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I’m using a loan machine right now from Wacom. It’s the 13 inch STUDIO PRO.

My Companion 2 is going to Germany for repairs. Something odd has been happening with the temperature regulating mechanism. So it’s been crashing at really inopportune times.

I’ve been configuring the Studio Pro to match the settings on my Companion 2, so that my workflow remains intact.

Unfortunately, the Studio Pro, while having a vastly superior screen, and much less weight, has NO USB 3.0 ports, and THREE USB C (or 3.1) ports. One of the USB C ports is dedicated to the power supply. This leaves two for the adaptors I had to purchase in order to use my various peripherals. This is EXTREMELY inconvenient! Unbelievably so.

But that’s not really an issue if I end up buying one. Cos that’s just a matter of getting the right peripherals eventually.

No.

The REAL deal breaker for the Studio Pro is something that SHOULD be an absolute piece of awesomeness… the EXPRESS TOUCH RING. The device has six programmable buttons, and a touch ring with four buttons.

In the Companion 2, that central ring isn’t touch sensitive. It just has four buttons. And those buttons, like the other six, are programmable.

On the Studio Pro, that ring can only be programme for "sliding scale" activities. Such as zooming in and out, or changing the brush size. It’s not possible to assign ONE function to each of the four positions on the ring. You HAVE TO assign two functions… the extreme end of each scale.

This is a problem because I have assigned specific keyboard combination shortcuts to those buttons on my Companion 2. I expect to be able to simply use those same settings. NOT POSSIBLE. The Studio Pro WILL NOT LET ME use the ring the way *I* want to use it.

That might also be fine.

But it’s not. Even with the ring programmed to things like zooming or brush resizing, it’s HUMUNGOUSLY unreliable. It CANNOT BE DEPENDED ON for workflow. There’s no certainty that the touch will register properly, nor that it will behave as expected.

But that’s not all.

ALL of the buttons, including the ring, now no longer allow combinations of keypresses including the SHIFT key modifier.

For instance, in Photoshop, if I want to create a new layer above the one I’m working on, I press the following keys simultaneously…

SHIFT ALT CONTROL n.

On my Companion 2. I assigned that keyboard stroke combination to the top button on my ring. I did a similar thing to make a layer below the one I’m working on, and assigned that to the bottom of the ring. And that is a massive part of my workflow.

On the Studio Pro, when I try and assign SHIFT ALT CONTROL n, the device believes that the SHIFT key relates to the letter "n", and converts it to the upper case "N". It then ignores the fact that the SHIFT key is supposed to be part of the string, and converts it to CONTROL ALT N.

This combo opens a new document in Photoshop.

There is absolutely no reason for Wacom to have done this.

I’ve just spent the better part of six hours spread over two days trying to sort out a solution to this.

I had to resort to using a defunct program called KEYBOARD LAUNCHPAD made long ago by Stardock (the makers of Start10, an indispensable app that turns the Windows 10 Start menu into something usable). And the workaround involves too many moving parts. When that many things have to be aligned in order for something trivial to be accomplished, there’s always the risk of failure at a critical time.

So I’m super pissed off with Wacom.

Three reasons…

1. My Companion 2 should never have developed an overheating problem. It developed the problem because of shockingly bad engineering decisions made by Wacom when they made the machine. One of the key airflow vents in the machine is on the upper edge… if the machine is in right handed landscape orientation. In left handed landscape (which is how I use it), that vent is blocked somewhat by the surface the machine is on. This is compounded by the terrible kickstand design, which features a solid sheet of aluminium, which hampers air flow even more. There is no doubt in my mind that this design is the cause of the breakdown of my machine.

2. The Studio Pro is supposed to be an upgrade of the Companion 2. In order for it to be an upgrade, it has to offer everything the Companion 2 offers, and then some extra stuff. Because of the fuckery with the express key ring, it removes a substantial amount of functionality. Because of the fuckery with removing the SHIFT key from any keyboard shortcuts that can be assigned to express key buttons, even more functionality is removed.

3. The USB C decision is bizarre. And I can tell that there will definitely be problems with the power supply. You can’t simply plug a new USB C cable into the power brick. The cable is built into it. And because of where the USB C ports are located on the edge of the machine, it’s super obvious that an errant elbow, or someone walking past the desk, or the machine toppling, WILL result in fatalities to the USB C cables.

The machine works. My workflow is more-or-less in place. So I’m kinda happy that I’ll be able to continue doing stuff for my clients. But I will not be buying this machine, based on what I’ve experienced.

Wacom… start listening to your users. And get your engineering right.

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