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Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 Review

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Overview
Processor

Intel Core i7 w/ Iris Graphics 550

Screen Size

13.3in (2560 x 1440 px)

Memory

16Gb

Storage

512Gb SSD

Battery

Up to 6 hours, closer to 3 hours average

Weight

2.91 lbs (1320g)

Operating System

Windows 10 Pro

I got to try out the new Wacom MobileStudio Pro for a little while back in October of 2016, but now that I’ve been using it for some real work, it’s time for a full review. I’ll start off right away with letting you know that if your career has anything to do with visual creativity, this is the tool you need. Notice I said tool instead of tablet. That’s because the Wacom MobileStudio Pro is almost entirely designed for creating all the things that everyone else uses in their daily lives. This tablet PC is made for professionals. The “Pro” in this tablet’s name isn’t just tacked on to make it sound better like some other electronic gadget manufacturers do. It is genuinely deserving of the “Pro” moniker.

This tablet isn’t for people who play cartoony games that everyone loves to play on their iPads, it’s for people who create those games. This tablet isn’t for handing to your kids to watch an animated movie in the back seat on a long drive, it’s for the people who create those animated movies. It’s not for taking selfie videos with cute cartoon filter overlays, it’s for the people who design those filters. If you’re a comic book artist, architect, 3D texture artist, video editor, story board artist, sculptor, fashion designer, animator, engineer, photographer, retoucher, graphic designer, illustrator, or a student trying to learn any of those disciplines, the Wacom MobileStudio Pro is what you’re looking for.

It sounds like the Wacom MobileStudio Pro is a lot like Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 or Surface Studio, both of which are drewl-worthy products aimed at creative professionals as well. Keep reading to find out why the MobileStudio Pro is a much better choice for digital artists. With all this praise right up front in the intro paragraph, some of you might be ready to find the order button on Wacom’s website, but despite all the power of Wacom’s MobileStudio Pro, there are a few drawbacks that you’ll want to know about, too.


Specs

The version in this review is the DTHW 1320H model which has the 13.3″ screen, Intel Core i7 CPU, Intel Iris Graphics 550, 512Gb SSD, 16Gb of RAM, and the Intel RealSense 3D model scanning hardware. The is number 4 out of 6 on the scale from cheapest to most expensive in terms of your model choices for the Wacom MobileStudio Pro. If you want to spend less money, the cheapest model has a 13.3″ screen, Core i5 processor with 4Gb RAM, 64Gb SSD, and a regular 8Mp camera. If you want even more power & want to spend more money, there are two models of the larger Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 which include NVIDIA Quadro GPU hardware. The top of the line model has a Core i7 processor, Nvidia Quadro M1000M 4Gb GPU, 512 Gb SSD, 16Gb RAM, and Intel RealSense 3D scanning camera. Also, the larger 16″ models have 8 programmable hardware buttons in the bezel as opposed to 6 in the smaller 13″ model.

Screen and Pen

If you’re thinking about the Wacom MobileStudio Pro, the biggest selling point is going to be its screen and pen interface. I was fully converted when I first got a Wacom graphics tablet back in the mid 90’s and today using a mouse or trackpad to interact with a computer feels like using a hammer to put together a watch (especially when it comes to design work). The pen-to-screen interface gives you a direct connection for manipulating computer controls. It’s not disconnected like a mouse or trackpad. Furthermore, you can build motor-memory since the location where you place the pen tip is always going to have the same relationship to the dimensions of the screen you’re looking at. That’s never true with a mouse or trackpad so often you’ve got to spend a couple seconds looking at the screen and moving the pointer around to figure out where it is. With a Wacom pen, you place it and it’s there. I can even do this without looking at the screen and have accurate cursor control.

A touch screen also gives you direct interactivity with graphic user interface controls, but fingers are big. Each finger is going to cover from 100-300^2 pixels worth of data and buttons need to be that big to be activated. That’s a huge waste of space and a huge crutch for efficiency.

The Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 includes the new Wacom Pro Pen 2 and its digitizer supports 8,000 levels of pressure sensitivity, plus pen tilt sensitivity, and pixel level pointing accuracy. You may remember in my Surface Pro 3 review where I compared the pressure sensitivity to the Surface Pro 2 which used Wacom’s digitizer technology as opposed to Microsoft’s new N-Trig based digitizer technology. I said that the Surface Pro 3’s 256 levels of pressure sensitivity wasn’t noticeably different from the Surface Pro 2’s 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity. The Surface Pro 2 used some of Wacom’s older & cheaper digitizer tech, and I have to say that the digitizer tech in the MobileStudio Pro 13 is far superior! Noticeably far superior!

Wacom’s Pro Pen 2 doesn’t require batteries at all. It has two buttons on the side and an eraser. Yes, the buttons are customizable too though they need to be within an inch of the screen to function (no auto-launching OneNote from afar like the Surface Pro 3 can do). It also includes interchangeable pen nibs if you want to change the feel a bit or you wear one out. The pen is so comfortable to hold. The buttons are easy to feel and find. The pen feels like the perfect weight. It makes the Surface Pen feel clunky and cold.

Putting the pen to the screen feels like coming home. The display is so close to the surface, it’s almost like you’re touching the pixels directly. If you look really really closely, yes there’s a bit of space between the top layer and the pixels, but in normal use it’s going to feel like you’re drawing directly to the software’s graphical user interface. The accuracy is excellent as well. Older pen computers often don’t place the pointer quite as precisely on the screen as you would want. Many have digitizers that calculate the positioning in clumps and that’s why some will have a jiggle to the line strokes if you move the pen too slowly. The Wacom MobileStudio Pro actually has pixel-level positioning accuracy and it is awesome. You can hold the pen still on the screen, move it as slightly as you possibly can, and you’ll see the cursor move one pixel in that direction. You are not going to get this level of precision control on any other pen computing device. What about
the corners, you say? Yes, it’s true there is often fall-off of pen accuracy in the corners of the display for many pen digitizers. Wacom solves this by extending the digitizer beyond the display area and deep into the bezel. That brush cursor or pointer is going to remain pixel accurate all along the edges.

Your pointer appears on the screen when the pen tip gets to a little less than an inch from the surface of the screen. At that point, the touch screen is disabled and you can rest your hand on the screen for a stable platform. If your touch screen is not responding to your fingers, that might be why. This range is a lot greater than the vertical range before palm rejection in Microsoft Surface N-Trig technology and that means you’re less likely to invoke touch screen actions accidentally.

The exterior layer of the screen is actually a matte material too. This is much better than those glossy glass screens that you see on things like the Microsoft Surface devices, iPad Pro, Macbook Pro, etc. The matte material doesn’t give off nearly as much glare, which can interfere with your ability to see your work properly. Often you see professional photographers with Macbook Pros covered in a black hood to reduce the glare on those terribly shiny screens. This doesn’t require that kind of work-around as much. The matte finish also reduces the fingerprint grease problem. Yes, you’re still going to get fingerprint grease on the screen when you touch it, but the interference and notice-ability is greatly reduced compared to a glossy glass screen. By the way, you get a nice screen cleaning cloth in the box.

The screen actually subtly flexes when you apply pressure. You might think that would be a durability problem, but bendable things are less breakable. So I’m imagining this won’t shatter as easily as a glass screen. It also feels much more natural to interact with and that’s a huge plus. If you’ve used a Microsoft Surface Pro/Book/Studio or an iPad Pro with Apple Pencil… yeah, they have great pressure sensitivity and you can write on the screen and accurately control the thickness of the stroke, but it still feels like plastic on glass. The Surface Pen variable texture nibs help improve that feeling to some degree, but the Wacom MobileStudio Pro brings the feeling of drawing on a computer to a higher level. It doesn’t feel exactly like writing with a pencil on paper, but the matte screen texture, the flexing, and the practically perfect pen easily offer the best pen interface on the market.

While a precise pen interface is very important to anyone in the visual creative fields, so is color accuracy. The Wacom MobileStudio Pro’s screen does not disappoint. It actually supports 96% of the Adobe RGB 1998 color gamut. That’s a much wider color gamut than the usual sRGB that most computer screens display. Most photographers and print designers are going to want to use this color gamut. For video, the new color gamut standard is heading towards DCI-P3 which extends more into the reds & purple ranges while Adobe RGB extends into the greens & blues. Unfortunately, the Wacom MobileStudio Pro does not have a quick-action button for switching between color gamuts like the Microsoft Surface Studio does.

