Which is the best tablet with a stylus in 2023? There are a lot of choices with Android, Windows 11, and even iPads. I review almost every tablet. Scroll down to find the best ones with pen support.
Pens for tablets haven’t been popular for a long time. However, that changed with the Microsoft Surface Pro and Samsung’s S-Pen tablets. By now, you can even get all current iPads with an active stylus. And even though Apple is late to the game, they managed to release amazing tablets with pen support.
There are a lot of other choices out there. I’ve tried most of them and here are the best I reviewed in the last year.
Best Tablets With Pen Support: An Overview
Here is a quick overview of the best options that I can highly recommend.
- Best overall: Apple iPad Pro (on Amazon*). The Apple iPad Pro is the best overall tablet with pen support because it has very pretty 11-inch and 12.9-inch screens, is faster than all Android competitors, and the Apple Pencil 2 is well supported on the software side. You can get lots of great note-taking apps, as well as professional programs like Adobe Photoshop. Due to their 120Hz screens, drawing with the Pencil looks super smooth.
- Best Android tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab S8, S8+, and S8 Ultra (on Amazon*). The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8, S8+, and S8 Ultra are the best Android tablets out there. With all three, the fantastic S Pen is included at no extra charge and works very well. They’re the fastest Android tablets available and offer lots of premium features. All support 120Hz and the 12.4-inch S8+ and the 14.6-inch S8 Ultra’s Super AMOLED screens look a bit better than the 11-inch LCD of the S8.
- Best Windows choice: Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (on Amazon*). The Microsoft Surface Pro 9 is the best overall Windows tablet. You can get it with the Surface Pen or Slim Pen 2 which are well executed and work great together with apps like OneNote or the full desktop version of Adobe Photoshop. It’s a great choice if you want to use Windows programs and replace a proper laptop.
- Best upper-mid-range: Apple iPad Air (on Amazon*). The Apple iPad Air is a cheaper alternative to the iPad Pro. It does not have a 120Hz screen, but it works with the same Apple Pencil 2. The 10.9-inch display looks pretty and the performance of the Apple M1 processor is almost the same. Just like the Pro, it’s fast enough for demanding apps like Photoshop.
- Best 8-inch tablet with a pen: Apple iPad Mini (on Amazon*). The Apple iPad Mini is the best 8-inch tablet with active pen support. It’s faster than all competitors and offers a nice 8.3-inch Liquid Retina Display. Like all current iPads, it’s running iPadOS and you can get lots of optimized apps. The iPad Mini works with the Apple Pencil 2 as well.
- Great Galaxy Tab S8+ Alternative: Lenovo Tab P12 Pro (on Amazon*). The Lenovo Tab P12 Pro is a good and often cheaper alternative to the Galaxy Tab S8+. It has a 12.6-inch 120Hz display and the Lenovo Precision Pen 3 is included. However, it probably won‘t get as many updates.
- Best Galaxy Tab S8 alternative: Lenovo Tab P11 Pro Gen 2 (on Amazon*). The Lenovo Tab P11 Pro Gen 2 is a cheaper alternative to the Galaxy Tab S8. It has an equally large 11-inch 120Hz display, but it’s an OLED and thus has a better black level. It works with the Precision Pen 3, but does not have quite as cool software features.
- Best mid-range Android tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE (on Amazon*). The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a large 12-inch tablet like the Galaxy Tab S8+ or the 12.9-inch iPad Pro but don’t want to spend a small fortune. Regarding everything, the S7 FE is weaker than its pricier brother but it still has a nice 12.4-inch 60Hz screen, the S Pen is included, and the software is the same as on the S8+.
- Cheaper iPad with stylus: Apple iPad 10 (on Amazon*). The iPad 10 is similar to the iPad Air in many aspects, but it is a good deal cheaper. Hardly anyone will notice a real performance difference. However, it’s a shame that the display is not laminated and it works with the Apple Pencil 1 only.
- Best value: Apple iPad 9 (on Amazon*). The Apple iPad 9 with the first-generation Apple Pencil is much cheaper than the previous options but it offers a fantastic value. While the 10.2-inch screen is not laminated, its performance is better than most Android tablets, and on the software side, it supports the same apps and features as the much pricier iPad Pro.
