Skip to content


January 21, 2008

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past week then you probably don’t yet know about the Macbook Air. It’s beautiful, super light, strong, and there is much drool being drooled over it by large numbers of people. I got to see one up close at the Macworld Conference and Expo last week, and while I was impressed, I’m afraid that I’m not going to be drooling over it any time soon. Lovely or not, a stallion cannot pull as much weight alone as an elephant and I require my elephant (MacPro) to do circus tricks when it’s not hauling the tents.

Something else that was recently released that would probably be of more use to designers and artists is the Axiotron Modbook. Basically the Modbook is a rebuilt Macbook, converted into a tablet Mac computer. They had several of these out on the show floor for people to walk up and play with, and so I sat and doodled on one in Painter X for about an hour.

The size isn’t bad, slightly smaller than my 15″ Powerbook, but I couldn’t actually pick one up to tell if it was more comfortable to hold. At 5.2 lbs, it weighs somewhat less than my cat, but I’d probably still want to have it laying flat on something rather than using it to draw standing up. The screen is standard widescreen, although I think one of the booth guys mentioned that there’s a way to upgrade it and support screen rotation. It’s a sturdy little thing, too. The screen is pretty solid, and after a little experimenting I wasn’t too worried that I’d inadvertently break the glass on it.

Having never used a tablet PC before I couldn’t tell you how it compares, but according to the company literature it has twice the pressure sensitivity of regular tablet PCs, with 512 levels of pressure recognition. That’s about the same as a Wacom Graphire or a Bamboo. An Intuos or Cintiq tablet run around twice that. After playing with it for awhile, however, I noticed that the pressure is a little spotty. Sometimes it flowed nicely, sometimes it jumped around a bit. Admittedly that might have just been from overuse on the floor displays. The Modbook comes with 11 nibs, according to the literature available, including pencil, studio, and felt tips. I would be more impressed, however, if the pen had been a bit sturdier. It feels like it’s made from a much lower grade material than I’ve seen on any other Wacom pen, or even compared to the materials used in the Modbook. The plastic feels more light and fragile, and I would probably worry about it breaking if dropped too hard–and with a computer that’s designed for traveling and using on the fly that’s not a good thing. It does store nicely in the Modbook frame, though.

The one thing I miss from it, oddly, is the keyboard. I’m a shortcut key user. Every few minutes I’d catch myself reaching for the Ctrl-Z or the Alt button, and then get frustrated that they weren’t there. The buttons on the pen are programmable, but I’ve never much cared for that since I tend to use a wider range of shortcut keys than just the two available on the pen. The Axiotron people working the booth said it’s possible to use the onscreen keyboard for shortcuts, but pulling it up blocks half the screen and you still have to use the pen (as far as I can tell) to hit the keys. At that point you’re almost better off using the drop down menus.

The Modbook is running Mac OSX v10.5 Leopard, and seems to run pretty quickly. The RAM and storage specs on it are pretty good, comparable with a Macbook anyway. I’m not a hardware geek, though, so don’t quote me on that. Since it’s running on Intel, I believe it’s possible for it to also run Windows, but I’m not sure on that and the literature doesn’t clarify. It also has a built in iSight camera, GPS, and comparable ports to a Macbook (Ethernet, Firewire, USB, and built-in Bluetooth and Airport Extreme).

I can see this being a good machine for designers who would like the ability to do mockups or sketches during meetings or for artists who spend a lot of time traveling, and I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who purchases one and uses it frequently. My laptop has taken quite a beating over the last two or three years, and my traveling Graphire even more so.  For me, however, this would be a pretty useless purchase since I tend to do most of my work from home. If you’re interested in one, however, you can check out the full specs at Current price right now is around $2,290(US).

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave Pooser permalink
    January 26, 2008 6:06 am

    > Since it’s running on Intel, I believe it’s possible
    > for it to also run Windows, but I’m not sure on
    > that and the literature doesn’t clarify.

    It is; they had one model at the booth running Vista to show off screen rotation, which the hardware supports but Leopard doesn’t (yet).

  2. Dale permalink
    March 2, 2008 4:50 pm

    It’s a MacBook. Anything it can do, Mod can do better. For more info on it’s capabilities go to and look at the MacBook Specs. Then, add a pen-screen and subtract the keyboard.

  3. March 4, 2008 4:59 am

    Dale, I think you’re missing my point. While I think it’s a nice product and for some artists it would work wonderfully, it’s not for me. I *like* my keyboard. The onscreen keyboard for the modbook doesn’t allow me to do the things I need to do.

  4. June 12, 2008 7:11 pm

    thats so cool, if i could only get one in real life

  5. October 4, 2008 7:05 pm

    Very nice! Thanks for the share, i’ll be sure to put the information into use. Keep the good blog posts coming!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: