Best Laptop for Drawing in 2021

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I have been writing quite a bit lately about tablet computers and how great they are for artists. Having the ability to work on the go – and not just work but work at a very high level, and see your work on a beautiful high resolution screen, anywhere and anytime – is absolutely fabulous, and the best art tablets are understandably popular.

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But some people find tablets somewhat limiting. They either don’t do everything a full-fledged computer will do, or they aren’t really designed and optimized for normal, routine tasks. And yes, sometimes even artists need to at least act like they are normal and have a routine.

And some artists can’t really afford to buy a laptop, a tablet and maybe also a desktop computer, and would love to have a single laptop computer which they know will really do it all. Some of my friends and colleagues want, in fact, the best budget laptop for artwork they can find, with a full range of abilities for a very low price, and others don’t mind spending a little more (or even a lot more) to get the best machine they can afford, knowing they are only making the one investment and wanting to really make it count.

Whatever your situation is, if you are looking at the best laptop for Drawing on the market today we’ve got you covered. I will look at the best of the best, the best budget machine and everything in between – all designed to be perfect portable computers for any artist and to provide the very best on-screen drawing, painting, editing and retouching experience possible.

What is a 2 in 1 Laptop for Drawing?

2 in 1 simply refers to a portable computer that acts as both a normal laptop and a tablet computer. These nifty machines will offer touchscreen capabilities as well as nice, fully capable keyboards and touchpads, and are designed not just to allow drawing and painting on the screen, but normal user interface with operating system Windows 10 (or Chrome OS) and all of your software as well. Since they work so well for artists, all of the recommendations on my list of best laptops for drawing are 2 in 1 laptops.

If you’ve already been doing some research about the best portable computer for artists, you may have seen questions on the internet like:

What’s the best laptop for drawing, but also:
What’s the best convertible laptop for drawing, and
What’s the best detachable laptop for drawing
Is Surface Pen a good Pen for drawing on a laptop?

But what’s the difference between these different types? There are two basic types of 2 in 1 laptops:

  • A Convertible Laptop for Drawing: This design has a keyboard that will open up all the way – really, all the way – so that it folds flat on the bottom and out of the way and lets you use just the display screen as a touchscreen tablet.
  • A Detachable Laptop for Drawing: A detachable laptop for drawing has a keyboard which can be fully detached from the computer screen, getting it even more out of the way and again letting you use just the display screen as a touchscreen tablet.

Both types offer full and normal laptop functionality as well as full tablet use. The convertible does act a little more like a laptop, often with a more stable base and sturdy keyboard, while the detachable is more tablet-like, perhaps, and usually is lighter, and still has a very nice and usable keyboard.

So, if you are more into stability and do a lot more typing, you may like a convertible, but if you plan to use your new laptop more as a tablet, or at least more on the go, you might prefer a detachable – just remember that a detachable only becomes an “attachable” if you don’t forget your keyboard on the desk at home!

What is the Best Laptop for Drawing

I should say right away that, though it breaks my poor heart, we aren’t including any Apple laptops here. 

While they naturally appear again and again in my various buyer’s guides for the best artist computers and tablets, and get plenty of props there, Apple has not yet embraced the 2 in 1 idea, and doesn’t offer a real laptop convertible in either a detachable or convertible design.

This leaves us with two main choices for best 2 in 1 laptops for artists, then – operating system Windows 10 or Chromebook. And while Chromebook has been out for quite a while, many are still unfamiliar with what that even means.

What is a Chromebook, and Are They Good for Artists?

Chromebooks are portable laptop computers which use a new (sort of) operating system, and are really focused on Google Drive, Google Docs, Gmail – so, cloud based computing rather than using apps on your computer and storing files locally. 

Chromebooks are light, often surprisingly inexpensive, and now run most Android apps, like those available on Google Play. This leaves you with at least a few quite nice art applications, like:

  • Autodesk Sketchbook
  • Ibis Paint
  • Adobe Illustrator Draw
  • Adobe Photoshop Sketch
  • Artflow

Windows computers are still far, far more popular and widely used, and offer computing power and a range of top-notch applications (and not just for artists) which Chromebooks can’t come close to. 

