By Kat Korwes
My name is Kat; I am an illustrator and designer for Haneke Design. That’s not me in the pic. It’s Kyle, one of our brilliant developers. Kyle is bald. I like long hair, so every now and then I create a deliberately poor photoshop job of Kyle in a wig.
Things went a bit too far once I got my hands on three graphics tablet devices and started sketching:
I’ve been working with graphics tablets for at least a decade, and I’ve been fortunate enough to own one and work on the other two market-leading devices described in this article.
Device performance is affected mostly by hardware, so that’s always my focus when choosing a new one, however, I try to not neglect judging software optimization in the process.
The iPad Pro is the very first Apple product that managed to catch my attention and even make me entertain the idea of buying one. It is a well-crafted device with a very inviting first-time user experience, like most Apple products. Its shortcomings are, in my opinion, overshadowed by ease of use and good optimization. However, it is still meant for casual use only, mainly because of overly-complicated external display support, no real multitasking, and no mouse support, which renders it useless as a computer per se, especially in a dual or triple-display setup. It is effectively a tablet, not a PC, so why is it contending against a Wacom & a Microsoft tablet PC in my mind? Because of this bold statement taken from the Apple website: “Super. Computer.”
Super? Maybe. Computer? Sure. Super computer? Not so much. Maybe that is why the period is there.
- Great first-time experience.
- Excellent calibration and ‘feel’ of the Pencil as an art tool.
- Plenty of art-ready available apps are well optimized, thought out and perform without a glitch.
- Pencil has both pressure and tilt and is overall a good first-time device for Apple.
- Hardware supports the available features effortlessly.
- Relatively inexpensive.
- Comes in 2 sizes.
- Pencil is sold separately.
- Pencil requires charging.
- No mouse support.
- No expandable storage.
- No multi-screen support.
- Only 4GB of RAM, hence no real multitasking.
- No reverse-side button/eraser on the Pencil, something that seems counter-intuitive, since it’s well… a pencil, and the competition has supported it for many years.
- Glass surface of the iPad Pro lacks a paper-like texture feeling and makes the pencil slide too much.
WACOM MOBILE STUDIO PRO
The Mobile Studio Pro is a brand new addition to the Wacom family and it represents everything Wacom stands for: very good build quality (but not without flaws), incomparable pen accuracy and bad driver support, along with a high price tag. It is undoubtedly the most precise and the most powerful device of all 3 listed in this article. It can fully replace any design and art desktop computer and then some. I would go as far as saying that one could use the top model as a gaming device. It tested well with most of my games on Medium/Ultra settings.
How is it for art, though? Let’s see the pro/con breakdown:
- Unmatched pen precision, doubled since the last model, which leaves competitors in the dust.
- Pen is still the only one that is battery-less with this amount of accuracy.
- Good ‘pen-on-paper’ like feedback from the screen surface.
- Fully programmable hardware Express Keys.
- High-end model packs some impressive processing power, can easily replace a desktop, and even act as a gaming computer for a couple of years.
- Certain models have a camera ready to capture 3D objects and come with 1 year of free Software to edit the 3D data
- Expandable storage.
- Only USB-C ports available (for those who like future-proof solutions).
- Up to 16GB of RAM available.
- Comes in 2 sizes, 13 & 16” both of which are geared more towards professionals.
- Experiences glitches from time to time, even with software like Photoshop.
- 16” model is quite heavy.
- No ‘hand-holding’, new users need to discover all the new features and settings by themselves.
- Laggy multi-touch support.
- Device seems overpriced roughly by 10-15%, based on its specs.
- Only USB-C ports available (for those who like value backwards-compatibility).
- No HDMI-out (supported by USB-C instead).
MICROSOFT SURFACE PRO 4
The Surface has been a great success for Microsoft recently. The victory was big enough to prompt the emergence and a warm welcome of the Surface Studio later. This is however, an overview of mobile art devices. Microsoft has been successfully iterating on its hardware and software to release this well- optimized Surface Pro 4 that combines extreme mobility & usefulness with very decent user experience.
The Surface Pro 4 is very much a good blend of compromises (and both pros, and cons) between the Wacom Studio Pro and the iPad Pro.
- Very light and mobile for the specs.
- High-end models come with Intel i7 quad core processors and a decent graphics card.
- Compatible with Surface Dial, an intriguing, yet unexplored new addition to the graphics tablet accessories family.
- Full-size USB ports.
- Mini DisplayPort.
- Expandable storage.
- Customizable models with a lot of storage size options.
- Up to 16GB of RAM available.
- Slightly rubbery feel of the screen surface is surprisingly pleasant and offers just enough friction to feel right while operating the pen.
- Only one size.
- Graphics card could be so much better for the price tag of the high-end models.
- No tilt recognition.
- Battery-operated pen.
- Pen does not feel as precise as the Wacom’s or the iPad’s.
- It will not be able to replace any desktop computer in the long run.
- Worst overall user experience as a mobile device when compared to the iPad Pro.
For professionals who need lots of raw processing power, but still want mobility out of their art or design studio:
Wacom Studio Pro ($1,799 – $2,999)
For professionals or casual users who treasure mobility and exceptional user experience over usefulness (and are on a tighter budget):
iPad Pro ($599 – $1,129)
For those who just cannot decide on what to compromise on:
Microsoft Surface Pro ($749 – $2,699)
Sources for confirming spec/device range:
What do you think? Share your opinion with us below in the comments section:
Senior Designer at Haneke Design in Tampa, FL