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SISO Tablo Turns Your Laptop Into A Powerful Tablet PC Review

Tablo_1

If you are ever in the need of a tablet PC and all you have is your trusty laptop then having this digital pen can achieve just that. The SISO Tablo pen stylus is a nifty little device that turns your laptop into a tablet PC. Plus adds more functionality to your graphics editing program such as Photoshop or Corel Paint Shop Pro.

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The stylus pen, which is powered by 3 small  button watch batteries (10 included), works with ultrasonic and infrared technology. The Tablo pen gets tracked by the Wii-like sensor device, also known as a station, that sits on top of your laptop and is connected via USB. The station attaches to your laptop by a magnetic fixture that holds the station in place.

After installing the driver and InkNote software from the supplied CD, you are up and running. Simple as that.

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You can literally write on your laptop screen or even in the air and get the results on your screen.

The stylus pen tips are a standard felt tip nib which can leave slight marks if you constantly write too hard on your laptop screen. Remember, the Tablo only allows your laptop to emulate a tablet PC.  However, with the help of the ultrasonic technology, you do not have to press hard onto the screen. A slight touch will do just fine. But if you wanna be n the safe side you can always get a screen protector.

You can even play some games on your laptop using the Tablo pen.  It is very useful when working with photo imaging or graphics programs. I used it with my Paint Shop Pro 9 and loved how I could use my laptop as a pen tablet. Very useful when I needed get some nice curves and edges or just to get better control of my cursor for image editing. Using some of the Paint Brush and Airbrush tools was so much easier to work with. Pen control was a nice change from the laptop’s touchpad which can be very tricky when using just your finger.

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It works similar to Wacom tablets like the pros use, however, it isn’t as powerful but works just the same. It has a pressure sensitive tip so you get good control with some of the editing tools that use pressure sensitive action.

A nice feature with this Tablo pen is that is can be used with Microsoft Word Recognition. I got a chance to write an email using the Tablo and all I had to do was write on my screen and it was transformed into text on my email and away it went. Simple as that. Speaking of writing, this particular device has a soft tip that can be removed and switched out with an included ink pen tip. Detach the receiving device, lay it on the table and  affix  a piece of paper or writing pad and the Tablo will recognize your pen movements. Unfortunately, this setup didn’t prove to be very accurate. There were some  inaccuracies and some lag. I found it to be better on the laptop.

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The Tablo pen can be used as an alternative to the laptop’s touchpad. The stylus pen has two buttons on it which acts as the left and right mouse buttons. I found it to be pretty handy as a mouse at times.  But don’t count on the pen to replace your touchpad mouse. I found that you have to have the pen perpendicular to your screen to get a really accurate reading for small points such as the Close button on your browser. Unfortunately, I would not  recommend holding the Tablo pen perpendicular at all times  since this could cause some kind of early carpal tunnel syndrome. Ouch, talk about uncomfortable.

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A nice addition that comes with the Tablo is a neat little  case which holds the included replacement pen tips, extra batteries and also is used to remove the tips from the stylus pen. Nice. The case snaps close on the USB cable so it stays nearby when you need it. It also comes with a plastic pouch to keep everything nice and organized.

All-in-all, the Tablo pen is a good entry level pen for someone looking to get started with a tablet or a graphics pen  but don’t want to dish out major bucks. It’s perfect for students, small business owners or aspiring digital artists. It retails for $99.00 and can be purchased from Brando.

 

Product Information

Price:$99.00
Manufacturer:Hantech
Retailer:Brando
Pros:
  • Easy setup.
  • Hand recognition compatibility.
  • Numerous supported software such as Adobe PDF, Photoshop, MS Word, etc..
  • Pressure sensitive tips.
  • Swappable Ball Point pen tips.
  • Easy configuration.
  • Compatible with MSN Messenger to write and doodle.
Cons:
  • No docking station for pen when not in use.
  • Slight lag and drag of cursor to pen.
  • Pen needs to be perpendicular to screen for best use.
  • Can't turn laptop sideways to act as a real tablet.

{ 23 comments… add one }

  • Bob Williams August 24, 2009, 11:32 am

    Regular laptop screens and monitors are not made to be touched – and certainly not to be used as a tablet.

