Wacom Mobile Studio Pro in depth review Part I

An Apple fanboy taking the jump for creative freedom on a device that does what he wants… but it’s not an Apple…. it’s actually a lot better.


Ok yesterday I picked up my Mobile Studio Pro 16 from Wacom.
I opted for the fastest version with i7, 16GB, 512SSD and of course 4K screen.

Let’s take a quick look in short about my thoughts before you watch the video.

Very simple.
Apple dropped the ball and keeps dropping the ball.
First of all the new MacBookPro is hardly a pro device anymore, it’s lighter and smaller but has less battery life, problems with GPU under heavy stress, fans that kick in way too late and misses A LOT of ports, also power wise for what you pay its VERY underpowered to say the least. I believe in a USB-C standard, but I also believed in a TB standard (because Apple told us).

I was hoping for a new machine with some form of touch and incorporation of the Apple Pencil for retouching. When I saw the big trackpad I thought… “there we go” but no…. also looking at pricing I don’t think I’ll be able to afford the next MacPro version, I expect that IF Apple updates this beast (I still love mine) it will start at 6000.00 for the base model and in all honesty I do make a living off photography but if I would order what I need for editing our videos this would probably set me back 10.000 and in all honesty that… I can’t afford.

Seeing Apple really closes the door on ANY form of touch (or Apple pencil inclusion) I feel we are on a dead end, so when looking at what the competition is doing with Microsoft releasing a third (already) generation of the Surface Pro and Wacom recently releasing the also third generation of the Companion (now called Mobile studio pro) I think it’s time for people like me to look over the mountain to Windows 10… because all these machines run that other OS, the OS where we always joked about “Once you go Mac you never go back” and I still agree…. in some form.

First evening with Windows
The Wacom Mobile Studio pro comes with Windows 10 pro pre-installed. You do need to setup the Wacom drivers first which appears a bit weird, but in essence it’s a small job, I think it’s because you first have to setup Windows itself.

The setup of windows very much reminded me of MacOs in some things, and is a far cry from the last time I installed a Windows version (I did update to 10 on a notebook). It all looks sleek and nice. There even is a fingerprint sensor in the Wacom that is setup REALLY fast and works very well, still don’t know what to do it with exactly but that’s to find out in the coming days right…..

On the desktop Windows 10 looks ok. I do miss the nicely rendered menus from the Mac and the overal look, Windows still looks like it’s an 90’s operating system that has been upgraded. But that’s not a bad thing some people love the squares and the look of the preferences/settings but for me it all looks very old fashioned. But in essence it doesn’t matter because I’m not using this machine for it’s OS I use it to create and the desktop etc. looks all very nice and smooth not a real difference with what I like from the Mac, start menu is nicely organized and the “metro” look I also like although it’s again a bit square.

As you can see in the video I’m trying out some gestures and I think it’s a huge debit to the Wacom that everything is silky smooth, I tried the same gestures on a high-specced Vaio laptop I own and it’s without a doubt less smooth, it works but it doesn’t give me that “iPad experience”

What I really really like is the gesture options in for example Photoshop and Capture one, zooming in on images with just pinch and zoom is amazingly handy and I already see myself doing this on my MBP within a few days realizing it doesn’t have touch 🙂

This thing is FAAAAST.
It’s a far cry from my Macpro (Dual D700’s with Final Cut Pro X is sick) but rendering and editing in Premiere is amazingly smooth and easy. I do have to get used to not being able to just trim clips like with the magnetic time line but I can life with that and as soon as I have a proper keyboard with touchpad (Logitech K830 on order) I’ll test this again. Photoshop and Capture One both run like I hoped.

Tethering I tested in Capture One and works, connection is really fast and images come in just as fast as on the MBP, didn’t expect anything else, although I was a bit afraid with the USB-C dongle.