- Best cheap tablet with a stylus: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite 2022 (on Amazon*). The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite 2022 Edition is a fantastic alternative to the S8 and S7 FE if you want to save some money and like a 10-inch device. Since the S Pen is included, it’s cheaper than the iPad 9. Unlike that one, the 10.4-inch screen is fully laminated and looks great. I think it’s a great choice for handwritten notes but it’s not as fast as the previous devices on this list.
Tablets With Pen: An In-Depth Look
Let’s check out those tablets in more detail. You can find the full reviews of all devices listed here linked below each one.
Apple iPad Pro: The Best Tablet With Stylus Support
The 11-inch and 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro are the best tablets you can buy right now. And since both support an active pen, they’re also the best tablets with stylus support. You have to buy the Apple Pencil 2 separately and like the other pens on this list, it’s pressure sensitive and supports over 4000 levels of pressure sensitivity. It’s charged inductively by placing the pen on the side of the iPads.
On the software side, the Apple Pencil 2 is very well supported. A Notes app is pre-installed which is fantastic for handwritten notes, supports handwriting recognition, and is a nice drawing pad as well. A pretty new feature is the Scribble feature which allows you to use handwriting and almost every standard text field. Your handwriting gets converted into computer text automatically.
In addition to Apple’s apps, you can install tons of others. A big advantage of iPads is that the selection of apps that are specifically optimized for tablets is huge. You can get many different professional drawing apps and photo editing apps like Adobe Photoshop.
You can get the iPad Pro with an 11-inch and a 12.9-inch screen and both are fantastic. With 600 nits, they’re brighter than the other tablets on this list and they’ve got a refresh rate of 120Hz. That means that animations look very smooth and that also goes for writing with the pen. Unlike with 60Hz screens, the “ink” of the pen appears immediately just like with a real pencil. There’s no visible lag.
The iPad Pro series plays in the highest league regarding everything else too. Its Apple M2 chipset is faster than many pricier laptops and much more powerful than every Android tablet out there. You can use it to play the newest games with the highest graphics settings and cut 4K videos and render them fast.
Other features are Face ID facial recognition, four great speakers, a premium-feeling and thin metal body, good cameras, and a LiDAR sensor. With the Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio, you can choose between two official keyboard covers.
Sounds fantastic but no tablet is perfect. In addition to being very pricey, the 12.9-inch version suffers from a blooming effect in certain situations.
Read: My Apple iPad Pro Review
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8, S8+, and S8 Ultra: The Best Android Tablets
The tablets of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 series directly compete with both Apple iPad Pro – in fact, regarding many aspects, they’re very similar. Based on my reviews, they’re the best Android tablets on the market today and all three versions come with the S Pen included. That’s the active stylus from Samsung which unlike the Apple Pencil never has to be charged. You can charge it, if you want, though.
Samsung is offering lots more software features for the S Pen and that includes the exceptional Samsung Notes app. With that one, you can write down handwritten notes, draw something, and annotate PDFs. Using the Air Commands, you can quickly start a new note, take a screenshot and annotate it, or use it as a magnifying glass. There are tons of more features of which some are just a gimmick.
I love that you can use the S Pen as a remote in the camera app and Microsoft PowerPoint. For that to work, the S Pen has to be charged. But for writing and drawing, it never needs to be charged.
The Galaxy Tab S8 has an 11-inch LCD and we get a 12.4-inch Super AMOLED screen with the Galaxy Tab S8+. If you need something even larger, you can get the 14.6-inch Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra which also has a Super AMOLED display. All of them support 120Hz, so writing and animations look very smooth.
While their Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor is not as powerful as the Apple M1 chipset, it’s faster than other Android tablets. That SoC is supported by 8GB, 12GB, and 16GB of RAM and the hardware is powerful enough for the newest games and demanding graphics apps.
All three tablets have a fingerprint scanner, fantastic speakers, premium metal bodies, and good cameras. Pre-installed is Android 12 including the Samsung DeX desktop mode. And just like Apple, Samsung is also offering two different kinds of keyboard covers for their tablets.
