Best Tablets for Artists to Consider in 2020

If you’re an artist, designer, or illustrator looking for a new tablet or tablet PC in 2020 then you’ve got a lot to weigh up.

A model’s price, size, screen resolution, and stylus pressure sensitivity can all make a huge difference, so take a look at our list of the best tablets for creatives, including 'mobile' tablets, tablet PC, and 2-in-1 models.

Before I start, I am going to have to define what we mean by a tablet in this article.

We don't mean traditional graphics tablets with flat drawing surfaces that connect to your Mac or PC such as the Wacom Intuos Pro Paper Edition (which you can buy from Amazon here), often called 'Wacom tablets' even if made by other manufacturers.

What we're concentrating on here are essentially computers with screens you can sketch, draw and paint on.

Some of these are what the wider world call tablets e.g. Apple's iPad Pro (below) and Android tablets that run mobile operating systems. These are thin, light with a 9- to 12-inch screen, and have a very long battery life.

Tablet PCs like Microsoft's Surface Pro 7 (below), HP's ZBook x2, Wacom's MobileStudio Pro are bigger with 13- to 14-inch screens and offer the full version of Windows – so you can run same apps as you do on your desktop or laptop, such as Adobe Creative Cloud.

Most of these models offer clip-on keyboards, so manufacturers sometimes call them 'detachable' as they can also function as a laptop.

Tablet PCs are usually thinner and lighter than the kind of laptop you'd consider as a designer/artist, and as such have less powerful components.

If you want the performance of the likes of the Apple MacBook Pro or Dell XPS 15 – and a 15-inch screen – you'll need to look to a 'convertible' such as HP's ZBook x360 (below) or Dell's own XPS 15 2-in-1 (note, the term 2-in-1 is often used for both detachable and convertible models).

They're called convertibles as their laptops that you can also fold in the opposite way to closing it, flipping the bottom behind the screen to create thick tablet shape ready for you to draw on. So lets quickly analyze the best tablets for your creativity:

Winning Product :

Apple iPad Air

List of the Best Tablets for Artists

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Specifications :

  • Screen size: 12.3-inch
  • OS: Windows 10
  • Stylus: Surface Pen

There are circumstances where the near-unique nature of the Surface Pro 7 means that it is the best creative device on the market should you be a creative director running between client meetings and need a combination of a digital Moleskine and a way to keep your admin and email under control.

If you want the thinnest, lightest device you can run the full version of Photoshop or Illustrator or XD on, it’s a no-brainer. Artists looking for the best drawing and painting experience is still better off with an iPad Pro and Procreate – but if you need to create vector art as well, then Illustrator on the Surface Pro covers both bases much better. So, it’s not the best tablet, nor the best laptop – nor does it have the best screen – but if hybrid suits you best, this is where you should spend your money.

Microsoft Surface Pro X

Specifications :

  • Screen-size: 13-inch
  • OS: Windows 10
  • Stylus: Surface Pen

While Adobe has been creating Photoshop for the iPad, Microsoft has been busy building an ‘iPad' that runs Windows so you can use the version of Photoshop you already have. Or Illustrator.

Or InDesign, XD, and probably hundreds of other creative applications that haven’t made it across to Apple’s tablet. The Surface Pro X is a little like the Surface Pro – it’s a tablet that runs Windows 10 and turns into a laptop when you attach a keyboard that’s near-identical to the Surface Pro and pull out the kickstand, but in many ways, it’s nearer to the iPad Pro than the Surface.

The real difference between the Surface X and the Surface Pro though is buried deep inside. The main Surface Pro line uses an Intel Core processor – 10th-gen chips in the new Surface Pro 7. The Surface Pro X, however, uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon, the kind of chip you’d expect to find in a mobile phone like my Huawei P30 Pro.

This gives you a much longer battery life than the Surface Pro 7 – Microsoft describes it as ‘all day’ – but with reduced performance and the potential for glitches as most major creative applications have been tuned for Intel’s chips.

iPad Pro 2018

Specifications :

  • Screen-size: 11- or 12.9-inch
  • OS: iOS 12
  • Stylus: Apple Pencil 2nd generation (sold separately)

To Apple’s credit, artists can get a lot out of the iPad Pro – you can create fully finished artwork all on the device using tools like Procreate 4, but for designers, it’s probably not the best choice because it still doesn't support full Adobe Creative Cloud apps such as Photoshop and XD.

