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The best tablets with a stylus pen for drawing and note-taking in 2021

Included in this guide:

Best tablets with a stylus
(Image credit: Ketut Subiyanto via Unsplash)

The best tablets with a stylus pens are great not only for digital artists, but also photo editors, retouchers, illustrators and doodlers. As stylus technology continues to get better and better, drawing on an electronic surface really is like drawing on the real thing, with these clever devices registering the tiniest change in pressure and angle.

It's also a great time to be buying. Black Friday has come earlier than ever, with fantastic deals on tablets springing up everywhere. If you've always thought you'd like to try out a tablet with a stylus, or have been putting off upgrading, then now is the time to buy! Check out our dedicated page on Black Friday drawing tablet deals, where we're continually scouring the online shelves for the best bargains. 

Of course, before you start bargain-hunting, you need to figure out which is the right tablet/stylus combination for you, and that depends on your needs and your budget. For instance, do you need a tablet with its own display, or are you happy to plug it into a monitor or other device? If so, then a cheap graphics tablet will fit the bill. 

However, if you're looking for a specialised professional tool, of the kind used by pro designers and artists, then it makes sense to spend a bit more on something by the market leaders, Wacom. But don't think too specialised – tablet computers like iPads have come a long way and now offer serious competition with the drawing tablet market leaders. 

If you're new to all this and a bit overwhelmed then don't worry – you can jump right to our section on what to look for when buying a tablet with a stylus, where we run through what you need to know about different tablet types.

Our selection of tablets with a stylus here covers the gamut in terms of price and functionality. Bear in mind that while all of the tablets on this list are compatible with a high-quality stylus, not all of them come with it bundled in the box, so you may have to factor that in when calculating which ones fit your price range.

Still want more choice? We also have a guide to the best drawing tablets overall, and a guide to the best tablets for photo and video editing if that's more your thing.

The best tablets with a stylus pen available now

Best Apple deals: iPad Pro 12.9in 2021CB

(Image credit: Apple)

The iPad Pro 12.9 2021 edition is a best-in-class tablet

Specifications
Type: Tablet computer
Active drawing area: 11 x 8.4in (approx.)
Resolution: 2732 x 2048
Pen pressure sensitivity: : Not officially specified (but impressive)
Connections: USB-C
Reasons to buy
+Top-of-the-range performance+Backlit display
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive-... and Pencil costs more

If you've got the budget and you need the best, this is it. Inheriting Apple's in-house M1 processing chip from its Macbooks, the iPad Pro 12.9-inch (M1, 2021) is an absolutely superb tablet for drawing, photo editing, illustration and really anything else you can think of involving a stylus.

Said stylus is Apple's Pencil 2, the same model we've seen used with previous iPads. While it doesn't come bundled in, so requires you to add another £99/$99 or so onto the already steep asking price, it is really quite excellent. Like many Apple products, it just feels great to use, sleek and ergonomic, and it's got the tech to back it up. Apple hasn't been specific on the exact pressure sensitivity of the Pencil/iPad combo, but it's clearly very good. 

Display-wise, this iPad continues to deliver the goods. Its backlit XDR display is a mini-LED type, giving you a sublime viewing experience in pretty much all lighting conditions, from all angles. Colour accuracy, brightness, contrast – in all categories, it absolutely excels. 

We've mentioned this already, but the only real downside of the M1 iPad is the price, and the fact that if you don't absolutely need all this cutting-edge tech, it's probably not worth paying the asking price for it. If you're confident you need the best, this is it – if not, there are plenty of budget options throughout the rest of this list.

Read our iPad Pro 12.9-inch M1 2021 review where we get into more detail on this incredible tablet and what it's capable of. 

best tablet with a stylus pen: XencelabsCB endorsed

(Image credit: Xencelabs)

02. Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium Bundle

A real challenger to Wacom with expert design and competitive pricing

Specifications
Type: Graphics tablet
Active drawing area: 10.33 x 5.8in
Resolution: 5080 lpi
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Connections: USB
Reasons to buy
+Wireless+Great build quality+Fantastic drawing experience
Reasons to avoid
-Requires external display

The Xencelabs Medium Pen Tablet Bundle has added some serious competition for Wacom. The brand might be new to the scene, but this tablet is as user-friendly, and artist-friendly, as they come – and available at a very reasonable price. 

