This article is an update to the one I wrote last year for M1 iPad Pro vs Samsung Tab S8.
Once again I'm here to help you figure out which tablet to get for creating digital art and graphic design because these are definitely the two best tablets in the market right now as of Aug 2023. These two new tablets are just incremental upgrades to the M1 iPad Pro and Tab S8 tablets so what I've written beneath still apply to those tablets. And since the upgrades are incremental, I'm reusing some photos from the previous article.
I'm currently using the M2 iPad Pro 11 (I sold the 12.9 to downgrade) and the Samsung Tab S9 Ultra (traded in the S8 Ultra). I have these two tablets only because I happen to have a tech channel on Youtube. Otherwise, one tablet is sufficient.
Oh, if you cannot differentiate the two tablets from the photos below, iPad Pro is the one with the white Apple Pencil and Samsung has the black S Pen.
By the way, if you have intention to get either tablet, do consider using the affiliate links to help support my blog, which in turns helps me create more reviews here and on my Youtube channel.
For drawing purposes, both M2 iPad Pros and Tab S9 tablets are on par. Both Apple Pencil 2 and Samsung S Pen are accurate, have good pressure sensitivity, consistent and predictable performance.
The main advantage iPads (left) have over the Samsung tablets for visual content creators is there are more graphic design apps from the Apple App Store that can handle typography, layout and vector. I'm talking about apps such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer and Affinity Publisher, Vectornator, Amadine.
The only vector graphic design app on Android that's worth trying is Vector Ink and that's USD 9.99/month or USD 29.99/year. If you're really into vector graphic design, I recommend you go the iPad route because Affinity Designer is a one time purchase and you can access your files forever as there's no subscription to lock access to your files.
For example, to create the specs comparison table below is easy with Adobe Illustrator but extremely challenging with the Samsung tablets due to the lack of graphic design apps with good typography and font controls, e.g. leading, kerning, line space, indents, paragraph spacing, justification, alignment.
I personally don't do vector graphic design on tablets as I prefer the desktop apps. If you have a computer, you can extend the computer desktop over to the tablet and use those vector graphic design apps on the tablet. The downside is you need two device to do the work.
If you're only into drawing, both tablets are great for drawing, and there are plenty of capable drawing apps on iPadOS and Android. So I suggest choosing which tablet based on what else you may want to do other than drawing.
Specs comparison table
|Tablets||M2 iPad Pro 11||M2 iPad Pro 12.9||Tab S9||Tab S9+||Tab S9 Ultra|
|Display||11-inch LED IPS LCD, 600 nits||12.9-inch mini LED IPS LCD, 600 nits, HDR 1600 nits||11-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x, 420 nits to 750 nits HDR||12.4-inch Super AMOLED, 420 nits to 650 nits HDR||14.6-inch Super AMOLED, 420 nits to 930 nits HDR|
|Resolution||2388 x 1668, 264 PPI||2732 x 2048, 264 PPI||2560 x 1600, 276 PPI||2800 x 1752, 266 PPI||2960 x 1848, 240 PPI|
|Refresh rate||Either 60Hz or 120Hz||Either 60Hz or 120Hz||Adaptive up to 120Hz||Adaptive up to 120Hz||Adaptive up to 120Hz|
|Processor||Apple M2||Apple M2||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2|
|Storage||128 - 2TB||128 - 2TB||128 - 256GB||128 - 512GB||128 - 1TB|
|Camera||Front 12MP f/2.4, rear wide 12MP f/1.8, ultra-wide 10MP f/2.4||Front 12MP f/2.4, rear wide 12MP f/1.8, ultra-wide 10MP f/2.4||Rear 13MP wide, front 12MP ultra-wide||Rear 13MP wide, 8MP ultra-wide, front 12MP ultra-wide||Rear 13MP wide, 8MP ultra-wide, front 12MP wide and 12MP ultra-wide|
|MicroSD card slot||No||No||Yes, up to 1TB||Yes, up to 1TB||Yes, up to 1TB|
|Battery||7538 mAh||10758mAh||8400 mAh||10090 mAh||11200 mAh|
|Connectivity||Wifi or Wifi + 5G LTE||Wifi or Wifi + 5G LTE||Wifi or Wifi + 5G LTE||Wifi or Wifi + 5G LTE||Wifi or Wifi + 5G LTE|
|Ports||USB C Thunderbolt 4||USB C Thunderbolt 4||USB C gen 3.2||USB C gen 3.2||USB C gen 3.2|
|Speakers||Quad speakers||Quad speakers||Quad speakers by AKG, Dolby Atmos||Quad speakers by AKG, Dolby Atmos||Quad speakers by AKG, Dolby Atmos|
|Biometric authentication||Face unlock||Face unlock||Fingerprint on display, face unlock||Fingerprint on display, face unlock||Fingerprint on display, face unlock|
|Dimensions||178.5 x 247.6 x 5.9mm||214.9 x 280.6 x 6.4mm||165.8 x 254.3 x 5.9mm||185.4 x 285.0 x 5.7mm||208.6 x 326.4 x 5.5mm|
|Weight||466 - 468g||682 - 684g||498g||581g||732g|
|Price USD||From $799||From $1099||From $799||From $999||From $1199|
|Pen||Apple Pencil 2 - USD 129||Apple Pencil 2 - USD 129||S-Pen included||S-Pen included||S-Pen included|
The M2 iPad Pro 12.9 uses a mini-LED IPS LCD while the 11-inch model uses normal LED IPS LCD. All Samsung Tab S9 tablets use Dynamic AMOLED 2x. Both displays look fantastic. The iPad Pro 12.9's mini LED display brightness can go up to 600 nits with normal usage and up to 1600 when viewing HDR content. While the Tab S9 Ultra's brightness can only reach 420+ nits, due to the extreme contrast ratio of the OLED display, the brightness looks great too and HDR better compared to the iPad. For example, to make white look brighter, you can increase the brightness or make black darker (possible with OLED).