This should change soon with the forthcoming release of Photoshop for the iPad and the Illustrator-sequel Project Gemini, but how long you'll need to hold on for we're not sure as release dates aren't confirmed yet.

Released late last year, the iPad Pro 2018 comes in sizes of 11 inches or 12.9 inches, the former replacing the older 10.5-inch model. In our review, we noted how they're thinner by half a millimeter and less curved at the back - and without the top and bottom bezels, nor home button.

Resolutions though are practically the same. Very impressive is the new Apple Pencil, which holds onto the Pro magnetically to charge. No need to have it sticking oddly out the bottom of your iPad to create some kind of giant flyswatter - but note that if you buy a 2018 Pro, then you'll need to fork out for the stylus too as older versions of Pencil won't work with it. IPad Pro remains an incredible creative tool. For artists and illustrators who want a portable drawing and pointing device, it’s more than a match for the Microsoft Surface Pro or Wacom Mobile Studio Pro (unless you prefer the extra three-inches of the screen that you get from the 16-inch Wacom).

For designers, editors, and the rest though, Windows-based tablets still offer the ability to finish projects in a way that the iPad Pro doesn’t. However, if you have the budget then the 11-inch model is an excellent roughing/ideation tool that you’ll want to pair with an iMac or desktop PC (and the Duet Display Pro app lets you use your iPad Pro like a Cintiq).

Apple iPad Air 2019

Specifications :

  • Screen-size: 10.5inch
  • OS: iOS 12
  • Stylus: Apple Pencil 1st generation (sold separately)

While Apple says that the new iPad Air isn’t for pro artists and designers, there are a few features with this third-generation model that we prefer to the iPad Pro - and it comes at a great price. It sits between the entry-level, 9.7-inch iPad Pro consumers, and the 11- and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, essentially replacing the 2017 10.5-inch's iPad Pro that Apple was also selling previous to today by offering higher performance at a lower price.

The iPad Air has a resolution of 2,224 x 1,668, which is 264dpi. There’s no Face Unlock on the Pros, but some creatives may see this as a benefit, as when the iPad is flat on your desk, the natural drawing position for many – unlocking an iPad with a finger is easier than looming over it or tilting it up so it can recognize your face.

Note that the iPad Air supports the older, first-generation Apple Pencil rather than the newer model.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

Specifications :

  • Screen size: 9.7-inch
  • OS: Android 7.0 (Nougat)
  • Stylus: Samsung S Pen (included)

This is Samsung’s best rival to Apple’s iPad Pro. It’s considered to be the best Android tablet to be launched in years, so if you’re an Android fan, this is your best bet. The screen has 2,048 x 1,536 HD resolution and HDR support for better color and contrast.

However, it doesn’t have the iPad Pro’s True Tone display (all you can do is optionally switch on the blue light filter) and it can be a little reflective with certain lighting. It does however include Samsung’s S Pen, which has four times the amount of pressure sensitivity to that of the Apple Pencil.

And while Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro is available on Android, procreate sadly isn't. However, here's our list of the best Android apps for artists.

Microsoft Surface Pro

Specifications :

  • Screen size: 12.3-inch
  • OS: Windows 10
  • Stylus: Microsoft Surface Pen (sold separately)

The Microsoft Surface Pro is a tablet PC that runs Windows 10 Pro on a 12.3-inch screen display. It can be used as a drawing tool fairly easily, even if you’re not well versed in Windows software.

The design is sturdy, if a little chunkier than a tablet, but bear in mind this is a fully-fledged PC as well. The screen has a 2,736 x 1,824 resolution and 10-point multi-touch. It takes Intel’s HD graphics cards and 7th Gen Core m3 processor (for the most basic model).

The pen (not included with Surface Pro) supports tilt and offers 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. Because this model comes with a keyboard, it’s generally only easiest to work from a table, so if you’re looking for something more portable this might not be the best choice for you.

We think the Microsoft Surface Pro is a better option for designers wanting to use Adobe Creative Cloud but may not be the easiest device to draw on freely.

