Years ago, the best tablet that digital artists could bring around was clearly the iPad Pro but with the release of the Tab S7+, Samsung has finally caught up. The iPad Pro (2018 & 2020) and Samsung Tab S7+ are probably the best tablets currently for digital artists.
After using the Samsung Tab S7+ for a few weeks, I finally enough to do this comparison. In this comparison I'm comparing the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2018) with 4GB RAM and 12.4-inch Samsung Tab S7+ with 8GB RAM.
The two tablets have their own strengths, weakness and functionality so it's difficult for me to say which is better. Only you can decide which is more suitable for your workflow.
Design for both tablets look great and build quality is excellent.
|iPad Pro 11||iPad Pro 12.9||Tab S7||Tab S7+|
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro and 12.4 inch Tab S7+ are noticeably heavier than their smaller models.
Even without a case, when drawing I need to set them down on a surface, either on a table, or when I'm outdoors on my lap. Add a case and they become even heavier.
The smaller 11-inch models are more portable and suited for one handed use, meaning you can actually stand and draw, at least for a longer period of time before your hands get tired.
The iPad Pros and the Tab S7 use IPS LCD displays whereas the Tab S7+ uses Super AMOLED
IPS LCD display colours look more natural while the colours on the AMOLED display can be extremely vibrant. Tab S7+ has the Natural screen mode option for mimicking LCD colours and it works well.
Samsung Tab S7+ on left, BenQ SW2700PT AdobeRGB LCD monitor on right. Click for a larger view.
When you create art on an LCD monitor and view it on your LCD desktop monitor, the colours should look similar. However when you view your art from Tab S7+ on a LCD display, you'll notice the colours are muted, less vibrant, because the LCD is unable to match AMOLED display. This can be a problem if you switch between working on your tablet and LCD monitor. If I do need to work on the files on my computer, I'll be setting the screen mode to Natural permanently.
Both are laminated displays so there's no gap between the pen tip and the lines drawn.
|iPad Pro 11||iPad Pro 12.9||Tab S7||Tab S7+|
|Resolution||2388 x 1668||2732 x 2048||2560 x 1600||2800 x 1752|
Resolution on all the tablets are high to the point where pixelation is not noticeable when working from normal distance away. User interface elements, icons, menus, palettes, fonts are all sharp.
Aspect ratio of the iPad Pro is 4:3 which makes it more usable in both landscape and portrait orientation.
Aspect ratio of the Tab S7/S7+ is 16:10 which makes using it in portrait orientation slightly more awkward unless the app you're using has minimal user interface element. For example, Concepts app works great on all tablets due to its minimal user interface elements.
Clip Studio Paint works better in landscape mode on the Tab S7/S7+ because the palettes will take up way too much space when tablet is in portrait orientation. You can choose to hide the palettes but it's more useful with the palettes around but in exchange you see less of the working canvas.
Both Apple Pencil and Samsung S Pen slide equally smoothly on glossy reflective glass of both displays. Applying a matte screen protector may provide a more textured surface to draw on and improve control but will degrade the displays' image quality, e.g. colours, contrast, sharpness. There's also the white haze created by the anti-glare that I find most annoying.
About the 120Hz refresh rate
Tab S7+ is the first Android tablet to match the 120Hz refresh rate that has been on the IPad Pro since 2017.
Animation is noticeably smoother with the 120Hz refresh rate. Animation such as scrolling, zooming, navigation and the strokes appearing when writing or drawing are smoother.
With 60Hz display, lines when drawn often appear bit by bit, in chunks. With 120Hz and laminated display, lines now appear directly and almost instantly beneath the pen tip.
However, not all apps have been update to take advantage of the 120Hz display.
Tab S7+ battery life is around 7 hours with 120Hz and 8-9 hours with 60Hz. iPad Pro battery life is 8-9 hours with 120Hz so that's quite impressive. Battery life will also depend on the apps you use and the auto-brightness.