Hardware & Tactile Buttons

We’ll start with the big silver-rimmed hardware buttons in the side bezel. On the 13″ model, you have 6 flat black buttons while on the 16″ model, you have 8. There’s also a 4 way circular button in the middle that also has a center button and the circle is touch sensitive for scrolling through functions. One some models, the center button within the circle doubles as a fingerprint scanner compatible with Windows Hello. The fingerprint scanner didn’t work at all on my first MobileStudio Pro. Windows 10 kept waiting for a finger appear, but the scanner just wasn’t sensing anything. A replacement MobileStudio Pro fixed that minor issue.

At first I thought that these would be a usability issue since none of these buttons are labelled and I had no clue what any of them would do. However, the Wacom MobileStudio Pro is a device for professionals and as it turns out the unlabeled buttons are much more powerful than first glance. They are all customizable! And the capabilities that you can program into these buttons is practically limitless. You’ll see a lot more info about this below in the software section, so keep reading.

In terms of tactile usability, these hardware buttons are very good. You can see the center button has a small nub on it so that you can easily find it without using your eyes.

The side edges of the tablet PC house some other buttons. Here you see the power switch. It’s not a button that you press but a spring loaded switch that you hold down to power on or off. This slight complexity to the switch makes it difficult to accidentally put the tablet to sleep mode while you’re working, and that’s a very good thing.

On one end of this edge there’s a volume toggle button and another spring-loaded switch. This switch toggles the screen rotation lock on and off. Also notice that all of these buttons on the edge are in a concave recessed area. This makes it difficult to accidentally press them while you’re holding the tablet, and again that’s a very good thing.

Still on this same edge, we’ve also got a 3.5mm audio port, and a full-sized SD card slot. Having the full-sized SD card slot here is fantastic since you can easily start working with photos or videos just shot on a high-end camera without any dongles or adapters.

On the opposite edge you’ve got 3 USB-C ports for peripherals and charging along with a Kensington Security slot for locking the device down. In the above photo, I have the included pen holder mounted inside the Kensington Security slot. Most laptops and tablets that have USB-C ports these days only have one, so it’s great to have 3 here. Everyone says it’s going to be the new standard, but personally I don’t think USB-C is nearly as forward-thinking as it should have been. There are no full USB-A ports on the device and that’s unfortunate since USB-A is still very widely used. You’ll need a USB-A to USB-C adapter (or three) to use most peripherals. The long top & bottom edges simply taper smoothly to a rounded edge. You can also see the 5 Megapixel front-facing HD camera in the middle of the bezel above.

The pen holder is surprisingly well designed. It can hold the pen either vertically for easy access while you’re working, or the pen can be attached horizontally parallel to the edge of the tablet for transport.

On the back you’ll see two big rubber ledges on the sides. Both of these have a tilted lip to them that raises off the back. This lip is inset from the edges so there’s a bit of space there, and the rubber acts as a little foot to set the tablet flat on a table. What’s really genius about this rubber lip is that it also hides vents for the fans. The raised lip keeps the fan airflow going out the sides while it’s sitting on a table and the fact that these are slightly inset from the edges of the device means your hands aren’t going to cover the vents if you’re holding it. There’s no heat in the middle of the back either, so you can safely keep it on your lap while you draw.

You can also see two big slots on the back here with four screws. Those are for mounting the tablet to a stand that will let you set it up on your desk and tilt it at different angles. Wacom will have a special stand sold separately that should be available in February of 2017.

Also on the back of this model is an Intel RealSense 8 Megapixel 3D scanner and camera. Only two of the MobileStudio Pro models include this 3D scanner while the others have a normal 8 Mp camera. You’ll read more about how this works a little further down the page.

The pen also comes with a heavy duty protective case. The flat end slides out and there’s form-fit padding to hold the Pro Pen 2 securely. On the flat end there’s also a cap that contains replacement pen tips and part of the sliding mechanism has a hole that you can use to remove the pen tip.

Incidentally, Wacom does not include a special keyboard for the MobileStudio Pro. There’s no detachable keyboard case option either. They do make a wireless keyboard for the older Cintiq Companion, but there’s nothing particularly special about it. You can use any Windows-compatible keyboard that you may already have or might like to buy (that includes pretty much all keyboards, even Mac keyboards). Above you see it works fine with Microsoft’s Universal folding keyboard connected via Bluetooth. Wired keyboards would need either a USB-C interface or a USB-C adapter/port-expander.

