We were excited ever since the first Surface Book came out in 2015, since it gave the option for a discrete GPU. Now we have a chance to test with a Surface Book 2, thanks to Microsoft for providing the hardware for testing.
We are provided with the 13.5" model. Coming from the 12" Surface Pro, I like the bigger screen size. The hardware feels really solid and clean. And of course, with an nvidia GTX 1050, we get very good performance, although it gets a bit hot and the fan would kick on.
When you detach the base, the GPU performance drops significantly, so you would like to attach the base when you use Expresii. In fact, when I detached the base and held the tablet part only, I realized how convenient the kickstand of the Surface Pro is! Note that the tablet part doesn't have any USB port (or video port), so you can't really use it in place of, say, a Surface Pro. I believe they designed it for only brief detachment like for the case of quick presentations.
See the calligraphy process video in Youtube:
The New Surface Pro was announced back in May this year. Today we will show you how Expresii runs on it.
The New Device
The outlook of the New Surface Pro is mostly the same as that of the Surface Pro 4, except that the more rounded edges now feels more inviting. The top model (CPU: i7 7660U; GPU: Iris Plus Graphics 640; RAM: 16GB) is capable of getting 100+ FPS. I'm very pleased with the performance given the sleek package of the Surface Pro. See a demo video below - which include spontaneous painting of some eggplants: (ﾉ･д･)ﾉ
The New Pen
Highlights of the new Surface pen over the last generation:
Without hover tilt sensing, you don't see your virtual brush in the right orientation right before you stroke. That'd be awkward because you need to know how the brush is touching the paper to make a mark. Fortunately, brush orientation left from the previous stroke doesn't affect the correct rendering of a new stroke with an initial tilt angle quite different from the final tilt angle of the previous stroke.
In most advertisements by both Apple and Microsoft, they would say 'tilt to shade'. Here, we show you that tilt is not just for shading, but also for making organic marks using the side of the brush as well. In Expresii, your ink and brush really interact with the paper.
Pressure Level vs Activation Force
A lot of people think the new pen is more sensitive because of the pressure level increase. To me, pressure level doesn't really make a noticeable difference (given >= 1024). It is mainly the improved activation force that makes the new pen feels more sensitive. Those who are not sure about this can try toggling the '1024-level' option on your Wacom device and see if you notice any difference.
New Pen on other Surface devices?
Yes, you're covered. According to Microsoft representative:
"The new Surface Pen works with these generations of Surface Devices: Surface 3, Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, Surface Book, Surface Studio and Surface Laptop. The new Surface Pro is the first Surface to enable 4096 levels of Pressure Sensitivity and Pen Tilt. These features will be updated on Surface Book and Surface Studio with updates in early 2018. All devices benefit from the 9g-low activation force."
To make sure you get the best performance, you can opt to use Game Mode for Expresii. What the Game Mode does is to minimize background activities to give way for the foreground program.
The Game Mode is available if you have the Windows 10 Creator's Update. Press WIN+G to bring up the Game Bar UI. Read more about the Game Mode here .
I'm impressed by what Microsoft has achieved over the years for the Surface Pro Family. I wish in the near future they are able to support hover tilt sensing as well. Expresii really shows off the sleek new Surface Pro for its powerful GPU and its new pen. Users can make vastly different organic marks simply by varying pen pressure and tilt angle, as well as the wetness of the virtual brush. This allows spontaneous painting not possible in any other app.
Expresii was a huge success!
So we are told ! :) We were invited to demo at the Microsoft world-wide launch event last week in Shanghai. We're glad to be back to this amazing city to enjoy great food and all that. ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ
Visitors were amazed by the simulation and rendering quality of Expresii. Look at how the ink flows down the gorgeous screen of the Surface Studio. Look at how beautifully the artworks are rendered on the screen. Look at how you can make organic strokes with our breakthrough technology!
It was really great to have visitors and also Microsoft folks telling us Expresii was the most impressive demo in the launch event. "Everyone keeps talking about how beautiful the app is! " ٩( ´･ш･)و
And yes, Expresii was shown along side much bigger players like Adobe, Autodesk and Corel. Given our presence, Corel Painter can't really call itself the most natural painting simulator.
"I can’t think of a program that better demonstrates the power of their inking platform than Expresii" - a customer
" 遇到了一直关注的数字水墨软件expresii的创始人，感受了业内最精彩的模拟现实绘画软件；科技和艺术的大碰撞" - 郑昊煜RADIO
A big big thank you to Angela Wong of Rooftop Animation for coming along to help amidst her busy schedule.
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Below are shots of Microsoft CVP Panos Panay showing Expresii during the keynote. See the video again here.
Next Stop: Hong Kong
Panos Panay of Microsoft really likes Expresii and we were invited by Microsoft to be in their App Partner video and also showcase our Expresii app in their May 23rd launch event in Shanghai. It was a great honor that Panos himself introduces Expresii to the world in their keynote:
You can also watch the full keynote with Chinese translation here (按這裡看華語傳譯) . It was great to meet people in person and have guests telling us that Expresii was the most impressive demo shown in the whole event.
Check out this collage app-partner video from Microsoft, featuring Expresii:
We've been asking hardware makers to add pen tilt support for years, and are certainly happy to see the new Surface Pen getting tilt sensing support. The new Surface Pro also features latest Intel processor and is completely silent thanks to the no-fan thermal design for the m3 and i5 models. See the details in Microsoft's blog.
Expresii now also available in Windows 10 Store
Expresii is now also available in the Windows 10 Store for $89.99. The Store version of Expresii is the same as the Win32 version except that you can't have tabs in the Setting Windows as separate windows for now. FYI, we use a converter to convert the original Win32 version into what Microsoft calls a 'UWP' app as our Windows 10 Store version. Performance-wise, our test indicates that the converted app takes slightly longer to start (1.6s vs 1s), but otherwise performances virtually the same during painting, on an i5 Surface Pro 4.
Expresii Win32 version for Win XP/7/8/10
The availability of Expresii on Windows 10 Store doesn't affect users buying a license for the Win32 version of Expresii via Gumroad. For those who don't have Windows 10, you can always use the original Win32 version, which runs on Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10.
Update: see a report from the demo show floor in our next blog entry!