A review of the top 5 tablets for digital art by Corel Painter Master, Aaron Rutten
5. Intuos Pen & Touch Medium
Sure it's slightly outdated and not as sleek-looking as the newer Intuos tablets, but the Intuos Pen & Touch Medium is still a great entry-level tablet. If price is your main concern, you'll be pleased to know that you can get a certified refurbished Pen & Touch Medium for quite a bit less than the current Intuos Art Medium. The Pen & Touch has very similar features to the newer Intuos models. The main differences being mostly superficial. The difference in the pen is quite noticeable. I prefer the bulkier Pen & Touch pen over the current Intuos pens which feel too light to me.
Don't count on the bundled software to be anything current. In fact, it may not still be supported. Also, you should expect driver support to taper off as newer versions of Windows and Mac are released. If you're concerned about future-proofing, this may not be the best option for you. Otherwise, it's a great tablet for the price.
4. Wacom Intuos Art Medium
Along with the Intuos Draw, Photo, 3D and Comic, the Intuos Art is the newest addition to the Intuos line of tablets geared towards entry-level artists. The Intuos Art pen lacks an eraser on the back end and it's pen is noticeably smaller and lighter than the pen of it's predecessor, the Intuos Pen & Touch. Personally, I like a heavier pen, but that's because I have large hands. Younger artists might find the Intuos Art more comfortable to work with. It's apparent that comfort was a priority this time around, as seen in the rounded edges on the tablet and stylus. The missing eraser isn't a big deal for me because I rarely use it. Many artists prefer to use an eraser brush rather than flip their pen over to erase.
An affordable price tag, simple yet stylish design aesthetic, bundled art software and a decent-sized drawing area make the Intuos Medium great choice for beginners and artists who want to test the waters of digital art without breaking the bank.
3. Intuos Pro Large
High pen pressure sensitivity, high resolution, many time-saving express keys, pen tilt recognition and a large drawing surface make the Intuos Pro Large the best of the tablets without an integrated screen. The tablet surface is noticeably more grainy than the entry-level Intuos tablets. What the conspiracy theorists call "a sandpaper surface that wears down your nibs so you have to buy more", I call natural paper tooth. As an artist who comes from a background of drawing on paper with a pencil, I expect a little friction while I'm drawing. Not only does it feel more natural, but it also helps control your lines. Older generations of tablets had a slick surface that felt uncomfortable. Personally, I like the grainy surface and I feel it makes the tablet feel more like it's a piece of paper. As far as wearing down nibs quickly, that can be prevented by calibrating the pen pressure and using a lighter touch. Some artists even go as far as to tape a piece of printer paper to the drawing surface of the tablet to help lessen the rate of nib wear. If you're looking for the best tablet out there, this isn't it, but it's dang close.
2. Cintiq Companion 2
Now we're getting into professional artist territory. The Cintiq line of tablets feature an integrated screen that you can draw directly onto with your pen. Some models even include touch which allows you to move, zoom and rotate you page with your fingers.
The Cintiq Companion 2 takes it one step further and adds a full-blown Intel computer to the mix. Yes, folks. This tablet runs Windows 10 and any application that Windows 10 supports. Photoshop, Corel Painter, Illustrator, zBrush, you name it. It does not need to be connected to your desktop computer, although you can connect it if you'd like to use it as a tablet for drawing on your desktop as well. I absolutely love my Companion. I've taken it to lots of scenic locations to paint in the great outdoors. The 13 inch screen is more than large enough to feel like you're drawing in a sketchbook or painting on a canvas. The Quad-HD resolution screen is very clear and the anti-glare surface diffuses pesky reflections and provides the pen with a little tooth so it feels like you're drawing on paper. It's truly a digital sketchbook you can take anywhere and depending on the model, it's powerful enough to keep up with a desktop computer. It runs power hungry applications like Photoshop, zBrush and After Effects with ease. The only downsides are the Companion's short battery life and noisy fan. Otherwise, it's an amazing all-in-one digital painting kit.
Update: Wacom has improved upon the Companion 2 with the new Wacom MobileStudio Pro tablets with up to a 16 inch screen-width, 4k resolution, i7 6th generation processor and an Nvidia Quadro video card. (Available November 21, 2016)
1. Cintiq 27/24/22/13
And finally at number one are the mighty Cintiqs. The Cintiq's large drawing surface, integrated screen and professional features place it squarely at the top of this list. Similar to the Cintiq Companion, the Cintiqs have an integrated screen, but do not have a built in computer. They need to be connected to a desktop or laptop to function. The largest of the Cintiqs is the Cintiq 27QHD. At 27 inches, this is currently the largest screen available on any tablet. The Quad-HD screen shows a clear image and the color accuracy is amazing. If 27 inches is too big for you, there are smaller sizes of the Cintiq as well which are just as great. There are 24, 22 and 13 inch models which all function the same, but with different screen sizes and express keys. All of the current Cintiqs can recognize pen tilt which allows an artist to use the tilt of their pen to control the expression of a brush while painting. Drawing with the side of a pencil is one such example. The Cintiqs also feature several express keys which can be found on the sides of the tablet or on a remote control accessory. These express keys can save an artist loads of time by placing commonly used tools and features at the push of a button. The Cintiqs are the cream of the crop, but they come at a hefty price tag. Although, if you consider that you're buying both a freakin' humongous tablet and an HDTV with a built-in digitizer, it's not an unreasonable price. Beware of imitation Cintiqs. They are a fraction of the price of a Wacom Cintiq, but they are also a fraction of the quality. Several companies make a product that, superficially, looks like the Cintiq, but upon closer inspection, the companies are building the tablets with cheap generic parts. A lot of the time, the parts are the same across different companies. I had a bad experience reviewing one of these imitation tablets and I don't recommend wasting your time buying one. If you are looking for the best drawing tablet money can buy, a genuine Cintiq is it, hands down.
Update: Wacom has added some new models into the Cintiq line with the new Cintiq Pro 13 and 16 tablets. These are more similar in design to the Cintiq 27QHD but resolution up to 4k, a more sensitive Wacom Pro Pen 2 and improved parallax correction.
Those were the top 5 drawing tablets for digital artists. For more digital art tablet reviews, please subscribe to my YouTube channel.