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Which is the best tablet for an artist? | Technology

My wife is an artist. She has been using a Samsung Galaxy 1

0.1 since 2014. This lets her draw and paint using a pen that comes with the pad. She loves to use it, but it is by far the best, and the battery does not charge for very long. I'm thinking of buying her a substitute. What should I go for? Hugh

If you're an artist using computers, you've never had that good, as former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan almost said. Touchscreen displays become ubiquitous, so there are dozens of usable devices for a wide range of price points. However, they are not all the same, and people can be confused by the differences.

Initially used artists mainly graphics tablets connected to personal computers, and Wacom became the dominant mark. In this case, draw the tablet with a stylus, and the pen strokes appear on a separate screen. It's a bit like using a mouse.

Later, we got drawing tablets, where the glossy surface of the graphics tray is replaced with a screen. Wacom is still a major player with drawing tablets like Cintiq 13HD, but there are cheaper alternatives. XP Pen's Artist16 Pro has received good reviews.

Graphic tablets and drawing tablets use the computing power of laptops or desktops so they can handle the huge, detailed drawings required for architectural design and similar purposes. The tablet display may be just a window to a much larger design.

Today, almost all smartphones and tablets, and most hybrid or convertible laptops, have touch screens, so you can draw them with your fingers. A smaller number supports pens. The bottom line is that there are standalone units. They do not need to be connected to a computer.

The leading examples fall into three main areas: Samsung's Galaxy Tab, Apple's iPad Pro, and Microsoft's Surface Pro. There are alternatives, but they are the ones who have to beat.

What to Consider

  iPad Mini with Apple Pencil Stylus Landscape

iPad Mini with Apple Pencil Stylus Landscape Photography: Apple

From a drawing point, the key points include screen size and resolution, screen color accuracy, pen pressure level, and latency. Basically, if you press harder, the pen should produce a stronger line. A pressure sensitivity of 2,048 is recommended. I can't see the difference between 256, 1024 and 2048, but as an artist, it's probably your wife.

Latent refers to the delay between the pen or pen that moves across the screen and a line being displayed. Latency used to be terrible on tablets. It doesn't seem to be a problem on the latest devices, although some apps are worse than others. The best way to check latency is to try a device. However, you can get a pretty good idea from watching people draw on YouTube videos.

Standalone tablets, unlike graphics tablets, can perform many other functions. You can do your email, watch videos, play games and so on. Some people will choose one tablet instead of another because it runs certain software – such as Adobe Creative Suite – or specific apps. Some will be influenced by how well it works with other devices and online services, such as Office 365. Many will be affected by price, even if you haven't given me a budget.

With hindsight it would be a good idea to check how much it costs to replace the battery in the tablet you choose. All main areas have sealed batteries, which do not give rise to long life. Battery loss is also a risk factor when buying used devices.

Stick with Samsung

  Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 with stylus.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 with stylus. Photo: Samsung

As I have said before, it is generally not worth changing systems unless you need it. When you switch, you give up a lot of valuable experience, you lose the comfort of familiarity, and you may have to find and learn many new programs and / or apps. You should not swap unless the new system delivers one or more significant benefits – no less benefits that all rivals will add in a year or so – and not many disadvantages.

Your wife seems to be a happy Samsung Galaxy user. If she doesn't have any real problems with her current device and isn't trying to try something new, your replacement should be as much as possible, just better.

The current top choice for Android users is the 10.5in Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, which includes an S pen. Prices start at about £ 416 with 4GB of memory and 64GB of eMMC storage. It also has an SD card slot for easy expansion.

The S4 is enhanced on the 9.7in S3 by providing a larger screen with higher resolution, slimmer bezels, a faster processor and twice as much storage space. However, S3 is still a viable option if you want something cheaper. Artist Blogs Teoh Yi Chie compares S3 and S4 in a YouTube video, and in a more detailed post on Parka Blogs.

Switch to Apple?

  apple ipad pro with apple pencil stylus

The latest iPad Pro can be used with Apple's latest pencil pen, which magnetically attaches to the top of the tablet to charge. Photo: Samuel Gibbs / The Guardian

11in and the 12.9in versions of the iPad Pro (2018) are the top models in Apple's range, and they are great tablets, if money is no object. But they are expensive. With a starting level of 64 GB of storage, 11in Pro starts at £ 769 and 12.9in at £ 969. The top-of-the-line 12.9in version is a maximum of £ 1719 for wifi. I only spent £ 1,740 on my Dell XPS desktop, 4K (LG) display, convertible (Yoga) laptop and Android smartphone combined.

At the start price, you need to add an Apple Pencil 2 (£ 119) and possibly an SD card connector (£ 39) and a headphone jack converter (£ 9). You might also want the keyboard case (£ 199), AppleCare (£ 129) and some other dongles. It adds up, and for drawing it is nonsense money.

Fortunately, there are cheaper alternatives. 10.5in iPad Air (2019) is very similar to the old iPad Pro (2017), but has a much faster processor and is cheaper. The most important things you lose are the "ProMotion display" refresh rate of up to 120 Hz – the iPad Air is a perfectly acceptable 60Hz – a couple of small speakers and a slightly poorer rear camera (8MP instead of 12MP).

You could get a 10.5in iPad Air (2019) with 64GB storage from Apple for £ 479, plus £ 89 for an Apple pencil and £ 29 for an SD card reader. Total Price: £ 597.

Alternatively, an Apple pencil now works with a standard 9.7in iPad with 32GB of storage, giving good value to £ 319. A 9.7in iPad, Apple pencil and SD card reader comes to £ 437. the same ballpark as a 10.5in Galaxy Tab 4, although the Tab 4 has twice the storage space and a larger screen that packs in multiple pixels (2560 x 1600 vs. 2048 x 1536).

Usually, some will choose based on a need for certain apps or a preference for one of the operating systems. I think the iPad has more and better tablet apps. However, both systems appear to be about as good as drawing, and the wife already knows how to use Android.

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The advantage of Microsoft's Surface Pro line is the ability to use full Windows desktop drawing packages with the Surface Pen pen. Photo: Samuel Gibbs / The Guardian

Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet works well with pens, but they are definitely the third choice for any artist who doesn't need Windows for other purposes. Like Apple, Microsoft also pays separately for pens and keyboard covers, so the final price can be higher than expected.

An interesting but definitely strange device is Lenovo's 10th in Yoga Book convertible. This has two touch screens: a color display for normal use, and a monochrome display that acts as a keyboard. You can also use the monochrome screen to write and draw. It has 2,048 pressure sensitivity levels, so it can be pretty good. (I just tried the keyboard; I didn't like it.)

Yoga Book started as a Windows machine, but Lenovo switched to an Android version that only cost £ 299.99, including the pen.

Yoga Book YB1-X90L displays its legacy in its Intel Atom x5-Z8550 processor, 4GB memory, 64GB storage space and 1920×1200 screen resolution.

It's not the best choice for your wife's purpose. However, others can find applications for a 690g Android dual-screen laptop where one screen acts as a color table, and the other lets you draw and create handwritten notes.

Incidentally, the upgraded version of the Windows device is the 10.8in Yoga Book C930, which combines a Quad HD color touch screen and an E-ink touch screen for $ 1,9999.99. As before, both screens support pens.

Do you have a question? Email it to Ask.Jack@theguardian.com

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