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Axiotron Modbook D1

DAY 1 with no keyboard, working with the tablet only By Ko Maruyama
I'm a Mac fanboy.  I'm a tablet/stylus user.  I hardly ever touch my mouse at all.  So when I heard about the Axiotron Modbook - a macbook with a Wacom face, I had to check it out.  On the day it arrived, it appeared to be everything I hoped for.  In the following days, I'd take notes and try to break out of my standard workflow shell.

As with every piece of new hardware, there is a little bit of a learning curve when you first put the thing in front of you.  What I didn't expect was that there would be no keyboard access at all.  I mean, sure, the benefit of a stylus driven screen (a la Wacom Cintiq) is that you don't need a keyboard necessarily, but it makes simple tasks like naming saved files or new folders a bit of a challenge.

But I don't need a keyboard.  There's a little onscreen keyboard interface, so if I need to type, I can stab at the letters on the program and type simple things out.  If you're pen scrawl isn't decipherable by any recognition software, you can click on the software keyboard to type what you need.  It's handy for tweets and naming files.

So I don't use a mouse.

I'm always using my Wacom tablet on my desktop machine.  Moving to this "tapping and dragging" on the screen is a pretty easy transition.  Not only is it an easy transition for the basic Finder navigation, but it's really the perfect fit for all of the painting applications that I like to use.

Painter and Adobe Photoshop are the top stylus-must-have applications that I can think of.   They're on the hard drive, so I fire them up.   After a basic navigation through the applications, all is good.  There are a couple of things that I find my self groaning about (typing in canvas dimensions and artwork/file names).

The real problem comes when I start to work on a project as I would if I had a keyboard attached.  The shortcut keys that I've come to rely on are difficult - to - impossible to take advantage of because the keyboard is a software solution.  It's not as though I couldn't connect a keyboard (the MacBook USB ports still exist on the side of the modbook).  If you want, you could connect a keyboard and mouse.  But as soon as you concede to carrying around a keyboard/mouse, you might as well carry around a small wacom tablet.


After a few (ok several) hours of learning curve and practice, I don't care much about the lack of keyboard.  My pen is fast enough on the screen to navigate to everything I need in my portable world.  The pen fits within the modbook, the modbook fits within a slim neoprene sleeve, and the whole thing fits under my arm on my way out to a nice piece of shade in the park.

The modbook will cost about $2,300.  Anyone who is not already using a Wacom pen (or stylus/tablet setup) might want to give some serious thought before jumping in with both feet, but if you're a pro, already down with stylus use, this Mac is definitely worth a look.  Of course, this recommendation is based on a day's worth of work.  At the end of the week, I may suggest you get two (one for each hand), or wait for the Macbook Pro version to come out.

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NEXT: DAY 2 (if I don't put a link here, check the comments below)

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Ko Maruyama is a freelance animator in Los Angeles.  In addition to working on film and broadcast animations, Ko teaches at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design - focusing on motion design.  When working, writing or testing software allows, you can find him lending a hand in the After Effects board and lurking among the Cinema4D, Visual Effects and Photoshop posts within the DMNForums.
Related Keywords:product review, mac, modbook, macbook, tabet, ciintiq, wacom, ko maruyama

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