Because I never saw a big screen I didn't like, I've been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Lenovo's first two Wacom Active ES 2-in-1 convertible laptops, the Thinkpad Yoga 14 and 15. 

Determining whether Windows devices support pen input is rarely easy, but in the case of these new Yogas, it's been downright ridiculous. I first ordered the Thinkpad Yoga 15 in March when it appeared on the Lenovo website. Buried in the specs was a claim of pen support. But I quickly returned it when it arrived with no Wacom digitizer. By the time I submitted my RMA request, Lenovo had updated its site and erased all mention of pen support on the new Thinkpads. Mysteriously though, Lenovo began listing an Active Capacitive Pen for $40 that its specs say is compatible with "all ThinkPad capacitive touch screen enabled devices."

In the three months since my first abortive encounter, I've been visiting the Lenovo site daily waiting for the new convertible to be listed for sale. And I'm not alone, because over on the TabletPCReview forums, the Thinkpad Yoga 15 thread is 65 pages long as I write this! Recently, international posters began reporting having purchased the penabled TPY14, but a 14-inch model has never even been listed in the US.

Thursday night, TabletPCReview regular @soh5 discovered that the Lenovo Thinkpad 14 is now available in the US as a Best Buy exclusive for $999. I followed this link and quickly placed my order and picked it up Friday morning. Although I would have preferred to test a 15-inch model, recent posts lead me to think that the TPY 15 may have been cancelled or is still a long way out.

Unfortunately, Best Buy doesn't offer the Active Capacitive Pen for sale (what a surprise) so I had to order that from Lenovo directly. It will take at least a week to arrive.

Unlike prior Wacom EMR tablet PC pens, it appears that Wacom Active ES pens are OEM specific. My Toshiba Encore 2 Write pen is not recognized on the TPY14, although the convertible laptop definitely lists a digitizer and even includes the Wacom Feel driver pre-installed.

Testing of the pen will have to wait until the pen shows up, but below are some quick first impressions and a size comparison with the first generation Thinkpad Yoga 12.

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Despite its relatively low price, the Thinkpad Yoga 14 is a solid, quality business laptop. It features a 2.2 GHz 5th Gen Intel® Core™ i5-5200U processor with a 3MB cache and a Turbo Boost speed up to 2.7GHz, 8GB DDR3L memory, 1 TB hybrid hard drive (5400 rpm) with a 16GB solid state drive as a cache, NVIDIA GeForce GT 940M graphics with 2 GB dedicated video RAM and a 14" LED-backlit high-definition 10-point multitouch display with IPS technology and 1920 x 1080 resolution. 

The TPY14 includes 2 USB 3.0 ports and 1 USB 2.0 port, built-in high-speed wireless LAN (802.11ac), and Bluetooth 4.0.

It weighs 4.18 lbs. and measures just 0.82" thick.

The new Thinkpad Yoga 14 makes an excellent first impression. The display is sharp and bright, unlike the first generation Thinkpad Yoga 12 that has a milky screen protector that makes all images look dull. The keyboard is roomy and the best in class. The touchpad is also vastly improved over the TPY12 which felt slightly wobbly and cheap. The touchpad also features true left and right mouse buttons that  is appreciated. 

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Lenovo has eked out another 1.5 diagonal inches out of the display by reducing the side bezels dramatically. You can't really make them any smaller without sacrificing side swiping capability. The TPY14 is just over 13" wide and 9" tall in landscape mode. The first gen TPY 12 approximately 12.25"x 8.5."

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It's still a little odd to use the Yoga in tablet mode as the retracted keyboard keys will rest against your hands or knees as you hold it. I much prefer older compatibles like the Sony VAIO Flip and Acer Aspire R7-572 that allowed you to lift the display slightly to access the keyboard. To use the Yoga as a drawing device, you will definitely want to keep a Bluetooth keyboard nearby.

Lenovo packs a lot of crapware into its products lately and many of them are redundant to Microsoft services. I removed the McAfee Internet Security, a cloud storage solution and several other so-called Lenovo DOit applications. My advice to all PC manufacturers: DON'T DOit.