Software

First of all, the Wacom MobileStudio Pro runs Windows 10 as the operating system. The four most-expensive models come with Windows 10 Professional while the two least-expensive models come with Windows 10 Home edition. Windows 10 is really the only choice for a high-end pen-computer with a touch screen. MacOS has pretty poor support for touch interaction and Apple doesn’t allow anyone else to license the operating system for use on 3rd party hardware anyway. You might be able to “hackintosh” macOS onto the MobileStudio Pro if you’ve got the skills, but Windows 10 has a much better tablet UI and much better handwriting recognition so I wouldn’t recommend that. It’s not really worth it and there isn’t any real advantage.

By default, the MobileStudio Pro loads Windows 10’s desktop mode even though there’s no keyboard or mouse attached. That’s good for people who are familiar with the Windows 95 through Windows 7 style user interface, but personally I highly recommend switching into the Windows 10 tablet mode UI using the quick action center in the bottom right corner button. It’s much more touch-friendly and enables some nice snapping and application closing gestures. I even set the bottom taskbar to auto-hide to make more room for the real programs.

For the most part, the MobileStudio Pro includes generic Windows 10 with no bloatware. There are some default games pinned to the start menu, but those are easy to uninstall. There’s also an “Intel RealSense Camera Calibration Notifier that loads on startup, and if you’re in Tablet Mode, that shows as a big blank white window which is pretty annoying and useless. I disabled it by going to the Task Manager > Startup tab > selecting and and pressing disable. Wacom also included a Wacom Desktop Center app, Wacom control panel, and a first-run experience to introduce you to everything. This is where it gets pretty interesting and if you’ve used professional Wacom pen tablets or pen displays in the past, you probably already know what you’re in for.

Above is the Wacom welcome screen which introduces you to the “ExpressKeys” hardware buttons in the bezel as well as setting up a Wacom Account (not necessary) and calibrating the screen digitizer. It’s not hugely necessary to run the calibration since it’s pretty accurate out of the box, but people often hold the pen differently so it’s good to get it set up for the way you work.

The Wacom Desktop software is basically a dashboard with links to the Wacom Driver control panel, but it also has an interface for checking for driver updates as well as a method of backing up all of your custom settings. That’s going to be important because as you’ll see below, there is a lot that you can do in terms of customizing the Wacom driver software.

Here’s the real meat of Wacom’s software and it is extremely robust. Just about everything imaginable is customizable here. The first row at the top allows you to select which device you’re customizing. I only have the MobileStudio Pro 13 listed here, but if I had another Wacom device like a Cintiq pen display or an Intuos pen tablet plugged in, then it would show there. The 2nd row lists the tools associated with that device. The Wacom MobileStudio Pro has a series of tactile hardware function buttons, so that’s listed first, then touch is listed second, and “Pro Pen 2” is listed third. Selecting one of those will change the options below it for further customization. The third row is labelled “Application” and this is where you can customize the preferences and behavior based on which application is in the foreground. Yes, seriously. The little plus button on the right side of that row is where you can add whichever applications you want. Generally it’s easiest to add the preferences here based on running applications, but you can dig into the file system and select a specific executable if you need to.

So we’ve got customizable settings for the hardware buttons in the bezel, the touch screen gestures, and the pen with its pressure/tilt sensitive tip & eraser plus its dual hardware buttons… AND all of those can be further altered based on which program you’re working with. That’s pretty big, but how customizable are these functions? They are very customizable.

First you’ve got the hardware buttons in the bezel. They’re called “ExpressKeys” in the Wacom software. By default, these are generally assigned to modifier keys such as Alt, Ctrl, Shift, Spacebar, etc. The top button defaults to “Settings” which shows an overlay on the screen pointing out and labeling the functions you currently have assigned to each button. This is extremely useful if you’ve forgotten what you assigned to which button, but if you want to assign that settings button to something else, of course you can do that. By the way, it is possible to press more than one button at the same time, for example when you need to do Ctrl + Alt + Shift to invoke a modification for whatever tool you’re currently using.