    In 6 months the screen will be so scratched you won’t be able to read it.

  • Raul August 24, 2009, 3:08 pm

    True.
    Some laptops and monitors aren’t made to be touched. But according to my review you can actually write in the air so there is no need to touch your screen saving it from any scratches. When I use it I don’t actually apply any pressure to my screen. Many times I don’t ever touch my screen. When I use the pen as a mouse I hold the pen about 2″-3″ inches (and even times further away) from my screen.
    Fortunately, the felt tip on the Tablo is soft enough that I don’t have any marks on my laptop. That’s the beauty of this stylus pen unlike other tablet pens: no heavy contact or any contact has to be made to the screen.
    Unless I spill my coffee on my laptop screen any time soon I hope I should still be able to read it in the next six months. :)

  • sp33dyf33t August 24, 2009, 11:11 pm

    I think this is a great idea. But I feel like it would be a little awkward trying to write on the screen.

  • Fred August 25, 2009, 6:29 am

    The MacBook screen has a protective glass, too bad this device is not OS X compatible.

  • Raul August 25, 2009, 12:10 pm

    sp33dyf33t
    writing on the screen wasn’t awkward at all. It’s kinda neat to use the pen as a mouse too.

  • Raul August 25, 2009, 12:13 pm

    Fred
    I checked the Hantech website. Still no support for MacBooks. I read somewhere that there was going to be some support for a MacBook but nothing as of yet.

  • James Dryden September 12, 2009, 8:00 pm

    No chance of that situation changing, eh? I use a Macbook but I do have an XP partition – so I’m considering this “Tablo” to make it touchscreen. Would be excellent if there were drivers for OS X too, but at least it can work for my OneNote :D

  • Hiroe September 23, 2009, 3:39 pm

    dealextreme has a smiler piece of tech for sale. it’s simply a glass usb touch screen but you have to do some hacking to install it.

  • Robb November 4, 2009, 8:23 pm

    I use a Tablo to teach in my everyday classes (was cheaper than investing in a tablet PC) and can say that I’m impressed so far. No scratches on the screen (after some considerable use), and it’s mostly accurate. It is a bit awkward writing on the screen – but for quick short blurbs of text, images, animations, etc – it works great!

  • jack January 10, 2010, 7:20 pm

    Tablo ruined my life!!!!!!!!!

  • T November 2, 2010, 11:59 pm

    Hey Raul. I loved your review, it was very informative. I just have one quick question, could you tell me how it performed as an artistic graphic tablet. Was it accurate? Was the 600 DPI enough? Could you produce quality work from this device? I don’t have the money to cash out on a Cintiq and the idea of trying to draw without directly seeing development sounds absurd so I’m not trying the Wacom Bamboo or Intuos4 anytime soon haha. Thanks so much if you reply, it would be greatly appreciated!

  • T November 3, 2010, 12:00 am

    Sorry, I just have one other thing to add. How long did the battery last with regular usage? Thanks again.

  • Raul November 7, 2010, 10:18 pm

    @ T
    Glad you enjoyed the review.
    As far as a graphic tablet it’s not bad. I tried it briefly with my Paint Shop Pro and it did alright. However, it is a good starting “tablet” but I can see someone would eventually want to upgrade to a more professional graphic tablet. But if budget is a concern it is good for the money.
    The battery life seemed great. It didn’t seem to be a battery hog.

  • Kadoogan November 30, 2010, 12:32 am

    I bought a Tablo and I can say with confidence that it is a pretty nice tool to have if you are an artist. It works absolutely great with Photoshop, Artrage, OpenCanvas, The Gimp, Painter, Manga Studio, and especially well with the vector-based program Xara Designer Pro (all of which I tested). In fact, for the price I highly recommend it.

    I have a Wacom Pen and Touch, which I found useless due to the disjointed effect of not being able to draw directly onscreen. I bought the Tablo, and after setting it up properly and testing it thoroughly, I gave the Wacom tablet to my brother and now only need the Tablo. The only thing better would be a Wacom Cintiq, but I don’t yet have the $2000 US to get the high end Cintiq I want.