Apple Pencil vs Samsung S Pen
Design of Apple Pencil and Samsung S Pen is quite similar. Both are cylindrical except for a flat side that allows the stylus to attach to the side of the tablet.
Apple Pencil is noticeably heavier whereas the S Pen can be considered lightweight. If you equate something heavy as feeling more premium, then the Apple Pencil does feel more premium and well built. That's not to say the S Pen is lousy because it's still well build. Weight is something that will take no time to get used to.
The S Pen has a rubberised grip which may wear down much faster, especially on a matte screen protector.
The S Pen has silent operation due to the rubber tip when writing or drawing. The Apple Pencil tip is hard and makes an audible sound with each tap.
Initiation activation force for the Apple Pencil is lower than the S Pen. This means Apple Pencil is more sensitive at lower pressure. As long as the Apple Pencil tip touches the display, even with no pressure, you can draw a line. You do need to press down slightly with the S Pen to draw a line.
Latency for Apple Pencil and S Pen is 9ms. The gap between the pen tip and the line that's trying to catch up is small. However, latency also depends on the apps you use. The hardware clearly can support improved latency and 120Hz but user experience will depend on whether the apps have been updated take advantage of the hardware.
- Latency for Autodesk Sketchbook is quite similar on both tablets but line animation is smoother on iPad Pro
- Latency for Clip Studio is quite similar on both tablets but the line animation seems smoother on Tab S7+
- Latency and animation for Concepts look quite similar
- Medibang Paint on iPad Pro has less latency
- Procreate on iPad Pro has less latency compared to ArtFlow on Tab S7+
- Samsung Notes has almost no latency issues while there's slight latency with Apple Notes
For the price of an Apple Pencil tip, you can get ten S Pen replacement tips. Whenever I drop my Apple Pencil, I always have the sinking feeling that the pen tip will be bent or the pen may be damaged. With the S Pen, I feel like I can drop it countless times and it will be alright, and if the pen tip is bent, it can be replaced easily and cheaply.
Palm rejection works great on both tablets.
Certain apps have strict palm rejection where only pen input is detected for drawing so those apps have perfect palm rejection.
Variety of drawing and graphic design apps
The Apple ecosystem is much larger with a huge variety of quality drawing and graphic design apps. For drawing, they have Procreate, Sketches Pro, Paintstorm, Artstudio Pro, Adobe Fresco and Vectornator just to name a few. For graphic design there's Affinity Designer.
On Android, or at least on selected Samsung tablets, the availability of Clip Studio is a huge boost to the platform. Clip Studio on Android changes everything. I used to have reservations recommending Android/Samsung tablets to digital artist but now with Clip Studio, I can say that you won't be missing out much going with Android.
Clip Studio is that one good app you can use for most of your drawing needs. It's just like how people will always mention Procreate when talking about drawing on the iPad.
Other drawing apps that are not bad and are on Android are Krita, Artflow, Infinite Painter, IbisPaint X.
Apps that are available on both iPads and Android are Medibang Paint, Autodesk Sketchbook, Clip Studio and Concepts. Even Tayasui Sketches Pro which used to be exclusive on the iPad is now being ported over to Android.
Affinity Photo on iPad
Android could do well with more Adobe apps, more specifically Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, and also Affinity Photo. And Android does need to have better graphic design apps, something like Affinity Design. I had huge difficult just trying to create a thumbnail for my Youtube video which involves importing a photo and adding some text. I switched to doing it on my computer instead.
The file management on the iPad Pro doesn't have many features and the performance is kinda bad. I actually made a whole video talking about how idiotic the Files app is.
When copying or downloading huge files, there's no progress bar so sometimes when nothing is happening I don't even know if Files app has crashed or the file is still copying. Transfer speed from a SD card reader is frustratingly slow.
File management on Tab S7 is quite similar to traditional desktop file management. Sure you don't get all the features of desktop file management but performance is way better, and user interface and workflow is very familiar.
File transfer speed on the Tab S7+ is excellent, USB 3 speeds, and the progress bar is there.
All things I've mentioned above are on dealing with files.
File management within apps is determined by the app developers.