None yet expect some weird behaviors in Premiere.
Mostly due to my touchpad and keyboard not working properly (I use a very low budget and older Logitech), but one thing did frustrate the heck out of me and that’s the fact I can’t just import my MTS files anymore without loosing audio. I have to copy the whole structure of the card, and that’s not a good thing. On the MBP and in premiere I was able to just copy the MTS files and drag them into Premiere. Hope I’m missing something here.

Another problem is that the Wacom Mobile studio pro is “clean” on the back, meaning there is no VESA mount option, for me that’s a bit of a problem because during workshops I love to mount my display on a stand so people can see what I’m doing. My MBP was always on a Tethertools table but when we started shooting wirelessly in some situations I used an iPad Pro on a mount from Wally and connected to a stand. Let’s hope something similar will be released for the Wacom Mobile studio pro.

Another thing is the stand… there is no stand in the box (and I knew this) I have one on order but without it I think it’s usable but not as a laptop replacement, so make sure you get a stand when you buy one.

The final piece of critique I have is on the speakers.
I don’t need great speakers but the speakers in the Mobile Studio Pro are…. well they make sound let’s put it that way. Compared to the MBP it’s a lot of steps back. On the other hand…. it’s not really important, they make sound and you can always use headphones (yes there is a headphone jack), and I’m already looking for some BT speakers if I really need it.

Loads of people asked me if a 16″ wouldn’t be too big to carry around.
And I can only say “NO….are you nuts it’s awesome”
I think we have to be clear here.
Apple labeled their MacBookPro because it was meant for the Pros, it was bigger, 17″, heavier, had a load of ports, it was FAST and it was… well a pro machine. It still looked beautiful but it wasn’t a small laptop at all. Later they dropped the 17″ which I think was sad and I bought a 15″ with Retina I fell in love again, but now the route is more to small and sleek and I think that’s where we are on the point that I want to make….

I’m not someone that will sit in starbucks and take out my shiny nice MBP put it on the table and start doing my Email or spreadsheets, when I do something on the road it’s work on images, draw, watch a movie etc. And in most cases I have room when I do this, it will be in a hotel room, at home, in the RV, outside in a park or whatever.

But most of all when I create or retouch I NEED real estate, I can’t work in a 10x15cm space to retouch a model shoot. And on smaller screens (with all due respect) I feel like I see more menu’s than drawing/retouch space. This is also why I LOVE the 16:9 form factor instead of a 4:3, the less room that is taken up with menus and other necessary stuff the more space I have to be creative or work.

In the video you see me comparing the Wacom with my MBP 15″ late 2014, it’s bigger but it’s not too big, it fits in a 17″ sleeve perfectly. And if I want to check mail in a starbucks I’ll take out my iPhone or iPad Pro. This baby is to work.

Charging on the go
AWESOME, this is what I wanted.
Let’s be honest, when you are just using your pc/tablet whatever for email or browsing battery life is no problem, you’ll be kicked out the place before the battery dies. But when you do video editing and retouching battery life becomes VERY important. By charging via USB-c you can now use external batteries like the HyperJuice to power your tablet for DAYS if necessary. We own a reasonable sized HyperJuice and it kept my MBP during a full shooting day at 100% with easy. I still have to test this on the Wacom but I expect nothing less. This was also one of the things I didn’t like from the Surface Pro, it used it’s own charging connector making it impossible to connect it to the batteries, unless…. well I didn’t feel like hacking it (never a good idea with power).

LOADS of people ask me “why the wacom, it’s so expensive”
Well yeah it’s not cheap, but you get a LOT.
First of all like the title says you get hardkeys, if you don’t know how important those are I guess you’re not retouching a lot. There are software emulators that can give you keys but you still have to take your eyes off your work (also one of the biggest problems I have with the touchbar (emoticon bar) on the new MBPs) With hardkeys you can find them blind and use them. This was also another reason for me to go for the 16″ because now I have 8 and a rocker ring 😀

In fact I would love to have even more, so I’ll try to connect an EK remote to it very soon.
The less I need a keyboard the better and the EK remote had 15 keys, add the 8 of the tablet and I think we have no need for a keyboard anymore.