    Unkike what was reported here in the review, the Tablo does not have pressure sensitivity, but it is supposed to have maybe some kind of velocity sensitivity, Which I notice in some of the raster-based programs. The tip is simply an on/off switch – like a mouse button. So if you are looking for any degree of pressure levels with the Tablo, you won’t find it.

    I wound up hooking up an external monitor to my laptop, took the stand off the monitor, and set it up on an extension arm so I could attach it to my desk, and move it around enough to draw comfortably. With the right monitor and an angled drawing desk, you could get a good enough drawing setup to be able to draw well and comfortably.

    After one month I wore out two pen tips. I was a little distressed by this because the tips would run out relatively quickly and I had no replacement source. Then I noticed that the clear tube on a can of duster was about the same diameter as the pen tips. I checked it out and sure enough the tube fit into the Tablo very nicely.

    I trimmed it down to the right length and left it slightly longer than the Tablo felt tips just because it felt better to have that extra length. I lightly sanded off the edges around the end that was to be the tip when I was done to get rid of any sharp edges.

    Even though it was hollow it felt fine to draw with. It had the added bonus of being translucent, so I can kind of see through the tip and can visually locate my cursors better. I would continue to use clear tubing over the often-found red tubing that comes with some types of duster cans. The red might leave marks, though I am only guessing in this regard.

    After one week, it shows no wear and tear, and glides smoother than the felt tips.

    I clean the monitor on occasion with a small amount of armor-all on a clean soft cloth. Works great and further reduces friction. The monitor is holding up fine.

    Most monitors have a protective plastic layer, and mine has a non-glare setup that seems to work beautifully. Pretty tough. Much better than the laptop screen, which is a Macbook running XP Pro through Bootcamp.

    The cool thing about the Tablo mouse button setup is that if you are using the airbrush tool in whatever paint program you happen to like, it can function like a real airbrush – you can hold the Tablo pen 3 or 4 inches above the surface of the monitor (as mentioned in the site review), and use the forward mouse button like an airbrush spray trigger. Still no pressure sensitivity, but by changing the opacity and levels of the spray effect, you get a fairly convincing airbrush feel, and it looks cool when you are doing it too. A buddy of mine who has a Cintiq says he has to buy a separate pen for that.

    My external monitor, btw, is a 22 inch widescreen. My Macbook can’t take advantage of it’s full resolution, but it is still one of the coolest overall digital art related experiences I have ever had for a fraction of the price I would have to pay otherwise through Wacom.

    Anyone here could find a cheap monitor through Ebay or Wal-mart if they don’t want to risk whatever good monitor they are currently using. In Canada, at Wal-mart, I can get an appropriate sized monitor for about $80 to $100 CAN.

    You don’t want to go much bigger than 22 inches in monitor size – my 30″ monitor caused nothing but problems with the Tablo. I couldn’t get it to recognize my smaller secondary monitor on my main computer in dual monitor mode. The setup and calibration software could not seem to figure out where my smaller second monitor was. If my smaller monitor was the primary, it might have worked, but I am fine with the more portable Macbook setup for now anyway.

    The Tablo is less than $100 US. You probably already have a computer, and there is plenty of software out there you can use the Tablo with. I found Artrage to be the most fun. I found Xara to be the best from a vector graphic standpoint – it’s a far better value and more intuitive than Illustrator too. Open Canvas is an amazingly Photoshop-like replacement for Photoshop, with the bonus of having brush tools like Painter – it lacks a fair number of PS features though, sort of more like an older version of PS. Artrage, Open Office, Manga Studio Debut, are all under or about $80 US. The Gimp is free. Xara Designer Pro is I think about $299. Worth twice what they are charging easily given that it does web pages, Desktop Publishing, simple 3D, and can draw as good as Illustrator or better without the complexity.

    I installed a tablet emulator add-on in Firefox and now I can use my browser as if it were on an iPad or iPhone. You can try this by searching for the term TABLET in the Search For Add-ons part of Firefox if you want to try this. It makes scrolling a breeze.

    Be sure to set up the Tablo sensor bar according to the instructions, or you will see weirdness. On the monitor I am using, I haven’t set the recommended 1/4″ buffer vertically from the monitor frame to the bottom of the sensor bar, so I get a bit of weird movement near the upper corners of the screen. I didn’t set it because the monitor frame is thicker than a laptop frame, so the Tablo sensor bar can’t attach the way it would normally on a laptop monitor. I just haven’t found anything yet that I think would do the job and look nice. So I have the bar held in place with repositionable 2-sided tape, which works well. I extended the bar out about 1/4 inch forward and this seems to be working the best overall.

    When the batteries start to wear, you may notice that your cursor will start to drift around a bit even though you are holding the pen still. You can still draw very effectively even though this is happening.

    The batteries have lasted me much longer than I expected. Couldn’t give you an exact timeframe for that, but they go for a long time. Turns out the local dollar store sells the exact type, 5 in a pack for $1.25, so batteries are cheap (for me anyway). The Tablo requires 3 of these batteries at a time.

    An unexpected bonus – the Tablo has me sketching by hand again, experimenting with painting techniques, and getting ready to produce art for a children’s storybook and a comic or two. I would never have done any of this without it – too expensive to experiment with oil paints, watercolors, airbrushing, pastels. etc, in the real world, and the cleanup is simply more than I am willing to deal with on my busy schedule.

    One word of caution – Do not remove the removable tip cage unless you have to, and do not touch anything within the cage if you do. There are some very delicate nubs (for lack of a better description) and they break off easily if rubbed or squeezed too hard. I bought my brother a Tablo and he rendered it useless by doing this very thing. Now he has to settle with my Wacom Pen and Touch. :( I get a spare sensor bar out of the deal I guess.

    Oh, the alignment is never really perfect. There seems to be a sort of sweet spot that is the better portion of the middle of the monitor – this represents the same area pretty much that my buddy’s lower-end Cintiq has though. I have found it all to be acceptable, once again given the price.

    And, no, I have not been paid to write this – I just like it when I am looking for a product and someone who has used it gives up an in-depth review so I can buy with some knowledge of what I am getting into. I found the review here good, but a little light. Thought I could help out a little.

    Hope this helps everyone.

  • Kadoogan November 30, 2010, 12:44 am

    I just noticed a question regarding artistic use of the Tablo and 600 DPI – 300 DPI is generally good enough for print. If you think you need higher than that use it. This is not a function of the Tablo, but rather the software it is being used with, of course.

  • T November 30, 2010, 3:45 pm

    I actually did end up buying the SISO Tablo a while back and I can say with genuine honesty taht it was horrible. I purchased it with the intention to use it as an art producing tool but it failed. It can only be used effectively by drawing EXACTLY perpendicular to the screen otherwise the pen will not line up with the cursor. It also has random moments when the cursor doesn’t line up with the pen.

    The pen jams constantly. I would be drawing and all of sudden the pen tip would jam in the pen and cause it to be on a permanent “right click” until you physically take the tip and seperate it from the pen. Then you had to undo the process and it was a very tedious, inefficent, painful process.

    The tablo also has absolutely NO pressure sensitivity. You could not possibly produce quality work without pressure sensitivity because you will never be able to adjust the thickness and value, etc. of a line whilst working. You must meticulously go back and clean up it’s mistakes and it still looks horrible. I must have re-calibrated the pen a dozen times.

    To conclude as a presentation device it is fantastic. You can circle things, write notes, highlight key parts of your presentation but as an art tool it fails to produce anything. Don’t torture yourself and try to train yourself to work with this tool, your hard work will be in vain as the skills you will obtain from this device are not transferrable to any other device in the digital art industry and your work will always look poor quality regardless of your skill or hours of time spent in trying to use this horrible device.

    I returned it and got a bamboo pen and touch and I couldn’t have been happier. It is incredibly accurate (2540 lpi) and fantastic pressure sensitivity (1024 levels). It creates fantastic work and any youtube ‘speed paint’ video will prove that. Wacom is the industry standard and the bamboo pen and touch will prove itself (by the way the small size of it is more than enough for me as I don’t have to move my hand too much and I work small anyway). Thanks for reading and good luck buying.

