Monday, March 7, 2016

Just Brushing the Dust Off the Ol' Blog

It's been a long time, but just chiming in--I'm still alive.  ;)

Still doing stuff.  Been busy with work.  But I'm gearing for something bigger.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Look Out, Wacom! Monoprice's Coming At You!

"Look at all dem' comments!"
A little over three months ago, I wrote a blog post about the why standard consumer-level tablets aren't a suited comparison for the Cintiq Companion tablets.

But after I published the article, I just left it. And little did I know (for months) that several people had noticed my obscure little blog and replied to it!

Anyways, I eventually came back recently and managed to answer back to all the responses--that is, everyone else but one commenter who asked me if I knew any decent alternative to the Wacom Cintiq series.


At the time, I didn't have an answer, so I held on my answer to him.  I didn't want to suggest anything to him just yet.

I didn't want to turn him on to some cheap alternative, as most tend to have less-than-stellar track records (most of them made cheaply in China).

But just recently, I've found an answer that he and many of you might just be interested in.  So, as this post's title says, the company to check out is Monoprice.  In fact, I would definitely check out Monoprice.

They not only seem to be a pretty good and affordable choice, but I'd say they've got all the makings to becoming Wacom's chief competitor someday.

Get used to this brand.  And their guarantee.

Enter Monoprice

Monoprice is a rising California-based electronics company that first got started with very cheaply-priced but fine-working HDMI cables, but have since extended to other computer electronics, such as equally-affordable headphones, LCD displays, game controllers, phone accessories.  HDMI cables are still most of their business, but that's changing fast.

They've also got a line of affordable graphics tablets (I'm talkin' $23.45-affordable), which includes a brand-new interactive pen display tablet.  You can check out details of the interactive pen display here.

Monoprice's interactive pen display

It seems like a pretty good alternative to the Cintiq, esp. since it's offers the functionality of a Wacom Cintiq...for only $389.78!  I repeat.  That's three hundred eighty-nine dollars, seventy-eight that's-so-cheap-it-makes-no-cents.

Now, let me say this: I have no first-hand experience with Monoprice, and this display tablet isn't even released yet (you can pre-order it to be shipped on Jan 1, 2014).

But from what I've seen from the Monoprice customer reviews and several electronics review publications, they're held favorably.  Quite favorably, even.

So Far, So Good

There are mostly favorable customer reviews on the Monoprice site for their current line of graphics tablets.  Out of a few thousand customer reviews, the tablets bear a high customer rating, most of them ranging about 80-96%.

The lowest rating is 76%, which is still satisfactory, though even then, that score was affected by just a couple of individual cases with issues. That's to be expected, and proportionately, most didn't have many issues.

It's nice that those individuals reviewing their issues all got a response from Monoprice employees seeing how they could help.  Overall, their tablets (and other products in general) are mostly high with customer satisfactory.

Monoprice's smallest tablet, at just $23.45!

There also a few publications that speak favorably of Monoprice, included Buzzfeed, Lifehacker, and Geek.  Their products are rated good.  They seem to have good customer service.  So, with this much, I feel comfortable suggesting a look at a product I've never used, by a company I've no experience with, for a product that's not even out yet.

Comparing the Product

There are a few minor differences between Monoprice's interactive pen display tablet and Wacom's Cintiq:
  • This Monoprice interactive pen display is not a tablet computer as well.  It has no standalone tablet functionality--it's a straightforward pen display.
  • There are no multi-touch gesture features on the upcoming tablet.
  • The final big difference is that it doesn't seem to be built for portability.
  • It doesn't seem to have an eraser tip, like Wacom stylus pens.
  • A small difference is it has 1440 x 900 resolution, compared to 1920 x 1080 resolution of the Cintiq 13HD.
  • It also has a tilt recognition range of 50°, compared to 40° of the Cintiq 13HD.
  • The stand, while it looks sufficient, seems like it might not be able to support your full body weight leaning on it as well as, say, the Wacom 24HD.