Wacom Mobile Studio

Specifications :

  • Screen-size: 13.3 or 15.6-inch
  • OS: Windows 10
  • Stylus: Wacom Pro Pen 2 (included)

First launched in 2016, Wacom’s tablet PC option comes with the Wacom Pro Pen 2 and runs Adobe apps such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. It’s available in two sizes – 13.3-inch and 15.6-inch – and has a screen resolution in competition with laptops such as Dell’s Precision 5510 or HP’s ZBook Studio.

The 2019 generation MobileStudio Pro 16 displays 85 percent of the Adobe RGB color space, and the screens are multi-touch. The rest of the new specs though show considerable upgrades: NVIDIA Quadro P1000 graphics, one gen up from the original MS Pro; Intel Core i7 Quad-core processor; and 512 GB SSD to boot.

As with other Wacom pens – and unlike the pens used by the Microsoft Surface and the Apple Pencil – the pens don’t need charging.

It offers 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. The MobileStudio Pro can detect up to 60-different levels of pen tilt at angles from vertical to 40-degrees – which varies the effect of your stroke depending on what’s possible in the application you’re using.

This would be a great option for both designers and artists wanting a portable tablet PC to work on.

HP ZBook x2

Specifications :

  • Screen-size: 14-inch
  • OS: Windows 10
  • Stylus: ZBook x2 pen (optional)

This 2-in-1 is powerful but much chunkier than an iPad Pro or Surface Pro. You can sketch within apps and edit using Photoshop – or even render in 3D using Maya, Maxon, and SolidWorks – all on this one device, but it’s a lot heavier and clunkier than Wacom's range or an iPad Pro.

It’s designed for freelance artists and designers, with the idea that multiple creative apps can be run at one time for when you’re outside the office or meeting with a client.

Instead of sketching on a smaller tablet and editing on a laptop, you can work through an entire creative process with the HP ZBook x2.

You can use it as a traditional tablet like the Apple iPad, in laptop mode by attaching the clip-on keyboard, and in dock mode connected to a monitor, more like the Wacom Cintiq Pro. The HP ZBook x2 comes with a 14-inch, 4K touchscreen.

It’s anti-glare and there’s a Dreamcolor option that can output 10-billion colors – including the full Adobe RGB gamut for smooth shades, shadows, and highlights. The Wacom-powered stylus is sold separately.

Buyer's Guide for Buying Best Artist Tablets

But before buying a drawing tablet for your drawing, masterpiece, art and colourful designs, you must analyze the following points :

• Active area
• Features
• Hotkeys
• Stylus
• Model type
• Pressure Sensitivity
• Resolution
• Scrollers
• Wireless

Active Area

The active area is implied to be your tab's work area. We can say that the active area is where the stylus reacts and draws on the tablet. Now it is you don't need a literally a large to work.

Additional Features

With a graphic tab, anytime you will find the additional features, but it is not compulsory to keep these features. But there are some additional features which can be helpful such as a multi-touch capability.

Hotkeys

This is also a feature of the drawing tablet, it's a well known key nowadays. This key is modelled to save your working hours, I mean, that it will help you do the work more efficiently. As it is also known as a shortcut key.

Stylus

For some people, it's like a plastic stick that consists of their kid's Nintendo 3DS but for graphic designers or professionals, the stylus is of two kinds: battery operated and electromagnetic resonance and both are distinct from each other.

On Screen Monitors

Well, there are two types of tablet screens, first one is Flat Screen and the Second one is On Screen Monitors. And now we know it's obvious that there will be a difference in the price of both.

Pressure Sensitivity

A drawing tablet generally isn't something that one should purchase without any specific purpose, because it is only designed for graphic designers who can make illustrations, graphics etc by using a drawing tablet. Pressure levels on tablets begin with about 300 levels of pressure. And the pressure levels can go up to 3000.

Scrollers

Moving over the screen on your pad using the stylus to circulate can cause missteps to be made on your program. That means you have to pay more time mending errors and not confronting your deadlines.

Wireless

Whether to choose a wired or wireless tablet it's up to you. In the case of the wired tab, you would not be able to move it or you wouldn't be able to carry it everywhere. but if we talk about a wireless tablet there is the freedom to carry it with you wherever you want.

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