    PS: 600 DPI for art is a joke. Of course it’s not enough, people argue the bamboo which has 2540 lpi is inaccurate and purchase the Intuos4 which has 5080 lpi. The bamboo pen and touch is more than enough and I think that the people complaining are just standing by their Intuos, the bamboo is more than enough.
    PPS: If you can afford the better wacom model, get it! The more you pay the better it will be (Cintiq is the best!).

  • T November 30, 2010, 3:46 pm

    Also, I exchanged the product twice! It was not deffective it was just a poor quality product to begin with.

  • Kadoogan December 1, 2010, 1:59 am

    I may have misunderstood the question regarding the 600 DPI thing. My comment was pertaining to print resolution rather than the resolution of any particular graphic tablet specs.

    I wasn’t trying to diminish the quality or excellence of Wacom products in my own review, simply my own preference and experience.

    I would love a Wacom Cintiq because it is the ultimate experience in tablet use to my knowledge – I intend to get one eventually, but for a fraction of the price the Tablo is worth exploring and is closer to the actual feel of a Cintiq than the Wacom Bamboo line, other than pressure sensitivity and accuracy.

    Drawing directly on the screen is still easier, more satisfying. Not to say that you can’t get used to drawing offscreen on a tablet, as many Youtube videos and tutorials have proven.

    The Tablo does not rely on tablet resolution because it doesn’t use one – your monitor resolution is what it uses and will conform to whatever DPI your final artwork will have in whatever software you are using – just like a mouse might.

    I have created some very nice drawings with it, but I have spent a fair amount of time with it, and it has become pretty stable. As I mentioned, there is some drift, and the point about the tip sticking is valid – I meant to mention it but forgot. Since replacing the felt tip with the plastic one, I have that happening quite a bit less. Usually what it means is that the tip was not inserted properly to begin with.

    I am sorry to hear that some others have had bad experiences

  • T December 1, 2010, 5:25 pm

    As you can see in the link below the pen’s physical resolution, meaning it’s accuracy is 600dpi. Printing resolution is determined by the resolution of the document produced in an art program.
    http://www.technobrains.com/review-siso-tablo-from-hantech/4613/
    The Tablo’s 600dpi resolution cannot produce art, it’s impossible. The pressure sensitivity won’t do anything either. I don’t want to sound like an instigator it’s just I wanted to clarify the misunderstanding. If you’re happy with your product that fantastic. It’s not for me and I just wanted the online consumer community to know that this product will probably not meet the majority’s standards.

  • Kadoogan December 1, 2010, 6:26 pm

    No problem – I was just clarifying for the most part. All I can say otherwise is that I am producing art with it, quite nicely in fact. I do have to zoom in quite a bit for accuracy, and that is where the higher resolutions of the Wacom would come in handy for sure.

    Pressure sensitivity can be worked around in several ways, but having that feature would certainly make the Tablo better.

    Once again, sorry your Tablo experience was a bad one.

  • bob May 8, 2011, 6:54 pm

    hi i have this product and i lost the cd driver does anyone know where i can download the driver software from so i can use it plz help thanks

  • Jon September 22, 2011, 12:30 pm

    This is the biggest waste of $100 I have ever spent. It doesn’t match up to the cursor on the screen half the time. The ball point pen tips do not work. Hand writing isn’t legible. and the table mode doesn’t even match up to the screen. This device isn’t even worth $20. DO NOT BUY.

  • Twila January 7, 2012, 5:40 am

    Just bought the Tablo for $70 and after trying to draw vertically on my 2nd monitor – I found this rather tiring. I figured out how to turn it into a Cintiq style drawing pad. Simply tilted my second monitor (which I covered with a protective sheet of acetate) so it on the table until it lays nearly flat. it is resting on the box at the back. The calibration stayed spot on for a hour drawing. I’m able to control the pen just like a pencil, I may put up an example online soon.

    Thanks for the comment about being careful with touching the pen tip, I’m planning to insert a pencil so I can draw on paper, because my pen nibs also did not work. So far I think its the next best thing to a Cintiq since I need to draw several cartoons in sucession and so far I think its well worth what I paid for it!

    The main advantage is that I needn’t use my paper or pastels, but still I prefer the real ink and pen drawings. Which I will scan in then colour quickly with the Tablo.

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