Microsoft Surface Pro 9: The Best Windows Tablet With Pen
The Microsoft Surface Pro 9 is the best Windows tablet with pen support. It’s an interesting choice if you need Windows 11 and/or want to replace a proper laptop with it. That’s what you can do with the Surface Pro 9 for sure because the hardware is the same as in many notebooks. Except that you can also use it as a pure tablet with a stylus.
You can use the Pro 9 with the Microsoft Surface Pen, the Slim Pen, as well as the Slim Pen 2 which was newly developed for the Pro 9. That one is charged inductively by placing it inside the keyboard cover. Another cool feature is that the Slim Pen 2 has a vibration motor built-in which is simulating a little bit of resistance. Because of that, it feels more like writing on real paper.
The 13-inch Pixel Sense display is one of the best out there and just like the flagship devices from Apple and Samsung, the Surface supports 120Hz. So, writing and drawing looks as smooth as on the previous two.
Windows has been supporting in stylus for almost two decades now, so it’s no problem to use it to navigate the system and even old “traditional” Windows apps like Adobe Photoshop and other graphics apps support active pens well. For handwriting, I can recommend OneNote in particular, which is a Microsoft app that seems to be specifically designed for Surface tablets.
You can get the Surface Pro 9 with a powerful 12th generation Intel Core i5 or a Core i7 processor, as well as with 8GB, 16GB, or 32GB of RAM and an up to 1TB SSD. We get a premium metal body, two good speakers, Windows Hello facial recognition, as well as an optional keyboard cover. That one is outstanding, by the way.
Apple iPad Air: The Best iPad Pro Alternative
The Apple iPad Air is the best alternative to the iPad Pro, especially if you want to get an Apple device and want to save a bit of money. With its 10.9-inch screen, it looks almost identical to the 11-inch Pro and supports the same Apple Pencil 2. The iPadOS software including the Notes app and the Scribble features are identical.
At 10.9 inches, the iPad Air has a tiny bit smaller screen, but it’s almost impossible to see. However, when looking carefully, you can notice that it has a standard 60Hz panel instead of a 120Hz one. So, when drawing with the Pencil fast, the writing doesn’t appear instantly. But usually, it’s quite hard to see a difference. With 500 nits, it’s also a bit darker than the Pro.
Inside the Air sits the Apple M1 chipset that is almost as powerful as the M2 of the Pro. That means that the processor and graphics performance is outstanding and even with this a bit cheaper tablet you can play the newest games and produce 4K videos.
Face ID is not supported but it does have a Touch ID fingerprint scanner. On its sides are two good speakers with four speaker grills. Thanks to a premium-feeling metal body, it looks and feels just like the Pro. However, the LiDAR sensor and wide-angle camera are missing on the back.
Well, as I said, the iPad Air is very similar to the Pro and a great choice if you want to save some money and can live with a few restrictions.
Read: My Apple iPad Air Review
Apple iPad Mini: The Best 8-Inch Tablet With Pen
The Apple iPad Mini is the best 8-inch tablet and since it supports the Apple Pencil 2, it’s also the best 8-inch tablet with a pen. I love this form factor and that’s why it’s my favorite tablet at the moment. Sadly, it’s lacking competition because there’s no 8-inch Android tablet with a pen out there that can compete with the Mini.
You can see it as a smaller iPad Air. Just like with that one, the screen is a very good one, it’s 500 nits bright and supports 60Hz only. At 8 inches, it’s very handy and about the size of a small paper notebook. I think this size is perfect for handwriting and it’s also much lighter than other tablets.
Pre-installed is exactly the same software as on the Pro and Air and the Apple Pencil 2 is charged inductively at the side of the Mini too.
The performance of the Apple A15 processor is a bit weaker than the M1, but it continues to be faster than almost every Android tablet. We get a premium metal body, it weighs under 300g, and we get a Touch ID fingerprint scanner. It has a USB C port, two good stereo speakers, as well as two good cameras.
In my review, I did notice one downside, however. When scrolling while holding the iPad Mini in portrait orientation, there’s a rolling shutter effect visible. In the browser, for instance. However, we’ve got to live with that because like I said, there’s no competition.
Lenovo Tab P12 Pro: Best Galaxy Tab S8+ Alternative
The Lenovo Tab P12 Pro got fantastic results in my review but it directly competes with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+. And usually, Samsung is much better with long-term software updates than Lenovo is. That’s why I prefer the S8+, but since the Tab P12 Pro often is a bit cheaper, it can be a great alternative if you want to save a bit.