The screen
yeah what can I say.
This is one gorgeous experience. 4K resolution in such a “small” size means you LITERALLY see one smooth surface, it’s silky smooth. Lightoutput is also enough although more is always better when working outside, but that will also cost you dearly in battery life and contrast ratio when lowering the screen output, so I’m more than fine with this. And 96% adobe RGB is of course a welcome bonus.

The surface doesn’t feel like glass like you would expect from a “laptop replacement” but remember this is a creative tool, it’s designed to be used with a stylus and create stuff. And that’s what the screen does, it feels great with an even more tactile feel than the Cintiq and it doesn’t blur the resolution. With the iPad pro you can use screen protectors to get this feel too but it blurs the screen slightly PLUS you add to the parallax problem (your pen hits the glass and the real drawing is below).

The pen
This baby is also great.
8000+ pressure sensitivity levels, yeah great but how does that feel?
Well I’m not a digital artist (although I love to draw) but what I saw yesterday in Photoshop the level of control is INSANE, you can go from hardly visible to big bold lines without glitches… nice. But I’m not good enough to use this… but I’m sure there are people out there that do.

As you can see in the video parallax is gone, speed is great so what more to wish.
One more thing you have to realize btw, although the Apple pencil is great and works like a charm it’s not a pixel device, meaning it works in clusters, the Wacom units are pixel based meaning you use the FULL resolution for drawing, for real artists this can make a huge difference.

3D scanner
If you’re into 3D modeling the mobile studio pro comes with a really cool (so they told me) 3D camera which can be used to scan objects for 3D modeling. And according to a friend of mine it works like a charm. (just saying)

More to come
In the coming days I will post much more on my experiences, problems and of course the experience I have with Windows.
The next blog post will give you some tips on software you can use as alternatives to Mac specific things.

Fan noise
Loads of people ask about this.
The MBP is quieter for a longer time, but WHEN those fans hit you hear them VERY good.
The mobile studio pro is MUCH less loud but the fans kick in a soon as I started rendering, so I braced myself but to my surprise they never really got any louder, they just kept the device in working order it seems where my MBP waits till it’s probably almost to late and than starts cooling like crazy.

Oh and one more thing
Love the Cintiq?
never could afford one because it’s “just a display”?
Now you can. With the Wacom mobile studio pro you can use a Wacom link and use your tablet in Cintiq mode on your Mac or PC.


I never was a real Windows fan when I switched to Apple and I never really looked at Windows. In my memory Windows is slow, gets slower over time and is chunky and overly complicated compared to Apple. In essence however as mentioned before I never use the OS that much, I use the programs. And when I now see how incredibly smooth you can switch from gestures to the pen and to the keyboard and touchpad in Windows 10 and Adobe and Phase One software (and probably also Manga Studio) I really and I mean REALLY can’t imagine why Apple is so against touch…. it’s not that if you go touch you have to do everything with touch but browsing for a few minutes on the net with a touch unit is absolutely something I never want to mis again, it’s seamless, it’s smooth, you can zoom it’s an experience that is fitting this time period. Seeing the fact Apple is CLEAR about not incorporating touch I’m very afraid that Apple will see a HUGE decline in customers that will switch to the real professional creative tools like this Wacom Mobile studio pro.


Ok before the video : Pros and cons
Pros :
Screen, pen, speed (i7 version), touch/gesture/pen/keyboard/touchpad combination, surface of the screen, size, form factor, kensington lock, 3D scanner

Cons :
no stand, no vesa mounting option, not so good speakers

In the middle (can go either way) :
Windows 10 Pro.


I shot this special episode of behind the closed DOORs with my first impressions.