About the size of a 13-inch Macbook, with a thickness of just 8mm, the Xencelabs Medium Pen Tablet is a good size for a majority of users, striking an effective balance between portability and drawing area. While it doesn't have much in the way of shortcut buttons, the included Quick Key Remote provides an effective means of flicking between tools and settings. You can configure the buttons into presets based on different jobs, so flicking it between illustration mode, colouring mode, editing mode etc, depending on the task you're performing. 

Stylus-wise, the Xencelabs tablet earns immediate points for the fact that its pen is included in the box and doesn't need to be purchased separately, à la Apple. You even get two options in the box: the slim and the medium, which is a lovely touch. The pressure sensitivity is high, the 60-degree tilt function is handy, and the various customisable buttons allow you to make it your own. 

All this adds up to a solid, reliable pen tablet for illustrators, digital painters and photographers – easily portable, wireless and almost flawless in performance. The pens also have a nice weight, similar to that of an old fountain pen, and one comes included with the tablet. 

See our full Xencelabs Medium Pen Tablet review for more details.

best tablets with a stylus penCB endorsed

(Image credit: Wacom)

03. Wacom Cintiq 22

The most affordable Wacom drawing tablet of its size – ever!

Specifications
Type: Pen display
Active drawing area: 19.5 x 11.5in
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Connections: HDMI, USB 2.0
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic price+Satisfying drawing experience 
Reasons to avoid
-Lower resolution -No built-in shortcut keys 

There had to be a Wacom here of course. The company makes some of the finest drawing tablets on the market, and is deservedly one the biggest names in digital art. The Wacom Cintiq 22 is one of the most affordable, high-quality drawing tablets of its class. The physically large drawing area makes it comfortable and intuitive to draw on, while the anti-glare glass surface has been laminated to create a slight texture that gives some nice bite to your stylus movement.

Its resolution isn’t as high as the previous Cintiq 22HD, so the picture is a little softer, but the drawing experience is fantastic. The tablet comes with the Pro Pen 2 stylus, a fantastic tablet pen that gives you 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity to work with. It doesn’t need a battery, taking power from the electromagnetic properties of the screen, and its comfortable heft makes it satisfying to draw with. The Cintiq 22 may not be as affordable as some of its rivals, but for a Wacom tablet it’s incredibly well priced. See more in our Wacom Cintiq 22 review.

Best tablets with a styluscb badge

(Image credit: XP-Pen)

04. XP-Pen Deco Pro

The best budget tablet with a stylus

Specifications
Type: Graphics tablet
Active drawing area: 11 x 6in
Resolution: 5080 LPI
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Connections: USB-C
Reasons to buy
+Amazingly affordable+Sleek, stylish design
Reasons to avoid
-Some software jank-'Small' version is too small

When discussing the "best" drawing tablets with a stylus, it's easy to get carried away talking about highly sophisticated models that cost thousands. It's important to recognise that different users have different budgets, and not everyone can spend that much on a tablet. If you're working to a tighter budget, then we definitely recommend the XP-Pen Deco Pro. It comes in two flavours, Small and Medium, and to be honest, the price difference is minor enough that it's worth spending more to get the medium unless you really can't afford it. You'll be thankful for the extra drawing space.

The Deco Pro provides a comprehensively capable drawing experience, with a sophisticated stylus that boasts up to 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. Which is good enough for anyone! Bear in mind you'll need to hook a display or other device to the Deco Pro to see the fruits of your labour; it's all easy enough to set up via the USB-C connection. The software that comes with it can be a bit of a chore to install, but once you're up and running, you'll be enjoying something pretty damn close to a premium drawing tablet experience, at a much lower price than you'd pay for one of the big boys from Wacom or Apple.

