Artist opinion: iPad Pro vs Wacom Cintiq – Review and Comparison

Apple iPad pro vs Wacom CintiqApple iPads are causing a major disruption in drawing tablet industry. The newly released iPad pro looks very appealing and some even consider it better than the Wacom Cintiqs. So are they really better than traditional drawing tablets and should you pick iPads over Wacom?

In this Apple iPad Pro vs Wacom Cintiq comparison, we have done a detailed side by side comparison to find out which is a better deal, and which tablet should you pick as your next drawing device.

Apple iPad Pro – “jack of all trades”

ipad proAs an artist, there are a couple of features you want in an ideal drawing tablet. They must have a great stylus, should be portable, have good battery life and most important – have good drawing applications. Apple iPad comes closest to home and has most of the above-mentioned qualities.

iPad is a very lucrative device and is capable of doing multiple tasks. This “jack of all trades” like property makes it a very appealing option and a great alternative to traditional Wacom devices.

In the last few years, Apple has been making major changes and improvements in their iPads. They are faster – more powerful than ever and come in an incredibly thin form factor. It comes with the latest generation of Apple pencil which is one of the best digitizers in the market.

PROs

  • Most accurate and reliable stylus
  • Standalone device
  • Good battery backup
  • Lightweight and Portable

CONs

  • A handful of good applications
  • Limited support for External storage
  • Lacks good file manager

Well, Apple may be an expert in certain areas – but simply not ready for all the challenges. One of the great drawbacks of iPads is there are only a handful of good drawing applications.

These limitations along with their tight ecosystem which does not even give you full access to your external storage device, make a pro artist revert to the trusty – all weather – Wacom devices.

Wacom Cintiq Pro – Made to draw

Wacom Cintiq ProWacom is the most respectable brand when it comes to drawing devices who are making tablets for decades now. Needless to say, they know their stuff well and it is clearly evident from their drawing devices.

Where iPads are all in one device which can be used for multiple tasks, Wacom Cintiqs are application specific devices made specifically for artists. Its design, features and accessories are carefully made to provide a superior drawing experience to digital artists and make their tasks easier.

Cintiqs devices are just a screen with digitizer support without any extra bells and whistles. They come in different sizes which ranges from 13 inches to 32 inches.

PROs

  • Custom made for digital artists
  • Best stylus in the industry
  • Comes with handy accessories
  • Available in varying sizes and resolution
  • Fully Customizable

CONs

  • Needs to be plugged with a computer or Cinitq pro Engine
  • No portability
  • Expensive

Apple iPad pro vs Wacom Cintiq – what to look for

iPad and Wacom Cintiq are two very different devices. How they work and the technology used in them is completely different from one another. Here is the list of all the main features – We will compare them one by one to find out which device has the better hardware-software combination and which is more practical for digital artists.

Screen size – is a bigger screen better?

iPad Pro 11 inch vs 12.9 inchesiPad Pro comes in two sizes – 11 inches and 12.9 inches. Some people like the smaller 11-inch model as it is more portable but most of the artists prefer the 12.9 inch iPad as it has a bigger drawing area.

Wacom Intuos starts with the Wacom Cintiq 13 with 13-inch screen followed by Cintiq Pros with 16, 24 as well as a 32-inch screen.

Which one to choose

Everyone likes bigger devices but bigger is not always better, as the device increases in size you start to lose portability. One of the most important things to consider is – how you are gonna use it.

If you have a permanent office or a home studio then it makes sense to go with the bigger devices. But if you constantly move around and “work on the go” than a smaller device would be a better choice.

Display quality and Resolution

ipad pro display qualityWacom device comes with a full-color gamut supported displays which are very accurate in terms of color production. They are bright and vibrant and very comfortable to look at. It comes with FullHD as well as 4K resolution.

On the other hand, iPads have a superior display than what you get with Wacom devices. Their screen looks beautiful, colors are on point and they are bright enough to be used outdoors. Along with that, iPads have a true tone display with 120 Hz refresh rate and comes in 2732 x 2048 p resolution(12.9-inch).

