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Many people ask me about artist tablets, and I have written a lot about them in recent articles and buyer’s guides – see, for instance, my recent article Wacom Artist Pen Tablets and Alternatives: An In-Depth Review and Buyer’s Guide.
And one of the questions I get a lot is about stand-alone tablets – specifically the two that are probably the main choices of professionals and serious fine artists: the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro and the Apple iPad Pro.
The main questions I hear are along the lines of:
and variations on those themes. So it seemed time to have a face-off between these two heavyweights, and may the better tablet win!
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For this in-depth comparison between the Apple iPad Pro and the Wacom MobileStudio Pro to really be meaningful, we should make sure the two units are configured the same, so we will look at:
The RAM memory between the two is actually not the same – the Wacom has 16 GB RAM, while the iPad Pro has only 6 GB. This may seem like a big difference, but really the iPad is optimized for that much memory, and runs all programs and tasks quite well as configured. Still, we will see if the difference in memory becomes a factor in our section about performance – especially since the iPad Pro cannot be upgraded.
As configured, the prices are as follows (these, and all prices in this article, are retail prices, in US Dollars, but remember that the Amazon links in this article may well lead you to discounted prices):
The Wacom MobileStudio Pro does also come with a few accessories which you will need to purchase separately with the Apple iPad Pro, making the difference in price a bit smaller (though still significant).
In fact, let’s get into what exactly you’ll find in the boxes when you get your shiny new tablet in the mail.
You may notice that I cheated a bit here – the iPad’s contents looked pretty meager compared to the Wacom, so I put the USB power adaptor and USB power cable on separate lines to pad it out a bit.
But really the only main differences – which account for 4 line items in the Wacom list – are the pen and the stand. A good adjustable tablet stand can be purchased on Amazon quite inexpensively, like the excellent Kabcon Adjustable Aluminum Tablet Stand.
But the pen is also not included in the iPad Pro package, and is a little more expensive. The standard choice, and a really superb stylus for the iPad, is the 2nd Generation Apple Pencil, which is about 125 dollars.
So even if you buy a great stand and the excellent Apple Pencil, and a whole case of microfiber cleaning cloths, the iPad Pro is still some 1,100 dollars less expensive than the Wacom MobileStudio Pro!
Whenn answering the big question – which artist tablet is better: the Wacom MobileStudio Pro or the Apple iPad Pro – we should look at five basic considerations:
So, without further ado, let’s get into some serious, no-holds-barred head-to-head competition. And I guess we can say that, since the iPad Pro is the best Apple tablet available, and the MobileStudio Pro is the best Windows 10 tablet available, this is for all the marbles – the World Championship!
In other words, ultimately we are asking a much bigger question:
How very exciting!
Apple is notorious for not caring too much about specifications and numbers (kind of reminds me of myself), and while they do specifically state the resolution for the Apple iPad Pro they do not state other important specs like the display’s RGB color coverage (Apple doesn’t even say how much RAM an iPad Pro has!).
Wacom, on the other hand, while publishing full specifications for all their products, is notoriously conservative in their figures, and this same RGB coverage figure is a prime example.
Wacom claims only 82 percent RGB coverage, compared to cheaper Windows tablets which claim up to 120 percent (!), but clearly the Wacom has much better color fidelity, range and subtlety than those less expensive tablets.
And Apple doesn’t even publish a number, and their color reproduction is also as good as it gets. The color fidelity is as close to perfect as an artist will ever need, and the range and subtlety of color means that the effects of colors complementing each other, clashing, contrasting and creating focus, movement and depth, comes through with absolute power.
In fact, both screens are superb – really the best I’ve tried – for color reproduction, as well as saturation, brightness and contrast, geometry and overall liveliness. I love colors, and they are important in my work (and my life), and both the Wacom MobileStudio Pro or the Apple iPad Pro give me confidence that I’m seeing, accurately and fully, exactly what I’m doing in my artistic creation, in terms of my colors and color palette.
Here’s where we do begin to see a bit of a difference, and where we can also see one of the reasons behind a rather interesting phenomenon: Wacom tablets are the primary choice of so many professional artists and working studios, but artists, illustrators, animators, designers and photographers seem to love Apple iPads much more.
The Wacom MobileStudio Pro has an absolutely beautiful display, and the resolution is a big part of it. I never once, in all of my time working on the MobileStudio Pro, felt like I was missing detail, not seeing something clearly or wanting more clarity. Even with the most detailed work the screen was a joy to use, and perfectly supported and displayed what I was trying to do.
But when I get on an Apple iPad Pro Wacom I can see immediately that this is on a different level. There is more apparent detail, more gradation in shading, hatching and other fine details, and those fine details are simply much easier to see. I think I have been more impressed with the display of the Wacom MobileStudio Pro when using it in the past, but in a more head-to-head comparison I have to say I greatly prefer the Apple iPad.
