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

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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 – Wacom got some competition

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

  • Limited desktop class apps
  • Lacks 3D applications
  • Only available in two sizes

 

Wacom Cintiq Pro – Artist’s favorite tool

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
  • Not portable
  • 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 inside 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 equally good 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.

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.

How to turn your iPad into Cinitq – Screen Mirroring

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.

UPDATE: In their recent event Apple announced the iPad will natively support screen mirroring through their app called “sidecar”.

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

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 and external storage

file management on iPad - Storage

It does not matter what storage capacity your 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. Till now Apple has refused to give support for external storage drives on iPads.

But recently Apple announced that iPads will start supporting external flash drives. Which is great news, it will allow you to save some bucks iPad upgrade based on storage capacity and make transferring and importing files easier.

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.

When working with Cintiq, it takes a whole process to start your device and start working. 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.

Mouse support for iPads

Previously we did a little rant on Apple for not having mouse support on Ipad which even cheap Android phones have these days. Now that changes with the recent update by Apple where they have enabled iPad users to use the mouse. Now the iPads support both Bluetooth and Wired mouse.

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 and how do you intend to use the tablet.

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.

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.

Summary – Final thoughts

which is better iPad or cintiq
Cintiq or iPad

It is pretty clear from what we have learned so far – that Apple iPad is 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.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Nice summary as far as went but has the same fatal flaw I’ve seen in other Cintiq vs ipad comparison – not comparing oranges to oranges (resisted using the word “apple”). Always doing an apple to oranges . Alway relying solely on the iPad and it’s native apps and then ding it as not enough native apps and therefore Cintiq excells. For an oranges to oranges comparison, no one compares a Cintiq with an iPad as a true input device mirroring a real computer program (Photoshop, Corel Painter, etc) running on a Mac, not some iPad app. While there are a few, the leader is probably Astropad, but Apple just announced Sidecar which initially may not have all the desirable features of Astropad and too early. Does that make sense, as the reverse comparison would be reviewing a Cintiq without a PC/Mac where it wouldn’t even get out the starting gate? I dare say the iPad would blow the Cintiq out the water on connectivity (wireless), screen resolution, and portability – but a review looking at operations, pen sensitivity and twisting brush stroke nuances, and screen/pen feedback (gloss smooth vs textured matte) would really be the most interesting components of an “oranges to oranges” review.

     

    As a personal note, I am looking at upgrading my Wacom Intuos Pro to either the Cintiq or upgrade my current iPad to a Pro model that uses the Apple pen 2. Was initially intrigued with the Sidecar announcement this week until I saw supported programs on a Mac and the heavyweights – Photoshop/Lightroom and Corel Painter – were not supported, so the 3rd party mirror/input programs don’t have much to fear – yet.

    1. Steve Ellis

      Thanks for taking the time out, we appreciate your feedback and have taken appropriate steps to fix the issue.

       

      You talked about native apps and screen mirroring. We have a section where we talked about native apps and their limitations. In addition to that, we also talked about screen mirroring.

      After further inspection, We changed the layout and put the “screen mirroring section” just below the “iPad app review section” which made more sense.

       

      Next, you mentioned about surface texture and minor topics like tilt sensitivity and pen performance.
      This comparison is only focused on artists, mainly comparing drawing features. These features really matter for digital artists, although we have included some other technical specifications too.

       

      As you said Cintiqs will not stand a chance if we compare them as a standalone device. To which I totally agree, But unlike iPads, Cinitqs are not made to be used as a standalone device – so looking at it as a standalone device is not right.

       

      Now Regarding your actual query.

      You have two options…
      1. Upgrade your Wacom Intuos Pro to Wacom Cintiq or 2. Upgrade your older generation iPad to the newer Pro model. Yes, it is complicated.

       

      When you upgrade to Wacom Cintiq, you will get a bigger screen (depending on which model you pick) and a different(maybe better) drawing experience than Intuos Pro. When you upgrade your iPad, you essentially get the same stuff (with minor improvements) in a more shiny package. Your drawing experience and things you can do with iPads – will not differ much.

       

      Choosing your next device will depend on what type of artist you are, which apps you use(3D modeling?), your overall workflow and your future plans. With limited information, all I can say is upgrade your tablet depending upon what device you use for most of your work. From your comment, it seems like the iPad is your go-to choice and you can do most of your work on it. In that case, just upgrade the iPad. If you ever get stuck with the operating system or apps, you already have Intuos Pro as a backup.

    2. Steve Ellis

      The article has been updated following new announcements from Apple WWDC.

  2. Avatar

    So, if you are intending to go professional, it’s strictly Wacom I suppose.

    1. Shubham Singh

      No, Going professional in what? As a professional digital artist you would be happy with iPads, But as a professional 3D modeler you need Wacom. It all depends on the Work you do and software/application you use.

  3. Avatar

    I guess it depends on how you work and how you plan to work. Having an Ipad Pro at home/on-the-go makes it easy to do the sketching part whenever you feel like it. For me the Ipad would be a complement to my “real” workplace and not having to go there whenever I feel the need to do some work. But I would love to have a Wacom Cintiq 24 at work too…

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