39 replies
  1. Jack Zucker
    Jack Zucker says:

    thanks for the review Frank. I’m wondering if it has the horsepower to edit my files which are 8 bit, 4000×6000 and 40+ layers. My current desktop which is a 3.2ghz i7 3820, 32gb memory, 512ssd because to slow down past the 30th layer, especially with smudge or mixer brush and sampling all layers. I’m hoping this thing would at least be comparable to my desktop

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      What do you think yourself 😉
      You already give specs that are way higher than the mobile studio and you say that that machine already slows down 😉

      It’s a great machine but it can’t compete with a higher speed desktop. The gpu is totally different in a mobile device and the CPU is a duo core 😉

    • Jack Zucker
      Jack Zucker says:

      Yeah, but my desktop is 4 years old so I was hoping that technology marching on would give me at least comparable performance with the wacom at least up to the point where I exceed physical memory.

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      I thought your system was never when you mentioned an i7

      Best is to try it out. I find the unit pretty snappy on 42/60mp files 16 bits.

      But I hardly use more than 3 layers

    • Jack Zucker
      Jack Zucker says:

      thanks Frank. Adorama and amazon have a 15% restock fee which is $450 ! So much for VIP360 perks…

      However, I just found out that B&H Photo has a 30 day return period.

    • Jack Zucker
      Jack Zucker says:

      there are no stores around here that have it and even if they did, they wouldn’t have it loaded with photoshop. I had the same problem when I went to the microsoft store. I wanted to load one of my GB images on the surface pro 4 but they had no floor model with photoshop installed.

    • Jack Zucker
      Jack Zucker says:

      wanted to mention something else. For photoshop brush work, only a single core is utilized to render images with the smudge tool and mixer brush so multiple cores doesn’t really help. For filters and other rendering, the multiple cores might come in handy.

  2. Simonkono
    Simonkono says:

    Hi Frank, thanks for sharing all of your experiences with the MobileStudio Pro. Your tips about optimizing the experience have been very helpful, and I thank you for that! I ended up buying the 16″ model. It’s a great machine! One thing I envisioned doing with this machine is using it as my central work hub, with multiple monitors branching off. In other words, having the main screen to do illustration on, while also having a 2nd or even third monitor off to the side to help with aftereffects or 3d workflows. However, I haven’t seen any way to accomplish this yet. I’ve seen plenty about using the display as a traditional cintiq with OTHER machines driving it, but not the other way around (the MSP driving secondary monitors). I’ve connected a 2nd monitor using a USBc > DVI adapter, but it didn’t work out too well. It either simply mirrored the display or offered other unusable scenarios. My monitor is getting a little old though (it just has a DVI input). I was wondering if you had any experiences with this, or knew of other who have.

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      I’ve connected it via HDMI to several monitors and projectors during workshops.
      You can choose to expand the screen or mirror, just like any other windows machine, so I wonder what goes wrong.

    • Simonkono
      Simonkono says:

      Hmmm….ok. Good to know! Right now, in mirror mode, the mapping on the MSP screen gets skewed, and in expand mode, I can’t interact with the MSP at all. Maybe I’ll try hooking it up to a different monitor with a newer interface and see what happens. Thanks.

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      In mirror mode that’s correct, you’re not running 4K on the other monitor probably.

      On expand it COULD be correct, make sure the wacom knows which monitor is the one with the mobile studio pro, that should work just fine, I’ve been using that for loads of demos.

      You can also program a key on the wacom to shift from one monitor use to the other(s) make sure that’s also setup correctly.

    • Alfredo Torres
      Alfredo Torres says:

      Hello Frank, I believe I need help. I have one of this awesome MSP 16 from a few months ago and I just bought an external monitor (Samsung HDMI) to use it as a second screen for my reference work. Everything is good but once I start drawing in photoshop it gets blackout in the MSP from time to time and it is really annoying. Do you know what could it be?

      Thank you.

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      Let me quess it’s a 4k unit ?

      I have the same issue. Please contact Wacom for that. What I know is that they know about it and looking at it. But the more people mentioning it to them the better change to a solution.

