speed when it comes to booting Windows, launching apps, saving big files is more than satisfactory.
Unlike the Surface Laptop and Surface Pro, you can equip the Surface Book 2 with proper dedicated graphics card. The 13.5-inch model can run the GeForce GTX 1050 in addition to the Intel HD 620. The 15-inch model has the GeForce GTX 1060 in addition to the Intel HD 620. I don't game so I can't talk much about gaming or the benchmarks. Note that there's a 13.5-inch model that runs only the Intel HD 620
If you do 3D work, the graphics card should be able to display your high-polygon count scenes without much lag, unless you load lots of textures.
Having a proper graphics card does not help with the rendering time when you're exporting the 3D scene though.
This 2000 by 2000 pixel occlusion scene that I rendered with Maya 2016 (trial version) took 6 minutes on the Surface Book 2 with Intel Core i7-8650U (1.9 to 4.2 GHz).
Here are some results from other systems I've tested:
Surface Book 2 with Quad 1.9Ghz
Dell 5510 Quad 2.8Ghz with Maya 2016: 2min 20s
Mac Pro 2013 Quad 3.7Ghz: 2m
Office Quad 2.93Ghz with Maya 8.5: 13+ min
The Xeon processors in the Dell Precision 5510 is the clear winner here. And that 5510 model is from two generations ago. The current Dell Precision is 5530. If you want raw power, Dell Precision or the HP Zbook is the way to go.
The two base model 13.5-inch run the Intel Core i5-7300U (2.6 to 3.5 GHz). The other models run Intel Core i7-8650U (1.9 to 4.2 GHz). The quad core may have a low clock speed of 1.9Ghz but for most purposes that is actually sufficient enough.
Processor speed has never been the bottleneck for general graphic design work or photo editing. When it comes to rendering 3D or editing videos, that's when the processor clock speed matters. So if your work is primarily 3D or video editing, it may be better to look at other systems.
With the Surface Laptop and Surface Pro, when zooming in and out of large Photoshop files, there is the rectangular block screen redraw issues. The screen redraw still happens very fast but you can still see the redraw. With the Surface Book 2, when you are zooming in and out, panning, the screen updates instantly. The visual difference is obvious. You don't even need to have the Surface Book 2 side by side the other Surface devices to compare to see the difference.
This is strange because the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2, Surface Laptop and Surface Pro 2017 are using almost the same processors and integrated graphics card. Intel Core i5-7300U (dual 2.6Ghz) is on the SB2 and SP2017. Surface Laptop uses Intel Core i5-7200U (dual 2.5Ghz). All three use the Intel HD 620 graphics. I'm not sure why there's the screen redraw issue with the SB2017 and Surface Laptop though.
It's difficult for me to test battery life because there's so many variables, and most of them depend on the app you use.
If your work involves 2D graphic design and the usual stuff, web browsing, watching videos, handling documents, you can get 9 - 10 hours. If your work involves rendering 3D, video editing, basically work that requires more processing power, battery life can be 7 - 8 hours, which is still decent.
Overall, the battery life is fantastic. At no point during my time with the Surface Book 2 am I unhappy with how the battery performed. Each time I look at the battery bar and percentage left, I'm always marveling at how long it can last.
In the tablet mode alone, battery life is around 5 hours. I guess they did not pack a battery larger compared to the Surface Pro 2017, which is why the SB2 in tablet mode feels surprisingly light. If you flip the tablet around and connect it to the keyboard, you get that long lasting battery life again.
I've included price of Surface Book 2, Surface Laptop and Surface Pro 2017 for comparison. These are official retail price info taken from Wikipedia.
I want to bring your attention to the prices of these models:
8GB RAM and 256GB storage
13.5-inch Surface Book 2 - US $1999
Surface Laptop - US $1299
Surface Pro 2017 - US $1299
The Surface Book 2 is significantly more expensive than the other two Surface products even though they have the same specifications simply for the fact that it has a detachable screen.
16GB RAM and 512GB storage
15-inch Surface Book 2 - US $2899
Surface Laptop - US $2199
Surface Pro 2017 - US $2199
Say you want more RAM and storage. Both the Surface Laptop and Surface Pro 2017 are priced similarly at US $2199 while the Surface Book 2 is once again US$700 more.
So is the Surface Book 2 really worth the extra money?
The selling point is the ability to use the Surface Book 2 in tablet form as well as in laptop form.
If you need to use the tablet form often, then the decision to buy one is easier. There aren't many competing products at the same quality and functionality as the Surface Book 2.
Drawing on the large screen tablet is satisfying. The digital drawing performance is responsive and accurate. For digital artists who don't want two separate devices, getting a 2-in-1 like the Surface Book 2 makes more sense.
Surface Book 2 can also help save time with workflow. If you're someone who sketches, create drafts before scanning into the computer, you can now draw directly on the computer and save your work instantly.
If you just need a laptop rather than a 2-in-1, there are so many options out there. If you have the budget, there are the Dell XPS, Dell Precision and HP Zbook Studio.
While the Surface Book 2 is pricey, I don't think you'll regret buying it considering the quality and the features it offers.
When BenQ offered to send me their ScreenBar Plus reading lamp, I was like, "Nah, no thanks." Then I thought maybe I could use the lamp to light up my table so that I can film my drawing tutorials with better lighting. And so I got them to send me a review unit.
The Screenbar is a horizontal LED lamp that sits on top of any computer monitor and lights up the area in front.
The lamp itself is quite long, about 45cm, and has a rather small diameter.