Either way, you won't be disappointed with the display quality of both tablets. There are many who think OLED is the superior display technology. A good LCD can still look great. I've no preference for either OLED or LCD as long as both look good.
One area of concern with OLED displays is pulse width modulation (PWM). OLED displays can flicker due to PWM. I personally cannot see PWM in real life but there are people with sensitive eyes who may be able to detect the flicker. The Super AMOLED displays used by the Tab S8+ and Tab S8 Ultra have PWM. This video shows PWM in action.
Aspect ratio of the display is quite important as it affects productivity and how you use the tablet.
Aspect ratio of the iPad Pro (left) is 4:3 and this makes the tablet useable in both landscape and portrait orientation. Samsung tablets (right) use the 16:10 aspect ratio which more suited for landscape orientation. When using Samsung tablets in vertical orientation, together with the UI elements, e.g. palettes, your canvas space is almost too vertical. Watching videos and gaming are better on the Samsung tablets with minimal or no black bars at the top and bottom.
Both Apple Pencil 2 and Samsung S Pen supports tilt, pressure and palm rejection. Both pen are sensitive and have accurate tracking. Drawing performance is fantastic for both pens.
Both pens have low initial activation force and can detect minimal pressure changes quite well when drawing with minimal pressure. Lines are able to taper smoothly and sharply. There's no wobble when drawing diagonal lines slowly.
One new featured added to the M2 iPad Pros is Apple Pencil 2 now supports the cursor hover feature. Samsung S Pen has had the cursor hover feature for years. So now, you're able to see the brush cursor or shape before you draw or paint on the canvas.
The main difference comes down to the design of the pens. Apple Pencil 2 has a hard tip and is powered by battery. There are shortcuts you can activate by tapping the side of the Apple Pencil. The Samsung S Pen has a rubberised nib, a shortcut button and does not need battery power for drawing. The feel of drawing with the pen tips are different and which is better will come down to personal preference. Again, I don't prefer one over the either.
Apple Pencil 2 is priced at US $129. Samsung S Pen is included. If you don't like the physical design of the Samsung S Pen, there are alternatives such as the Staedtler Noris Digital, Staedtler Noris Digital Jumbo, Lamy EMR and Wacom One pen. Replacement pen nibs for the S Pen are also cheaper.
Both pens have very low latency. With the right apps, e.g. Apple Notes or Samsung Notes, when drawing or writing quickly, it's almost impossible to see the gap between the line and the pen tip.
However, not all drawing apps have been updated to take advantage of the low latency. There are more drawing apps on the iPad that have improved latency. Anyway, latency isn't a big issue because when drawing, we don't usually draw that fast and unless you're really looking out for the latency, you probably won't even notice the latency.
Palm rejection for the pens and tablets work great. With apps where you can choose to accept only pen input, you can get perfect palm rejection.
The variety and quality of drawing apps available from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store are on par.
Many will say that Procreate on iPad is the best drawing app ever to appear on any tablet. Maybe. On Android, there's no lack of capable drawing apps too. Having a huge variety of drawing apps is certainly nice but ultimately you'll just be using one or two drawing apps mostly. Note that Procreate is exclusive to iPad which means you will be locked into the Apple ecosystem.
Here are some of the more popular drawing apps available from the Apple App Store:
- Clip Studio Paint
- Medibang Paint Pro
- Tayasui Sketches
- Adobe Photoshop
- Adobe Fresco
- Affinity Photo
- Infinite Painter
- ArtStudio Pro
For graphic design, vector, layout apps on iPad, there are
- Affinity Designer
- Affinity Publisher
- Adobe Illustrator
From the Google Play Store, there are
- Clip Studio Paint
- Medibang Paint Pro
- Tayasui Sketches
- Ibis Paint
- Infinite Painter
Most of the artworks created are saved within the drawing apps, and file management will depend on the apps you use.