Best drawing tablets with a stylus

(Image credit: Samsung)

05. Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus

The best Android tablet with a stylus pen

Specifications
Type: Tablet computer
Active drawing area: 11 x 7 in (approx.)
Resolution: 2800 x 1752 pixels
Pen pressure sensitivity: 4,096 levels (S Pen)
Connections: USB-C
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous display+Suite of Android apps
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-S Pen can be temperamental

The latest in Samsung's impressive Galaxy Tab S range, the S7 Plus is the biggest and best of Android tablets right now. With huge battery life, an enormous, high-fidelity screen and powerful processing engines, it's more than equipped for everything artists need. Plus, the S Pen comes as standard in the box, so no hidden extra costs for artists!

This is a good thing as, frankly, the S7 Plus is not cheap. You get a lot of functionality for your money, but it's a lot of money by anyone's standards, and it is an inescapable fact that the overall experience is not quite as smooth as using the iPad OS. The power you get is undeniable though, and that gorgeous display with its better-than-ever refresh rate is a treat to draw on.

Larger than ever, but also razor thin, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus is the best Android tablet with a stylus for drawing, and one of the best tablets full stop. If it's just that bit too dear for you, scroll further down the list and have a look at its smaller sibling, the Tab S7...

Best tablets with a stylus: XP-PEN Artist Pro 16

(Image credit: XP-Pen)

XP-Pen brings near-professional quality to the mid-range of tablets

Specifications
Type: Pen display
Active drawing area: 13.42 x 7.55 in
Resolution: 1920 x 1080 pixels
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Connections: USB-C, HDMI
Reasons to buy
+Excellent upgraded stylus+Very good colour accuracy
Reasons to avoid
-No stand included-Limited calibration options

Though this tablet gets XP-Pen's "Pro" designation, it's priced more around the mid-range, comparable to the previous Innovator 16, which was by all accounts a very good drawing tablet. So what's new here? Chiefly it's the stylus technology, which has been upgraded with XP-Pen's "X3 smartchip". What this means in real terms is that the stylus is not only more accurate and responsive, but also sleeker and thinner, to the point where it's comparable to an Apple Pencil. You may not notice much difference compared to previous XP-Pen styluses in terms of how well the stylus works, but you absolutely will notice a difference in terms of how easy comfortable it is to use for long periods. 

The tablet itself is also excellent, delivering a 99% Adobe RGB colour gamut on a Full HD display. Some users might have preferred the option to be able to fiddled with colour temperature – you can only really control the brightness – but it's a small thing. It's also worth mentioning that a setup with the XP-Pen Artist Pro 16 does tend to look quite messy, with the bulky 3-way cable sticking out the back in an ungainly fashion. Still, this is all cosmetics – the tablet works fantastically for drawing, delivering an experience comparable to pro tablets for a fraction of the price. 

Read more in our full XP-Pen Artist Pro 16 review

Best tablets with a stylus: Huion Kamvas Pro 24

(Image credit: Huion)

A pro-grade tablet at a price designed to undercut Wacom

Specifications
Type: Pen display
Active drawing area: 20.74 x 11.66in
Resolution: 2560 x 1440 (16:9) QHD
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Connections: HDMI, USB-C, DisplayPort
Reasons to buy
+Superb responsiveness+Excellent stylus with minimal parallax
Reasons to avoid
-Great value for pro tablet-No programmable buttons (keydial available)

One of the toughest barriers to get over for digital artists embarking upon a professional career is the fact that high-end pro tablets can be so darn expensive. Enter Huion, with its Kamvas 24 Pro that is specifically designed to offer a pro experience at a cheaper price. And it achieves that really well – the drawing experience on this 28.3-inch tablet is absolutely first-rate, with minimal parallax and excellent tilt sensitivity from the Huion PW517 pen.

This tablet is part of a three-model series – there’s also the slightly more expensive Huion Kamvas 24 Plus, which covers 140% sRGB instead of 120% on the Pro, and the cheaper Kamvas 24, which has a matte film surface rather than the etched glass of its pricier brothers. We’ve gone for the middle child for this guide, but depending on your budget you may want to consider the other two options. 

Our full review of the Huion Kamvas 24 series goes into more detail.

