Well, honestly that headline is clickbait. The truth is that no capacitive tablet, regardless of whether it has AnyPen, ApplePen, or OtherPen technology built in, is going to beat the accuracy of a Wacom, or Wacom type (Surface Pro, etc.) tablet. Not going to happen. What I think this article will reveal though are the slim offerings available for those that would like to use their 8” to 10” tablets for writing pads. Let’s face it, 8” tablets are primarily consumption devices. Sure, Office 365 is included, but are you really going to use your 8” to develop an extensive spreadsheet or complex Power Point presentation, when a perfectly capable laptop or desktop is sitting two feet away. One important way that 8” tablets can differentiate themselves though is by serving as a pad of paper. Not for only doodling, but for more important stuff. Like writing. Little has been done to improve this capability in small tablets. With that said, let’s get started.
I am going to compare the writing functionality of five different programs/apps currently available for Windows tablets. There are many others, but these have been designed specifically for writing, as opposed to only drawing (I’m not an artist). As a refresher, the Asus Note 8 comes with Wacom technology built in. My testing was done with a Wacom Bamboo stylus. The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Windows comes with AnyPen technology, which is basically a hyper sensitive capacitive layer that responds to fine tipped (minimum 1mm)metal or graphite points. Testing was done with my Zebra inkless ball point pen. Here we go.
Note 8 – This has been my favorite app for writing on the Note 8. It’s clean and simple to use and has a lot of cool options, like exporting to PDF. The app will let you set it to, “Finger or Capacitive Pen”, “Digitizer Pen”, or “Auto Detect”. Once you have written something with the Bamboo stylus though it will immediately default to “Digitizer Pen” blocking out all finger input. So swipes or palm movement won’t trigger any artifact lines on the screen. If you do set the app to “Finger or Capacitive Pen” and write with your finger or a capacitive stylus, you CAN’T rest your palm on the screen. Can only have one contact point at a time. More on that later.
Yoga Tab 2 – If you only touch the pen/stylus to the screen the app works ok. But you can see how difficult it is to do that without resting your palm. So your writing suffers a bit. If I placed my left finger on screen and tried to write with the pen, the screen worked like two finger zoom, and no ink was transferred to the screen. But interestingly, sometimes it appears to work. Not sure if the app was trying too hard to recognize what I was using to write with, although I specifically told it I was using a “Finger or Capacitive Pen” (Digitizer Pen did not work at all with the Tab 2). After some additional testing I discovered you could have two points of contact, as long as both points were on the same hand. So pen in right hand and right palm on the screen. The same with the left hand. I tried holding a left finger on the screen and while touching my left hand to my right, writing with my right hand. But I then got the zoom thing going. Maybe if my hand was wet. But you palm has a tendency to leave artifacts, all those marks at the bottom right of the screen. I’ll reveal a tip a little later that can prevent this from happening.
Note 8 – When I first tried this app, I had a problem hitting the bottom icon bar and Toolbar (I am running Windows 10 Preview on my Note 8), but later discovered that a swipe down will make the app full screen and eliminate the issue. No selection settings for which type of input device, so you can write with the Bamboo stylus or your finger interchangeably. I should note that writing with the Zebra pen on the Note 8 does not work at all, as the contact point is too small. Hence the reason for that large tipped capacitive stylus everyone sells. This app exhibited the same issue with two finger input though. So if your left finger is touching the screen, your right finger or Bamboo stylus becomes the second contact point and you go into zoom mode.
Yoga Tab 2 – Again, this app works ok if only the stylus touches the screen. Like Scribl, if your palm and the pen are in the same hand you can write. But your palm leaves artifacts on the screen. Two contact points, two fingers, or left finger and pen in right hand, will trigger zoom. When you do pinch to zoom, the first finger to make contact will usually leave an artifact. Probably a timing issue. This app, btw, is very unintuitive. Hard to figure out how to save, create a new canvas, etc.
Note 8 – I had a serious problem with this app on the Note 8 having something to do with the Windows 10 Preview. That black area to the right below is not supposed to be there. So when I wrote anything, it was displayed about 1.25” to the left of my pen position. Made things a little difficult. The Bamboo stylus worked fine, even with one or two of my left fingers touching the screen. When I switched to a capacitive stylus (or my finger) I could still write. But if I applied two fingers with my left hand, I couldn’t write anything with my right hand. You do get artifacts at the bottom of the screen from your palm despite using a Bamboo stylus (if the stylus goes out of range). Same thing will happen with a capacitive stylus. The first thing to make contact with the screen, palm or capacitive stylus will make marks. There is also a nuisance context menu that continuously pops up while you are trying to write.