The Touch Ring is next. That’s the big circle in the bezel and rubbing your finger around it in a clockwise or counter-clockwise motion will invoke whatever functions you want to assign to those gestures. The ring also has up/down/left/right buttons that can be pressed in order to change the touch ring’s functions on the go. In the above image, you can see that if I press the top of the touch ring, that will set it to scroll/zoom, the right side sets it to cycle between layers, the bottom sets it to change the brush size, and the left side sets it to rotation. All of those default functions don’t work the same way in all programs, so you’ll want to customize them based on your most-used software.

For example, my RAW photo organizational tool of choice is Adobe Bridge, so I customized one of the touch ring functions to increase or decrease the rating level depending on whether I rubbed it clockwise or counterclockwise. The default “speed” for this was too high, so I easily changed the interaction to a slower speed so that I could very accurately set rating levels on selected photos without having a keyboard attached and without having to open menus.

There’s also an “On Screen Controls” tab in the functions section, and this is pretty excellent as well. Basically you can set whatever you want, be it the pen’s hardware button, a bezel button, or a touch gesture… to invoke a radial menu on the screen. And yes, you guessed it, the radial menu can have buttons for whatever you want it to do, and you can make it have different buttons for whichever program you’re using.

That’s not all folks. You can also create any number of custom touch-screen panels with whatever buttons you want to create. Each of those panels can be activated using any of the other custom options in the Wacom Tablet Properties dialog box as well (and that’s a lot).

Next is the touch screen gestures. Naturally, you can disable this completely if you want to use only the system or application built-in touch screen gestures, but you can also add a few gestures here that aren’t commonly used in other programs. Above you can see a listing of all the touch screen gestures that are customizable. The “three finger swipe left/right to navigate” and “four finger swipe left/right to switch applications” gestures can only be enabled or disabled, while all of the others can be completely customized to activate whatever command you want. Again, the default functions are available in all applications until you add another application to the application listing in the 3rd row. Then with that application icon selected in the Wacom Tablet Properties dialog, you can choose completely different touch gesture functions for when that particular application is in use in the foreground. So for example, maybe you’ve written a script for InDesign CC that
converts all text to outlines. You can assign a keyboard shortcut to that script in InDesign, and then assign the “Five Fingers Swipe Down” gesture to that keyboard shortcut when InDesign is active in order to run that script very easily. By the way, if you don’t have a keyboard connected, you can use the “Standard Layout” on-screen keyboard to specify or activate keyboard shortcuts (enabled in the keyboard settings).

The Pro Pen 2 customization options allow you to fine tune the pressure sensitivity as well as customize the two hardware buttons on the pen. There are sliders for most functions, but if you want more granular control over the tip feel, the “customize” button above will give you a pressure sensitivity curve graph. Again, all of this is customizable on both a system-wide and application-specific level.

3D Scanning Camera

Two of the high-end Wacom MobileStudio Pro models include an Intel RealSense 3D camera sensor on the back and they include a 1 year license for Artec Pro 3D model scanning software. This is high-end 3D scanning software that you’d normally use with dedicated handheld 3D scanners like the Eva or Space Spider to create 3D models of things like Arnold Schwarzenegger for Terminator movies, but the software also works with Kinect for Windows and, of course, the Intel Sense 3D camera built into certain Wacom MobileStudio Pro models.


Unfortunately, it is very difficult to get usable results from scanning 3D objects with the Intel Sense 3D camera set-up. It only works on objects between about the size of a basketball up to about the size of a couch. Anything with detail or gaps that are too small (baseball sized?), won’t render very well. You have to get the lighting just right, too. You might be able to get a nice model of relief sculptures on a wall, but a 360 degree view of a model is very tough to scan with this hardware.

The scanner does however automatically add RGB color texture mapping to the 3D object, which again requires your lighting to be just right. It’s not going to be a highly detailed image map though. The results might be good enough for a video game background that nobody’s going to look too closely at, but it’s hard to imagine what else this 3D scanner would be useful for.

Incidentally, the 1 year free subscription to Artec Pro 3D Ultimate Edition should activate automatically when you install the trial on a Wacom MobileStudio Pro who’s serial number indicates that it includes the Intel RealSense 3D camera hardware. This worked perfectly on my first MobileStudio Pro, but it did not recognize the hardware on the 2nd one, so Artec tech support had to enable a 1 year subscription manually.

