Reviews: Tom and Jerry: The Lost Dragon

Tom and Jerry: The Lost Dragon
Reviewed by Melissa Milo


Warner Bros. Animation, who’s produced countless hits such as Pinky and the Brain, Animaniacs, Tiny Toons, Batman the Animated series and many more has brought back the dynamic duo in a big way.

Rather than the usual setting Tom and Jerry takes place in, this time our heroes dwell in an otherworldly village, filled with wizards, witches, and dragons and blue skinned people. Amongst them is a young, green-skinned witch named Athena who lives there as well along with our other two protagonists: Tom and Jerry.  Why she’s green is never really revealed.

Hated by the residents of this village due to the association with her evil aunt Drizelda, Athena is misunderstood and lonely, considering her only two friends are a cat and a mouse. When the trio finds an unhatched dragon egg, Tom is chosen to raise it once the creature is born. Aunt Drizelda, who was banished years earlier for use of dark magic, decides she needs the power this little dragon possesses and attempts to kidnap the poor thing. Throughout the rest of the movie everyone is trying to keep the dragon out of harm’s way all the while avoiding their village from being destroyed by Drizelda’s dark powers.

Although this movie was sweet and had a touching sense of child-friendly adventure, there were a few flaws. The plot line was a bit predictable and lacked the traditional fighting between Tom and Jerry, aside from a couple short scenes however in this politically-correct world that’s to be expected and this was not made for adults but for impressionable children. Still I did miss the slapstick humor and rivalry between the famous duo. The end of the film was also a bit perilous, in which some young children might find scary. However, despite these issues the rest of the movie was pretty humorous and adorable, especially with the baby dragon whose cheeks I desperately wanted to pinch.

Maybe this movie was not the Oscar pick of the season, but if you have a child from about four to eight, this movie might be worth watching. Enjoy!


Cintiq Killer? The ThinkVision LT1423p

Lenovo-Thinkvision-1423P is reporting a review for a relatively unknown new Cintiq competitor called the ThinkVision LT1423p Touch Mobile Monitor and while they seem to like it more or less there are other reviews on the Lenovo forums are iffy. I will say that some of those reviews seem to stem from not understanding the device.

The ThinkVision LT1423p is a 13″ penabled touch screen tablet which you connect to your PC or Mac to draw on much like a Wacom Cintiq albeit smaller and not as reliable as you’ll see below. The device apparently uses two USB3 to power it so if you don’t HAVE USB 3.0 you’re done with this mini review right now. It also appears to work wirelessly but the reviews on that were poor so I wouldn’t trust it. The pen is total crap (like the Lenovo Helix’s) too but I would imagine any Wacom penabled pen will work so that’s a relative non issue. I have always been impressed with Lenovo’s build quality and the video supports this.  The video reviewer talks quite a bit about troubles with the drivers, which is odd to me since Lenovo usually places quite a bit of attention to detail with their own software. This makes me feel like it’s almost a throwaway device and they don’t support it much which worries me a bit.

I’m actually pretty impressed with the drawing lag or lack thereof, which seems to be very low if you check out the video at around 10:29 or this point and it’s one of the reasons I’m even pointing to this device at all.

The corner tests seemed good as well, and what I mean by that is that you can draw all the way to the very corner of the device without losing connection of th pen or having the cursor stray from the pen’s point which isn’t always the best even on Cintiqs I’ve tried, especially the 12″ one. This being a touch enabled monitor, I’m pretty sure the Palm rejection is crap since no one seems to be able to get that right yet. Luckily on a PC it’s sort of a non issue since you can disable to Touch driver, but on the Mac, I’m not so sure how you’d disable it but you could use a Smudgeguard glove to disable the touch which is actually a decent tradeoff and works beautifully.


The forums led me to the Youtube video above which were fairly positive albeit some hiccups with driver issues.

“I’ve confirmed pressure sensitivity works in Photoshop, Sketchbook Pro (x86), Paint Tool SAI, OneNote, Sticky Notes, and Sculptris. I’m guessing this isn’t much of a surprise for any of you.

All in all, this seems like a solid product. I have an Intuos 4 Large and use the monitors shown in the youtube video as a reference to measure my subjectivity. The screen looks great, and is responsive. I have detected some parallax effect, but that was anticipated. It is worse when the stylus is not tangent (90 degrees) to the tablet surface. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how little the offset was after calibration. My biggest hardware complaint I would have to be the dinky stylus, but thankfully other compatible ones are available.

EDIT: Eraser and second side-switch functionality do not work on this device, even if the stylus has those features itself. This is based on testimony from others in this thread, as well as my own. I spoke with Wacom representatives in person, and they told me that the device supports those features, but it’s in Lenovo’s court as to whether or not to activate them. ”


You can read more of that discussion here.

All in all it seems like if you can get past the driver issues at $600 bucks,  it’s a decent alternative to a Wacom Cintiq.

You can buy a ThinkVision LT1423p here on Amazon.