The pen stylus.  Look familiar?

But there are perks.
  • It is a nice 19-inch display, which dwarfs the Cintiq 13HD's 13.3-inch display.
  • It has an included adjustable stand (as pictured below).
  • It has a rechargeable pen-stylus, with two-sided rocker switch (à la Wacom).  
  • The pen comes with a charging cable.
  • The pen display matches the Cintiq in some areas:
    • 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity
    • Displays up to 16.7 million colors
    • 5080 lines per inch resolution
Baby got

Wrapping This Up

But hey, it's still seems like a great deal, and if you can live with those minor differences, you've got a real bargain here.  It's like a halfway house between a Cintiq 13HD and a Cintiq 22HD, but aimed for artists on a budget.

Wacom uses a lot of patented technology, chiefly their cordless, battery-free, pressure-sensitive, double-tipped stylus pens with patented electromagnetic resonance technology.

In other words, it's hard to come close to Wacom, but I think this pen display's shaping up to come pretty darn close.

I would also make a note that this is Monoprice's first pen display.  There will be more improved designs later down the road, I'm sure.  Maybe even enough to make Wacom start to sweat a little.

Anyways, if you can do without tablet features, I would definitely keep an eye on this option as a pen display.  Overall, this choice looks good!

Thanks for reading!

- Brian

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why You Shouldn't Compare the Wacom Cintiq Companion Tablets with Other Tablets

The Wacom Cintiq Companion
The Wacom Cintiq Companion

Wacom just announced three new products, two of which being Cintiqs that feature tablet functionality (the other being a Wacom stylus pen designed for finer stylus use on iPad tablets).  I was very happy to see the first two products, as while their tablet functionalities are not terribly essential to me, I have been looking into getting a Cintiq 13HD, and I'm glad I waited.  While many Wacom users are happy about this news, I've been noticing many people complaining about these products, namely about their prices.

The price of the full-featured Windows 8-powered Cintiq Companion is $1,999 (256 GB) and $2,499.00 (512 GB), while the hybrid version Cintiq Companion hybrid, which acts as a normal Cintiq 13HD for your desktop and a lightweight Android tablet on-the-go, is priced at $1,499.00 (16 GB) and $1,599.00 (32 GB).

The Cintiq Companion has 8 GB of RAM and an Intel CORE i7 processor, while the Cintiq Companion Hybrid has 2 GB of RAM and NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor.  The former is designed with fuller features to allow for fuller computer-independent work while on-the-go, and the latter is designed more as a Cintiq 13 HD that gives you some portability for light work while on-the-go.

The Surface Pro (from Microsoft)
The Surface Pro (from Microsoft)
One may ask (as some have), "Why would I buy a Wacom Cintiq Companion when the Surface Pro starts at $799 to $899?"  My answer to that would be in the form of another question, "Why are you comparing a professional-level Cintiq product with a normal consumer-level product?"

The big difference is that a Surface Pro (like most other tablets) simply isn't a Cintiq.  I mean that both in its design and aim.  Its touchscreen (for digital art's sake) is nowhere near that of Cintiq quality. Its picture quality (for digital art's sake) simply isn't Cintiq-quality.  And its compatibility with art software simply isn't that enjoyed by Wacom tablets, which many software like Photoshop and Mudbox seek to design their user schemes around.

The Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid
The Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid
Also, with the lighter Cintiq Companion Hybrid, it doesn't seek to be your normal choice of tablet for casual use--it's aiming more for artists and working professionals looking to carry their some of their work with them.  The Cintiq Companion Hybrid uses Android not so much to compete as an Android tablet, but to provide this hybrid version with a bit of tablet functionality to allow lighter usage while on-the-go, while sticking to its main purpose as a Cintiq 13HD.

If you need heavier, fuller usage of the Cintiq on-the-go, that's why they have the Cintiq Companion available, which does feature Windows 8, a third-generation Intel CORE i7 processor and 8 GB for more power.  More power is simply going to cost more.