Perspective is more obvious and effective, relationships between objects more apparent and more powerful, and the whole composition – indeed, the whole image, the whole artwork – seems to snap into place, and snap out of the frame, with an almost startling clarity.
It sounds like such a dramatic difference, and I guess it is, but I do have to say that I’m talking about the two best artist tablet displays I’ve ever seen, and the resolution on the Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13.3 inch screen is also dramatically clear and beautiful.
With either tablet I think I would be way more than satisfied, and I’m confident I could do even the most advanced and detailed work with the MobileStudio Pro and with the iPad Pro.
But, bottom line, I have to give the Apple iPad Pro 12.9 the edge in terms of display quality.
I would guess that Wacom has spent a lot of money, done tons of research and gotten lots of feedback from actual artists, illustrators, photographers and the like in designing their MobileStudio Pro’s screen and screen-to-surface experience, and the same is true for their wonderful Pro Pen 2.
And the experience is great. There is a definite feeling of precision and control here that is exemplary, and there is absolutely no lag or space between the nib and the created image – a line, a brush stroke, a bit of shading, an erasure.
The Wacom Pro Pen feels really good in the hand. It is a marvel of ergonomics, and feels natural, comfortable and solid.
Yet somehow, I never felt completely free or flowing using the Wacom. Maybe it’s just me, being used to the iPad and the Apple Pencil, but I felt like I could only hold the Wacom pen in one position because of that very same ergonomic design, which limited me in making subtle variations in angle and technique. And in a very unquantifiable way I lost some spontaneity when working pen to screen. It felt like I was in complete control technically, but it didn’t feel very artistic – if that makes sense.
With the Apple Pencil, it feels like I am able to do whatever I want. I change my grip, my holding method, my angle, my speed, my pressure and my technique without thinking about it, and can much more easily get lost in creating. The friction between pencil and screen is less than with the Wacom, and this probably does mean slightly less precision and control, but in fact I find the contact between the stylus and screen just right with the iPad Pro, and actually feel much more in control.
But again, as with the comparison of displays, we are talking about two top notch artist tablets, and the pen to screen experience with both is pretty much as good as it gets. They are both wonderful tools and both clearly designed for (and, to some extent at least, by) artists, and both can be said to support artistic creation wonderfully.
But I don’t think my preference for the iPad’s pen(cil) to screen experience is just because I am an iPad user, and therefor used to it. I would say that the very most technical work may be better done on a Wacom, but for an artist creating the Apple gives a better experience, and is more supportive of true, unrestrained creativity.
Bottom line, as far as which tablet has the best pen to screen experience between the Wacom MobileStudio Pro and the Apple iPad Pro, I have to give the edge to the Apple.
Wow, it’s 2 to 0 – do we have a run-away on our hands?
Here I will have to reiterate how my reviews and buyer’s guides, like this one – Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 versus Apple iPad Pro: And In-Depth Comparison – are different from so many others on the internet.
I don’t really care so much about specifications and numbers, and am much more focused on how a tool works, feels and supports me and my artwork.
Nonetheless, just for illustrative purposes, and to satisfy the more tech-savvy of my readers, I will include a little comparison chart here with some relevant specifications:
|Feature||Apple iPad Pro||Wacom Studio Pro 13"|
A12Z Bionic Chip
Intel Core i7
Integrated Intel Iris Plus
A12X Bionic Chip
2732 by 2048px
2560 x 1440px
RGB Color Coverage
Screen to Pen Feeling
11 x 8.5 x .25 Inches
14.4 x 6.5 x .7 Inches
Honestly, though, somewhat regardless of what the numbers say, this is one category where I have to call a draw.
I know people are always complaining about their tablets lagging, stalling or even crashing, that they are slow and even frustrating when the person is drawing, painting, or opening and saving files, but I never actually had these kinds of issues with either of these tablets.
Both the Apple iPad Pro and the Wacom MobileStudio Pro worked flawlessly, did everything I demanded, ran every program, never slowed down or ran out of memory, wrote to storage immediately, never lagged when I was using the pen and in general were wonderfully trouble-free to use.
If there is one consideration, it might be that the Wacom can run “desktop” apps natively – that is, it is essentially a normal Windows 10 computer, and a very powerful one at that, and can run every single current art, design, animation, photography or other graphics program with perfect performance.
The iPad doesn’t run all the normal Apple OS software, but only software designed for the iPad tablets. There are plenty of great, top level professional art programs for the iPad platform, and more coming every day, but still more for the desktop Apple OS platform.