For iPad backups, Apple uses iCloud which will make a backup of everything on the iPad.
Backups on Samsung tablets is not as straightforward compared to on the iPad where everything is backed up. The only option to backup the whole tablet is use Samsung One UI to backup to external storage. Samsung Tab S9 tablets have microSD card slot and that can be used for backing up files too, but you won't want to lose both tablet and microSD card at the same time.
Backups are important because tablets can be lost, damaged or stolen.
External display support
The M2 iPad Pros will be getting external display support with the Stage Manager feature. I'm not exactly sure how useful Stage Manager is yet because it's not released publicly at the time of this review. I've installed the beta version of iPadOS 16 with Stage Manager and the external display supports feels like using two iPads at the same time. It's definitely not the MacOS or Windows desktop experience.
FYI, Stage Manager is only available to iPads that use the Apple M1 processor.
Samsung handles external display support with SamsungDex. You can either use SamsungDex with cable connection or wirelessly. SamsungDex provides a desktop-like interface with taskbars and apps on the desktop. Windows can be resized, minimised or moved around. The user experience is quite similar to using Windows OS. SamsungDex will run the desktop interface on the external display while the tablet will still be using the tablet interface. In other words, you cannot drag your mouse cursor from one display to the other but you can use the keyboard across both.
How useful SamsungDex is will depend on your workflow. On a huge tablet, it's just another UI for working. For those using Samsung phones, SamsungDex allows you to use your phone as a computer and that's very useful.
Both tablets have good battery life and can usually last more than 9 hours. Samsung has 45W fast charging which get the tablet to 100% in 2 hours. iPad Pro charges more slowly but there's enough battery life to last for a day so charging speed isn't an issue.
The ecosystem is how well the devices work with each other.
Software ecosystem is a big thing nowadays. Apple has an ecosystem with many shared features such as AirDrop for wireless transfers, iCloud for backups across all Apple devices, Apple TV app that lets you have access to shows across all Apple devices.
For Samsung, some of the ecosystem features are contributed by third party apps and it's actually more flexible this way.
For example, Apple uses iMessage for messaging and that only works on Apple devices. On Samsung, you can use their messaging system or you can use Whatsapp which is popular in Europe and Asia. The flexibility of third party apps is you're not locked into an ecosystem. If you want to change your phone or tablet to some other brand, you can do so easily.
If you are a heavy user of Apple-only apps, you will be locked into the Apple eco-system. For example, I buy my movies through Apple TV and to play those movies I need an Apple device. If I use Procreate exclusively, it means my next tablet will also be an iPad. If I use Clip Studio Paint which is available on MacOS, Windows, iPad and Android, I can switch to a tablet from any brand.
If I save my photos to Google Photos or Microsoft OneDrive, or save my files with Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive, I can access these files regardless of the computer or tablet I use. If I story my photos with the Photos app on the iPad, I'll be locked into the Apple ecosystem. Also note that it's easy to save or download files onto the iPad, but it's not easy to get your files out because AirDrop wireless transfer is slow (50MB/s). So as much as possible whenever I have files I need to store on the iPhone or iPad, I will store directly to Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.
While the iPad Pro has Thunderbolt 4 transfer speeds (40Gbps), the USB-C port on the Samsung Tab S9 tablets has USB 3.2 gen 2 speeds (10 Gbps, 1.25MB/s) is pretty fast for most use cases.
Using your tablets as external displays
You can use the iPad Pro and Samsung tablets as external displays to your Mac or Windows computers easily.
In the table below, the column on the left are devices which you may want to use as external displays.
|iPad||Apple SideCar, Duet DIsplay, Duet Air, Luna Display||Luna Display|
|Android||Duet Display, Duet Air, SpaceDesk||Samsung Second Screen, SuperDisplay|
Which tablet to get if you're already using a Mac or Windows computer?
If you already have a Mac, there are definitely many advantages to getting an iPad Pro over the Samsung tablet. The main advantage of getting an iPad is wireless file transfer with AirDrop is very convenient even though it's slow. When I need to transfer files on iPad to my Windows computer, I always save it to Google Drive and download it from there so it's not a direct file transfer.
To transfer from Samsung tablet to Windows computer, you can use Nearby Share. To transfer from Samsung tablet to Mac, you can use cloud storage services, ShareDrop or SnapDrop web browser direct file transfers, or just connect a cable.
So which is the better tablet for artists?
As mentioned in the bottom line written further up, both M2 iPad Pro and Tab S9 tablets are great for drawing. But if you also need to do graphic design work, go with the iPad Pro.
But otherwise, I will recommend you choose based on the software/apps you want to use, and the other features you may find useful.
Here in Singapore, the M1 iPad Pro 12.9 Wifi (256GB) with Apple Pencil 2 cost SGD 1928. The Samsung Tab S8 Ultra 5G (256GB) with S Pen and keyboard case cost SGD 1944 (lowest I've seen).