More power.
More power.

The Cintiq Companion's screen is bigger than the Surface Pro (13.3" vs. 10.6") which offers 2048 levels of pressure (twice more than Surface Pro's mere 1024 levels) and 75% Adobe RGB (compared to Surface Pro's 55% AdobeRGB).  The Companion has 8 GB RAM (while Surface Pro has only 4 GB), it uses an i7 processor (Surface Pro uses an i5), and it has much bigger SSD sizes of 256 GB and 512 GB (Surface Pro only has up to 128 GB).

The Cintiq Companion also has available an optional compact wireless keyboard, which, when coupled with the Companion's four levels of adjustable height, offers a wider range of comfortable positions than the Surface Pro does.  (See the first picture at the top.)

The Cintiq Companion is technically offering more than the Surface Pro, even as a tablet.  But again, it's not trying to be the first name in tablets to the average consumer--just artists and professionals looking for extra functionality with their Cintiqs.  The Cintiq Companions are just different beasts entirely from consumer-level tablets.

I think when folks compare these Cintiq products to normal tablets, they're kinda missing the point.  The point of these products is that they are first and foremost Cintiq graphics tablet--the other tablet features are just those highly-requested by artists seeking a little portability.

I would think that the expectation is that most serious artists and working professionals are either going to make the money to buy these or do what they can to buy these, knowing that these products will easily pay for themselves after a while.

To me, the most unprofessional thing you can do is complain about the price of professional tools (in most cases, anyways).  These are premium graphics tablet products.  You get what you pay for here.  It may take some saving pennies, but quality always pays for itself in the end.

As for me, I'll certainly be looking into acquiring the Wacom Companion Hybrid with 16 GB, as for most of my work would be on my notebook computer, I won't need as much SSD space for my use.  I'll consider its multi-touch features to be an equivalent of a Cintiq 13HD Touch, which, for only $500 more, isn't a bad deal to me.

Though, I personally think once you reach the $2K price mark, I'd personally rather have a Cintiq 22HD, as I don't rely on work on-the-go that much.  I can't think of many scenarios with myself where I'd need a Cintiq so much while on-the-go that I'd pass on getting a much better at-home Cintiq.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Six solid reasons why Nintendo needs a main press conference at E3 2013

Nintendo needs a main press conference at E3 2013, all for six solid reasons:

1) NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, etc--the non-gaming news sources who still cover some of what goes on at E3--usually focus on briefings from the press conferences, and not so much the show floor.  For instance, Sony's PS4 press conference earlier this year got a lot of attention from these news sources.  This kind of attention is important towards getting the attention of the millions of non-gamers who do holidays shopping.

More importantly, NO general news source like CNN or ABC follows Nintendo Direct, and few gaming news sources follow much news from Nintendo Direct.  It's mostly existing Nintendo fans and Nintendo-centric sources that do.  Hosting news via Nintendo Direct is doing little to reach out to people beyond those who already follow Nintendo Direct.

2) Because millions of gamer and non-gamer consumers alike will be seeing news from E3, I'd rather Nintendo give a presentation anyways, just to keep the Wii U upfront in media attention.  Even if the media treats the Wii U as a side note, it's still giving it better attention than no real attention at all, since those non-gaming news sources will undoubtedly be about PS4 and "NextBox."

3) Nintendo could also play the situation to their advantage by giving a streamlined, no-nonsense presentation just showing their games. No over-hype talk. No awkward moments in trying to be cute.  No waste of expensive flashiness.  No two-hour long presentation.

Just a brief talk of future plans and a straightforward showing of their games on-stage, and maybe some gameplay demonstrations of what games are available. That alone would catch some of the media's attention, of how Nintendo cut through all the crap and just give their plans and lineup for the latter-2013/2014 seasons.