They do, though, tend to be more expensive, but they can offer significant value for the money – especially with those featured on our buyer’s guide for best 2 in 1 laptop for artists. Anyway, many commercial and fine artists feel an operating system Windows 10 2 in 1 laptop is the default and necessary choice, especially as it allows you to use the best art programs, like:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Corel Paint
  • Affinity Designer
  • Adobe Premiere Pro

So at the end of the day both operating system Windows 10 based laptops and Chromebooks are great for artists. Most people still prefer Windows, and the software is better, but a Chromebook can be an inexpensive, light and easy to use alternative which offers both good art software and full computer functionality.

Budget does become a main issue here, especially if you are looking for an ultra-inexpensive 2 in 1 laptop for artists. You see, I haven’t found any Windows based convertible or detachable laptops would recommend for anything less than 500 dollars, while there are excellent and highly usable Chromebook 2 in 1s in that lower price range.

As such, the Chromebooks I am recommending here are all lower priced models, but there are definitely some wonderful top-tier Chromebooks as well – if you’d like to see a wider range of Chromebooks that are great for artists, please check out my recent article: The Best Chromebook with Stylus for Artists: A Detailed Guide to the Best Chromebooks for Drawing.

How can You Find the Best 2 in 1 Laptop for Drawing?

But whichever platform you opt for – Windows or Chromebook – you will find the best unit for your needs and budget right here. To be included on my list of the best two in one laptops for artists in 2021, a computer has to have serious game, including:

  • Superb graphics, including resolution, color fidelity and saturation, brightness and contrast
  • Enough memory and storage to be really useful (again, this more applies to Windows-based computers – Chromebooks are designed to store most of your stuff in the cloud)
  • High performance and great speed
  • The best pen-to-screen interaction
  • The best overall creative experience
  • Excellent material quality and reliability
  • Great value for the money

We will feature the four best 2-in-1 Windows laptops for artists, listed from most to least expensive, and two great Chromebooks as well, and you can choose any one of them – based on your needs and budget – and feel totally confident that you are getting everything you need for creative work and normal computing as well. 

I am not going to boggle you with tons of choices, but only those convertible and detachable laptops which I know to be not just suitable for an artist, but offer the best performance, reliability, fit and finish and – mostly – the very best creative experience.

The Best Laptops for Drawing in 2021

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With enormous memory, an ultra-fast Intel i7 processor, an extremely powerful graphics processor and a superb high resolution display optimized for pen-to-screen interface, the newest Microsoft Surface Book 3 is without question the very best convertible laptop for artists on the market today. Performance, design and interface, reliability and material quality, look and feel, user experience – the Surface Book 3 laptop has it all.

Yes, this is an expensive computer, but if you are a serious commercial or fine artist, animator, illustrator or photographer, or somebody who simply wants the best performance, the highest quality of materials and construction, the best user experience and a machine that will handle any level of work, anywhere and anytime, the Surface Book 3 is it.

My absolute choice for the best 2 in 1 computer in 2021, Microsoft Surface Book 3 is not just the best detachable laptop for artists available today, it may be the best overall computer for artists. And while it is nominally a detachable 2 in 1, the Book 3’s keyboard will fold completely away, making it a perfect convertible 2 in 1 as well. However I used it, though, I absolutely loved it, and the Surface Book 3 is the only computer which makes me kind of, sort of, maybe just a little, be tempted to switch from Apple to Windows.

I won’t, of course, but if I did, or if anybody wanted the best of the best, and wanted their work and their working experience to be as good as it can possibly be, there is no choice but the Microsoft Surface 3 13.5 inch laptop with detachable touchscreen. If it is in your budget, or if you want the very best, don’t hesitate!

The Microsoft Surface 3 comes with a brilliant keyboard, but for the full experience you will also need a stylus, and the best choice is the superb new Microsoft Surface Pen.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go apologize to my MacBook…

If you don’t have over two grand to spend on a machine, but still want an absolutely incredible 2-in-1 laptop for drawing, animation, illustration or any kind of digital art or graphic work, the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 2 is the best I have found – and it has a bigger screen than the Microsoft Surface Book 3 above, for really high detail work and intense impact when displaying your digital art pieces.

