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iPad vs Wacom, which is better? This is a highly sought after comparison amongst digital artists because illustrating, drawing and painting on the iPad Pro allows for extreme portability.
Compared to the improved iPad, the Wacom Cintiq Pro 16, 24 and 36 models allow for a much larger display and workspace for artists..
Wacom on the other hand has a higher price point and a larger display size, but unlike the iPad it needs to be connected to a laptop/PC.
There are many core differences between the two that should be identified if your goal is to find the best fit for your digital art projects.
In this comparison article you’ll learn which is better: the iPad or Wacom. We’ll be going over the Wacom Cintiq (built-in screen), Intuos (no screen), Mobile studio Pro and the iPad Pro & iPad Air models for digital artists
Wacom tablet vs iPad Pro
Apple has significantly improved the iPad for Artists, especially with the addition of Procreate and improved adobe illustrator & photoshop compatibility. Wacom and iPad compete very closely regarding precision & ability to create pro-level artwork…
iPad vs Wacom Tablets for Drawing
Recently, the iPad has been improved significantly regarding performance & precision for drawing, the best choice between the Wacom Cintiq & intuos vs iPad Pro & Air comes down to portability, pressure sensitivity, application compatibility, display size and preferred features.
iPad Pro vs Wacom Cintiq
When comparing the iPad Pro/Air to Wacom Cintiq models, it’s important to understand that while Wacom is a leader in the drawing tablet space, so is Apple now. This is because Apple has significantly improved the iPad with Procreate and third party app compatibility. (See: Which iPad is best for Procreate)
The Wacom and iPad compete very closely regarding drawing precision, accuracy, and ability to create pro-level Art. However, this is only true when you are using the Apple Pencil for iPad as the stylus felt more smooth & intuitive when I used it compared to the Wacom.
Keep in mind, there is a Wacom stylus for iPad called the Wacom Bamboo. It is an alternative to the Apple Pencil and is made by Wacom, not Apple.
However, If you’re going to use the iPad Air or Pro for drawing, it is important to know that the Apple Pencil performed significantly more smooth in most areas when we tested both stylus’ side-by-side.
Controls & navigation
The iPad Pro + Apple Pencil has a feature called “gestures” which are similar to when you use two fingers on a laptop to swipe different commands. You can do this when drawing on the iPad Pro with the Pencil, allowing for instant zoom, rotate, swap brushes and much more. I preferred this over the Wacom’s touchbar, which works just as well, but it’s less intuitive and slightly slower to activate commands.
Unfortunately, the iPad’s 12.9 inch display size can’t compete with the larger Wacom Cintiq and Intuos. Wacom gives you a choice 22, 24 and 32 inch screen sizes whereas the iPad Pro’s largest model is 12.9” and no larger. There are numerous standalone drawing tablets you can use that don’t need a computer.
In the iPad’s defense,13 inches is almost the perfect size for digital art since it’s portable and still large enough for Pro level art projects. The iPad can also be mirrored to a larger display using the SideCar App on MacBook.
Related: Best Macbook Drawing tablets
The Wacom Cintiq Pro also allows for 4K screen resolution, allowing you to draw 4k directly on the display surface. So if you’re a top-tier digital artist looking to get hired in a studio and use software for advanced professional animation or cartooning (requiring a big screen), then Wacom Cintiq may be for you.
It’s also important to note that Wireless drawing tablets do exist, but they’re a bit rare and typically do not have a display built in.
Apple has given the iPad Pro & Air much more compatibility with Adobe Photoshop and illustrator as well as many other apps. This improvement on the iPad is enough to compete closely with Wacom since in the past most would need Wacom for Adobe illustrator or photoshop since it runs the full desktop version. (If you’re looking at only using adobe, see the best drawing tablets for photoshop & illustrator)
iPad has adjusted successfully to many new apps and can now compete with Wacom. If you’re choosing to run apps like Krita, Corel Painter, TVpaint, ToonBoom, etc. the Wacom shines for one reason: it can run both windows or Mac. If this isn’t important to you, then the iPad Pro (12.9-inch) is the clear winner when combined with the Apple Pencil.
