Having one of the best tablets with a stylus pen puts all sorts of possibilities at your fingertips. For digital drawing, photo editing, retouching, animating, video editing and a whole lot more besides, tablets with a stylus pen are the perfect tool – and best of all, it doesn't have to cost a huge chunk of change. There are different models available for all budgets.
Different types of tablet with a stylus pen are available and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Essentially though, you're going to be choosing between a tablet computer, a pen display and a graphics tablet. Tablet computers are the category that includes iPads and Android tablets – these are not only great for relaxing, browsing and gaming, but recent models have enough computing power to handle intensive work tasks, with styluses capable of matching the best dedicated drawing tablets.
Pen displays are dedicated drawing tablets with their own screens. These are the tools you'll generally find professional artists using, made by the likes of Wacom and Huion. Graphics tablets offer the same drawing functionality as pen displays, but without the screen, so they need to be hooked up to an external monitor to allow you to see what you're drawing.
We've included tablets and styluses for all skill levels and budgets in this guide, so whatever your needs, there should be a tablet and stylus combination here that's right for you. 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
First up, we're going to recommend what is quite simply the best tablet with stylus you can buy right now. The price tag on this tablet means it won't be for everyone, but if you can afford it and you need its immense computing power, the iPad Pro 12.9-inch (M1, 2021) is the best you can get.
A tablet and stylus combination is two halves, of course, so let's deal with the tablet first. The iPad Pro 12.9-inch (M1, 2021) uses Apple's newly developed M1 processing chip that's inherited from the powerful Macbook computers, allowing to handle even processing-intensive tasks like editing 4K video or working with 3D animation. The display is also hugely impressive – a backlit XDR mini-LED type display with excellent brightness and a top-quality viewing experience from all angles. Its colour accuracy is terrific, making it perfect for digital artistry and photo retouching.
Now let's look at the stylus. This tablet is compatible with the Apple Pencil 2, the company's latest stylus, and the first thing to note is that it doesn't come bundled in, so you do need to add an extra £99/$99 onto the already eye-watering price of the tablet. That's obviously not ideal, but at the same time, it is an exceptional stylus, with pin-sharp pressure sensitivity and a comfortable feel in the hand.
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.
The Xencelabs Medium Pen Tablet is a relatively new tablet on the block, but has seriously impressed the digital art and design communities with its high-quality, compact design. It's easy to configure and get working the way you want it to thanks to the included Quick Key Remote, and the tablet strikes a good balance between performance, portability and price.
One major plus point for the Xencelabs tablet is that its stylus comes bundled in the box, rather than having to be purchased separately as it is with products from Apple. The pen has a good weight to it, making it comfortable to use in the hand, and with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity you can fine-tune the thickness of your lines with an absolutely granular level of precision. It also has a 60-degree tilt functionality, and customisable buttons that you can assign to your preferred functions.
Portable enough to slip into a bag (it's about the size of a 13-inch Macbook), the Xencelabs Medium Pen Tablet is great for on-the-go creatives an artists. Bear in mind that it doesn't have its own screen, so you'll need to plug it in to a monitor or smart device to see what you're drawing.
See our full Xencelabs Medium Pen Tablet review for more details.
Wacom is the market leader in tablets for digital artists, and its Cintiq range of tablets are among the best-regarded for premium quality, as well as being more affordable than Wacom tablets have been in the past. The Cintiq 22 is so-named for its 22-inch display, which gives you plenty of surface area to work on, and the anti-glare glass surface has a good rough texture that gives your pen the right level of "bite". Drawing on a Wacom Cintiq basically feels like the real thing.
It comes with a Pro Pen 2 stylus, a battery-free stylus that gives you 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity and provides a pleasingly hefty feel in the hand. The lack of built-in shortcut keys on the tablet may be an annoyance for some users, as these can be hugely helpful for streamlining your workflow. You can pick up the Wacom ExpressKey remote to give yourself a few more buttons to work with, but be aware that this will cost extra.
See more in our Wacom Cintiq 22 review.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.