Like all devices on this list, the Lenovo Tab P12 Pro does support an active stylus. The Lenovo Precision Pen 3 is included and feels like a real pen. It’s charged inductively by the tablet as well.
The Precision Pen 3 works very well and on the software side, it has some good features. With those, you can take screenshots and annotate them or write down a quick note. The “Scribble” feature does not work as well as with Apple, however.
We get a 12.6-inch AMOLED screen which is very large and looks great. That’s why it competes with the Galaxy Tab S8+ but also with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Here we get a 120Hz panel as well. With that being said, I noticed that writing with the stylus does not look as smooth as it should. It more resembles a standard 60Hz screen.
Regarding everything else, it plays in the highest league. We get a premium metal body, great speakers, a fingerprint scanner, and also facial recognition. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 chipset is responsible for lots of performance so that you can play the newest games. There’s a fantastic optional keyboard cover too.
Android 11 is pre-installed and while it should get some updates, it probably won’t be updated as long as Samsung’s flagship will be. And certainly not as long as Apple’s. That’s why it’s an alternative and not on top of this list.
Lenovo Tab P11 Pro Gen 2: Best Galaxy Tab S8 alternative
The Lenovo Tab P11 Pro Gen 2 is a very exciting alternative to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8. In many ways, the two tablets are similar, including the display size, it’s 11.2 inches. However, instead of a classic LCD, it has an OLED panel and it’s currently the only current 11-inch tablet with such a display. This gives us a nice deep black.
The screen also plays in the top league in other respects. It’s fully laminated, supports 120Hz and HDR 10+, and has a high resolution of 2560 x 1536 pixels. You can write on the touchscreen with Lenovo’s Precision Pen 3, which we also know from the Lenovo Tab P12 Pro.
The stylus works very well and is charged via induction. It is almost as precise as the S Pen in the Galaxy Tab S8 or Apple Pencil 2 in the iPad Air. In a direct comparison, I prefer the more expensive alternatives from Samsung and Apple, but as I said, they are also more expensive. For the price, the pen is good.
Not quite as good is the performance of the MediaTek Kompanio 1300T processor, which is slightly below the Samsung. Games like PUBG Mobile and Fortnite still run well with slightly reduced settings. This is also true for complex multitasking and apps like Adobe Lightroom.
The Tab P11 Pro Gen 2 was released with Android 12, but Lenovo has already promised updates to Android 13 and Android 14. That is great. There are a few software features for the pens, but they are not quite as extensive as Samsung’s.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE: Large Mid-Range Tablet With S Pen
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE is a much cheaper alternative to the Galaxy Tab S8+ and Lenovo Tab P12 Pro. And that means it’s also a much less expensive competitor to the 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro. The Galaxy Tab S7 FE also has a large 12.4-inch screen and while it’s a normal 60Hz LCD, it’s a good one.
Without having to pay extra, the S Pen is included and works just as it does on the Galaxy Tab S8+. Here it never can be charged and that means it cannot be a remote in PowerPoint. Besides that, it works the same and the software is the same too. That includes the Samsung Notes app and the Air Commands.
Even though the Galaxy Tab S7 FE has a metal body too, everything else is weaker than on the S8+. It’s lacking a fingerprint scanner, has two speakers instead of four, and the cameras are weaker. On a positive note, it supports the same two great keyboard covers.
The performance is quite a bit weaker but good enough for most apps and the Samsung DeX desktop mode runs great too. Inside the WiFi, version runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G processor, while the 5G variant features a Snapdragon 750G chipset. Still, it’s more powerful than entry-level tablets.
Apple iPad 10: Affordable iPad with Pencil support
The Apple iPad 10 is similar to the iPad Air in many ways. It also has a 10.9-inch display that is nice and high-resolution with 2360 x 1640 pixels, just as bright with 500 nits, reproduces great colors and supports True Tone. However, it is unfortunate that the display is not laminated. An air gap is visible between the IPS panel and the touchscreen.