Which is better: iPad pro or Wacom?
The iPad Pro is better in terms of technical advantages, because it has been improved and now provides a few really strong benefits over the Cintiq, Intuos and Wacom One for drawing. These iPad benefits include:
- Big improvements to iPad: It is now capable of creating top-tier level art with Procreate or Adobe software; especially when combined with the Apple Pencil stylus. Many artists prefer this stylus over the Wacom and iPad is quickly becoming the Norm.
- Gives the artist not just a drawing tablet with a screen, but a complete computer operating system to be used for movies, streaming internet, social media.
- The iPad is extremely portable compared to the Wacom; which has trouble with portability since their models with a screen require a computer or laptop to use.
- iPad can be mirrored to Macbook by using AstroPad or SideCar, allowing for a bigger display
Furthermore, the Procreate App for iPad cannot be used with Wacom tablets due to Procreate having iOS compatibility only. This means the Procreate digital Art app is exclusive to the iPad. Procreate is quickly becoming one of the best Apps for digital art, painting and sketching. (Related: See the best stylus for Procreate)
I’m not surprised since Apple has the budget and technology to create such a powerful app (compared to Wacom, which may not have these resources).
I have tested both the Wacom Cintiq 16 and iPad Pro (12.9-inch) for Drawing and the iPad and apple pencil combo gave me a true, paper-like experience. I switched from Wacom to iPad and noticed that there’s absolutely no calibration required and the responsive to pressure sensitivity is intuitive. The main difference between the Wacom Cintiq Pro and Wacom Cintiq is the 4k resolution and some extra features.
iPad Air vs Cintiq
While the iPad Pro can compete with the Wacom Cintiq Pro; the iPad Air is a different story since it is slightly less powerful and has a smaller display.
Performance: The iPad Air may slow down a bit when you are creating very large projects and also multi-tasking at the same time. The iPad Pro likely won’t. An example of this includes the artist running many different apps at once on the iPad while listening to music and switching back to Procreate and Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop.
The iPad Air is ideal for Artists only only using one app at a tim since it has a A14 bionic chip processor with 4GB RAM. The Wacom Cintiq however requires your computer and will run as fast as your Pc or laptop can handle the drawing app you’re using.
Since you can also use a laptop, we compare the pros and cons of the following devices in our post: iPad vs laptop.
Display: The Display of the iPad Air is smaller at 10.9 inches compared to the cintiq which as models that range all the way up to 22 inches for the standard and 32 inches for Cintiq Pro.
The iPad Air or Wacom Cintiq: Which is better?
The Wacom Cintiq is the clear winner specifically when comparing the iPad Air model vs Wacom Cintiq. This is because the iPad Air gives much less room since it has a 10.9 inch display compared to the Cintiq’s 16 & 22 inch models.
The iPad Air is also less powerful than its Pro model, making listening to music and switching internet tabs and different drawing apps less smooth. If you don’t perform these extra activities in excess (like I do), then the Air is a strong competitor to the Cintiq. (iPad Air specs)
The Wacom cintiq is tough to bring to a coffee shop and draw comfortably since its larger. Compare this to the iPad Air which can be used on a plane, on the couch, out to eat or in a car. This is a huge benefit and should be considered when choosing between the two.
If you don’t value the portability of the Air and don’t want to spend the extra cash on the Pro model, then the Wacom Ctiniq will work wonders when paired to your laptop or PC.
iPad vs Wacom One model comparison for Digital Art
The iPad vs the Wacom One is an easier choice to decide between since the price point varies greatly. The Wacom one doesn’t have a ‘touch screen for zooming in, so you’ll need to use a keyboard shortcut to do this, making the iPad more appealing since the two are closely comparable on many other measures such as pressure sensitivity, responsiveness, compatibility, & portability.