Review: Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 By Harry McLaughlin

Review: Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

By Harry McLaughlin


01-note 12


2014 is already an interesting year for digital artists and animation professionals as far as technology advances in the tools of our trade.

Samsung kicks things off with the massive Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, launched on Valentine’s Day, 2014.  (Currently US $749 for 32GB model)

Of particular interest to artists: the large size, high quality screen and built-in Wacom (S-Pen) technology used throughout Samsung’s Galaxy Note line.

This was a device I’d been waiting for. As an owner of the Galaxy Note 2 and Note 3 smartphones, I’ve liked having a digital sketchpad/ computer in my pocket at all times. I’ve wanted the same technology in a larger size. Samsung certainly accommodates this wish: The Galaxy Note line (smart phones and tablets) ranges in size from 5.5”, 5.7”, 8”, 10.1” and now 12.2”

By far the most striking feature of the Note Pro is the screen.  At 2560 x 1600 (247ppi) the screen is beautiful to look at. Colors are vibrant, with nice inky blacks. For displaying high-resolution artwork, photos and movies, the Note Pro excels.

02-size compSize comp with the Galaxy Note 3


In fact, watching HD video on the Note Pro is probably the pinnacle of tablet entertainment.

The Note Pro’s screen almost perfectly matches the size of a standard comic book. Reading digital comic books on the Note Pro is a joy; you’re able to read a full comic page with no zooming/scrolling.


03-comicsAbove left with an actual comic book over the screen.


Holding the device in portrait mode for comics, magazines and books does make the device’s downside readily apparent; it’s heavy! Held in portrait, the full mass of the tablet bears down on your hands for any extended length of time.  The tablet is far more comfortable to hold in landscape mode, and it seems made to be oriented this way most of the time.The Note Pro’s screen is so large that I found reading in landscape as two-page spreads to be perfectly comfortable, with only a modest amount of zooming and scrolling needed for digital comics and magazines.

But how does the Note Pro stack up for artists?




The answer depends on your needs, and what technology you may already be used to for creating digital art.  If you require an experience rivaling a full Wacom Cintiq setup, with a slew of desktop-quality applications, then the Note Pro is definitely not for you.  However if you can cope with the trade-offs of a mobile operating system (Android) or are already using an Android device to create artwork and do productivity tasks, then the Note Pro will easily be the BEST Android device you’ve used. If you’re already in the market for an iPad Air, or other 10” Android tablet and want the added benefit of drawing with a Wacom digitizer and pressure sensitive pen, then I’d highly recommend the Note Pro. It does a great job of bridging the divide between premium media consumption vs. light productivity and content creation.

04aI use the Note Pro 12.2 to view PDF storyboards.

All-in-all, I’d say Android is in its infancy for producing finished, professional quality artwork. The closest competition to the Note Pro, (in the race for an iPad-like sub $1000 Wacom-enabled tablet for producing professional artwork) is Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2.  For drawing, the Surface Pro 2 is the better choice, certainly in terms of software since it can use desktop Windows software.

That said: the Note Pro is an amazing tool for artwork and productivity in its own right.

The key is navigating Android’s minefield of applications and separating the quality apps from junk. Another factor is improving the tablet’s included S-Pen. (Which I will outline.) With the best creative software Android has to offer, the experience of sketching and drawing on the Note Pro is very good. A few apps manage to achieve a low enough latency that the feel rivals last-generation tablet PC’s. (For example, I find drawing to be similar to a Motion Computing LE1600 Tablet PC of 2007 vintage.) Compared to the LE1600 (and most last-gen Tablet PCs) the Note Pro is light as a feather. So to achieve near the same level of drawing performance in a lighter package (relatively speaking) is a major plus. Also, keep in mind the bang-for-buck mobile applications give you. Many quality applications can be had for $3-$5. Quality desktop applications usually start much higher, and can skyrocket into the thousands  Samsung includes $25 in Google Play Store credit with the Note Pro, so you can go shopping for some of the apps you will need on their dime.


Here’s a list of a few of my favorite Android apps for use on the Note Pro:


Autodesk Sketchbook for Galaxy (Included)


 Included with the Note Pro. Don’t bother to install SketchBook Pro for Android in place of it, according to Samsung these are virtual identical apps, but Sketchbook for Galaxy includes some under the hood fine-tuning that’s specific to the Galaxy Note and S-Pen hardware.


The mobile version of Sketchbook Pro is fairly barebones compared to its full desktop counterpart, but enough features are intact to produce decent artwork. Out of the box, I was a little disappointed with Sketchbook Pro on the Note Pro; I was looking for the feel of it to be more accurate, closer to the feel of pencil/pen on paper.  But some fine-tuning and modifying of my S-Pen improved the experience greatly, enough that I wanted to outline a few basic procedures you can try yourself to improve the sensitivity of the S-Pen. (Later in this article). Once I took these steps (as well as tweaking my brush and pen settings in Sketchbook) I found the results very satisfying.