Due to this air gap, it can look as if you do not touch the display directly with the stylus. However, most people will not notice this. The first-generation Apple Pencil is supported, which works very well. It is almost ridiculous that you have to buy an adapter for 10 Euros to connect the Pencil 1 with its Lightning connector to the iPad 10 and its USB C port.
Still, the Pencil works great and it supports the same software features as the iPad Air. This includes all the gestures, the Scrawl feature, and the Apple Notes app. The software is almost identical to the iPad Pro in other respects as well, only the Stage Manager is missing.
The iPad 10 is powered by Apple’s A14 processor, which is supported by 4GB of RAM and 64GB or 256GB of storage. While the A14 is slower than the M1 chip, the iPad 10 is still more powerful than any Android tablet on this list.
Read: My Apple iPad 10 review
Apple iPad 9: Best Overall Value
The Apple iPad 9 is weaker than the iPad Air, but it still plays in the highest league in many aspects. And since it’s so affordable starting at around 330 US Dollars, it offers a fantastic value. You get a lot for what you pay for here.
While the iPad 9 does not support the Apple Pencil 2, you can use it with the first-generation Apple Pencil 1. They’re almost the same but the Pencil 1 is lacking a touch-sensitive area and it’s charged using the Lightning port of the iPad instead of inductively. The software including Apple Notes and the Scribble feature is identical as on the Air, Mini, and Pro.
At 10.2 inches, the display is a bit smaller than the Air but it has the same brightness of 500 nits and it’s a 60Hz panel as well. Sadly, the screen is not laminated and that’s the only big downside of this tablet. It means there’s a visible air gap between the IPS panel and touchscreen. That’s why it sometimes seems like the pen is not touching the screen directly.
That’s mostly noticeable when you know about it because every time I give the iPad 9 and the iPad Air to a friend, they never notice that difference. And I still think it’s great especially for handwritten notes and for students because it’s so affordable and the Apple Pencil 1 still works great. However, if you need to draw super precisely, for your work, for instance, it’s better to get the Air or Pro.
I think the design looks old but the metal body continues to feel high-end. We get a Touch ID fingerprint scanner and two great speakers. Sadly, it’s being charged using the old Lightning port instead of a USB C connector.
Apple is using the older Apple A13 chipset which means that this SoC is much weaker than the Apple M1. However, even though it’s so cheap, it continues to be more powerful than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 in graphics benchmarks. So demanding games and Adobe Photoshop run great.
Read: My Apple iPad 9 Review
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite 2022: Affordable Android Tablet With Stylus
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite 2022 Edition is a bit weaker and smaller version of the Galaxy Tab S7 FE. It competes with the Apple iPad 9 and it’s the cheapest tablet with an active stylus that I can recommend. Even though it’s so far down on this list, I can recommend it. Especially if you want to save some money.
Like with the S8 and S7 FE, the S Pen is included and it works the same. You never have to charge the pen and you can’t even charge it, so like with the S7 FE, it cannot act as a remote. However, the other features like Samsung Notes and the Air Commands are the same.
This time, Samsung is giving us a 10.4-inch IPS display and while it’s a good one, I think the iPad 9 is a bit better. Here it’s a bit darker but on a positive note, it’s fully laminated. And as is common in this price range, it’s a standard 60Hz screen.
Inside runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G chipset with which its performance is on a similar level as the 5G version of the S7 FE. For most apps and certainly for note-taking and drawing apps, the performance is fine. And while you can play most games, you cannot set the graphics to their highest with more demanding ones.
We get a metal body, a USB C port, and two solid speakers but premium features like a fingerprint scanner are missing.
Other Interesting Options
As I said at the beginning, I’m reviewing almost every tablet that gets released. And there are a couple of other devices that have been released in the last couple of years that haven’t made it to the main part of this list. That’s because, for most, I think the upper ones are a way better choice. But if you’re looking for something specific, you might be interested in one of the following ones.
Apple iPad Pro 2020 with Apple Pencil 2
The Apple iPad Pro 2020 was the best tablet until the 2021 generation with the Apple M1 got released. If you can get them used, they’re still a great choice. Here, we get two tablets, to be exact, because you can choose between an 11-inch and a 12.9-inch version. But besides their screen size, both versions are identical. And both work with the Apple Pencil 2 which you must buy separately. It’s a great pressure-sensitive pen that is getting charged inductively by the tablets by attaching it to the side.