Notebook 9 Pro is a convertible laptop, again meaning that the keyboard doesn’t detach but swings around completely out of the way, so that you can use the Samsung Notebook 9 as a tablet, offering a wonderful pen-to-screen experience and an absolutely brilliant full HD display, with deeply saturated and highly accurate colors and amazing life and realism. And with the size and quality of the display everything you do is just easier, more precise and more effective.

Compared to the Microsoft Surface above, the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro has half the RAM memory, a less powerful graphics processor, a slower main processor and lower resolution, but it should be clearly stated that this is nonetheless a top-level computer, one of the best performers available today and superb in every way. I’m comparing it here to the best of the best, the Surface 3, but it is half the price of the Microsoft and an unbelievable computer for the money.

In fact, in terms of fit and finish, design and user interface, screen-to-pen interaction and overall creative experience the Samsung is really the equal of the Microsoft Surface, and it’s hard to imagine many work or situations where the Surface’s increased specifications would even be noticeable. The Samsung Notebook 9 Pro is, in fact, the best pure convertible 2-in-1 laptop I’ve ever used, and without a doubt the best bargain in a top-tier 2-in-1 laptop computer for any artist at any level. And it includes the wonderful, great feeling Samsung Active Pro Pen, so you have an entire professional mobile digital art studio in one go!

I have to say that my overall experience with the HP Pavilion convertible laptop was pleasantly surprising. It’s surprising, for instance, to enjoy such fast and trouble-free performance at this price point, even with the most advanced graphics software and large, complex files – nothing seemed to slow the Pavilion down. It is also surprising to find a computer that comes in at not much more than 700 dollars with this premium level of fit, finish and overall quality. And, given its big 14 inch display, the HP Pavilion is surprisingly light and totable.

The HP Pavilion is a really nice computer to use, and seems to have been designed with artists in mind. It has a beautiful display, rich, bright and contrasty, a great feel to the screen’s surface and extremely precise and controllable pen interaction, and a solid, workhorse feel which is (again) surprising from a 2-in-1 laptop with such a beautiful and subtle design. The Pavilion does not include a pen, which you will need, and the HP Digital Pen is the best available for the Pavilion.

With enough memory and processing power for any digital art software and any kind of work, a huge solid state hard drive and a beautiful 14 inch display, this is a truly functional and high level artist’s studio in a beautiful, premium feeling portable package, and one that feels like it will serve you well for many years. The HP Pavilion 15.6 inch convertible laptop computer is my choice for best mid-range 2-in-1 laptop for an artist, and is highly recommended.

Microsoft is the only company to be featured twice on my list of best laptop computers for drawing, and it is easy to see why if you’ve used either of these brilliant 2-in-1s. The Microsoft Surface 3 is clearly the best detachable laptop on the market today, and this Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is, in my book, the best value computer for artists on the market today.

With all of the brilliant design and user experience that Surface computers are known for, and with the same incredible fit and finish and premium feel, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 comes in at around 500 dollars – a quarter of the price of their flagship, and still a great performing unit and a powerful and wonderful artist’s tool.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 beautiful, high resolution screen not only looks stunning, it is optimized for stylus use, making even the most precise and detailed work possible and allowing all work to flow smoothly and naturally. And the powerful Pentium Gold processor makes sure that flow is not interrupted with lags, processing delays or other interruptions. The best artist tools simply get out of the way of the artist, and the Microsoft Surface Pro 7, even at its relatively low price, is a flawless machine in this respect, and the equal of many 2-in-1s that are far more expensive.

Please note that the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 base price is just for the tablet itself, and to make it into a complete detachable 2-in-1 mobile artist studio you will need to also purchase the Microsoft Type Cover and the Microsoft Surface Pen – you can find less expensive options, but once you try the genuine Microsoft products you probably wouldn’t even consider any others.