YEE-HaaaAn example of art you can do with a Note Pro 12.2 (done in Android Sketchbook Pro)

Sketchbook Ink ($4.99)


This is a one-trick pony to be certain. It has no features, other than 10 pen settings that simulate inking styles.  The latency is surprisingly high. Still, I was able to easily do some very fine line cross-hatching using the pressure sensitive pen setting. Since it uses vector lines, you can create artwork that looks great at even the highest resolutions.


Artflow (Free,  $4.99 in-app purchased Pro license)


This was a pleasant surprise for me. I find it has the lowest latency of any drawing app I’ve used on Android. Drawing with it feels very natural. The free version lets you use a small selection of customizable pens and pencils; the paid version adds an assortment of paintbrushes, airbrushes, rollers and pattern pens.  The Pro license also allows export to PSD with layers.  So far, this has been my go-to app for drawing on the Note Pro.

S Vermeer (Free)


A very nice drawing app with some of the most realistic colored pencil and watercolor effects I’ve seen for Android.  Minimalist interface and controls, but there’s plenty to work with, including the ability to import photos. Optimized for S-Pen and good palm rejection.


Serious Paint (Free,  $3.99)


This is probably the closest thing to Painter or ArtRage on an Android tablet. The latency is a little high, but not enough to prevent creating nice work with it.  The free version is fully functional; the paid version adds on the ability to tweak and customize brushes to your heart’s content. My favorite feature is a full-screen color palate, called up from a corner button.  The ‘color sweep’ function allows you to paint with up to 5 palette colors at once.

Infinite Painter (Free, $4.99 for Galaxy Note version)


The latency is a little high, but this app makes up for it with a huge assortment of brushes, paint blending and mixing, wet and dry effects, unlimited layers and S-Pen optimization. You can import photos or drawings and paint over them.  The ads plastered across part of your canvas will have you either uninstalling it, or ponying up for the $4.99 ad-free Galaxy Note version.


Markers (Free)


A really nice app for drawing using flat colors. I was really impressed by the fairly low latency and S-Pen optimization and great pressure sensitivity response for accurate lines.  In particular, I like the controls for precisely changing brush thickness variation.



Animation Desk (Free, $3.99)


Ported over from the iPad, this software is more fun than it is useful for actual production. Still, it’s a great way to do quick pencil tests. The interface is an approximation of an animator’s light table, with peg bars and onion skinning a user-selectable range of frames forward and back. There’s no pressure-sensitive pen support so the drawing tools are pretty rudimentary.  Also the resolution is fairly low. Still, it’s a fun app to play around with.


FlipaClip (Free, $2.99)


This is a great app for pencil test animation. The tools and frame manager are more robust, and it can export your finished animations to file or straight to YouTube and Facebook. The app was built with S-Pen support in mind. The $2.99 unlocker removes ads, gives you improved onion-skin controls and removes the FlipaClip watermark from exported files.



S Note (Included)


It may seem like bloatware at first glance, but S Note is actually a great tool for note taking. Since it’s made for S-Pen, it’s easy to take notes that are true to your handwriting. On the Note Pro’s gigantic screen, it’s truly like a large digital notepad. Notes can be exported to Google Drive and synched to Evernote. Best of all, S Note is Multi-Window capable (as most of Samsung’s native apps are). More on Multi-Window later.

Handrite (Free, $3.98)


Handrite is a notepad that features a unique ‘continuous writing’ system. Rather than write directly on the page, Handrite captures your pen strokes and arranges them in order, like typing into a word processor. I’ve found it makes note taking extremely fast. You simply write in large strokes across an area in the middle of the screen, and the app keeps the output neatly aligned on ruled paper. The paid version allows export to PDF and unlimited notebooks. Unfortunately, it isn’t Multi-Window ready.

Papyrus (Free, $4.99 PDF Import,  $2.99 Tool Pack, $2.99 Cloud Services)


This is a great app. Papyrus is designed to feel like pen on paper for handwritten notes. I found it fast and accurate for taking notes. Because it uses vector graphics, everything you write or draw remains sharp even when zoomed in.  It’s also Multi-Window ready.



Hancom Office (Free with the Note Pro)


After registering your device with Samsung’s Apps service, you can download a specialized full version of Hancom Office that’s only available for the Note Pro.

Hword is the closest thing to Microsoft Word that I’ve used on Android.  When I paired my Note Pro with a Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard, using Hword felt just like using Word on a laptop.  Also included is Hcell for spreadsheets and Hshow for presentations.



17aAdd a Bluetooth keyboard and you have a 12” laptop.
Currently ZAGG makes a $99 Cover-Fit keyboard and Logitech just unveiled a $130 Pro Keyboard case for the Note Pro.


On smaller devices, Multi-Window (running apps side by side in multiple windows) doesn’t seem like such a useful idea. On a 5.5” smartphone I’ve rarely felt the need to use it. But the Note Pro’s  screen is so large that Multi-Window is actually a killer feature.  Further, Samsung has expanded Multi-Window to four panes from its original two.