The true tone changes the color temperature of the screen according to their environment, some people like it but most of the artists turn this feature off – as they don’t want any inconsistency with colors. The 120HZ screen helps with making the apple pencil strokes feel smoother. iPads also have laminated screens with no parallax issues.

Battery life and Charging speed

iPad pro 2018 charging
Charging iPad pro 2018

iPads are portability focused device, so they are expected to have decent battery life. As per Apple’s official statement, it can last for up to 10 hours uses on a single charge, which is actually very impressive considering how thin they are.

It takes 1 hour and 33 minutes to charge an iPad Pro from 0% to 80% with the help of a quick charger.

Wacom Cintiq does not has a battery and needs to be connected to a power outlet. But Wacom has a device called MobileStudio Pro which is a standalone drawing tablet and has processors built inside like the iPads. In terms of battery, it lasts around 3-4 hours on a full charge which is nowhere near what you get with iPad.

Drawing surface – matte or glossy

matte surface on wadcom cintiq
Matte screen on Wacom Cintiq

Wacom Cintiq is specifically made for being used with a stylus. Drawing with a plastic pen on glass surface makes the pen slip and lose control. Wacom knows artists love a little texture on the screen. So they came with etched glass which creates slight resistance while drawing which gives more control over the pen and sounds like a paper.

Whereas iPads come with glossy screens which may not be ideal for drawing with a stylus but like many artists you could slowly get hang of it. Or you can apply a matte screen protector like “paperlike” which gives similar paper-like feel and sound as the Wacom tablets.

Matte screens may be better for drawing with a stylus, but it makes the colors on the screen appear dull. These effects are more visible with deep black colors. On the other hand, glossy screens like iPads do not disturb the colors and that is the reason some artist prefer to use them without matte films.

Apple pencil vs Wacom Pro Pen 2 – Stylus comparison

wacom pro pen 2
Wacom pro pen 2

Wacom Pro pen 2 and Apple Pencil are the two best stylus in the market and very similar to each other in terms of what they can do. In spite of all the similarities, they work on very different technologies. Apple pencil is an active stylus whereas Wacom Pro Pen is passive.

Active stylus vs passive stylus

The active stylus has a battery inside the pen whereas the batteries are absent from the passive stylus and use electromagnetic waves from the tablet to transfer energy and data.

Both technologies work extremely well and produce similar levels of performance and accuracy.

Now, as the passive stylus does not have a battery – they do not need charging. On the other hand, apple pencil needs charging but with the latest iPad pro, charging your stylus is streamlined and fast.

Pressure, Tilt and Buttons

Wacom Pro Pen 2 has 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity whereas Apple pencil does not mention any official numbers for pressure sensitivity. Both stylus comes with tilt sensitivity which works flawlessly without any glitches.

The quality of the strokes, the accuracy and the pressure variation are on point in both Pro Pen 2 and Apple pencil. Apple pencil takes a slight edge in latency and speed. So, it is clearly evident that Apple Pencil and Wacom Pro Pen are equal in stylus performance.

second generation apple pencil
second generation Apple Pencil

The latest generation of Apple pencil comes with a touch-sensitive single button on the side face, which can be changed to a different shortcut. Although you do not have the same programming options as with the Wacom stylus.

Wacom Pro Pen 2 has two physical buttons on the side along with an eraser at the back. All of which can be customized to have different functions – depending on the application. You can also change the pressure settings.

Hovering Cursor

hovering cursor
cursor visible on Cintiq (top) – no cursor on iPad (bottom)

If you have used a Wacom Cintiq or any other pen tablet – you would have noticed a cursor which appears on hovering the pen above the tablet. The cursor gives the basic idea of the shape and size of the brush. In iPads, no cursor or silhouette appears on hovering the apple pencil.

Pen – Feel and Comfort

What sets the stylus apart is how they feel in hand. Apple Pencil is very thin and looks like a real pencil in terms of shape and size. Some artists really love this low profile slender stylus but others don’t like it very much.

Wacom Pro pen ErgonomicsWacom Pro Pen 2, on the other hand, feels much more substantial. It is wider and has ergonomic curves which help with better grip and comfortable hold.

These may be small differences, but have a big effect on the overall uses of the device as a stylus is something which you will hold for hours at a time.

