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.
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And one of the questions I get a lot is about standalone tablets – specifically the two that are probably the main choices of professionals and serious fine artists: the Wacom MobileStudio Pro and the Apple iPad Pro.
The main questions I hear are along the lines of:
- Which One is Better – Apple iPad Pro vs Wacom Mobile Studio Pro?
- Is the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro really better than the Apple iPad Pro?
- Is the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro Worth the Money?
- Which Standalone Drawing Tablet would you Recommend – Apple iPad Pro vs Wacom Mobile Studio Pro?
and variations on those themes. So it seemed time to have a face-off between these two heavyweights, and may the better tablet win!
Apple iPad Pro vs Wacom MobileStudio Pro Comparison
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:
- Apple iPad Pro with a 12.9 Inch Screen and a 512 GB SSD (Solid State Drive) for Storage
- Wacom MobileStudio Pro with a 13.3 Inch Screen and a 512 GB SSD
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.
What is Included with Apple iPad Pro and Wacom MobileStudio Pro Packages?
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.
Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13” – What’s in the Box?
- The Tablet itself
- The Pro Pen 2 with Accessory Color Rings
- 2 Standard Nibs and 1 Felt Nib
- Pro Pen 2 Case
- Cleaning Cloth
- Wacom 3 Position Stand
Apple iPad Pro 12.9” What’s in the Box?
- The Tablet itself
- USB Power Adaptor
- USB Charging Cable
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!
So, for all that Extra Money, is the Wacom MobileStudio Pro Better than the Apple iPad Pro?
When 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:
- Which Tablet has a Better Display – the Wacom StudioPro or the Apple iPad Pro?
- Which Tablet has a Better Pen-to-Glass Experience – the Wacom StudioPro or the Apple iPad Pro?
- Which Tablet has Better Performance – the Wacom StudioPro or the Apple iPad Pro?
- Which Tablet has a Better Overall Feeling – the Wacom StudioPro or the Apple iPad Pro?
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:
What is the Best Standalone Artist’s Tablet Overall in 2021?
How very exciting!
Which Tablet has Better Display – Wacom Studio Pro or Apple iPad Pro?
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.
Which Tablet has Better Color Reproduction – Apple iPad Pro or Wacom MobileStudio Pro?
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.
Which Tablet has Better Resolution – Apple iPad Pro or Wacom MobileStudio Pro?
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.
Which Tablet has Better Pen-to-Glass Experience – Wacom Studio Pro or Apple iPad Pro?
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 Apple 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 Apple Pencil 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?
Which Tablet has Better Performance – Wacom Studio Pro or Apple iPad Pro?
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″|
|Apple iPad Pro with a 12.9 Inch Screen and a 512 GB SSD ||Wacom MobileStudio Pro with a 13.3 Inch Screen and a 512 GB SSD|
|Price||Check Price||Check Price|
|CPU||A12Z Bionic Chip||Intel Core i7|
|Graphics Processor||Integrated Intel Iris Plus||A12X Bionic Chip|
|Screen Type||Liquid Retina||LED|
|Resolution||2732 by 2048px||2560 x 1440px|
|RGB Color Coverage||Unspecified||82%|
|Pen Sensitivity||Unspecified||8192 Levels|
|Screen to Pen Feeling||⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️||⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️◐|
|Battery Life||10 hours||6 hours|
|Dimensions||11 x 8.5 x .25 Inches||14.4 x 6.5 x .7 Inches|
|Weight||1.41 pounds||10 pounds|
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.
Which Tablet has Better Overall Feeling – Wacom Studio Pro or Apple iPad Pro?
In our head to head comparison of the 2021 Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 and the 2021 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.
Final Thoughts: Should You Buy an Apple iPad Pro or a Wacom MobileStudio Pro?
Before announcing a winner, I should mention some other benefits of each machine:
Additional Benefits of the Wacom MobileStudio Pro:
- The Wacom MobileStudio Pro comes with excellent 3D software and a highly advanced 3D scanning camera
- The Wacom (or more specifically Windows 10) has more professional art, animation, design and photography software (though this is always changing, as more and more programs become available for Apple iOS)
- The Wacom is more upgradeable, with easy access to the RAM and SSD ports
- The shortcut keys (I know I’ve already mentioned them, but they really are brilliant!)
Additional Benefits of the Apple iPad Pro:
- The Apple iPad Pro is much lighter and more portable, and has much better battery life (and yes, I’ve already mentioned this one as well, but it is super-important!)
- The Apple, and many “serious” apple apps, are (arguably, at least) easier to us
- The iPad offers a better overall experience as a personal computer and even a phone
- The iPad has a better camera, speakers and microphone for personal use
In the 2021 Battle Royale to Determine which is the Better Standalone 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 2021 – and please check my blog – Art Side of Life – for more buyer’s guides, articles, online courses and many other resources – the perfect site for any artist!