17bMulti-Window with 3 applications at once.

I’ve used it to have a script open, side by side with an animatic movie, a storyboard PDF and a note pad for jotting down notes. (Papyrus or S Note). Each quarter of the screen is about the size of my Note 3’s entire screen, so even split 4 ways there’s enough room to comfortably view and work on each individual task in each pane. And split two ways, half of the Note Pro’s screen is roughly the size of a full 7” tablet. Multi-Window lets you resize the panes to your liking.  The Note Pro’s Exynos Quad-core processor (1.9Ghz) really shines when using Multi-Window. Running multiple windows (with Pen-window apps and videos running over top of that) I didn’t detect any hint of the tablet slowing down in any application.


18The Note Pro’s S-Pen (black) is slightly longer and thicker than a Note 3 pen.

Out of the box, I was slightly displeased with how the S-Pen felt on my Note Pro. Lines were coming out a little too thick, and I felt the pen was over-sensitive, not giving me enough line variance. I liked the feel of my Galaxy Note 3 much better. Then I noticed that the Note 3’s pen was just as good when used on the Note Pro, so it was clear the pen itself was the problem.

I discovered while doing some reading on the site xda-developers (where any Android enthusiast should be a member) there’s a way to fine-tune the S-Pen’s sensitivity.  These are the instructions in a nutshell:

  1. Use an exacto blade or small screwdriver to very carefully pry up the S-Pen’s click button. Do it carefully, it will come up with just a small amount of pressure.
  2. Locate the small potentiometer toward the tip of the S-Pen. (DO NOT adjust the one toward the rear). It’s hard to see, but there’s a small slot on top. Use a very small eyeglasses screwdriver to turn the dial: clockwise to decrease sensitivity and counter to increase it.  Test the pen on the screen until you find the sensitivity setting that’s best for you. Carefully snap the button back into place.

It took some trial and error, but I managed to fine-tune my Note Pro’s S-Pen to the perfect degree of sensitivity for me, allowing finer and more accurate lines.



Another issue with the S-Pen led me to a bit of hackery, but I’m very happy with the results.  The pen is a bit too small to be the best choice for artwork or extended note taking. I wanted a larger full-sized stylus. Unfortunately, ready-made options are limited.

Most ‘penabled’ Tablet PC styluses will work with the Galaxy Note line, as long as they are the Wacom variety. (Note: Wacom Cintiq and drawing tablet styluses will NOT work with the Note).

My LE1600’s stylus works with the Note Pro- but there’s a catch. Most of the penabled styluses are a few pixels off on a Galaxy Note; (where you press the screen and where the line is actually drawn is offset by 3-4 pixels.) The difference can be overlooked for simple note taking. But for precise drawing, it’s a deal breaker.

Unfortunately, even Samsung’s own $20 8pt Wacom Touch Pen stylus that seems like it should work with the Note Pro suffers from a slight offset. The standard S-Pen is a great stylus as far as function- all it really needs to be more comfortable is a weighted holder.  Samsung does make a somewhat pricey S-Pen holder, but there’s also a cheapskate solution that works very well. On XDA, I came across a method of repurposing a common Pilot G2 ballpoint pen into a perfect S-Pen holder.

You’ll need:

1. A Pilot G2 pen -I used an 07- ($2).




2. An S-Pen replacement from eBay or Amazon. ($8 – $16) Assuming you don’t want to sacrifice the Note Pro’s stylus. Make sure you buy an S-Pen that’s labeled “Original” or “OEM” so you don’t get a cheap knock-off. I found an OEM S-Pen (for Note 3) for $8 on eBay that works perfectly with the Note Pro.







3. A package of foam or gel pen/pencil grips. ($2 – $3)




Unscrew the G-2 and discard the ink barrel and spring. (I left the clicker as counter-weight).


Use a utility knife to very carefully slice about ¼ inch off the plastic tip. Push the S-Pen through the front barrel until it fits snugly, and with enough tip sticking out to write comfortably.  If you can live without the click-button, you can screw the pen together and start using your larger stylus. If you want the click button, remove the rubber grip (note: this is hard to do, the grip is on incredibly tightly!)  Easiest: cut the rubber grip off with an exacto blade, Later you can replace it with a foam or gel pencil grip.







Mark where the S-Pen’s click-button is through the clear barrel.  Remove the S-Pen, and (VERY CAREFULLY!) use a utility knife to cut open a corresponding notch in the pen barrel.  Easiest: heat the blade with a candle flame to melt the plastic some. Be careful not to melt too much of the barrel and warp it. I used a utility knife to shave down and smooth out the opening.  I didn’t do the neatest job of it in the above example, but it doesn’t matter- this is hidden under the gel grip. More advanced DIY’ers can likely use a Dremel tool.