I haven't really put the laptop through its paces yet, but benchmark performance is very good. For some reason PCMark 8 won't run, but the TPY14 3DMark results were far better than either the original Thinkpad Yoga, the Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 or the Surface Pro 3 thanks to the latest gen i5 and the NVidia 940M GPU. I suspect the Ice Storm benchmark is the only one that is reliant on the CPU speed, which might explain the Core i7 TPY12's win in that category, although that doesn't explain the CC2 coming in second.

                         TPY14      CC2         SP3            TPY12(1st Gen)

Fire Strike      1492        649          409             565

Sky Diver        5558        3096       1628           2454    

Cloud Gate     6397        4658       3653          4297

Ice Storm        38725     40038     27450       44865

Battery life also appears to be good, claiming to last 8 hours.     

I have to reserve my final judgement on the Thinkpad Yoga 14 until I've put the Active Capacitive pen through its paces, but at the moment, I think it's a very solid contender if you're looking for a convertible device. Considering that I paid over $1700 for the original Thinkpad Yoga in November, 2013, the $999 TPY 14 is an absolute bargain. Stay tuned!



Posted
AuthorRick Rodriguez
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When I was first approached by the folks behind TabletPCMouse a couple of months ago, I was frankly perplexed. The utility developed by Japanese developer Takashi Yamamoto creates a virtual trackpad on your Windows tablet's display (see demo video, right). 

We all know that desktop touch targets can be very small and difficult to hit accurately, especially on complex professional programs. Controlling the screen pointer with the virtual trackpad is indeed easier than attempting to tap with a finger. But whenever I'm in tablet mode, I'm seldom without my pen, so whatever the added accuracy, I find it's much faster to tap the pen tip directly onto the target.

The software also enables users to access a large array of customizable two-, three-, four- and five-fingered gestures which can be very "handy." (Pun intended). 

I thought this latter feature was very useful and I intended to write a note about the utility at that point, but it was a complex enough utility that I felt I couldn't do it justice with the time I had available, so it quickly fell off my radar.

The developers persisted and contacted me again this week to offer a peek at the upcoming version 2.0 beta. My interest was piqued when I learned that this new version offers an ArtDock alternative called "Artist Pad." Development of the free utilities Toolbar Creator and RadialMenu, which I've covered extensively, has slowed in recent months, so it's nice to see a new option on the horizon.

Once installed, TPCM makes it extremely easy to create customized Artist Pads with your favorite keyboard shortcuts. The layouts are saved as .ini files that you can load in and out as often as you like. I created the Photoshop Artist Pad here (see left) after only a few minutes of getting familiar with the utility.

TabletPCMenu is free to download from the Windows App Store, but to unlock all its features, you'll want to pay the $10 premium. At this writing, the software is on sale for $4.99.

What's odd about the tool is that the app doesn't do much without the presence of the desktop add-on. It's this confusion about the way the two programs interact that kept me from writing about it earlier.

In case you'd like to give the utility a try, below is a step by step guide to getting the program up and running. (Apologies if the layout is weird. Squarespace's Layout Engine is giving me fits with this post!)

STEP 1. Download the Tablet PC Mouse Manager App from the Windows Store.

STEP 2. Run the App and select Get Desktop Program

STEP 3. Download the desktop program. At the moment, this downloads the 1.9x version. When you register your email address, you will get the 2.0 beta and eventual update.

 
 

The settings (above) also offer customization of the pointer and virtual keyboard, but for the remainder of this post, I'll focus on customizing the ArtistPad.

STEP 4. Install the desktop application.

STEP 5. Access the TabletPCMouse settings from the notifications tray.

STEP 6. Insert your Bonus Code to unlock commercial features.

Once inside the settings menu, TabletPCMouse offers a wide and potentially confusing array of options (click on any of the images below to see larger versions).

My advice is to take your time with each screen, testing the settings one at a time until you're comfortable with the options.

To access the ArtistPad, tick it in the Current Mode (left).