Personally, I don’t think cameras belong on the back of tablets at all so if Wacom decides to do away with the camera completely on future versions, I don’t think anyone will mind. I know many people even put tape over the front facing cameras on their laptops too. Using a standalone camera or a dedicated 3D scanner would be a much better tool for the job.

Pro Graphics Software

The Wacom MobileStudio Pro doesn’t come with any professional graphics production software, but it’s clearly designed for use with many of them. Most of the default express key and touch ring functions are really made for Adobe Photoshop. So I installed a good number of my favorite graphics, photography, video, and 3D software to see how it worked and to actually use it for some content creation.

Firstly, just about all of the Adobe Creative Cloud 2017 applications work beautifully. GPU acceleration is flawless in Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Illustrator, Bridge, and Lightroom on the Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13’s Intel Iris 550 GPU. Adobe AfterEffects CC 2017 uses the GPU with OpenGL, but it cannot use the GPU for Ray-tracing. If you’re using AfterEffects, you’ll probably want a CUDA compatible GPU and for that, you’ll need the more-expensive Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 which includes an NVIDIA Quadro M600M 2Gb GPU or a M1000M 4Gb GPU.

In terms of touch screen features, Adobe has made some huge improvements in the last few years to the touch support in many of their high-end Creative Cloud programs. Lightroom now has touch support that works pretty nicely for scrolling, panning, zooming, though you’ll still need the pen for some precision controls. InDesign and Illustrator both include their own full-touch workspaces which have a completely different UI design from the normal workspaces, although they do have many limitations due to their simplicity. Premiere Pro has some great touch gesture options integrated with the various panels. You can scrub playback in the Project panel for selected videos in thumbnail view, you can set in/out points, drag/drop, and even pinch to change the timeline view scale. Photoshop supports multi-touch zoom & panning as well, and they’ve got a new touch panel for modifier keys (though you won’t need that with the MobileStudio’s Express Keys). Of course, Photoshop supports tilt
sensitive controls in the brushes as well as the pressure sensitive control it has supported via Wacom drivers for decades. Incidentally, the Adobe Character Animator CC 2017 Preview does not currently work with any of the hardware cameras on the Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 at this time, so watch out for that if you like to do real-time character animation.

Capture One is not touch friendly in terms of UI design, but multi-touch panning & zooming works beautifully, as does the Wacom Pro Pen 2 and wow… my photographs look great on this screen!

Corel Painter 2017 is another program that really shines on the Wacome MobileStudio Pro. I’ve been using this paint simulation software since it was Fractal Design Painter 4 back in the mid 1990’s, and it is extremely comprehensive. It’s got some a lot of excruciatingly complicated natural media simulation tools that interact with your chosen paper textures, wet/dry status, brush tilt angle, pressure, bearing, etc. Corel Painter’s multi-touch panning & zooming could use some speed optimization, but the Wacom Pro Pen support is excellent. This program is very powerful though, so it’s easy to get some lag to happen with a complicated brush and a high resolution canvas.

3D animation software like Maya 3D, Lightwave 3D, ZBrush, etc. run pretty nicely, but programs like these are heavily dependent on keyboard shortcuts so the customizable express keys in the bezel may not be enough. The pen works beautifully however, and if you’re a Zbrush user, you’ll especially love the 8000 levels of pressure sensitivity support.

Wacom Link

So far you’ve read about how extremely powerful the Wacom MobileStudio Pro can be as a visual creative tool on its own and it is very powerful, but what if you’ve got a desktop workstation in your office that is just ridiculously powerful? As it turns you, you can plug the MobileStudio Pro into another computer and use it as a pen display just like the other normal Cintiq Pen Displays that Wacom makes. You’ll need an accessory called the Wacom Link to do this though. Basically it has two ports on one side that get wired into your big computer, and one port on the other side that plugs into one of the MobileStudio’s USB-C ports. The accessory includes a USB-A cable to go to your PC/Mac, a Mini-DisplayPort to go to your PC/Mac’s GPU card, and a USB-C cable to go to the MobileStudio Pro.

This can come in very handy if you spend most of your time in an office in front of a powerful desktop computer. A few things you need to know however, you will need the Wacom software drivers installed on the PC or Mac that you’re plugging the Mobile Studio into. You’ll also need to plug the Wacom Link USB-C port into the center USB-C port on the MobileStudio Pro. Apparently that one is enabled for the special Pen Display conversion feature.