One reason why the iPad Pro 2020 is on top of this list is that their screens support a refresh rate of 120Hz. That means that drawings with the pen look super smooth, almost instant, just like on real paper.
Apple has added lots of software features for the Apple Pencil 2 in iPadOS over the last couple of years. The official Notes app is a great note-taking app now which supports handwriting recognition. There’s a Scribble feature that allows you to use handwriting in almost every text field. And the number of apps that are optimized for iPads in general and support the Apple Pencil, in particular, is huge. You can select between lots of notes apps, use almost desktop-class Adobe Photoshop, and even alternatives like Affinity Photo.
Regarding all other aspects, the iPad Pro is fantastic too. The Apple A12Z Bionic processor together with its 6GB RAM is faster than all Android competitors. We get a premium-feeling metal body, great speakers, Face ID facial recognition, and two optional keyboard covers that are well made. The only major downside is the price because the iPad Pro is crazy expensive – especially if you factor in the accessories.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 & S7+ with S Pen
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 and Galaxy Tab S7+ were the best Android tablets until the Galaxy Tab S8 series got released. If you can get them used or at a cheap price, they’re still a good choice. The S Pen is included too. The major difference between the two is the screens. While the 11-inch Tab S7 has a nice LCD screen, the Tab S7+ features a fantastic 12.4-inch Super AMOLED display. It’s the best screen of any tablet. Just like with the iPad Pro, both displays support 120Hz. That means if you draw with the stylus, it looks very smooth.
You never have to charge the S Pen for simple handwriting or drawing. But the stylus has a battery that is charged inductively just like on the iPad Pro. In this case, the battery is needed for wireless gestures only. Most of these are just a gimmick but there are a couple of useful once. You can use the S Pen as a remote in Microsoft PowerPoint, for instance.
Samsung has built-in lots of other software features for the S Pen which is pressure sensitive. The Samsung Notes app is a fantastic note-taking program. Handwriting recognition is supported too, you can easily take screenshots, and there are lots of other features you can access by looking at the “Air Commands”.
The tablets themselves are great too. With their Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ processor, they’re not as fast as the iPad Pro but faster than any other Android tablet. You can get versions with 6GB and 8GB of RAM, as well as 128GB up to 512GB of internal storage. The operating system is Android 10 and Samsung promises to update it for at least three years.
Other premium features are included as well. We get four great speakers, fingerprint scanners, a USB C 3.1 port on each tablet, as well as a microSD card slot. If you want, you can also buy an official keyboard cover.
Microsoft Surface Pro 7 with Surface Pen
The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 was the best Windows tablet until the Surface Pro 8 got released. It’s still an interesting choice if you want to save some money. You can get it with the Microsoft Surface Pen which supports 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity and is being powered by a replaceable battery. You’ll have to buy it separately.
Here, we get a 12.3-inch PixelSense display which is very pretty and works well together with the stylus. This is a standard 60Hz screen though, just like all the other tablets further down this list. It means that compared to the iPad Pro and Galaxy Tab S7, you can sometimes notice that the drawings lag behind the pen a bit.
Inside Windows 10, the Surface Pen is well supported. There’s a handwriting recognition built-in which works great. The stylus seems to be made for Microsoft OneNote which is a good note-taking app for Windows and other platforms. You can use the Surface Pen in lots of other programs like full Adobe Photoshop too.
Besides being a tablet, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 can behave just like any other Windows PC can. In fact, the internal hardware is the same. Depending on the version, you can get it with an Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 processor, as well as with up to 16GB of RAM and an up to 1TB SSD.
The built quality with its magnesium body is fantastic. I like that there’s a kickstand built-in and you can get it with the Microsoft Type Cover which is an excellent keyboard cover. Together with that keyboard, you can easily replace a full notebook with this tablet.
I think the Surface Pro 7 is a great alternative to the iPad Pro or Galaxy Tab S7 if you need Windows 10 and want to replace a full laptop with a tablet.
Apple iPad 8 with Apple Pencil 1
I think the Apple iPad 8 is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a good mid-range tablet and want something used instead of the iPad 9. Unlike with the others on this list, you’ll have to start to make a couple of compromises to save money, though. That’s mostly because while the 10.2-inch Retina display is a good one overall, it’s the only one on this list that’s not laminated. It means that you can see a small air gap between the touchscreen and the IPS layer. Now, most people don’t even notice that. But if you want to make very precise drawings, it can be annoying.