Supported Apps and software

iPad has got better with time and has some of the very advance drawing apps like Procreate, Clip studio paint, Affinity photo which is as good as their desktop counterpart.

But, iPads take a backseat when we talk about animation, 3D modeling and sculpting apps. Although there are few apps on iPad such as Forger which is decent enough but still looks primitive when compared to the desktop software.

This is where Wacom Cintqs outshine iPads. They support every single drawing and modeling software whether it is photoshop, Krita or Corel painter for making digital art or Full fledged 3D modeling apps such as Mays, 3ds Max or Cinema 4D.

Processing power, speed and latency

inside ipad
Inside iPad – source: iFixit

In some tablets when you draw a line the stroke appears after few milliseconds on the screen. This time delay is called Latency. Latency plays a big role in having a good drawing experience.

In the case of Wacom Cintiqs, the latency and overall fluidity of the device depends on the computer it is plugged in. If you plug in your Cintiq with a low power computer you will have latency and app freeze issues. These things completely disappear once it plugs to a high-performance computer.

Wacom has its own Computer attachment for Cintiq Pro 24 called “Wacom Cintiq Pro Engine” which makes your Cintiq a standalone computer.

In spite of being incredibly thin – iPad, in general, have a very powerful processor. The latest iPad Pro 2018 is said to be faster than 92% of portable PCs. This speed and power allow it to drastically minimize latency. The pen appears as responsive and real as an actual pencil.

Storage – Internal storage, external storage and iPad workaround

portable storage
External storage

It does not matter what storage capacity you computer has, you can always plug in a cheap external hard disk to Windows or Mac computers.

iPad, on the other hand, comes in four storage options – 64 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB and 1TB. The higher storage options are pretty expensive. On top of that, the iPad only allows you to transfer image and video files with no support for other file types makes the matter worse.

Alternatively, you can use devices like “Ravpower“. It plugs to the hard drive and transfers files to the iPad wirelessly.

Startup time – quicker the better

Sometimes you get a sudden idea and you want to immediately note down or start working on. In traditional art, you simply pick a pen and start working. In the case of Wacom Cintiq, it takes a considerable amount of time to wake even on sleep mode.

This time delay is better in Ipad pro, you can just unlock the device and start working within a few seconds.

Accessories – Shortcut buttons, tablet stands and more

Wacom expresskey remote
Wacom expresskey remote

Accessories help the artists to customize their workflow and makes their tasks easier. This is the department where Wacom takes the lead.

Wacom has a unique set of accessories like the Wacom Expresskey remote and 3D pen, tablet holder, orangutan stand. Ipad, on the other hand, comes with keyboard accessory but no special shortcut button add-ons like Wacom Expresskey remote.

This won’t be a big advantage or a dealbreaker as people often use these devices without really needing them.

Final touches – Rubber pads and pen holder

Wacom Cintiq tablet stand and rubber pads
Rubber pads and pop up legs on Cintiq

There are minor things which can make a big difference. If you look at the back of Cinitq devices – all of them have heavy duty rubber pads. It stops the tablet from slipping off when using flat on the table. Ipads do not have such pads and have aluminum at the back which is quite easy to slip on smooth surfaces.

Pen holders are other such things – Wacom Cintiqs always comes with dedicated penholders. There is no pen holder which comes with the iPad or the apple pencil, they use magnets instead. In newer Ipad Pro the stylus magnetically sticks to the side edges of the tablet.

Overall fluidity – Touch and palm rejection

iPads are a very well put together device. Everything from the hardware to software along with the operating system is top notch. It shows its real power in simple day to day task by giving a very fluid and consistent experience.

In drawing applications tasks such as zoom, move and rotate are flawless no matter how big are the files. iPads also come with excellent palm rejection.

Wacom Cintiq Pros has touch options but it does not feel as smooth and responsive as in apple devices. The tablet fails to identify touch inputs quite often and the palm rejection is nowhere as good. But at least you have the Expresskey remote or the keyboard shortcuts to save the day.

Portability – Priority or not

portable iPad
Portable iPad

iPads are made to be portable whereas Wacom Cintiqs are made to stay permanently on a desk. If a massive screen is more important than being portable then Wacom Cintiq Pro is the proper drawing device for you.