Side Float and Full Screen settings (below) allow you to set up customized gestures. This is a really great feature that should be part of the OS. The developers state that TabletPCMouse is compatible with Windows 10, so this may end up being a lifesaver if Microsoft removes a gesture from 8.1 that you've grown to love.

In one of the oddest design choices of the utility, selecting the Layout settings (left) only offers the opportunity to edit the layout in the Modern app (below).

By default, the layout screen opens up the Float trackpad (above). I wasn't able to load the Artist Pad from the Layout pulldown, so it took a little trial and error by loading the Artist Pad on the desktop and then selecting "Edit layout with store app" (above left).

Once the Artist Pad is available in the Layout window, save a new .ini file in case you want to go back to the original settings.

Customizing your Artist Pad is very simple: just click on a button (below left), enter its keyboard equivalent and modifier keys and size, position and rename it. In the example below, tapping the Open button will send the Ctrl-O shortcut.

By default, the Artist Dock buttons are 15 units tall, but in order to add many more buttons, I reduced the height to 7. At present, it looks like Artist Pads are limited to two columns.(CORRECTION: The pad can contain more columns, but I haven't figured out how to do so.)

You can drag the buttons around as you like, but they don't snap consistently. Just pay attention to the x and y coordinates to keep your buttons evenly spaced. It would be nice to be able to move multiple buttons at once or add graphical separators to keep the items better organized.

When you have a button you like, just Clone it to add a similar one.

Once your Artist Pad is completed, save the .ini file and load it in the desktop settings. (I told you the bouncing back and forth between apps is weird and a little tedious).

When the Artist Pad is loaded (left), it has a hamburger menu icon in the top left that allows you to quickly load settings or jump to the layout app. The blank area next to the hamburger menu allows you to click and drag the pad around the screen.

You can set the Artist Pad's opacity in the Settings tab and the Minus icon will minimize it.

For a beta product, TabletPCMouse is very robust. It works with both Wacom and N-Trig devices. Be aware that on N-Trig tablets like the Surface Pro 3, the pen's proximity to the screen will disable touch. On Wacom tablets, touch is only disabled at the moment that the tip touches the screen. In any event, this means that the keystroke can't be held down as you use your pen. 

TabletPCMouse mitigates this limitation somewhat by toggling modifier keys like Alt and Shift. For those shortcuts, once they are tapped they will stay depressed until they are tapped again.

This is a very worthwhile utility and the developers are eager to get feedback from the SurfaceProArtist community. The first 20 commenters on this post will receive free licenses in order to provide more feedback and advice on the beta. For more details visit TabletPCMouse.com

Posted
AuthorRick Rodriguez
48 CommentsPost a comment

Earliest adopters who rushed out to install Adobe CC 2015 updates Monday night may have been surprised to find that this year's installer erases previous CC versions on the hard drive.

This is probably a welcomed convenience to most users who don't need multiple versions of software taking up useful drive space, but if you have a mission critical file or plug-in that requires a specific version, you might be out of luck if you blow away your older installation.

I had installed CC 2015 on three systems before I realized I was removing CC and CC 2014 programs.

Keeping the older versions is straight forward, but requires paying attention early in the update process. 

When the Adobe Creative Cloud application notifies you that new CC 2015 apps are available, you can update the programs individually or select Update All.

When the Adobe Creative Cloud application notifies you that new CC 2015 apps are available, you can update the programs individually or select Update All.

By default, the installer will remove prior CC versions (CS 6 and earlier are not affected). To keep your older installations, select Advanced Options.

By default, the installer will remove prior CC versions (CS 6 and earlier are not affected). To keep your older installations, select Advanced Options.

Untick the Remove old versions option and then select Update. Be prepared to wait a while as all of my installations thus far have taken a couple of hours.

Untick the Remove old versions option and then select Update. Be prepared to wait a while as all of my installations thus far have taken a couple of hours.

Most users will likely appreciate the freed up hard drive space, so this method should only be applied if you absolutely need to continue to access older CC programs.

Most users will likely appreciate the freed up hard drive space, so this method should only be applied if you absolutely need to continue to access older CC programs.

Posted
AuthorRick Rodriguez
CategoriesTips