The choice depends heavily if you’re on a budget or not since the Wacom One doesn’t have the benefit of a massive display model like it’s Cintiq models do. (Wacom One is 13.3” inches, slightly larger than the iPad Pro)
Also see how the iPad and Wacom stack up in the 10 Best Drawing Tablets for Cricut Design Space
The iPad Air’s main disadvantage vs the Wacom One its display size, so if you’re looking to save some money the Wacom One and iPad Air are great options. Otherwise, the iPad Pro or Cintiq/intuos will be favorable regarding technical benefit for digital art.
iPad vs Wacom Intuos model comparison for Artists
The clear winner between the two is the iPad since the Wacom intuos doesn’t have a built-in screen. However if you’re on a budget and looking for a cheap, affordable option, then the Wacom Intuos works well.
Wacom intuos vs iPad, Pros & cons
The iPad Pro/Air are considered ‘stand-alone’ devices; meaning it doesn’t need to be connected to a laptop or PC to create art digitally.
The Wacom Intuos has 4096 pressure levels and the Apple pencil is known to rival this, though Apple won’t reveal its exact levels. The Apple Pencil does have many claims of it being subjectively better than the Wacom regarding accuracy by many digital professionals.
iPad Pro vs Wacom Mobile Studio Pro
Mobile studio Pro is different from other Wacom tablets and is extremely similar to iPad Pro since it has a built-in operating system (windows), making it is a standalone product. This is fairly rare since most pen tablets require a laptop or PC.
Think of the Wacom mobile Studio Pro as a larger iPad as it has 13 inch and 16 inch options. The difference is it runs on windows, which allows for a limitless number of apps and software compared the a tablet like the iPad. iPad has improved greatly with apps, making it appealing at a significantly lower price point compared to the mobile studio Pro.
Similar guide: How to Turn your iPad into a Laptop
The Mobile Studio Pro from Wacom allows you to have a Wacom experience on the couch, car, desk and elsewhere since its more portable than its other options. However, the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro being at such a high price point compared to the iPad Pro and Apple pencil combination makes it less favorable for many artists.
Wacom vs iPad for teaching
The Wacom and iPad both have their advantages and disadvantages for teaching. The iPad is a more mobile device and it works very conveniently with the apple Pencil, especially because the Apple pencil was designed to be used intuitively.
The iPad is simply quick, fast and convenient, which is what teachers need in the classroom. The iPad also has a long battery life per charge as well as life expectancy long term.
The downside is that the iPad is limited to iOS only and the apple pencil is a limited choice, not leaving room for other stylus. However, we did test some are alternative devices as you can see in the Best Stylus for iPad Air (Drawing, Writing, Notes)
The Wacom is very unique and have its benefits which range from being able to run on both Mac OS and Windows, all the way to having a design and workflow that pro level artists can use.
I found the Wacom to be a bit too expensive because you’ll also have to hook it up to a laptop or another device to make it work. Most Wacom drawing tablets are not standalone devices. Most teachers I’ve spoke to prefer an iPad for teaching rather than a Wacom One or Wacom Cintiq, because the Wacom tablet in general requires a very advanced setup and can take a while to configure.
In the past iPad was restricted, but now iPad can run illustrator, photoshop, Procreate (and more) with similar fiel resolutions as Wacom. Additionally iPad can also be mirrored to your Macbook with AstroPad or SideCar Apps to act like a Wacom tablet.
While Wacom has a touch bar for navigating controls, the iPad has an apple pencil with gestures, which many professionals claim is actually more intuitive. The Apple iPad also has Procreate, which is an app not compatible with Wacom tablets.
When choosing between the iPad and Wacom, it’s most important to keep pressure sensitive, portability, and display size in mind to find the proper fit for an artist creating digital paintings, drawings and sketches on the pro level. While the Appel iPad has a strong price point, so do the Wacom Cintiq Pro’s, which is the model Wacom pulls ahead vs the iPad in terms of resolution.
Wacom’s version of this is the Mobile studio Pro, which is at a higher price point and runs windows compared to iPads iOS. The Wacom Cintiq Pro particularly excels in top tier-level pro-artwork due to its higher price point.
Also see: Best Paper like screen Protector (for iPads)
In most cases, the better drawing tablet between Wacom vs iPad is the iPad; particularly when choosing portability as a requirement. They measure roughly the same in other aspects such as perceived pressure sensitivity. iPad Pro is also a stand-alone device, compare this to the Wacom needs a pc or laptop to connect to.