Flexibility – no mouse support for iPad

As we discussed earlier in the “storage section” that iPads are notorious and do not allow full access to your external storage device. In a similar way, they also do not allow you to plug in a wired or even wireless mouse. The Device simply fails to recognize it as an input device.

Now Apple claims that their Apple pencil is accurate that iPads do not really need a mouse, which is kind of true. But there are certain situations like – while making a vector art, using a mouse is more comfortable than apple pencil.

These types of limitations are what stops a serious artist to consider iPads as their full-fledged Cintiq alternatives. There are way too many un-inviting challenges in several places. Wacom devices, thanks to Windows and Mac “operating systems” does not have these limitations and you can plug anything and everything you want.

File management

file management on iPad
file management on iPad

The file management on the iPad or any IOS device is very primitive. The OS does not allow you to access certain kinds of files and lacks dedicated file management like all the other OS like Android, Windows and Mac do.

You will have to heavily rely on airdrop and have to manually go back and forth between applications and files which can be inconvenient.

One of the most annoying things about iPads is how they deal with brush and font sets. As an artist you may have a collection of different brushes and fonts, importing them to iPads could be very difficult.

At first, they do not allow to transfer these types of files through external storage, so you will have to airdrop them. Then – they do not have proper file management – so it is super hard to locate them.

After you have located them – you will need to install them and most of the apps cannot install multiple files at once, so you will have to install them one by one manually. – This is the real definition of pain.

How to actually choose Between Wacom Cintiq and iPad Pro

wacom cintiq pro16 accessories
Wacom Cintiq Pro16

All the features, advantages and disadvantages discussed above are to give you a detailed look at the two devices. Making the right decision and selecting the right device depends on what type of work you do, how are you intend to use the device and what kind of tools you use.

It is very easy to grab the shiniest device but it often leads to buyer’s remorse. Here is a couple of question you should ask yourself before pulling the trigger.

  • What kind of work you do
  • What you will use it for
  • Apps and tools you use

If your work revolves around just making art and you do not have to go back and forth between different niche specific applications than iPad will suit your needs as it has really good drawing apps.

But if you are an animator or 3D sculptor or modeler than iPads do not have all the pro levels apps which you may need. You would be stranded with basic tools.

Future of iPads

iPads are slowly trying to capture the attention of digital artists and creating different tools and application to lure them. All the major desktop drawing applications are already creating their iPad supported apps. The industry-leading application like photoshop is already being introduced to iPads.

So it is pretty safe to say that iPad is the future and traditional drawing tablets like Wacom have to really put in a lot of effort moving forward. But for now, iPads are nowhere near perfect and not ready to take over Cintiqs.

Here is what a Reddit user has to say – “Essentially I found the iPad Pro to be a great device for on-the-go sketching but nowhere near as useful as my Wacom and laptop.

How to turn your iPad into Cinitq – Trick/ Workaround

Yes, I choose to include this because of how well it works.

Remember? professional – industry standard applications are not yet available for iPads. There is a simple workaround which solves this issue.

There are apps like Astropad which allow you to project the screen of your computer onto iPads and use it like a Cintiq. The speed and accuracy are very good with minimal latency. You can connect the tablet with the computer wirelessly or using a USB cable.

In case you have a windows computer there are alternatives such as Easy canvas or Duet which essentially does the same work.

Summary – Final thoughts

which is better iPad or cintiq
Cintiq or iPad

It is pretty clear from what we have learned so far – that iPads are overall a better device than Wacom, but they are not for everyone. iPads are only recommended for people who make sketches and digital paintings.

It is a self-contained device which enables you to use it in coffee shops and other public places. Along with drawing it also gives you other functionalities such as checking your emails, sharing your work on social media as well as taking photographs for inspiration.

For people with diverse skill sets who frequently tap into animation, modeling, character design and use industry-standard software, Wacom Cintiq is a better device. It gives you immense control and customization along with a much bigger canvas. They are more expensive than iPads but at the end of the day – totally worth it.

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Steve Ellis

Hi, my name is Steve Ellis and I am a concept artist and a 2D animator. I have been drawing stuff as a hobby for a long time and currently working in an animation studio for over 4 years.

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