Incidentally, the Wacom Link also goes the other way, meaning you can plug the MiniDisplay port directly into an external Display if you want your Wacom MobileStudio Pro to drive another monitor. Unfortunately, the Wacom Link is not able to provide electrical power to the MobileStudio Pro at the same time. So you’ll need to connect one of the other USB-C ports on the MobileStudio to the AC adapter and plug that into an electrical outlet. By the way, the SD card reader in the MobileStudio Pro becomes readable on the desktop PC or Mac when connected via the Wacom Link. The MobileStudio Pro’s internet storage does not show up as another drive, but that’s understandable. Being able to access the SD card is still very useful.

Yes, the Wacom Link works fine with a Mac. Wacom’s drivers handle all the pen input capabilities and the MobileStudio Pro’s Express Keys, Touch Ring, and custom on-screen panels are all configurable here.

The Wacom drivers even add a little bit of touch screen support to a connected Mac. Don’t expect to move windows around, launch apps, or access menus with your finger though. You’ll need the pen for that.

You’ll have to tweak the resolution on the Wacom MobileStudio Pro when connected to a Mac as a secondary display too. By default everything shows up extremely tiny. The Mac OS automatic scaling features don’t seem to work very well either.

Of course the Wacom Link works on Windows 7, 8, and 10 as well. I connected it to my HP Z440 Workstation which has quite a few processing advantages over the MobileStudio Pro on it’s own, but obviously it’s not as portable. It took some work to get everything running though. The first 3 USB ports that I plugged the MobileStudio Pro’s Wacom Link into didn’t recognize the hardware quite right. The first 2 didn’t recognize it at all and the 3rd recognized the Express Keys but not the touch screen or pen digitizer. The 4th USB port I tried had everything working perfectly. I’m not sure if this is because I’ve used other Wacom hardware on those other USB ports in the past and didn’t clean out those drivers completely or I have some other USB host driver issues.

When you have the MobileStudio Pro plugged into a desktop PC, the Wacom Tablet Properties on the desktop also show a “Toggle Display” settings tab. You can set the “Toggle Display” command to just about any of the shortcuts, gestures, and hardware keys that are customizable on the Wacom MobileStudio Pro and the settings tab allows you to configure exactly how that behaves. One option toggles between using having the pen control only one display and then both displays via a stretched out pan. This option feels weird because it changes the aspect ratio of the pen digitizer to span two displays. It’s also strange that on my version it toggles between the desktop display and both displays, which is opposite of what I’d expect. I’d want the Wacom MobileStudio display to have a full 1 to 1 relationship. The second option toggles between each display, meaning that the pen can only control one full display at a time. This seems ideal to me, but it also makes it
difficult to move windows between monitors. I wish the Windows 10 “Task View” had multiple monitors listed at the bottom like it does virtual desktops so you could very easily drag/drop windows onto different monitors instead of having to drag windows across the whole screen. Personally, I’ve been using the Wacom Link and MobileStudio Pro as a duplicated display instead of an extended display. Yes, some would say that defeats the purpose of having two displays, but in my opinion in beats the learning curve awkwardness of the “toggle display” command in the Wacom software.

Interestingly, via Wacom Link there’s a special display control for specifying the color space and other settings for the MobileStudio while connected as a Pen Display.

Using a Windows 10 desktop tower with the MobileStudio Pro attached via the Wacom Link accessory is the same as if you were using the MobileStudio Pro as a stand-alone tablet. All of the same touch screen gestures work, Windows 10’s touch apps work the same, even the ink input panel shows up. The only difference is that you now have the full power of whatever high-end processors, tons of RAM, and many terabytes of storage you’ve packed into that desktop workstation. I really wish the backup/restore for customized settings would work between devices so that all my Express Keys were the same though!

Battery Life

Yep, this is one spot where the Wacom MobileStudio Pro needs a lot of improvements. With very light use, you could probably get it to last up to 6 hours, but really we’re talking about maybe 3 hours. All of this high-end hardware really eats up the battery, so be prepared to pack the charger or bring a big external battery or buy two MobileStudio Pros. Average phone USB-C chargers don’t work, by the way. You’ll need the big beefy USB-C charger that comes with it.

