Finally! A Tablet Computer for Mac Users

The other day I wrote that I was seriously considering the purchase of a Cintiq so I could draw directly on the screen. Then I read about the Modbook, a new computer unveiled today at the Macworld Expo conference. It’s not sold by Apple, but it is a Mac. Made by Other World Computing, the Modbook appears to be a Macbook laptop that has been converted into a tablet computer.

It’s got everything a MacBook would have, except the screen is where the keyboard and mousepad should be. I phoned the company and was told that if you want to use a keyboard and mouse, you have to provide them yourself and then plug them in to one of the USB ports. This seems a little bizarre to me, but if I can draw on the screen I almost don’t care. For only a little more money than a Cintiq monitor, I could have what is essentially a smaller, portable Cintiq that is also a fully-functioning computer.

The Modbooks won’t ship until March or April, but hopefully there will be some demo models reviewed on the internet before then. Apple products generally consist of very sophisticated technology and high quality materials, so the thought of someone cutting apart and rebuilding a MacBook makes me shudder a bit. But from the detailed description on the Modbook website, this looks like more than just a hacked-up Mac sold out of some back-alley chop shop. It seems they’ve taken great care to make this a durable, quality machine. They’ve even re-mounted the iSight camera so that it will point directly at the user if he is lying the Modbook flat on his desktop. And they’ve installed an optional GPS capability, something regular Macs don’t have (although why I would need that is a puzzle). It comes with a one-year warranty that can be extended to three years, just like a regular Mac. And the pen/screen interface is designed by Wacom, the same people who make the Cintiq, including low-glare glass that is specially textured to feel like paper. So one can assume that an artist could do some pretty nice drawings with this machine.

If the Modbook turns out to be as good as I hope it is, I will almost certainly buy one.

EDIT: Before I get too excited, I’m going to have to think harder about the missing keyboard thing. When I draw with my Wacom tablet, I still use a lot of keyboard shortcuts (to change tools, resize brushes, rotate and transform, etc.) because keyboard shortcuts are much faster than drag-and-click menus. One of the main reasons I want a tablet computer is to increase my speed/efficiency, but the lack of a keyboard might seriously slow me down. Then again, maybe I could navigate drop-down menus faster with a stylus than I can with a mouse or trackpad? Makes me wish there was a demo model somewhere here in Minnesota that I could play around with.


7 thoughts on “Finally! A Tablet Computer for Mac Users

  1. Cedric,

    Looks cool, but it only has 256 levels of pressure sensitivity. That may sound like a lot but I noticed a big difference going from 1024 to 512 when I switched from the Intuos to the 18sx Cintiq. I don’t think, for the money, this would be a good thing to buy. An Cintiq at $2,449.70 at would be a better bet… even though the portability is not there.

  2. Hi!

    I bought a tablet PC in December, a Toshiba tecra, because I have been wanting a tablet PC for a long time for the sketching! I have been using an Intuos tablet on my PC before, and the difference is large. The pressure sensitivity on the tablet is not the same, I find myself going back to the Wacom tablet for the precise stuff. Also, I wanted to change out the pens on the tablet, since the pen that comes with it, is a flimsy one, and I am used to the Intuos grip pen. I called Wacom and they said that if the tablet is Wacom penabled, you can get the Cintiq grip pen, 15x or 17x, and it would work. I bought a 15x and it works on the tablet, but you can’t right click. I also downloaded the Wacom software to make the regular Wacom tablet still work on the tablet PC. (Since I use it as my main computer hooked up to a larger monitor and a docking station). The weird thing is that now the pressure sensitivity does not work in Flash or in Illustrator, but it does work in Alias Sketchbook. I don’t know if that is due to the different pen, or has to do with a bug in the extra software I downloaded. It works great with the Intuos tablet though.

    So in short: I love my new set-up, since I can take out my laptop and sit on the couch to check e-mail, and do quick sketches in Alias. I can’t do any precise day-to-day work on it though, it is not precise enough. Working just with the pen slows me down a bit, becuase of the typing. I have it hooked up to a monitor and my tablet though, and that way I have best of both worlds.

    The upside of the tablet PC is though is the Operating System. I am not sure many people have thought of this, but if you work with a regular intuos tablet on it, in a desktop setting, you get all the benefits of the Operating System with your tablet! You can write letters with your pen, you can use Office Word to write or mark-up a document with your pen, cut and paste pictures on the screen with your pen, and much more! I am having a great time with just my intuos tablet and Microsoft XP for tablets. Everyone that uses a regular PC but uses an intuos tablet should get the tablet OS!

    For the shortcuts, I don’t miss them because the tablet PC has a small keyboard at the bottom of the screen that you can use for all the shortcuts. If you want to draw on the screen for day to day work, I would buy a Cintiq though. If you want to use it just for sketching, then I would def get one, but if you are used to a Wacom tablet, you will find it not to be precise enough, I think.

    One of my friends got a Cintiq and mounted it on a desk, and he loves that set-up.


  3. Hi Cedric,

    I just upgraded my Cintiq from the 15″ to the 21″ And I would highly recommend it. I was going to sell my 15″ but I like the portability of it. I can just take it in a bag with my laptop and set it up when I go out of town. I didn’t notice the pressure sensitivity that much when I used regular tablets but going from the 15″ to the 21″ I really noticed it not to mention the higher resolution. I used to use a dual screen setup but I’ve found that the 21″has plenty of room for all the menus I use. I only use my second screen to view reference images now. So I don’t have to pick up the mouse to select things on the second monitor. I think for artist that do line art Cintiq is a must. I’ve used a regular tablet for a decade and to this day I still can’t ink comfortably with a regular tablet. The Cintiq is perfect for digital inking.

    I use the Cintiq on my HP dv9023us Laptop. It handles large Photoshop files just fine. I have also had a great time sketching in a great program called ArtRage I can honestly say that it is the first program I like sketching in as much as regular paper. I haven’t done a full painting in it yet. but this program and a Cintiq are perfect for sketching. And, it is only $20 for the full program.

    Happy sketching!

  4. I was demoing one of these at the Macworld expo, and they’re pretty precise – they’ve got the wacom tablet built in behind the screen, so I was painting and sketching and with 2GB ram in the machine it was keeping up with me.
    You can always attach a keyboard or a button-pad, and I think there are some programs that you can set as tabs on screen that can be ‘undo’ or whatever. The wacom pen buttons are also programmable to keystrokes.

    It’s a pretty sweet thing, and I’m saving up for one – I can tell you more about ’em if you want.

  5. After breifly using an 18″ Cintiq and owning a tabletPC I would say make sure you need the portablility. The resolution and color/contrast issues can be frustrating.

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