A great choice for a somewhat budget-conscious artist who wants a reliable and extremely usable 2-in-1 laptop for digital art and everything else, and a gadget with an undeniably high coolness factor, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is an amazing value and an amazing computer, and receives my highest recommendation.

A nice, small convertible laptop, the Acer Spin 11 Chromebook is an amazing machine for the money – it is, for its low price, somewhat of a premium machine, with great material quality and look and feel, a fast processor and an absolutely brilliant screen. It is possible to find slightly better specifications for the money, but not to find a computer offering a better creative experience, or one that feels so solid and durable and inspires so much carefree confidence when you throw it into your knapsack.

The Acer Spin 11 is a remarkably usable and smartly designed machine which offers a transparent and intuitive interface, and it’s easy to get into a real flow with the Spin 11. The pen-to-screen interaction is great – predictable and controllable and with nice flow, and it includes the fantastic Wacom digital pen.

The HD screen offers really good brightness, contrast and colors, is plenty large enough for most people and yet still keeps the Spin 11 small and light. All of the programs work flawlessly, without interruptions or delays, and never once will you be jarred out of your creative space or distracted with performance problems.

Chromebooks are getting better and better, and now even run almost all of the Android apps for even higher levels of utility, but they have always been known as great values and great, inexpensive computers. The Acer Spin 11 is an amazing example of this, one of the best budget laptops of any type for drawing, and the best mid-priced 2-in-1 Chromebook computer for artists in 2021.

The Lenovo Duet 2-in-1 convertible Chromebook perfectly demonstrates what all the fuss is about when it comes to Chromebooks – a whole lot of computer for a very low price.

The 10.1 inch display has wonderful high definition graphics that look great and display colors accurately and with excellent contrast and brightness, making drawing and painting a real joy. The surface of the screen is nicely finished and works very well with a pen, with good feedback and control, a natural feel and real flow. The Duet doesn’t come with a pen, but it is fully USI compatible, and I would recommend the Penoval USI Stylus, which has great control and feels great in the hand as well.

Chromebook specifications are not really directly comparable to the numbers for Windows machines. As they are cloud-based systems they don’t have nearly as much on-board storage, their RAM memory is generally lower and their processors less powerful, being optimized to work perfectly with Chrome OS and Android software. And indeed, the Lenovo Flex 3 runs fast and reliably, starts and saves quickly, and I never had any issues with delays or lags when I was working – I had, in fact, a really nice and very focused creative experience with the Flex 3, which allowed me to get lost in my work without distractions, and this is, to me, about the most important thing in any artist’s tool.

Solid feeling, nicely designed, with a beautiful screen and a great stylus interaction, light and easy to take with, the Lenovo Duet is an ideal budget Chromebook for any artist, designer or art student. If you can’t afford more, don’t feel like you are going to have to compromise – the Lenovo Duet 2-in-1 convertible Chromebook will do everything you need, and is an absolute delight to use.

Final Thoughts: Is a 2 in 1 a Good Choice for a Drawing Tablet?

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If you are wondering if a 2-in-1 is good laptop for artists, either a Windows based machine or a Chromebook, I would say yes, it can really make sense for lots of different artists.

In fact, as I mentioned earlier, in my buyer’s guide for best laptops for drawing I didn’t even include any of the nice normal laptops with touch screens. Many of these have great touch control and stunning displays, but can be quite awkward for drawing, painting and illustration work, and even worse for very precise and detailed work.

A convertible or detachable 2-in-1 laptop, though, offers a real tablet-like experience, with nothing in your way or distracting you, and the best of them are truly superb creative tools as well as excellent computers in every other way. I would go as far as to say that if you are buying any new Windows laptop or Chromebook – even if you don’t have plans to use it for artwork – you should strongly consider getting a 2-in-1 anyway. That way, should the inspiration hit you, you can simply move the keyboard out of the way and get to creating – the best of both worlds!

Thanks so much for reading my latest article – The Best Laptops for Drawing in 2021: A Detailed Buyer’s Guide for 2-1 Artist’s Laptops – and I encourage you to visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for other buyer’s guides, online courses, articles and lots of other resources.

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