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So a precursor - I'm not intending to call their relevance into question, rather I am a non-expert looking primarily for an expert's view on whether a graphics tablet (the input device) offers any functional advantage over tablet computers such that they are still relevant tools to a modern graphics designer.

Long story short, my SO is an artist and she is purchasing a new laptop and is wanting to get more into graphic design. I had thought about buying a graphics tablet for her as a gift, as this is what all my artist friends used in university. However, I'm not really sure if they're still relevant? Other than cost, does using a graphics tablet offer any functional advantage over a tablet computer?

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    Yes It is so much recommended to any graphics artist, it's offer accuracy more that the the tablet, pressure, Tilting. – hsawires Jan 18 '17 at 7:53
  • Interesting! Are tablet computers like designed by companies targeting graphic designers including equivalent features? (for instance: wacom cintiq?) – msg45f Jan 18 '17 at 8:18
  • What device you choose depends on your use cases, mostly - it is somewhat inconvenient to managed both a laptop and a graphics tablet if you are relocating frequently (think drawing in the airport lounge). An it's certainly not uncommon to own tablets with or without display or an actual computer attached to it to be able to accommodate for different uses. In the end, a huge part of possible answers to this question is likely opinion-based. – Michael Schumacher Jan 18 '17 at 9:06
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    @msg45f No, A graphics tablet and a tablet computer are not engineered for the same target groups, nor are they designed for the same end goal. The Wacom Cintiq you name is a graphics tablet, not a tablet computer. – Summer Jan 18 '17 at 13:26
  • @JaneDoe1337 Oh, I see, having glanced at it I had assumed it was a tablet computer designed for graphics designers. Thank you for the clarification. – msg45f Jan 20 '17 at 4:49
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A Graphics Tablet offers a lot of functionality over a Tablet Computer. I'll only talk of Wacom. There are others such as Huion but I've never tried it to offer an opinion on.

  • First off a lot of 2-in-1's lose keyboard functionality when in tablet mode. This includes Surface's and Lenovo's. That means you have little to no shortcuts.
  • Texture. This is a bit of an opinion but generally Wacom's feel much better than Microsoft based pens. iPad Pencil is quite nice but a different feel as well, and not really part of this question since you're asking about touchscreen computers.
  • Pressure Sensitivity. The ones coming in 2-in-1s are improving but they still have nowhere near the sensitivity of Wacoms. As the 2-in-1's are improving so are Wacom's as well. You can absolutely tell the difference between a 1024 and a 2048. 8192 is what some of the new top end Wacom's offer.
  • Tilt doesn't function at all on low end Wacom's or Microsoft based tablets. Apple Pencil and Pro Wacom's have this.
  • Precision. I think this is actually kinda with the texture. On 2-in-1's I found it harder to be precise. Not sure if its because of the glass or what. I don't recall on Lenovo's but on Surface another issue is you can't really see the cursor when you're not hovering over it. With Wacom these issues don't exist.
  • On the really high end displays by Wacom you also have 96% AdobeRGB coverage.
  • Nibs. Wacom pro models have many different nibs which comes with it and are also easily changed and replaced. The nib is the point of the stylus.
  • Buttons. Not only do Surface's and Lenovo's have decreased functionality from lack of keyboard while using the stylus but the stylus itself has less buttons than a Wacom.

Now, is any sort of stylus important? That depends on what you're SO does. But a real graphics tablet is still vastly superior to the 2in1 competition. Will this always be the case? Doubtful. But it is now.


*The Microsoft Surface Studio does let keyboard entry while using the stylus. So do other touch screen desktop units. The rest are still issues.

  • I think you gave a great answer, I'd just like to add to this that pricing is often a big deal as well. You will need to purchase a much more advanced (= expensive) tablet computer to achieve the same you can with a regular computer and a graphics tablet. Plus the regular computer can generally be used for a wider range of purposes than a tablet computer. – Summer Jan 18 '17 at 13:28
  • wacom patent just expired. I find that the newest surface is pretty good but horribly expensive. The registration issue is a bit of a pain in all the styluses mounted on screens. – joojaa Jan 18 '17 at 17:08
  • This is exactly the kind of details I was looking for, and has made the distinction between products much clearer! – msg45f Jan 20 '17 at 4:48
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It depends on the artist and what the artist does. A tablet is very strongly either a:

  • productivity increaser
  • or a nice to have feature.

There are workflows where a tablet is a killer feature and there are workflows where its not so important. So to answer the question whether or not its a necessary thing depends on what your artist friend is doing.

Also see:

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