Which Graphics Tablet is Best? Complete Buyers Guide for 2017

By: on June 14, 2017 1 Comment

Best Graphics Tablet
Hardware

Which Graphics Tablet is Best? Complete Buyers Guide for 2017

Why Graphic Tablets?

A piece of paper and a brush was all artists had in the pre-tablet era, and had to be very careful with their drawings because there was no Ctrl-Z and going back if something went wrong. Digital art and photography software such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop made things a lot simpler for artists while also providing them with advanced tools that helped revolutionize art composition. However, mouse and keyboard were not good enough for the level of accuracy artists and illustrators require. To deal with this issue, tech companies came up with Graphic tablets that allowed users to replicate their hand-drawn art directly into the computer screen using a pen/stylus. Graphic tablets made it easier for artists to digitalize their work, are more accurate than mouse-keyboard input and provide extra functionality and features.

Things to consider

All graphic tablets are not created equal and one may end up paying a hefty amount of money for features they don’t actually need. Drawing tablets are available in all different shapes, sizes and budget segments and artists often find themselves confused over which one to choose. Getting the right kind of tablet that works for you not only saves money, but also improves productivity. The four main things to consider while selecting a graphics tablets include size, pressure sensitivity, controls and software.

You’ll come across tablets based on different input technologies such as passive, active, optical and capacitive tablets. High-end graphics tablets come with their own display and are meant for professional artists who are willing to pay the premium. For most users and hobbyists, a non-screen tablet works just fine and helps them manipulate with their art work more efficiently.

Size/ Active area

Plenty of working space means you’ll have more room to work and is a must if you frequently work with high resolution images. Size of around 9×11 inches is more than enough for most users and often comes with shortcut keys for improved efficiency. A smaller active area means you’d often find yourself zooming in and out, which affects productivity and wastes a lot of time. A larger working space is particularly useful when you are dealing with large strokes and high resolution drawings and images.

Pressure Sensitivity

In addition to the motion of a stylus, most graphic tablets can also garner pressure sensitivity of the pen/stylus.  For example, the more pressure you apply, the thicker the line would be. Standard pressure levels include 256, 512, 1024, 2048 and 8096. However, unless you are dealing with very high resolution images such as posters or billboards, pressure sensitivity isn’t that important as humans cannot draw with such precision. If you don’t have to work with high resolution images, you don’t need to worry about pressure sensitivity. Just go for the tablet that fits your budget and meets other requirements.

Software

Although most graphic tablets are compatible with third-party software such as Illustrator and Photoshop, these tablets also come with their own programs, which can either be useful or a hindrance. The important thing is to consider is tablet’s compatibility with poplar graphics software and the more software a tablet officially supports, the better. Choosing a company with a better history of firmware and driver updates ensures that the tablet is always up to date and performs optimally.

Controls

Shortcut keys provide a convenient way to access the most commonly used functions and can be programmed according to individual requirements. These functional keys are usually placed around the drawing area or are included in the stylus/pen and allow reaching various shortcuts/functions in no time.

Other features

Some other popular features you may also like to consider include touch (finger or palm), pen rotation/tilt, wireless (wireless tablet connectivity instead of USB), pen’s eraser functionality and customizable express keys. Most of these features are usually offered by mid to high-end and expensive tablets, but aren’t something users cannot live without.

It all comes down to how much you are willing to pay. If you are a casual user and don’t intend to use the tablet for serious drawing, an entry-level tablet should work well for you. However, professionals and advanced users have so many things to consider, including a built-in display.

We have handpicked the top ten graphics/drawing tablets for different kinds of users to make the selection process easier, and help readers make a more informed decision.

Wacom Intuos Pro

Wacom is one of the most popular drawing tablets brand and offers a variety of products for different users. Intuos Pro is a relatively less expensive Pen and Touch tablet and features a roomy 17.9-inch display area and supports 8192 pressure sensitivity levels. Its lightweight and streamlined design makes it easier for the user to hold and use the tablet, while paper-like drawing feels great and more realistic. This tablet works well for a variety of tasks and is an excellent all-rounder. Its works particularly well when you are dealing with high resolution images, thanks to 8192 pressure levels and the spacious working area. The tablet is also plug-and-play compatible with most popular software, while Wacom provides regular software support for its devices. Intuos Pro works with Windows, Mac OS, while you’d also find some support for Linux.