Now we get into a bit of a technical explanation, which is also a great feature of both the MobileStudio Pro and the iPad Pro. They are both stand-alone tablets, yes, but they can both also act as Pen Display tablets – that is, they can be connected to a desktop, laptop or all-in-one computer, and act as a second monitor and work area, using their pens like normal on their own screens but actually displaying and interacting with the software that the PC is running.
And in this mode, using the MacBook’s Sidecar utility and connecting the iPad, I do detect a slight, and sometimes more than slight, lag in responsiveness with the iPad pen-to-screen. I don’t ever use my iPad in this way, but if you want to this may be a consideration. With the Wacom, connected to a Windows PC, there is no apparent lag, and performance is still exemplary.
Bottom line, however, as far as who has the best overall tablet performance between the Apple iPad Pro and the Wacom MobileStudio Pro, I still have to say it’s a tie.
In our head to head comparison of the 2020 Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 and the 2020 Apple iPad Pro 12.9, we’ve already compared the displays and how they look, explored the pen-to-screen experience between the Apple and the Wacom, and discussed the performance as well, all of which definitely add to this last category – Overall Feeling.
The Wacom MobileStudio Pro is a weighty beast. At just over ten pounds, I could never imagine holding it in one hand and working with the other, and would even be hesitant to carry it around with me in my rucksack.
Which is a bit of a shame, considering it is, first and foremost, a portable, standalone artist tablet.
The MobileStudio Pro is, without a doubt, a beautifully built product, and looks wonderful. Working with its stand, which isn’t great but at least works adequately, the experience is stable, solid and high quality, and everything works great – perfectly, in fact. And the customizable keys, once you get used to them, are a real treat – totally intuitive and natural and a real step- and time-saver.
The Apple iPad Pro, on the other hand, has no programmable keys, and doesn’t come with a stand. You can get a good stand, like the Kabcon Adjustable Aluminum Tablet Stand I mentioned above, and still have the same kind of stable, solid workstation experience, and if you know the programs and the iPad itself you can work with onscreen commands, scrolling, zooming and such almost as easily and quickly as the Wacom’s programmable keys allow, but not quite.
I would imagine that in a studio or office, if it were your main, or only, working digital art tool, the Wacom might feel a little more substantial, and in that work environment might, in many ways, offer a better overall experience.
But the Apple is close, and it offers a much, much better overall experience as a portable, stand-alone art tablet – also because the Apple iPad Pro has much better battery life, which is woefully short on the Wacom MobileStudio Pro.
The Apple iPad Pro is also a beautifully built product, looks beautiful and just exudes quality, feeling so solid and substantial and yet super-light and slim. Using it as a hand-held art tablet, on a bus or train, in a park, at a café or anywhere in your house or around your studio, is absolute joy. And I don’t even know it is in my Rucksack. I can’t tell you how freeing it is to have such a superb tool at hand all the time!
Bottom line, comparing the overall user experience between the Wacom MobileStudio Pro and the Apple iPad Pro, I have to give a clear edge to the Apple. And as a portable, standalone tablet, the difference is even greater and more clear.
Before announcing a winner, I should mention some other benefits of each machine:
Additional Benefits of the Wacom MobileStudio Pro:
Additional Benefits of the Apple iPad Pro:
In the 2020 Battle Royale to Determine which is the Better Stand-Alone Artist Tablet, the Winner Is…
The Apple iPad Pro!
The Wacom MobileStudio Pro and the Apple iPad Pro are, again, the two best standalone artist tablets, or Pen Computers, on the market today.
And so, if you are firmly entrenched in the Windows platform, I wouldn’t necessarily defect and buy an iPad just because it is, I believe, a better overall tablet (not to mention much less expensive). Well, actually I might, but not necessarily.
Because either way you go you will be absolutely thrilled with your new tablet, and you’ll have a tool that will serve and support you so very well in everything you want to do as an artist.
But if you’re already an Apple user, or you’re not completely decided about, or faithful to, one world or the other – Apple or Windows – I strongly recommend you purchase the new iPad Pro 12.9 inch tablet over the Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13.
You can get the best configuration Apple makes, with the largest SSD storage drive, and even deck out your new iPad with some wonderful and useful accessories (like the Apple Pencil 2, the Magic Keyboard and the Apple AirPods Pro wireless headphones), and still save hundreds and hundreds of dollars.
And, bottom line, you’ll end up with a better tablet, and a better traveling companion wherever your art, or your life, takes you!
Thanks for reading my latest article – Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 versus Apple iPad Pro: An All New In-Depth Comparison for 2020 – and please check my website – Art Side of Life – for more buyer’s guides, articles, online courses and many other resources – the perfect site for any artist!
Looking to buy an alternative to a Wacom Tablet? Check out our review of the best Wacom alternatives for artists in 2020!