Yoga Tab 2 – The large black bar was not a problem on the Tab 2. As expected, works fine if only the pen touches the screen. Which is, by the way, how most people doodle. But not write. Not that I (or anyone) can print clearly with a stylus, but you can see how your writing degrades without having a resting point. As noted above, touching the screen with my finger still allowed me to write with the pen in my right hand. My left finger often left an artifact though. Two finger plus pen did not work. But occasionally, multiple fingers plus the pen or capacitive stylus did work. No idea why. Something to do with timing I would suspect. I will give praise for the eraser in this app. It’s plenty wide and only takes a couple strokes. Scribl has a fine tuned eraser which makes removing large areas, or even artifacts (you have to zoom in on the artifact) difficult to remove. But there is that nuisance context menu in this app that pops up every other time you start writing on the screen.
Note 8 – Yep, Microsoft’s old reliable writing app, which I believe was installed on my 2004 Acer Windows tablet. Don’t think the program has been updated since then either. But it still works. Although a ribbon menu would be a nice thing. The Bamboo stylus worked fine, with or without extra fingers on the screen. Using a capacitive stylus, and extra left hand fingers prevented any ink from getting onto the page. Actually, the first thing that touches the screen using a capacitive stylus is what will be used to write. So, your palm or your capacitive stylus. But not both. That results in artifacts. Lots of them. And as it’s a program vs. an app, can’t go full screen, so my palm was constantly bumping into the Taskbar activating everything.
Yoga Tab 2 – Don’t touch the screen with anything but the pen and your good to go. Yeah, broken record. As with other apps, the pen, or capacitive stylus, has to be in the same hand to write. If you press your left finger to the screen, you can’t write with your right hand. And your left finger will leave an artifact (first point of contact). Same problem as noted above with the Taskbar.
Note 8 – This, btw, is the preview version of OneNote on Windows 10 Preview. Again, the Bamboo stylus worked fine, regardless of left fingers on the screen. But when using a capacitive stylus, only the stylus and palm can be making contact. Note though that my palm did leave behind artifacts.
Yoga Tab 2 – As noted above, a left finger plus the pen or capacitive stylus equals no writing or inking as they say. But the left finger will leave an artifact (first contact). You can write resting your palm on the screen, but it leave behind some nasty artifacts. Btw, I erased many of the scribbles and artifacts from each of these screens. It got pretty messy at times. But, while working in One Note I discovered a trick of sorts. If you place your left finger somewhere on the edge of the screen, but still in the writing area, and write with your right hand and palm resting on the screen, your palm will leave no artifacts. But your palm has to make constant contact. Your left finger will most likely leave a small artifact though. No idea why this works. And I did try it on all the previous apps with positive, but sometimes unexpected results. Like a line shooting across the screen from my left finger. More testing will be required to figure out an ideal method.
So there you have it. Five apps compared. It’s pretty obvious that a Wacom type tablet outperforms AnyPen head over heels. Yes, you can write with a fork using AnyPen, but you just can’t let any other part of your hand make contact with the screen while doing it. The results were a little disappointing for me as I had hoped the Yoga Tab 2, with all it’s other benefits, could at least allow me to do some basic note taking without that much effort.
BUT WAIT! Never say never. This morning I decided to take a quick look in the Store to see if I had missed any noteworthy apps (no pun intended) for my showdown and I found something called Notebook Pro, a free app (with a long list of add-ins). The preview screens made the app look a bit complicated, but I decided to download anyway. Hey, it was free. This image is from my Yoga Tab 2, although I am certain the app would work beautifully with a Wacom stylus. Note the rectangle on the bottom right of the screen, with the grayed lettering stating, “Hand Rest”. That’s right. An area of the screen to rest you palm that WILL NOT pickup any capacitive finger or pen input. What a concept! You can easily drag the rectangle to any part of the screen, even off an edge. I was able to write with zero artifacts. The app has a multitude of features, like; photo and PDF file imports, text mode, writing mode, export to photo images, printing, pen and eraser sizing, coloring, etc, online collaboration, sharing. So much that it certainly deserves it’s own comprehensive review.
I already paid to get rid of ads ($1.99) and will probably opt in for other features, like shapes and high res image import, even if I never use them. I’m just so delighted that a developer saw the same problems I discovered above and resolved to eliminate them in a simple, effective way. That deserves appreciation. Once I work my way up to Notebook Pro Ninja I will spit out a thorough review for you. But in the meantime, just go and download it. Did I mention that it’s free.