Push the S-Pen back in the barrel and line up the opening. Once you can easily click the button, cover with a foam or gel pencil grip. I was easily able to click the button through a gel grip, and a slight indention cues you where the button is. The replacement gel grip is also more comfortable than the G-2’s original plastic grip.

I found this modification to be a tremendous improvement for the S-Pen. I highly recommend this if you do any drawing or writing with an S-Pen. (I chose a garish blue G-2 pen to prevent it getting mixed up with common pens.)








I wouldn’t recommend the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 for artists that require as close to a Wacom Cintiq experience as it is currently possible to get from a tablet. I would instead recommend a Windows 8 Tablet PC with Wacom digitizer like the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 or similar.

But for anyone already on the lookout for a tablet like the iPad Air, that you plan to incorporate into drawing and animation work, I would very much recommend the Note Pro 12.2 as a more capable alternative. The larger, higher-res screen and addition of the Wacom digitizer and S-Pen puts it ahead of the iPad for basic drawing tasks. (An advantage for iOS is a greater selection of high-quality tablet applications vs. less selection from Android.) For viewing and editing documents (storyboards, scripts, spreadsheets etc.) taking notes, viewing animatic and other footage while multi-tasking, the Note Pro is a very valuable productivity tool.

At its $749 (32GB) introductory price, the Note Pro is expensive, and will keep many away until the price eventually drops. Consider that Samsung also makes the Galaxy Note 10.1” 2014 edition at around $449 that may be a better fit. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab line is less expensive still, but sans S-Pen and Wacom hardware.

I wouldn’t recommend the 64GB version of the Galaxy Note series tablets, as each has a microSD slot allowing you to add additional storage. Currently a 64GB microSD card can be found for around $45. The combined 96GB of storage is plenty for movie files, tons of documents, applications, photos and digital media.

The Note Pro features a quad-core 1.9ghz processor, 3GB of memory, 32/64GB, internal storage, 12.2-inch 2560×1600 WQXGA TFT Display, microSD card slot, 8 MP (rear) 2MP (front) cameras, USB 3.0, Bluetooth 4.0, Choice of white or black, ships with Android 4.4 (KitKat)

Harry McLaughlin loves all kinds of gizmos and gadgets. He’s currently an animatic editor on “American Dad” for Fox TV Animation. He also dabbles in writing books for kids, as featured on his website

Review: The Lenovo Helix laptop hybrid from an Animator’s perspective

2014-01-26 16.56.26 First off let me say, I am a tough critic when it comes to hardware. I’ve owned dozens of laptops and a number of tablets over the years and I beat them up pretty hard. If I don’t like something I sell it right away. If I do I’ll keep it and recommend it to everyone I think will care. My main tablets have been the LE16600, the LE1700, the Asus EP 121 and the iPad Retina display and Galaxy Note 2. I’ve owned too many laptops to list here. That said, I’ve owned the Lenovo Helix for about a month now and it has taken a bit of getting used to primarily because of Windows 8 and not the hardware itself.

I primarily use it in three ways:

  • Drawing on it (with the touchscreen turned off)
  • Using it as a tablet and surfing the web (touch screen on
  • In laptop mode (touchscreen on)

I could possibly see myself using it in the fourth mode with is presentation mode to pitch either a show or storyboard since the tablet screen then faces outward away from you but you have control of the keyboard but I haven’t needed it yet. I still think that might not work well because you can’t see what page you’re on if you overshoot the panel by double clicking the arrow key or something like that. I do not use the stock stylus but in order to have any stylus work at all you must take the stock on out to have the digitizer recognize a stylus at all. A stupid thing for Lenovo to do in my opinion. because it makes the stylus VERY easy to lose if you want to use a different stylus. A better stylus is a Wacom penabled stylus which feels good in the hand and works very well. Also a Motion Computing LE1600/LE1700 stylus will work with it and that’s about as good as it gets for a stylus as far as I’m concerned.

2014-01-26 17.01.17

A comparison of stylii  Top to bottom; Cintiq, LE 1700, Wacom  Penabled pen,Lenovo Helix stylus

My primary use is lunchtime and working on my own projects in a restaurant or cafe, drawing and writing or working on it while on vacation for an hour to get some small thing done or check a file. I do a huge amount of freelance so i need all of my files to be on the hard drive so I use Dropbox to sync it all and with a 256gb ssd hard drive the Helix does fine job of backing my art and projects up. With every other tablet I’ve owned this was an issue but luckily the Helix is new enough to take advantage of the higher capacity ssd drives. The tablet itself is very well made, sturdy and solid feeling. It feels like you could actually drop it and it would not break. Especially the tablet itself.

2014-01-26 16.58.52The keyboard dock has a small lip on it where the tablet slides
into which might get caught on a bag if you tried to store it by itself.

The keyboard dock is a bit light but sturdy as well. It does not creak at all when you hold it at one end and while it’s a bit heavier than say an iPad it feels like it won’t break and I like that. It’s clearly made well. I use it often to write out scripts and outlines as well as correspond with clients and work. The keyboard is solid but could use a tiny bit more weight to it because with the tablet docked in laptop mode the unit gets a bit top heavy and will rock a bit on the lap. On the desk it’s just fine but it IS a laptop. Another few ounces on the front of the keyboard dock would have made all the difference in the world.

The Helix is an 11.5 inch device and if you’ve owned an LE1600 it is much thinner and smaller. It’s significantly lighter as well.

2014-01-26 16.59.55The Helix vs the LE1700

2014-01-26 17.00.06And side by side you can clearly see it’s significantly smaller in size.

2014-01-26 17.00.38Finally top down.


The trackpad has no physical buttons on it and is just one big surface similar to a Macbook pro. It was awful when I first got it but after updating all the Lenovo drivers as well as upgrading to Windows 8.1 the performance is significantly better. If there was no Windows 8.1 I would have returned it. Yes it’s that stark of a difference to me. I did not think I would like the touch screen while using it in laptop mode but I do and tend to use it fairly often. That said, I have found that again Windows 8 rears it’s ugly head in the form of horrific palm rejection but it’s fairly easy to disable the touch screen to draw with and again worth it just for being able to draw at a cafe or train.

2014-01-26 17.04.11How to disable the Touch screen in Windows 8.1

For those that don’t know you can right click on the Windows icon bottom left corner, select device manager and then Human Interface and select the touch driver and right click on it to disable it. Should Microsoft make it easier? Doggone RIGHT they should but they didn’t and this is an easy enough work around. Still, a simple widget on the desktop to toggle such things wouldn’t be that hard for them and yet they’ve clearly NOT done it on purpose since they make the Surface Pro which suffers form exactly the same thing. In general, am horrified by the long string of bad decisions Microsoft is currently making and I hope they shape up soon. I doubt they will however as they don’t even realize they’re doing anything wrong!

Moving on… I primarily draw with Sketchbook Pro and occasionally use Photoshop and Illustrator. When I draw I use a wedge to prop up the tablet called an Allsop Cool Channel platform  which I love because of it’s slight angle and it’s lightness. 2014-01-26 17.08.13The Allsop Cool Channel platform from the side

2014-01-26 17.08.02

And from the front.

I animate in Flash, Maya and After Effects regularly as well as use the Toon Boom Suit of apps such as Storyboard Pro and Animate fairly often. All of these are processor intensive apps (except Sketchbook Pro) and chug fairly quickly on a crappy machine due to vector and 3d calculations. The Helix performs admirably on all occasions as far as I’ve found. Don’t get me wrong it’s NOT a desktop computer and it does NOT have a dedicated graphics card so it WILL chug with the hard stuff like rendering or a file with 500,000 polys but in my mind that’s okay, because I’m walking away anyway and really I seldom render on a laptop. In my mind, cleanup up and final are for desktops but you can get a LOT done on a laptop.

Battery life is decent enough that I am not watching the clock as I work and it will easily go 4 or 5 hours between charges. I charge it every other day or so. The Helix actually has two batteries, one in the tablet itself and one on the keyboard dock which is nice as it does give you an extra bit of juice. Speakers are really loud and work well but don’t expect too much since it’s only a laptop and has speakers the size of your pinky nail. It does NOT have an SD card slot which I find perplexing but I read that Lenovo had a choice, more cooling ability or an SD card slot, and I guess it’s for the best because this sucker does get hot when in use but only in the top left corner and I’m seldom touching up there so it does not bother me.


I installed Skyrim on the Helix and while it technically works it’s not very good and you need to use an xBox controller to have any sense of control as the trackpad is useless and so is the stylus. Even then it’s a tiny bit jumpy at best. I also installed the Microsoft top down game: Halo Spartan Assault which works fairly well and I’ve had fun playing that. It’s not really a great gaming laptop to be truthful but I have an Xbox for that so it’s not a deal breaker for me.

So in conclusion, I would highly recommend the Lenovo Helix for artists and animators alike. It’s not prefect, won’t replace your desktop completely but has enough power to use any of the standard apps like the Adobe and Autodesk suites as well as do some light gaming if you’re so inclined. It has a decent sized hard drive to store files, plus an display port that can be used to connect to an HDMI enabled TV (with a convertor) the stylus is crap but you can get a better one easy enough.

Review: The Bosto Kingtee Interactive Display

59905686The Bosto Kingtee 19″ Interactive Display

Anyone in the entertainment industry can clearly see that computers in their workflow are here to stay. You cannot go through a studio in this day and age and not see a tablet in some form or another. The primary supplier of these tablets is Wacom and since they own the market more or less they charge a huge amount of money for their devices. In all fairness the Cintiq line are beautiful pieces of machinery and craftsmanship and you really cannot blame them for charging a premium for such well designed hardware.