Best tablets with a stylus: Surface Pro 7

(Image credit: Microsoft)

08. Microsoft Surface Pro 7

A spec bump with a punch

Specifications
Type: Tablet computer
Active drawing area: 11 x 7.5 in (approx.)
Resolution: 2736 x 1,824
Pen pressure sensitivity: 4,096 levels (Surface pen)
Connections: USB-C, USB-A, Surface Connect
Reasons to buy
+Faster than ever processing speeds +New and improved mics+USB-C port 
Reasons to avoid
-Battery not as good as Pro 6-Design remains the same 

The latest Surface Pro model, Surface Pro 7, is a small update over previous models, but it remains our top choice for a Windows tablet. Unlike Android or iOS devices, you’re getting a tablet that will run full-fat desktop software – so think Creative Cloud  apps such as Photoshop CC without any compromise on features or performance – and use it with Microsoft’s excellent Surface Pen stylus.

In fact the Surface Pro 7 has an Intel quad-core chip, of the same variety that you might find in a laptop. So you can expect it to sail swiftly through tricky filters and have no problem loading complex designs.

And being a Windows PC at its core, it will have no problem connecting to any peripheral you could think of. We'd just like to see a bit more innovation in the next Surface Pro. See our Surface Pro 7 review for more information.

Best drawing tablets with a stylus

(Image credit: Samsung)

09. Samsung Galaxy Tab S7

A more affordable version of the S7 Plus, with impressive battery life

Specifications
Type: Tablet computer
Active drawing area: 9.5 x 6 in (approx.)
Resolution: 1600 x 2560 pixels
Pen pressure sensitivity: 4,096 levels (S-Pen)
Connections: USB-C
Reasons to buy
+Brilliant battery life+Display is excellent
Reasons to avoid
-Sometimes laggy-Not expensive, but not cheap

If you like the look of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus but worry it seems a little big and bulky, then the Galaxy Tab S7 might be right up your street. It's still got a gorgeous display and a powerful Snapdragon processor, but is a little smaller and about 80g lighter, making it great for slipping into a bag and travelling with for drawing on the go.

It still comes with the S Pen included, so you get your stylus in the box and don't have to shell out extra. The display is smaller and lower resolution than the S7 Plus: an 11-inch LTPS IPS LCD screen with a resolution of 1600 x 2560 pixels, though you still get that impressive 120Hz refresh rate, so using and drawing on the screen is a hugely pleasant experience. The S Pen works pretty well, and having the suite of drawing apps for Android is no bad thing.

The only real downside with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 is that it kind of sits between too worlds. It's not as expensive as the S7 Plus or the latest iPad Pro, but by no stretch of the imagination is it cheap. If you're looking for a cheap tablet there are more affordable options, and if you're looking for an expensive tablet there are better options. It's a great tablet, there's no question of that – but it's in a competitive world. 

best tablet with a stylus

(Image credit: XP-Pen)

10. XP-Pen G640S

A terrific budget tablet and stylus, especially for beginners

Specifications
Type: Graphics tablet
Active drawing area: 6.5 x 4in
Resolution: 5080 LPI
Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Connections: USB-A (USB-C / Micro USB adapter included)
Reasons to buy
+Great price+Slim and portable
Reasons to avoid
-Smaller drawing area-No built-in screen

For a simple, affordable drawing solution that just works, we'd happily recommend the XP-Pen G640S. A straightforward drawing surface that can be hooked up to a computer, phone, tablet or other smart device, the G640S provides a smooth and sensitive drawing platform. The stylus/tablet combination offers up to 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, meaning you can get super-detailed and granular with your pen strokes. The tablet is also only about 9mm thick, meaning it's easy to throw in a bag and take with you wherever you're going. 

The downside of course is the lack of a built-in screen; you have to get used to drawing on one surface and seeing your creation come to life on another. This can take a bit of a co-ordination adjustment if you're not used to it. 

The six customisable ExpressKeys help with making things more intuitive, as you can map preferred settings to the keys to ensure the tablet operates how you want it to. Broad computer and software compatibility also makes it easy to slot the XP-Pen G640S into an existing workflow. Overall, while it can't compete with many other tablets here in terms of features and processing power, this is an absolutely fantastic way to get drawing on a budget.