    • Paul De Meersman
      Paul De Meersman says:

      Yep here same issue. The problem is worst when scrolling webpages.
      32″ 4K monitor. A lot of blackouts on tablet and external monitor when using USB-C to Displayport 1.2 (4K 60hz)
      When using my USB C hub that has a HDMI out, it a little bit better. (4K 30Hz).
      I guess that the USB C controller or driver from the Wacom can not keep up the traffic. Because changing the resolution of the external monitor to Full HD resolves the issue.

    • Paul De Meersman
      Paul De Meersman says:

      For myself I found a work arround, and until now it is rock stable.
      I connected my Club 3D CAC-1507 USB Type C to DisplayPort™ Adapter with my samsung U32D970Q monitor running 4K at 60Hz.
      But Also my Anker Premium USB 3.0 hub with the same samsung monitor connected to the HDMI out running at 4K at 30Hz.
      So the Mobilestudio detects 3 screens (the wacom, and 2 times my Samsung). I configured in Windows that the samsung (who are in reality the same monitor) as duplicate.
      With this configuration I got no black outs, dureing more then 2 hours I have a fullscreen video running on the externl monitor and on the other screen I was browsing webpages.
      As soon as I disconnect the USB cable or Display Port cable, I have again black outs.

      So for the moment I use both adapters, and have no issues. But I guess that it has a performance impact because the GPU has to drive 3 4K screens

  3. Tim
    Tim says:

    Hi Frank,
    Just wondering if you or anyone knows how the 16″ runs with Adobe CS5 Mastersuite? I glimpsed somewhere you have to change resolution settings or something to get it to work on the 4k screen but lost the link and cant find it again. I’m not really wanting to upgrade to CC as CS5 has everything I need for my work… Any help would be much appreciated.

  4. JTW
    JTW says:

    The Windows 10 LAF is based strictly on Google’s Material Design standards for cross platform applications (so things that need to run on screens of a large variety of sizes), which is exactly what Windows 10 is, being designed to run on anything from a 5″ phone to a 13″ tablet like the Mobile Studio Pro to to 17″ laptop a desktop computer with multiple 27″ screens.

    As you said, many people prefer the square corners over the more rounded, admittedly more playful, look Apple goes for. It’s all personal preference, and has no real impact on the use of the machine (though technically, the square corners are probably slightly easier on the video hardware, and the fact that all icons are defined in multiples of the size of the smallest possible size can make grouping them easy too.

    Using both Macs and Windows machines, as well as Android devices, I must say I don’t care what I use (though I’d rather avoid iOS devices).

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      Fall release looks totally different. In all honesty it looks much better than MacOS in the previews.

      But in essence it’s just a graphical shell. It’s the software you run that determines the productivity. But well the eye also wants some lol.

    • JTW
      JTW says:

      True. I use both Windows and Mac machines, each has its pros and cons.
      Mac laptops have the advantage that they’re lighter and tend to last longer on a charge (plus they’re more durable) than their Windows counterparts, plus the Unix based operating system has advantages if like me you’re doing software development for systems that end up running on Unix based servers.
      But my main machine at home (used for gaming and photo processing mostly) is and always has been a Windows machine mostly because a) they’re cheaper and easier to upgrade and b) there’s a lot more specialised software for them in the categories I use privately.

      Windows 10 is a massive leap forwards, and mostly for the good, as compared to previous versions. It combines the unified platform of Windows 8 with the performance of XP and the stability of Windows 7 (or better).

      But in the end the operating system is indeed just the platform on which to run other software and which you select depends on what software you need (and to a degree what hardware, as as you state for example touch screen support in OSX is non-existent, as is as I found out support for recent versions of OpenGL which means a lot of modern animation related things can’t be ported to it, thank you Apple).

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      The xps15 I actually like better than my MacBook pro.

      The only thing is rendering. Finalcutprox
      Is insanely fast. And premiere is insanely slow. Resolve is in the middle. But seeing the power of the xps15 compared to my mbp it shows even more how tuned fcpx is ;(

    • JTW
      JTW says:

      Yes, Apple dropped the ball seriously when it came to hardware selection for their latest generation of machines (both desktops and laptops).
      Luckily for my work I don’t really need high performance graphics (how taxing is a text editor on the GPU after all).