4) If the PS4 and "NextBox" reveal a price tag of about $500, which is what some analysts are expecting for the PS4, then the Wii U, along with a confident showing of upcoming games onstage and possibly even the announcement of a price cut, will suddenly stand out as better deal for many shoppers this holidays.  Not to mention that if the Wii U can showcase promise, some gamers who've been waiting for a better reason to buy Wii U might pick one up this holidays.

Also, we're all still waiting to see just how the PS4 and "NextBox" operate--neither Sony nor Microsoft have said with directness that their console won't require always-online gameplay, or whether they'll support used games.  Sony, after much avoiding the issue when they were asked, said very indirectly that the PS4 can play used games, but they didn't actually directly say that it will.

So, we still have these aspects to think about, and if either of the two consoles sport either of the two problematic features, it'll suddenly give the Wii U an that Nintendo will wished they had played upfront on stage with a main press conference.

5) Technically, despite the claim of many saying otherwise, Nintendo does have enough games coming to the Wii U, as well as the Nintendo 3DS, to merit a main press conference onstage.  They have the following games coming for them:

Super Smash Bros. (Wii U and Nintendo 3DS)
The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)
Pikmin 3 (Wii U)
Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)
Xenogears 2 (Wii U)
Pokémon X Version and Pokémon Y Version (Nintendo 3DS)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past 2 (Nintendo 3DS)
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D (Nintendo 3DS)
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy (Nintendo 3DS)
Monster Hunter 4 (Nintendo 3DS)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director's Cut (Wii U)
The Wonderful 101 (Wii U)
Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem Crossover (Wii U)

Most of those games have sold Nintendo consoles before (such as the Super Smash Bros. and Zelda series), have a smaller but strong following (such as the Pikmin, Bayonetta, Professor Layton, Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem series), been among the best-selling series of all time (such as the Pokémon and Monster Hunter series) and play on games that have been heralded among the greatest games of all time (such as A Link to the Past and Donkey Kong Country).

Xenogears Chronicles on the Wii was praised by many as one of the best RPGs of the last decade, and the sequel Xenogears 2 on Wii U is a big one.  Fans of the strong cult classic Viewtiful Joe might find The Wonderful 101 the closest thing to a Viewtiful Joe fix--the game carries a very strong vibe of the Viewtiful Joe, since the two games share the same creators.

These may not be the 25+ games that Sony has announced for the PS3, but it's still strong enough to hold a presentation onstage.  These games are strong enough to present yourself with confidence about onstage.  Nintendo not stepping up with a streamlined press conference will convey a message of not being confident about these games.

6) If Nintendo doesn't have a main E3 press conference, most news sources are going to interpret the move as Nintendo not being confident enough to step up with a main press conference--regardless of whether that's actually true or not.  They're going to view it as Nintendo feeling squeezed out by the competition this year, and taking the quieter road at E3--even though they do have some games to make some public noise about.

In my opinion, Nintendo may be saving money or whatever by not having a main press conference, but they're losing any chance of gaining much notice to those who do most of the holidays shopping--people who watch ABC, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, etc.

Remember, it was because of these general news sources briefly reporting about E3 as the reason why the Wii blew up with so much popularity with so many shoppers that year...despite the Xbox 360 and PS3 being vastly superior consoles, tech specs-wise.  Wii U is suffering from the general public either bearing ignorance about Wii U or disinterest in Wii U, so bringing up more interest about Wii U onstage might better help with gaining public interest.

There's more reason for Nintendo to go through with a main E3 press conference than not.  I just don't see how Nintendo is going to fare very well this holidays 2013 and early 2014 without it.

Life happens. Life goes on.

Running a little behind on managing so many things at once.  But they're still going on.  Very much so.

Life just happens, and unbelievably-precise obstacles get in your way sometimes.  I've just have been having one problem after another, everything from a stupid computer issues to a cracked tooth, not to mention some personal issues, but I'm not here to list them.

I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so I'm refining my demos, videos and assets some more, since there's more I can do with them.  I don't like to make schedules or guarantees, but yeah, my announced stuff will surface soon enough.  I'm working hard on them and I won't relax until it's all done and delivered well.

- Brian