This article looks at the different graphic tablets available for digital artists currently. I'll also provide my personal recommendation from the tablets I've used, and also from those reviewed by guest artists on Parkablogs. Whenever possible, I've provided links to detailed reviews on the blog.
I'll be updating this article as and when there are new products worth mentioning.
The types of tablets
There are roughly three main groups of tablets, the normal tablet without a screen, monitors you can draw on, and tablets with screens.
1. Normal tablet
This would be the tablets without screens. They are among the earliest form of devices to help artist transition into creating art digitally.
The two most common brands would be Wacom and Huion. Wacom came into the market early and is still dominant today. Huion is the aggressive competitor that sells tablets at really attractive prices. Wacom's products are well know over the years and it's common to hear artist recommend them without second thoughts. However, Huion has also been releasing products regularly and with each release they get better.
For beginners with limited budget, I recommend the Wacom Intuos. Check out my detailed review if you haven't. It supports 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, stylus with replaceable nibs and the option to have touch gestures and be wireless. Price is reasonable although not as cheap as the Huion.
Shown above is the huge Huion Giano WH1409 and Wacom Intuos (medium size)
If you really want to get the best bang for your buck, then you can consider Huion tablets. Almost all of Huion's tablets are significantly cheaper the Wacom's at the same tablet size. There are two that I recommend. The first is the Huion H610PRO with 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and a lot more physical shortcut buttons. Second, if you prefer wireless, the huge Huion Giano WH1409 or the smaller more comfortable size Huion DWH69.
The downside to Huion tablets is sometimes their strokes are not as smooth, especially when using Photoshop. For models that I've tested, I find that I often have to install a plugin called Lazy Nezumi Pro smoothen out the lines. That's an incredibly useful plugin but it's not free. However, even after considering the extra cost of Lazy Nezumi Pro, Huion tablets are still cheaper. And my problems only applies to strokes in Photoshop. Also note that not all Huion tablets have this problem. So be sure to check out more reviews.
If you have more budget or want something more professional, then get the Wacom Intuos Pro. They are more expensive, but have more features, such as support for 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity including for tilt, wireless kit is included and comes with more physical shortcut buttons and controls.
2. Pen digitizer display
Over the years, those monitors where you can draw on started coming out. All links below will be to their individual detailed reviews.
By the way, these are monitors and you need to connect them to your computer. They are not wireless. And they need to be plugged into power.
Shown above is the Artisul D13
Competition in this space is relentless. There are so many but I'll just recommend the two that I've used so far which worked quite well for me, namely the Artisul D13 which has a 13.3-inch screen, and the XP-PEN 22HD which has a larger screen.
After using several pen digitizer displays, I can say that 22-inch is a good comfortable size to work on. You may not want a screen that's too big because it's tiring to move your hand on such a screen (I'm referring to the Wacom Cintiq 27QHD).
The Artisul is USD $200 cheaper and XP-PEN is less than half price. If you're going for the brand, then perhaps Wacom is attractive. But I'm telling you, the Artisul D13 and XP-PEN 22HD both work very well. On Mac OS they are almost flawless although on Windows there are some glitches. You'll have to read my reviews to get the details.
If you don't have table space, or want something portable, perhaps you want to bring it to the office, then get Artisul D13. If you want a big screen, get the XP-PEN 22HD.
I will recommend the Artisul and XP-PEN monitors without hesitation just because they work as well and the price is too attractive. The respective direct links are below:
3. Portable wireless tablets
These tablets are like those pen digitizer displays mentioned above but they are wireless, battery powered and portable.
Even in this space, there are so many options to choose from.
If you want the best digital sketchpad, it's the iPad Pro. Read this review by digital artist Rob Sketcherman. Pressure sensitivity is excellent and you have access to lots of apps. The downside is the limited functionality of iOS because there's no file system you common see in desktop OS. Generally speaking, the iPad Pro is the companion to your desktop or laptop because it can't get everything done.
If you want everything done and in one package, then the Surface Pro 4 is more suitable. Read my review. It's a versatile tablet that you can draw on and the best thing is it runs Windows OS so you can install all sorts of desktop software. The pen is good but not as good as the iPad Pro.
There are many alternatives to the Surface Pro 4 but I feel that most of them are compromised in some way.
So the choice is pretty clear. If you already have a computer as your main workstation, then it makes more sense to get the iPad Pro. If you want an all-in-one, then get the Surface Pro 4.
By the way, there are a lot of convertibles (those laptops with detachable keyboards) in the market. Be careful of those because even if they have touch screen, those screens are not meant for drawing purposes. Unless it specifically mentions stylus support, you should assume that the touchscreen is only meant for use with fingers.
Before you buy, think about your needs
Most tablets come with 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity. You probably won't notice the difference between that and 2048. It's not something to worry about because most if not all tablets have good implementation of pressure sensitivity.
Do you need the screen?
I actually still prefer using a screen-less tablet because I prefer to use a high quality monitor. While all the screen tablets and pen digitizer displays I mentioned above use IPS panels, they are still not as good as a standalone monitor. With a separate monitor, I get to choose on that has better colour gamut, a non glossy screen and a much higher resolution with sharper text and everything.
The advantage of the screen is you can see the lines appearing beneath your stylus. It's more intuitive.
Either way, you'll get used to it.
Pen digitizer displays usually have parallax error but that is corrected for with the driver software. It's not much of an issue after you calibrate your screen and cursor.
Pen digitizer displays offers perfect palm rejection simply because they only detect the stylus and not the finger. Same applies for the screen-less tablets unless you've chosen to get one with touch features.
For screen tablets, iPad Pro offers the best palm rejection. Surface Pro 4 is not too bad. Note that there are certain software that allows you to turn on strict palm rejection, meaning after you turned that setting on, it will not detect your fingers so there's no way to accidentally leave stray strokes.
Palm rejection is a very useful feature because it directly impacts your drawing comfort.
The software you use
There are lots of software options for both tablet and desktop OS. If you specifically have to use a certain software, then you must choose your device based on what it can support. For example if you need to use Photoshop, then you cannot get iPad Pro unless you already have a desktop that has Photoshop.
Note that with iPad Pro, even though it uses iOS, you can still use desktop software. There's this app called Astropad that allows you to mirror your desktop onto the screen of the iPad Pro. This enables you to use Photoshop on your iPad Pro which would otherwise not be possible.
These are finger gesture shortcuts. They are quite convenient to have but okay to do without. It's not a deal breaker. I prefer keyboard shortcuts because I've been using them for years. Old habits die hard.
Only Wacom Intuos Pro support pen tilt. And only certain brushes in Photoshop support pen tilt. If you already know the brush you commonly use, then you will know the answer to whether or not you need pen tilt.
This is quite obvious. If you don't have much space on your table, then you should choose the portable screen tablets or smaller pen digitizer displays.
Do you need to draw on the go while you're outdoors. If so, then screen tablets are your only choice. Note that the Artisul D13 is small and compact and easy to bring around, but you need a power supply for it.
I've mentioned the tablets and monitors I recommend. There are are many more alternatives available but I did not mention them because most of them have some issues that affect user experience, or maybe the device is old and you can spend your money more wisely by getting newer products in the market.
I hope this article is helpful.
If you have any questions, just let me know in the comments section.
If you want to check out more reviews, there are detailed guest artist reviews at http://www.parkablogs.com/content/list-of-art-products-reviewed