Windows vs iPad and Android tablets (artist perspective)

When choosing a portable tablet for drawing, pen performance and line quality are most important but those are not the only things to consider. This article will cover the pros and cons of Windows vs iPads and Android tablets with regards to workflow, so that you understand what can and cannot be done with the various tablets, OS and platforms.

This article will not cover the drawing and pen performance because I don't want the article to be specific to particular tablet models. If you want detailed reviews for tablets, just read the various reviews I've written over the years.

General recommendation

My general recommendation to buying a tablet is to choose based on the apps you want to use.

The main advantage of a Windows tablet is you can use desktop apps, and there is support for drivers that let you use scanners, colour calibrators, and other computer accessories.


While the same app may also be available on iPads and Android tablets, you'll usually only get a subset of features with those apps. E.g. Adobe and Affinity graphic design apps, Microsoft apps.

If you already have a computer, Windows or Mac, there's no compelling reason to get another Windows tablet. You can just get a cheaper and bigger pen display or pen tablet and connect that to your computer, or if you want portability and longer battery life, get an iPad, Android tablet.

If you have to use graphic design apps for vector, layout and typography, go with Windows tablets or iPads.

Ports


iPads and most Android tablets have only one port. There are Windows tablets with more ports, such as USB-C, USB-A, 3.5mm audio jack and some even have HDMI ports.

Having more ports let you connect more external devices without the need of using a USB hub. If you have intention to uses a USB hub to connect more devices, I recommend you get a powered USB hub that can charge the tablet at the same time. I have reviewed a few from Minisopuru that are really good.

External display support


While there are iPads and Android tablets that can support external display, they don't work quite the same as Windows external display support.

With Windows dual display support, you can use extended desktop mode to get a single workspace spread across two displays. Extended desktop mode lets you can drag and drop files, or move opened windows across displays easily.

With iPads and Android tablets, you usually get two separate workspaces. You cannot move opened windows across displays. With some tablets, you cannot use the same app across both displays, e.g. You have to quit the app on one screen to open it on the other screen.

Storage expansion


There are Windows tablets that allow for easy storage expansion. Some Windows tablets let users access the internal NVMe SSDs and some have microSD card slots.

iPads have fixed storage capacity so make sure you choose enough storage to begin with, and configuring more storage is usually quite expensive from Apple.

Certain Android tablets have microSD card slots to provide an easy and cheap way to expand storage.

Battery life


Downside of Windows tablets is battery life. Here are the battery life test results for various Windows tablets I've reviewed over the years:

With iPads and Android tablets, it's easy to find one that can last 8 hours and more.

Heat


Windows tablets also tend to produce more heat and many have built-in fans. Energy is lost as heat and to spinning fans.

iPads and Android tablets run cool and last much longer.

Finger gesture support for drawing apps

Drawing apps on iPads and Android tablets are designed with touchscreen in mind and have good support for finger gesture shortcuts. User interface is also quite minimalist so that you can get more canvas space to work with.


Finger gesture shortcuts are limited with drawing apps on Windows. The usual shortcuts supported are pan, zoom and rotate but beyond that there isn't much. Most apps don't even support the common double finger tap to undo.


To counter the inconvenience of having limited support for finger gesture shortcuts, some Windows tablets have built in hotkeys by the side. There are also utility app you have install in Windows to provide softkeys, e.g. Tablet Pro Studio. Those hotkeys and softkeys can be as useful or more useful than finger gesture shortcuts.

File management

File management with Windows is familiar and easy to understand.

File management with Android OS is quite similar to Windows and is familiar.


File management with iPadOS sucks. For some reason, iPadOS differentiates photos/images from files. E.g. If you choose to upload a file, you cannot choose the picture you have from your photo library. The Files app also lacks many basic features.

One important thing to note is apps on iPads usually save files within the app. To open a file with another app, you have to export the file into a folder, then import the file into the other app, and then open the file. There are extra unnecessary steps involved.

With Android, you have the option to use apps that save files directly into the folder or within the apps.

With Windows, files are always saved to the folder. To open the file with another app, you just launch that app and open the file. Straightforward.

Backup

To backup a Windows tablet, you can choose to use cloud storage, e.g Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox. This can backup all files and folders but may not backup user settings or configuration.

To backup an iPad, you can use iCloud which will backup everything. It's straightforward. The alternative is to connect the iPad to your computer and backup there. This is free.

To backup an Android tablet, you have to do research on the backup methodology because the backup may not backup everything.

Pen support


Some tablets use proprietary technology for their pens.

iPads use Apple Pencil. While there are third party Apple Pencil-lookalike products available, many do not provide all the features you can get with the Apple Pencil, more specifically pressure sensitivity.

Windows tablets may or may not use proprietary pens. Microsoft Surface Pro can be used with third party pens too, such as those from Renaisser. The Huion Kamvas Studio 16 can only use selected Huion pens.

Many Android tablets also use proprietary pens, but thankfully the popular Samsung Galaxy tablets use the S Pen that use Wacom EMR, and are compatible with pens from other companies that also use Wacom EMR.

Which tablet should you get?

There is no perfect tablet. Each tablet will have its pros and cons so I recommend you do proper research first. To save time, you can just look at the list of pros and cons from the text reviews I've written.

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