I really wish this could have had a user-removable battery. It seems like Wacom thought of everything to make this a genuinely useful tool for creative professionals, but its utility is decreased by its short battery life and when that internal battery starts to wear out, it’s going to be even worse. The ability to carry a spare battery and pop it into the tablet as soon as the first battery died would have been a great option.

Pricing and Availability

The Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 and MobileStudio Pro 16 were released in the fall of 2016, but you may find that some models are still hard to come by. Keep an eye on the Wacom Online Store, Amazon, and high-end photography videography stores like B&H Photo and Adorama.

The DTHW1320T has an Intel Core i5 processor, 64Gb SSD, and 4Gb RAM for about $1500. The DTHW1320L has an Intel Core i5 processor, 128Gb SSD, and 8GB RAM for about $1800. The DTHW1320M has an Intel Core i7 processor with 256Gb SSD and 8Gb RAM for $2000. The DTHW1320H has an Intel Core i7 processor with 512Gb SSD, 16Gb RAM, and the Intel RealSense 3D scanner camera for $2500.

The larger 16″ versions are available in 2 pricing options. The DTHW1620M has an Intel Core i5 processor with NVIDIA Quadro M600M GPU, 256Gb SSD, and 8Gb RAM for $2400. The DTHW1620H has an Intel Core i7 processor with NVIDIA Quadro M1000M GPU, 512Gb SSD, and 16Gb RAM for $3000.

The Wacom Link accessory for plugging the MobileStudio Pro into a desktop computer costs an extra $70 and can be found on the Wacom online store.

Conclusion

There are some good reasons that this review of the Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 didn’t get published as soon as the tablet was released. First of all, this is a real digital creative’s tool and its extensive set of features requires some time to learn and really understand. Secondly, the first model I got had a couple minor defects. The fingerprint scanner didn’t work and its center USB-C port didn’t work with the Wacom Link hardware. If you look at the reviews on Amazon, you might see some other minor defects noticed by early adopters. For example, some of the hardware buttons may not have activated properly. The dedicated stand still isn’t available either, so there may be some things Wacom is working on. The second device I got fixed all of the fingerprint scanner and Wacom Link problems, but the free year of Artec Studio Ultimate Edition didn’t activate properly. That was fixed pretty easily by Artec tech support though.

The 3D scanner software and fingerprint reader aren’t really integral to what the Wacom MobileStudio Pro is made for though. The real reason for buying a Wacom MobileStudio Pro is its amazing pen interface and screen along with the ability to plug into a high-end workstation while you’re in the office, and throw it in a bag when you’re on the go. The extremely customizable software combined with the hardware express keys interface is another huge selling point. Wacom’s method of making the hardware keys, touch ring, and screen gestures capable of activating any keyboard shortcut in any program is far superior than what Microsoft has done with the Surface Studio and Surface Dial, which requires each software developer to add specific controls to the dial. With Wacom’s touch ring (etc.), all I have to do is tell it which keyboard shortcuts to run. Most professional programs have customizable keyboard shortcuts, so the possibilities are really endless. Apple’s MacBook Pro touch bar has the same limitations whereas each developer needs to actively add support. Wacom’s hardware & touch software already supports everything.

The amazing pen interface, gorgeous screen, and immensely customizable software interface are probably enough to make this tablet worth the price of admission, but for an extra $70, you can plug it into a tower PC (or Mac) and give that premium pen & touch interface an extra boost of let’s say… 44 Intel vPro Xenon cores, a terabyte of RAM, multiple 12Gb GPU’s, or whatever else you want to throw at it.

The Wacom MobileStudio Pro is truly the most professional quality tablet computer on the market today.

Positives

Best in class pen interface (pressure, tilt, pixel-level accuracy)
96% Adobe RGB color gamut
Can be used as a pen display for a more-powerful desktop Mac/PC
Programmable hardware interface in bezel
Programmable touch gestures
Gestures, hardware controls, & quick menu are customizable by program
Specs that can handle most high-end creative software
100% ambidextrous design
3 USB-C ports
Full sized SD card slot
Available in 6 configurations/pricepoints

Negatives

Battery life
Non-removable battery
3D scanner is not very accurate
Fingerprint scanner didn't work on our review unit

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein

Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002. Read more about Adam Lein!