      Main reason I purchased a Macbook pro 2 years ago was that I was tired of having to buy a new Dell or HP every year shortly after the warranty expired because of hardware failure.
      If you’re not lugging it around all over the country to customers every day it probably suffers a lot less.

  5. Jonathan LAI
    Jonathan LAI says:

    Hi, I just discovered this device. I was planning to buy a Macbook Pro but I agree with you that Mac is making a huge mistake by supplying only one usb-c port.
    I am shooting with a Fujifilm GFX50s camera and I was wondering whether the Wacom Mobilestudio Pro is fast enough to handle these big files ?

  6. Paul De Meersman
    Paul De Meersman says:

    Bought one (MBS16 i7 16Gb) this week to replace my Wacom companion 2 I7 16gb.
    For the moment I am very disappointed.
    1st the tablet has major issues driving an external 4K monitor especially at 60Hz.
    2nd Color accuracy is not good at all, grays (especially dark grays) have a magenta cast when using the sRGB profile. Even calibrating with my x-rite Colormunki Photo doesn’t solve it. When using DisplayCal instead of x-Rite Photo I have the same issue. DisplayCal however says when using sRGB Wacom profile that it only sees 66% of the SRGB range. When using the AdobeRGB Wacom profile it sees 124% sRGB color range.
    So I suspect a problem with there sRGB profile. Colors and grays are way better on my Companion 2.
    3rd this thing realy shows al my fingerprints on the screen, didnt have taht issue on the Companion 2.

    For a professional retouch/design tablet at 3200€ I expect an optimal color experience and support of external displays with the same resolution as the tablet.

    As a suspected, there is no difference in speed between the MBS 16 and the Companion 2. But it is still slower then my 4 years old laptop (also i7 but 4core with 15″ 4K display).

    The 2 things I do like is 16″ instead of 13″, and almost no parallax.

    • Paul De Meersman
      Paul De Meersman says:

      I played the whole afternoon with calibrating the MSP16. And I keep getting the magenta cast in my grays that are also darker then they should.. sRGB coverage is now arround 88%, but that is still far away from 100%.
      I also played with changing to gamma 1.9 and 2.4 in the Wacom display settings, but calibrating it at 2.2. I finally obtained greyvalues that are no longer magenta tinted, but with a light blue cast, but more important, the grays are no longer to dark. Giving better shadows and dark contrasts. Can life with that for the moment, but I estill expect better. Will contact Wacom support for this issue. I guess a bad display or a bad sRGB profile. But if it is the profile, everybody should have this issue. Or am I to demanding ?

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      Hard to say from here.
      Did you calibrate with auto brightness or fixed ?

      Was the brightness on full power ?

    • Paul De Meersman
      Paul De Meersman says:

      fixed brightness at 120 cd/m²
      6504K and gamma 2.2
      tried with ADC enabled and disabled, also tried with disabling Achieve display luminance value using video LUTs
      ICC profile is on version 4

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      Profile should be 2.
      Try to calibrate on half power on the lightoutput setting but still use 120cdm as target.

      It’s pretty standard that on full power the screen is less accurate.

    • Paul De Meersman
      Paul De Meersman says:

      Thx Frank I will try that tomorrow. But I resolved it for the biggest part. Since I can also hardware calibrate my external monitor, the Colormunki was connected on the USB ports of my monitor (requirement of the Natural Color Expert software). The monitor is connected via a Anker USB C to 2x USB A and HDMI hub. I plugged the colormunki directly on the Anker HUb instead of the external monitor. And voila magenta gone. But my darkest grays are black. Which is accidently very visible due to a very dark background that I use. I remember when calibrating the Wacom Companion 2, that using DisplayCAL 3 gave better results. So I tried it again and this solved the very dark grays that are black when using the x-rite software. But those grays has still a little magenta cast. But that can be due to the low brightness I use 20%. I will try with 50 and still use 120% as a target.

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