When you look closely, you can see the individual LED bulbs that run along the whole lamp.
On the back of the lamp is a micro-USB port for power. It's LED so it doesn't really use much power. You can power it from any USB port.
This is the holder for the lamp. To fix the lamp onto it, you just slide it in. The whole setup is straightforward.
The lamp holder has a nice weight to it so that it can hold down the lamp and not move. It's extendable so that it can clip onto thick monitors.
There are two models for the Screenbar.
One comes without the control dial, and if I'm not wrong the controls for that are build onto the lamp itself.
The other model comes with the control dial which cost an additional US$30. The retail price for the Screenbar alone is US $99 on Amazon US
With the control dial, you can adjust the brightness. colour temperature and toggle the auto-brightness feature. The controls are real simple to use. The rotating dial also doubles as a power button.
The lamp is just right above the screen and does not cover anything. This is my setup on a 27-inch monitor.
Maximum brightness with cool lighting.
Lowest brightness with cool lighting.
Maximum brightness with warm lighting.
Lowest brightness with warm lighting.
The LED lighting is not as bright as I expected. I was actually expecting the brightness of ceiling LED lights. Then I realised that this light is actually for reading so it should not be that bright and glaring until it hurts the eye.
I prefer the cool temperature over the warm which is too warm in my opinion. The good thing about the control dial is you can adjust the brightness and temperature in small increments until your satisfaction.
The brightness is satisfactory for reading purposes. The lamp can light up a large area in front of the screen, maybe about 3-4 keyboards away.
One thing I like about the light is it does not create glare on the monitor screen. The warm and cool light also does not affect the colours of the monitor screen.
So I said earlier that I wanted to use the lamp to film my drawing tutorials. Well, this light is not bright enough to do that. It may look alright in the photo above, but when filming, this sort of lighting is actually considered quite dim, and video will look noisy.
This light is good for those who want some sort of ambient light to read but don't want to switch on the room light.
The build quality of the product is solid. The controls are simple to use.
Personally, I have no use for this particular light because I prefer to use my room light to do all my work.
However, I can definitely see myself using this in my office where the lighting is quite dim. In fact, I've been wanting to buy a lamp for my office for the longest time and cannot find one that is compact and bright. I do not like standing lamps because they take up space on the table. The BenQ Screenbar is great because it sits on top of the monitor and does not require any table space. So while I don't find this useful at home, I consider this to be extremely useful at the office I work at.
Between the Screenbar and Screenbar Plus (the one with control dial), I would choose the one without the control dial because that's one less object that takes up space on the table.
Overall, it's a good product. It does what it's suppose to do.
Cotman is the student grade watercolour paint from Winsor and Newton. Their artist grade paints is called Professional Water Colour.
What I like about this box is there are six mixing wells. This allows you to create more mixtures and separate them easily without contaminating other mixtures.
In the Sketchers' Pocket Box, there are only three wells and whenever I use that, I always felt constrained. When I need to mix a new mixture and there's no space, I have to clean up the used mixing well.
The mixing wells in the new box are also large enough for mixing a good amount of paint, and the mixture do not bead up on the surface.
When the pans are new, they will fall out of the pan holder. Even the hardened paint may fall out of the pans. After several painting sessions, after the paint get into the gaps, that should stop the pans from falling out anymore.
Winsor & Newton plastic half pans are slightly smaller than empty half pans found online.
Those empty half pans can fit inside the Sketchers' Pocket Box but they will protrude out slightly. The box can still close though.
With the new waterbrush box, those empty pans can now fit nicely in the pan holder. One concern is in the future, should you need to replace the pan, it may be difficult to get them out. It looks like the pan may get stuck tight.
The waterbrush included is a bit small. It's probably a size 4. Water capacity isn't a lot as well.
On the left are strokes from the waterbrush. On the right are strokes from the largest pocket brush I can fit into the box. Those larger strokes are about two times larger than the waterbrush strokes.
I don't really use waterbrushes nowadays as I prefer normal brushes. I'm happy that the brush holder in the box can fit many of the pocket brushes that I use. The largest brush I was able to fit is the Escoda Size 10.
Here's how the new box compares with the ubiquitous 12 half pan metal box and the Sketchers' Pocket Box.
The new box is slightly larger and thicker but is still very compact. The cover lid is not sealed just like the other boxes so it's important to always dry the box before keeping it in the bag.
Since Cotman is student grade paint, they are not as vibrant and intense compared to artist grade quality. When I created the colour swatches, I could definitely see and feel that there's more filler than actual paint. The colours still appear quite nice and are suitable and good enough for beginners. To achieve more intense colours with Cotman, you have to use more paint and this means you would use up the paints quite fast. The good thing is after you use up the paint, you can get your own tube paints, higher quality ones, to refill.
The colours in this set are:
Lemon Yellow Hue
Alizarin Crimson Hue
The colour selection is alright but could be better though. Lamp Black and Chinese White are not that useful. You can always mix your own blacks. And if you want lighter colours, you don't have to add white, you just add more water.
They could have added a warm red to the palette. Right now, it's difficult to mix a warm orange because the only red included is a "cool" red.
I went to Winsor & Newton's website to look for pigment information and there was none except for lightfast rating and transparency info.
The box set and colours cost around US$15, not including shipping, on Amazon and that's a really good price for beginners and those with a tight budget. The box design is a good one. Plastic does not rust and this will definitely last for years. It may be difficult to get rid of stains from plastic but all surfaces stain anyway.
For the price, it's really worth the money. Highly recommended.