Pros

  • High pressure levels (8192)
  • Paper-like drawing feel
  • Support stylus rotation and tils
  • Good working area size
  • Wireless option
  • Relatively affordable

Cons

  • No built-in display
  • Driver issues and software bugs

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Wacom Intuos Draw

If you are looking for an affordable drawing tablet made by a strong brand, Intuos Draw is capable of handling most tasks. But the smaller working space means a lot of zooming, which could be a deal breaker for some. The tablet is targeted at budget-conscious customers and does not include some of the common features most other tablets offer. If you think you’d want those features at some point in the future, it’s better to invest in a more capable tablet. However, if you don’t need the extra features such as multi-touch, eraser and customizable buttons and just want basic functionality, Induos draw remains a good option.

Pros

  • 1024 pressure-levels
  • Wacom pen
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Small working area
  • No eraser and multitouch

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Huion H610 Pro

Huion is a company known for products that deliver great value for the money and H610 Pro is no exception.  The tablet offers most of the features of much pricier Wacom tablets, but lack of some features such as no pen tilt and multi-touch may turn intermediate and advanced users away. However, H610 Pro is a perfectly fine graphics tablet for beginners and provides a lot of features at an affordable price. The large active area provides ample space to easily manipulate high-resolution images, while 2048 pressure levels ensure precise control. H610 Pro is compatible with Windows and Mac OS S and supports a variety of popular graphics software, including Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Autodesk Sketchbook, Corel Painter, Zbrush and Manga Studio.

Pros

  • Large active area
  • Rechargeable pen
  • 2048 pressure-levels

Cons

  • No wireless support
  • No multi-touch
  • No pen tilt and rotation

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Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

If you are not into complicated work and are looking for a graphics tablet for simple sketching, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 with S-Pen is one of the most affordable options. You can also use the same tablet for watching movies, reading e-books, checking emails etc. Although the pen does not need a battery or recharging, it does not support tilt and rotation. But it’s good enough for beginners who want to draw comics and do some simple sketching. The tablet runs on Android so you also won’t be able to use desktop software and limited to Android apps. In terms of hardware and specifications, the tablet packs enough power and a 1920×1200 WUXGA display, providing decent performance and functionality. Tab 10.1 is a reasonably priced tablet you can take anywhere and allows you to do most of the creative stuff while on the go.

Pros

  • Higher-res display
  • Decent performance
  • Multi-purpose
  • Affordable
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Pressure sensitivity is software-based
  • No rotation or tilt
  • No desktop-apps
  • Limited to sketching and basic drawing

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Wacom Cintiq 13HD

Cintiq 13HD is a compact and portable graphics tablet with a sharp, colorful and crisp display. It allows artists to work directly on the screen using the pen, which is tilt sensitive and gives a natural feeling of brush, pencil etc. The Full HD display covers 75% Adobe RGB gamut, but is not suitable for outdoor use because of low brightness. The overall performance of the tablet is on par with other Wacom products, but it still misses some features. The tablet does not support multi-touch gestures and wireless connectivity, so if you can live without these features, Cintiq 13HD is one of the most affordable pen-enabled displays by Wacom. Cintiq 22HD is a better option for those looking for a larger display.

Pros

  • Full HD display
  • Great viewing angles
  • Top-notch pen input
  • ExpressKeys
  • Comfortable form-factor
  • Pen tilt

Cons

  • No wireless connectivity
  • No multi-touch gestures
  • Max brightness only 250cd/m2

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 Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Surface Pro 4 was introduced as a laptop replacement and features top-notch specs and a responsive touchscreen. The high-resolution PixelSense display offers great colors, high contrast and allows users to work in any lighting condition. Although it’s not a perfect replacement of a dedicated drawing tablet and not ideal for hardcore artists, it is still a better option than iPad Pro and allows running full version of desktop software such as Photoshop. Surface Pro 4 can also be used as a regular laptop, packs more than enough power to handle demanding software and is a great graphics tablet for a variety of users.

