Best Tablet for Graphic Design: The Ultimate Guide

The best tablet for graphic design changes every year as new tablets come out and the market changes. You can find great deals on last year's model, and those tablets will still perform the tasks you need. Choosing one tablet to rule them all means defining what makes a great tablet for graphic design first, then finding devices that meet the criteria.

Setting your criteria

Shopping for a graphic design tablet is a lot like shopping for a new computer. You can use many of the same criteria. You need a speedy processor, a decent-sized local hard drive, cloud storage capabilities via Wi-Fi, a clear, bright, large screen that produces true colors so you can see what you work on in the manner it will appear on other screens. It should also closely match a printed copy. Since it is a tablet, an included stylus makes a huge bonus. If it converts to a computer, you have found a winner. Finally, you need an affordable price.

Set your budget. You can typically purchase a suitable tablet for less than $500. If you don't have that saved, use an app like Red Laser or Ibotta to monitor prices and find the tablet you want on sale. Using Ibotta, you can also earn cashback on your purchase.

Determine your device needs. This varies as much as the budget, because each person's design needs differ, just as their budget does. You can ask yourself a few questions to determine what level of processor you need and what graphics card.

  • Do you need to use it only like a Wacom tablet to draw, or do you also need to edit photos?
  • Do you need to shoot video with your tablet?
  • Do you need to animate on the tablet?

Best graphic design tablets of 2021

The answers to those essential questions provide you with a starting point. Let's search for a 12 to 15-inch screen, preferably a retina display, at least 4,000 pressure sensitivity, and compatibility with a multitude of apps. It helps if you can run CorelDRAW on it. It turns out there's a great choice for every budget.

Best low-cost choice: Xencelabs tablet and pen bundle

The Xencelabs tablet provides an active drawing area of 10.3 x 5.8 inches, and you enjoy a whopping pen pressure sensitivity of 8,192 points. The new firm, Xencelabs, has experience on its side as its founders came from Wacom. The size lets you easily take it on the go in a briefcase, backpack, or tote. Like Wacom's first products, this has no screen. You plug it into your desktop or laptop to view your work. The bundle includes a remote for changing settings, a drawing glove, and a tablet case. The tablet responds fabulously to the two styluses also in the bundle. Use its USB-C to USB-A connection to view your drawings. You can pick this up for less than $370 in most locations.

Best mid-range cost choice: Lenovo IdeaPad 5

Working with a screen built-in can reduce your available pen pressure sensitivity but, it also enables you to take a single device with you everywhere. Lenovo created a laptop/tablet for creatives that provides a 1920 х 1080 display that's retina capable. The IdeaPad Flex 5 provides a full HD IPS screen and a diagonal 14″ or 15" inch display, depending on the model you choose. The amazing screen does reduce the available pen pressure sensitivity to 4,096, but that still provides a very usable device for creativity. You get a screen ratio of 16:9 with a pixel density of 157 ppi and a pitch of 0.161 x 0.161 mm for your money.

What makes it amazing, then? It's the ability to flex a full 360 degrees and automatically convert from a Windows laptop to a Windows tablet while still using all the installed software. You can use the standard settings or customize both your laptop and tablet settings, so when you flex your screen muscles, your tablet converts to the settings you chose. Windows still provides the widest array of available software, and this computer/tablet currently ships with Windows 10 but will upgrade to Windows 11 upon its release if you choose. With 10, you can install Windows 7 alongside on a partition and run all of your older software, too. You simply use compatibility mode. Forget those problems of finding you want to do something that outpaces your tablet's processor capabilities because this Lenovo comes with a 1.8 to 2.4 GHz processor, depending on the tablet you choose. You'll pay between $510 and $750, depending on where you purchase it. The stylus comes separately and ranges from $30 to $60, depending on where you purchase it.

Best expensive tablet: iPad Pro 12.9-inch

Every choice has its trade-offs. With the iPad, you gain significant resolution, jumping to a resolution of 2,732 x 2,048. You decrease your active drawing area to 10.32 x 7.74 inches, but you gain the new mini-LED-powered XDR display, which Apple developed specifically for displaying digital art. You need to purchase the Apple Pencil separately, and the company hasn't been forthcoming with specifications on its pen pressure sensitivity. User tests have ballparked its sensitivity at about 2,098. So, why would you choose this one? You can connect to your computer using Thunderbolt 4, Bluetooth, or, WiFi, and since the tablet runs iPadOS 14.6, you can access the massive Apple Store for software. You can work speedily, too, since it comes with an M1 chip. Depending on the situation, that processor can clock in at 0.6 to 3.204 GHz. If you are already used to Apple products, it makes sense to choose the iPad Pro, although its price tag might require you to save up. You'll pay between $999 and $1,099.99 for this tablet. Your Apple Pencil 2 will cost about $99.

Wrapping it all up

Whether you have less than $500 to spend on creating your artwork or more than $1,000, you can find the ideal tablet for your graphic design needs. You have appropriate choices if you like to draw on a pressure-sensitive tablet connected to a computer or you want a tablet with a display. You can even pick up a laptop that converts to a tablet without breaking away. Your best choice depends on your needs, but you can create with CorelDRAW whether you choose the Xencelabs tablet and pen bundle, the Lenovo Ideapad 5, or the iPad Pro.

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