That said, other hardware companies are stepping out onto the playing field to try and knock the crown off of Wacom’s digital head. One such hardware maker is Bosto, a Chinese company which is currently making tablets called Kingtees in two sizes. They have a 14” device and a 19” device both of which I will be reviewing. I won’t review them completely separate but rather will call out difference in certain cases because once they’re plugged in and you’re drawing there’s not much difference between the two past the obvious things like the smaller screen on the 14″ unit. Everything else is pretty much the same unless otherwise noted. One last thing, there are two versions of the 19″ Kingtee and I am reviewing the Bosto Kingtee MA not the lesser priced MB. The specifications are the same but the body shapes differ, and the MB does not have the express keys and shuttle roller of the MA. The price difference is $50.

59846285The Bosto Kingtee 14″ Interactive Display

My tablets arrived from Shenzen in an actual wooden crate which I’ve got to say I’ve never seen before. It in and of itself was pretty cool. Once I pried away the wood I was left with two nondescript black boxes with no writing whatsoever on them. Both devices came very solidly packed in fitted foam and you should feel safe knowing that they are expertly packed.  Inside the main box of each unit, two boxes held a digital DVI cable, a standard analog AV cable, a USB cable and an HDMI cable.  It also came with a mini CD -Rom that had both SAI Paint on it as well as a Windows XP and Windows 7 driver. The Kingtees do not currently support Windows 8, but really who’s using it anyway? I was happy to see that Bosto includes just about every possible cord to connect the Kingtee to your computer. A rarity in the hardware world since TVs these days don’t even typically include an HDMI cable.

First I figured I’d try it with Windows since Bosto only officially supports that operating system. There is an open source driver for the Mac as well (more on that later) but it’s not officially supported by Bosto (yet). I installed the driver and hooked up the device at first with the HDMI cable but that didn’t work (most likely due to the lack of drivers for my port) so I switched to the included DVI cable and it booted right up. I didn’t even have to restart Windows to get it to work. Once I set up the monitors the way I like them I was ready to try it out. One note is that you must connect the USB cable to the USB-In port and not one of the USB Out ports or the pen will not work.



On the mini CD there is a standard driver installer as well as a copy of SAI Paint. The drivers installed easily enough and placed two icons on my desktop. One to invoke the driver itself should you decide to exit it, and a button configuration tool, which you use to set up the side buttons. Once I figured out how to use the software (fortunately there is an online guide) it was very easy to setup and extremely useful in my workflow.

kingtee-button-appThe Kingtee’s button configuration app is bare bones but works.
As of this writing, there are currently no official Mac drivers for the Bosto Kingtee but there is an open source driver that can be downloaded from George Cook’s site who is doing a great job on a Mac driver. Sadly, I was not able to get it to be functional for me as the stylus was offset by about half a screen but many others on the site have reported it working well. News from Bosto also points to the tablets’ support for Ubuntu Linux 13.04 out of the box!

Both the 19″ and the 14″ come with almost identical ports on the back, the only difference being that the 14″ device has only two USB ports as opposed to three on the 19″, one of which is needed on each device for tablet functionality. The device will turn on without it plugged in but the pen will not work without the USB plugged in which is actually very similar the Cintiq.


The 14″ Kingtee’s ports. A DVI port, AV port,
HDMI port, two USB ports and the AC power plug port. 

19-portsThe 19″ Kingtee’s ports. A DVI port, AV port,
HDMI port, three USB ports and the AC power plug port.

settings-buttonsSettings buttons on both the 14″ and the 19″ Kingtees
used to change gamma, brightness, contrast and power as well as the
configurable panning wheel.

On the 14″ tablet there are 20 configurable buttons lining the sides of the screen to set functions like Undo and Copy, Paste etc. Ten on each side of the device. On the 19″ there are only 10 which is odd because I would assume it would be the other way around.
10 express buttons on the 19″ tablet’s left side as well as a scrolling wheel
which is accessible from both the top and the bottom of the device. 
The 14″ tablet by contrast has 20 and two scrolling wheels!

My initial impression of both the 14″ and the 19″ tablets was that they seemed extremely light. In the 14″ one it’s a benefit because it easily makes it portable and I could easily see throwing it in a backpack and using it with a laptop on the go (provided you had a power outlet). It probably doesn’t weight more than a pound and a half and even came with a neoprene case!

Bosto is however developing two new 14” models. Due for release in June the 14WB has a Lithium-ion battery (5000MA, 60W), which solves the portability issue, and following this in August the 14WC is actually an all-in-one PC.

Both Kingtee screens have a very narrow effective viewing angle in comparison to the Cintiq.  So for instance, if I lean to the left or back I will quickly lose the ability to see what’s on the screen on the Kingtee but can still see what’s on the Cintiq’s screen as evidenced by the pic below. It’s not drastic but it is noticeable so I bring it up in case you like to slouch when you draw.

viebable-screen-exampleOn top is the Cintiq 21 UX
and the bottom is the Kingtee 19″ tablet Display.
The visible difference between the Kingtee and the Cintiq’s viewing range
is noticeable side by side but still very usable.