Pros

  • Laptop + Tablet
  • Runs desktop software smoothly
  • Multi-touch
  • 2048 pressure levels
  • Powerful internals
  • Great travel companion

Cons

  • Stylus is powered by battery
  • Pressure levels work inconsistently at times

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XP-Pen Artist 10S

Artist 10S is one of the most affordable tablets featuring a built-in display and offers most of the bells and whistles of flagship products. The 10.1 inch IPS display offers incredible viewing angles and delivers excellent contrast and life-like colors.  The display is coated with an anti-reflective coating, which promises to reduce glare by 56% and makes it possible for users to work even in brightly lit environments. The screen supports 2048 pressure levels, while the stylus does not require any charging. If you are looking for a well-rounded package at an affordable price, XP-Pen Artist 10S offers great value for the money and is one of the best affordable drawing tablets. It’s also a good travel companion and is ideal for users who prefer smaller screen. XP-Pen 22E is a large-screen graphics tablet for users who want to go big without spending a fortune.

Pros

  • Great value for the money
  • IPS display, excellent viewing angles
  • Compact
  • Pen does not require battery
  • 2084 pressure levels

Cons

  • No built-in stand
  • No screen resistance

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Apple iPad Pro 12.9

iPad Pro is a fully-featured iOS tablet and a piece of art with an incredibly high-resolution display and powerful internals. However, despite all the marketing gimmicks, it’s still not a ‘proper computer’ and does not support full desktop software such as Adobe Photoshop. Apple pencil offers a great drawing experience, while Apple keyboard for iPad Pro extends functionality. If you want to do basic drawing, sketching and are looking for a multi-purpose tablet, iPad Pro is an excellent option and features palm rejection and high pressure sensitivity. iOS is known for its user friendliness and simplicity and enhances the overall user experience.

Pros

  • Beautiful design
  • Stunning display
  • Powerful internals
  • Great for multimedia
  • Impeccable viewing angles
  • Pressure-sensitive Apple pencil
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Limited apps
  • No desktop apps
  • Not suitable for complex image processing

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Lenovo Yoga Book

Yoga Book is a 2-in-1 convertible laptop for artists and features a 360-degree hinge, allowing users to convert YB into a standalone tablet that comes with 2048 pressure sensitivity levels. However, the internals are not as powerful as Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and advanced users may find themselves waiting for processes to complete. Yoga Book still packs enough power to run Photoshop and other graphics software and works well for beginners and artists who want to use it as their on-the-go drawing tablet.

Pros

  • Excellent battery life
  • Solid build
  • Compact and light weight
  • Vibrant display
  • Wacom EMR Digitizer, 2048 pressure levels
  • Innovative 360-degree design

Cons

  • Sluggish performance under heavy load
  • Keyboard difficult to use

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Wacom MobileStudio Pro (13 & 16 inch)

Wacom MobileStudio Pro features the best-in-class stylus and has been designed keeping creative professionals and advanced users in mind. The 13-inch variant offers better mobility, while the 16-inch version offers more screen real-estate and incredibly high resolution. The optional Intel RealSense camera can capture information in 3D and appeals 3D modelers and CAD designers, but isn’t something most users would want. A 6th generation Intel Core processor coupled with Iris graphics provides enough raw power to deal with complex projects, while the 16-inch variant can also be configured with NVidia’s more powerful GPUs. The high price tag probably won’t allow beginners and casual artists to consider the tablet, but MobileStudio Pro is considered a dream device for professional artists who want to unleash their creativity and don’t want to compromise on anything.

Pros

  • Class-leading Pro Pen 2
  • Slim and sturdy design
  • Stunning, high-res display
  • Excellent performance
  • Optional Intel RealSense camera
  • Customizable ExpressKeys

Cons

  • High Cost
  • Mediocre battery life
  • SSD is relatively slow
  • Steep learning curve
  • Limited I/O ports

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  1. Precious

    The Wacom MobileStudio Pro (13 & 16 inch) seem like a design a great designer must have.

    I am still lost in making a choice, you covered alot

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