When you create artwork, most apps only allow you to save the files within the app itself. On iPad, Apple has good backup that can restore not only your apps but the files within. On Android, you have to rely on the cloud sync and backup from the app instead of relying on a system backup.
When I transferred my Tab S6 files to the Tab S7+, the artworks within Concepts app did not get transferred over. I had to transfer the Concepts art files manually. This is dangerous because in event that the app crashes, get deleted accidentally or something bad happens, what are the chances of restoring the files that are saved within the app?
It may still be good to do some form of manual backup for your work on Android. This could be an argument for Apple because they do the backup for you.
Clip Studio on iPad allows you to save files into the system folders. Clip Studio on Android saves files within the app, and if you want to save the files into system folders that's an extra step for each file. Should have just used the desktop file management workflow just like the Clip Studio on the iPad.
Using with external display
There's an app called AstroPad that allows the iPad to show and use what's on your desktop computer. Basically, it allows you to use desktop software, such as the full version of Photoshop. The app performs quite well.
There's another app called Duet Display that lets you use your iPad as an extended display.
If you don't use those apps to extend the iPad display, connected any external monitor just works as a mirror most of the time.
Certain iPad apps may have extra functionality for an extra display. For example, Procreate lets you see your art in whole on the external display while you can zoom in and draw on the iPad.
Samsung Tab S7/S7+ can be used with an external display via Samsung Dex, basically the desktop user interface of Android where you get the taskbar, can resize windows, overlap windows. When connected, the external display will show Samsung Dex and the tablet will show the usual tablet interface.
When drawing on the tablet, you can open up a reference photo with the external display, or you can check email, watch a Youtube video.
Samsung Dex has limitations though because it's doesn't have exactly the same functionality as Windows or MacOS. Such as...
- With dual display setup, you can't drag windows from one display to the other, eg from Samsung Dex screen to the tablet or vice versa.
- You can open multiple instances of a web browser, eg. you can't split tabs into two separate windows.
- Overlaying one app over another doesn't not work as well compared to a larger 27-inch display running at 1440P.
- Samsung Dex can't run higher than 1440P on an external monitor.
- You can only place apps on the Samsung Dex desktop not files and folders. This is tablet functionality, not desktop functionality
Those are some differences I managed to find. There are more.
Overall drawing experience and usability for artists
While there still aren't as many quality drawing and graphic design apps on Android but there's Clip Studio so now at least there's one good app. Sometimes one good app is all that you need. For example, if you're using Photoshop/Procreate/Illustrator for the longest time, you don't switch to other apps to do the same work, right?
There are differences when drawing with Apple Pencil and S Pen, sure.
Overall drawing experience is affected by a combination of factors relating to the pressure sensitivity, how apps handle the 120Hz and latency.
I'm not a fussy as I'll just use whatever that works so I have no issues using either stylus or tablets for drawing.
Value for money
|iPad Pro 11||iPad Pro 12.9||Tab S7||Tab S7+|
|Price||US $799||US $999||US $649||US $849|
The Samsung tablets are much cheaper than the iPad Pros. In terms of raw performance, they are quite evenly matched by with Samsung you get more storage. the microSD card slot and the S Pen is included. Android tablets usually drop in price quite quickly so you may be able to pick these tablets up at even lower prices in the future.
In terms of value for money, I would have to give it to Samsung. iPad Pro 12.9 with Apple Pencil is US $1,128 while you can get the Tab S7+ at $849. The price difference is significant. But whether it's worth the money to you will depend on what you want to do on the tablet.
While I can do graphic design, edit photos or even videos on the iPad Pro, I don't do that because I'm way faster working on a proper computer. If you want a tablet that can do it all, perhaps the iPad Pro may still be the better choice. But if you just want a tablet to draw on, you can go with either, and the advantage probably goes to the Samsung Tab S7/S7+ because they are cheaper.
The only main downside for the Samsung tablet is the battery life when running at 120Hz refresh rate. Around 7 hours of battery life is not bad. Longer would be better of course.