“The MobileStudio does what it needs to do exceptionally well, and there is no product like it on the marketplace in either form or function.” — Jazza
Wacom makes a tablet at every price point, from the entry-level One by Wacom, to the mid-level Intuos tablets and Cintiq displays, to the top-of-the-line MobileStudio Pro. But what makes the latter arguably the highest-end digital art machine ever made, and what value does it bring to artists? I talked to two professionals about what they get from it:
Animator Emonee LaRussa is responsible for the videos for Ty Dolla $ign’s Ego Death and the Chowder version of Lil’ Nas X’s Panini music videos, as well as many more artist-commissioned lyric videos. She’s won two Emmys. Her dazzling animations are created in After Effects and Boris FX Suite, on Wacom tablets. She has the 16-inch, which you can see her review of here.
Jason May is an illustrator, cartoonist, livestreamer, and host of the Jason May Draw Club podcast. “I mostly work on comics, kids’ books, indie, comics, and things like that,” he says, which includes a six-year stint with LEGO Club magazine. “But I also do publication design for books, coffee labels, and whatever else I get hired for.”
He started drawing with Wacom tablets back in the nineties, eventually graduating to a Cintiq 22”, and most recently, the MobileStudio Pro, a major step forward for his productivity. He has the 13-inch.
Why this drawing monitor?
For those of us who just want a digital sketchbook for the road, yes, there are cheaper ones. Some artists suggest an iPad and Procreate: That’s a valid alternative if all you’re going to be doing is static drawing or simple animations. We even make four pens compatible with it.
But the iPad is still a tablet, where the MobileStudio Pro is a full-featured computer. A pretty beefy one as well, comparable to a gaming laptop, with a top-of-the-line i7-8559U processor, a 4k screen, and an SSD hard drive. That means you can run full-featured programs on it, without lag, instead of being stuck with the truncated versions they offer for tablets.
“I am not fond of the Photoshop and Illustrator that are available on an iPad,” says LaRussa. “[There are] a lot of different functionalities that I feel are missed from the desktop version of those programs. Having those programs on a tablet is essential, but if it’s not user-friendly, it’s almost pointless. The [MobileStudio] allows you the ability to work in those programs outside of your normal space.”
For professionals who are looking at a new computer anyway, it might not be such a heavy investment. Especially those whose work involves a lot of resource-demanding tasks like animation or 3D rendering, where it’s common to pay to have the best equipment, and would like the bonus of being able to take it outside the house.
This was LaRussa’s case: “I spent $5,000 on my laptop that I only really use when I’m on the go. So it’s [actually] cheaper having this tablet, because it’s an all-in-one.”
That laptop is a MacBook Pro 16”, but there are also tasks the MSP can handle that even that can’t. The counterpart 16-inch version of the MobileStudio comes with a Nvidia Quadro P1000 graphics card, which is the crux of its appeal for her.
“What’s cool is that it has an NVIDIA graphics card, where my Mac does not: so I can run Octane Render for Cinema 4D on it, and there are certain Red Giant plugins—like [Trapcode] Mir—that only allow an NVIDIA.”
(She hasn’t had her MobileStudio Pro long enough to run those programs on it yet, but is looking forward to it.)
The graphics card—which the Surface Pro doesn’t have—makes it one of the few tablet computers that can edit 4K video, so it’s perfect for people who record or stream their process. It also makes it the only tablet PC that can run ZBrush 2021 and other newer 3D sculpting programs, making it great for concept artists and others who regularly integrate 2d and 3D art.
In fact, the 16-inch also comes with an Intel RealSense 3D camera, meaning you can fully scan and input objects, or even rooms, directly into your program of choice. “The potential of the 3D camera is massive—the ability to scan direct to ZBrush while out of the studio on an all-in-one tablet is revolutionary,” says Creative Bloq.
The MobileStudio Pro is designed to be a complete creative suite in one package. As Youtuber Brad Colbow puts it: “I think it’s cool that there’s a computer out there that says, ‘I am for creating and only for creating, and if you don’t like it, you can go home!’ I suggested to Wacom that that should be the new slogan; I’m still waiting to hear back.”
And unlike other tablets that have drawing as a tertiary feature, the MobileStudio is made for it, offering what Colbow calls “the best Windows tablet drawing experience I have ever had, anywhere.” Which is what it’s made to be, with the same laminated textured screen, and the same 8192 levels of pen pressure, as a Cintiq.
But, he adds, “it is for a very specific audience, which is someone who’s already in tune with the Wacom style of editing.”
Granted, there are even cheaper ways to get the Wacom style of editing in a more portable format. For those who just want a screen tablet to take out of town without space concerns—who want to draw at family’s house during the holidays, or on an extended hotel stay— there’s the combination of a laptop and a Wacom One.
But the MobileStudio is, in Jazza’s words, “wafer thin,” and twice as portable as a laptop, with half as many segments. Anywhere you can use a notebook, you can use an MSP. In fact, you can plug it into another computer to use it as a Cintiq. And the 16” is the biggest portable screen tablet on the market, offering plenty of room for a comfortable drawing experience.
How will you get your money’s worth?
“I actually plan my travels around the use of this thing. I get to airports early so I can sit there for two hours before the flight and get work done; I travel to Melbourne by train rather than by car so that I can use this thing. I get more done with this tablet and it makes my business function.”
The MobileStudio Pro has something to offer people of all skill levels, but it’s ideal for people who draw professionally and draw often. Like full-time freelancers, video makers, livestreamers, and in-house designers who need a quick way to take their work home, or—as quarantine rolls back—to take it anywhere else.
It’s also useful for creatives on tight schedules who want to fit more art time into their existing day without the hassle of setting up and disassembling a laptop-tablet combo everywhere they go. Both LaRussa and May lauded its ability to let them work in places they normally wouldn’t be able to.
“What’s cool is that it allows me to work outside of my office, which is huge for me,” says LaRussa.
May uses it to integrate his professional illustration into his workday. “Any breaks I get, anytime kids are being good, I get work done.” As well as to get out of his windowless working area. “My studio’s in my basement, which isn’t super-fun. So I’ll grab it and I’ll go outside onto the deck and get a bunch of work done.” He’ll do full comic pages while relaxing outside, he says.
Its portable size and ease of startup also makes it a quick, convenient, professional, and impressive way to present your work at client meetings. “Now that quarantine is over, I want to meet with everybody in person,” says LaRussa. “I’ve had meetings where I needed to show my renders: It would take me hours to render it out at home, so I would just record it on my phone and show it to them. But it seemed super unprofessional to do that, so having this, I can just move my files over and just open it right there and render it out so they can see it in full-res.”
Just from me to you: If you’re a new artist who aspires to own a MobileStudio Pro but is disheartened by the price tag… Be patient. Start smaller, then work up to one. No individual tablet will do the work of improving your art for you: only years of practice and getting intimately familiar with your chosen tool. You choose a tablet for the specific features it offers, and in the case of the MobileStudio Pro, that’s the full computer attached to it; its portability, its versatility, and its unparalleled drawing experience. It’s the ultimate creation machine. And if you use it wisely, it’ll pay for itself.
It’s just a bonus that it’s incredibly cool.