If you choose one of the tablets above that doesn't come with a tablet pen in the box, you can either take a look at our detailed guide to the best stylus for Android devices or head below for today's best stylus deals:

The best tablets with a stylus: what to look for

When you’re shopping for the best drawing tablet with a stylus, you are shopping for two things: the tablet itself, and its stylus. The first thing to establish is what type of tablet you want to use. To are large extent this will dictate the stylus that you'll use.

How do I choose the best tablet to use with a stylus?

The answer to this can depend on preferences, use and budget. A graphics tablet is the most simple type of drawing tablet – with no display. It requires a monitor or other display in order for you to be able to see what they’re drawing. This is usually done via USB or a similar connection, though some are wireless and can relay the image via Bluetooth.

While not all artists like the idea of drawing on one surface and viewing their art on another, graphics tablets are the most affordable kind of drawing tablet. They also tend to be the lightest and most portable. A smartphone can generally be used as a display if necessary, making them good devices for drawing on the go.

Graphics tablets do not have a resolution in pixels but in LPI, or lines per inch. This value simply tells you how many digital lines are capable of fitting in one inch of the device's screen. LPI values of 5,080 are common even among cheaper graphics tablets, so this is a good baseline to work from. 

Unlike graphics tablets, pen displays have their own display – the surface you’re drawing on is the same one you’ll see your creation come to life on. Unsurprisingly, this makes for a much more intuitive experience. Equally unsurprisingly, it means that pen displays are much more expensive.

When buying a pen display, it’s worth looking at the resolution, which tends to run from Full HD all the way up to 4K. Depending on the kind of art you’re doing, you may or may not need so many pixels. Just as with graphics tablets, it’s also worth thinking about the actual surface area you’ve got to draw on, and how much you’re likely to need; a smaller surface area gives you less working room, but also makes the tablet more portable (and cheaper).

The final type of device in our list above is the tablet computer. This is just another name for the most common types of tablets you see everywhere – iPads, Samsung Galaxies, etc. The drawing functionality of these used to be severely limited, but these days, they offer some of the best drawing experiences in the business – so much so that the iPad Pro is now at #1 in our list above.

With a tablet computer, you’re paying for a device that can do much more than just provide a drawing surface, so they’re probably only worth the money if you’re actually going to use these other functions. They may or may not come bundled with the relevant stylus, so you may need to factor that in when making your budget.

How do I choose the best stylus?

To an extent, the stylus you get will be dictated by the drawing tablet you buy. Wacom tablets, for instance, come with Wacom’s class-leading Pro Pen 2, which offers 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. Unsurprisingly, when it comes to art, the more pressure sensitivity you can get the better – 8,192 is the professional standard, and 4,096 is acceptable (the Microsoft Surface Pen offers 4,096 levels). 

Many tablet/stylus combos can also detect the angle of tilt, which means you can get really granular with the thickness and shape of your lines. It's also worth looking at the parallax, which refers to the distance between the tip of the stylus and the cursor that actually appears on the screen. Ideally, you want this to be as minimal as possible.

If you choose a tablet computer, then you may have to fork out for the stylus separately. The Apple Pencil is one of the best styluses in the business, providing a superb drawing experience when paired with a high-level iPad like the iPad Pro 12.9. Unfortunately, it’s not bundled in, so you have to add an extra $99 or so to the already considerable cost of the iPad. There are cheaper options though – we’ve compiled a list in our guide to the best Apple Pencil alternatives.

Users of Android tablets have a lot of styluses to choose from, but many of them aren’t pressure sensitive and are more designed for note-taking and sketching than serious art. This is why the best Android tablets for drawing tend to be from Samsung, as there are both Samsung and third-party styluses that provide pressure sensitivity with Samsung tablets. See our guide to the best styluses for Android for more on this.

Many styluses will also have function buttons that allow you to quickly switch modes or toggle certain settings. These tend to have batteries and require recharging, while simpler styluses are generally battery-free.

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Adam Marshall

Adam is the Editor-in-Chief of Subscriptions and Services at Future. As well as covering topics as diverse as antivirus software, VPNs, TV streaming, broadband and mobile phone contracts, he has also covered computing hardware for Creative Bloq.