Honestly most laptops are like this as well so I really can’t complain much and most artists draw directly facing the screen so it should not bother you much. By contrast, the Cintiq’s viewing angle is much wider. Bosto recommends the use of a Mounting Arm, such as the Ergotron LX Desk Mount LCD Arm available on Amazon for around $108 bucks, for optimum positioning so that you can adjust to the limited viewing angle. Even if you spring for this you’re still hundreds of dollars less than the Cintiq and the added ability to slide your tablet to the side and free up your desk for other work is a godsend.

Amazingly enough, both Kingtees remained cool during the whole time I used them which if you’ve ever spent a day over a boiling Cintiq is enough to make you switch alone.

The 19″ pen is charged by an pretty cool little USB charger (included) that you plug into a powered USB port and then slide the pen right into the sleeve and wait for it to juice up again. In the 14″ device you have to manually put three tiny AAAA batteries into the pen’s sleeve and power it that way. I am told the batteries last a month or more (400 hours use).

59905690The 19″ Kingtee’s pen charger.
The pen itself comes with extra nibs and a little ring to pull the worn nibs out with. The Kingtee’s nibs are not compatible as of yet with the Cintiqs which for me is a shame, because I prefer the felt tip nibs as opposed to the harder plastic ones. I had trouble getting a grip on the screen as I drew but I have that issue with the Cintiq as well and do not like the plastic nibs on either device so this is my own shortcoming and no fault of Bosto’s. Still it was very usable when drawing and the only thing I really missed was the eraser on the top of it like Cintiq or a tablet PC stylus has because the Kingtee pen does not currently have one.
All of the above is well and good but what we really want to know is: “Can I DRAW with it?” and the answer is a resounding yes! It’s far better than trying to use a Wacom tablet like the Intuos if only because you are drawing directly on the screen instead of on the desk and looking at your screen. It’s about as good as using a Tablet PC if you have ever tried one of those. If not then trust me, you’ll be able to draw just fine with it. It’s been tested with most software including but not limited to Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Flash, Toonboom Storyboard Pro, Toonboom Animate, Sai Paint, Corel Painter, and Pixologic Z-Brush. With 2048 points of pressure you can get a thick/thin line just fine although I will say the Cintiq does it slightly better.  Again your mileage might vary.
Wolfman--86-yOA piece of art I drew exclusively with the Bosto Kingtee 19” interactive display

The Bosto Kingtee is a solid device to buy if you do not want to spend thousands on a Cintiq. It’s about as good as drawing on a tablet PC.  It is missing some of the features of a Cintiq yes, but you get what you pay for and at $500 for the 14″ Kingtee and $700 for the 19″ Kingtee, you really can’t go wrong. And with a rumored 21.5” model in the pipeline the advantages can only get better. For the record, I do own a Wacom Cintiq at home and I also use one daily at work so I am without a doubt a power user who uses all the buttons on the Cintiq to my advantage. That said, some of my issues with the Kingtee are more because of what I am used to rather than its short comings. Your mileage may vary greatly if you do not have a Cintiq yourself. In the end I would say that if you do not have a Cintiq you will probably love either of these tablets. If you own one or use one at work, there will be a little learning curve but it’s still a very capable tool to add to your digital arsenal.

You can buy directly from Bosto at

Review: Oz the Great and Powerful


Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful By Melissa L. Milo-3/18/2013
Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs (James Franco), a somewhat insignificant, traveling magician who is not only a womanizer but something of a conman finds himself in what seems to be an alternate universe nothing short of fairies, witches, giant blooming flowers and flying primates. It’s evident from the start this trickster is not so honest, however with a couple instances in the beginning it’s shown that there’s potential for a good heart in Oz, which is his much shorter nickname. With fantastic colors, beautiful scenery, a boisterous soundtrack, and both witty as well as dramatic dialogue, is an entertaining joyride complete with gratifying visual effects and praise-worthy acting. However this film is slightly run-of-the-mill when all the pieces of the puzzle are put together. Whilst he is fleeing from an attack by the boyfriend of one of his seemingly many female confidantes, Oz jumps into a hot air balloon and flies away.

Unfortunately for him a monstrous tornado is directly in front of Oz and he gets sucked into the deadly wind spiral. After praying and promising he’ll be a better person Oz lands a world of color rather than the previous black and white and through a couple obstacles turns up in a river of sorts. The first person he meets is Theodora (Mila Kunis) who informs him that she is a witch and that the prophecy of her late father in which a wizard would come from the sky to save the Land of Oz (coincidentally this world has the same name as his) has been fulfilled with his arrival. Being the not-so-moral character Oz is, he does not deny the title as wizard due to the role as king that comes with it and of course the beauty of Theodora. Throughout the rest of the movie Oz meets other witches (Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams), an affectionate flying monkey named Kinley (Zach Braff), and a female china doll simply named China Girl (Joey King). Continue reading