That’s the only major downside of the iPad 8 and one reason why it can be so much cheaper than the iPad Air 4. You’ll have to buy the Apple Pencil 1 separate, of course, but it works as well as it does on the iPad Mini. All the software features of iPadOS are the same here too. Yes, that also means you can use almost desktop-class Photoshop on this inexpensive tablet.
Inside the iPad 8 sits an Apple A12 Bionic processor with 3GB of RAM which is faster than many Android tablets. When buying it, you can choose between 32GB and 128GB of internal storage and you can get cellular versions. The performance is noticeably weaker than the iPad Air or iPad Pro. But it’s a great gaming tablet too – you just might not be able to play everything with the highest graphics settings.
Apple uses the older design here with a premium metal body but with big screen bezels. It uses the older Lightning connector. On a positive note, it’s one of the very few iPads left with a standard headphone jack. And it has a Touch ID fingerprint scanner.
I think the iPad 8 with the first-generation Apple Pencil is an amazing choice for students on a budget. But as I said earlier, if you want to make precise drawings, it might be worth it for you to spend a little bit more due to the non-laminated screen.
Read: My Apple iPad 8 Review
Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 3 with S Pen
I loved the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 3 during my review. It features a pretty 8-inch full HD screen that you can navigate with the S Pen stylus which is included. The pen is smaller than the one for the Galaxy Tab S7 but the basics work the same. You can use it for handwritten text or to annotate PDFs in Samsung Note, draw with it, sign contracts, and so on. The pen is very responsive and just works great.
Due to its Exynos 9810 processor, it’s faster than all other 8-inch Android tablets and gets close to the iPad Mini. You can play demanding games like Fortnite. When buying it, you can choose between 64GB and 128GB of internal storage. All versions have 4GB of RAM. The LTE version is interesting too since you can use it to make phone calls and send text messages.
The Galaxy Tab Active 3 is a very versatile tablet. Thanks to Android 10 and Samsung’s OneUI you can also use the Samsung DeX desktop mode. Once attached to an external monitor, keyboard and mouse, the tablet can behave similar to a desktop machine. So, it can be a normal 8-inch tablet, a phone, and a desktop device.
Now, there are some downsides, of course. The biggest drawbacks and also one of its highlights is the design. It’s a very rugged tablet for tough work environments and that’s what it looks like. Sure, it’s by design and meant to be this way, but it just looks like an old device. Right now, there’s no real competitor running Android though.
Questions & Answers
Here are a couple of answers to questions that I get frequently.
Not all tablets support an active pen. In fact, many don’t and that means the stylus won’t be as accurate and the tablet won’t be able to ignore your palm if you rest it on the screen. For handwritten notes and drawings, I can recommend tablets with active pen support only. But if you really want to, you can get generic pens for capacitive screens that work with almost every tablet. Just don’t expect a good experience.
Current Samsung tablets with the S Pen are the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 series, Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+, Galaxy Tab S7, Galaxy Tab S6, Galaxy Tab S4, Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, Galaxy Tab A SM-P200/205, and Galaxy Tab Active 3.
I think the best cheap tablet to draw on with the most value are the Apple iPad 8 with the Apple Pencil and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite with the S Pen. Both are quite affordable but are good enough for basic drawings.
No, the S Pen is compatible with a couple of Samsung tablets only. And it works with smartphones of the Galaxy Note series, of course. But it’s not compatible with devices from Apple, Huawei, Lenovo, and so on.
How To Decide Which Is Best For You
Which is the best tablet with pen support for yourself? That depends on your personal needs, of course. First, you should ask yourself if you specifically need a certain operating system. Do you need a tablet with Windows 10 because you also want to run a program that does not exist for the other ones? That narrows down your options quite significantly. Or do you want an iPad because you’re also using an iPhone? Or do you prefer a Samsung tablet because you’re using a Galaxy Note smartphone and want to use the same pen?
After you thought about that, you should think about your budget. If you don’t have a limit, then the iPad Pro, Microsoft Surface Pro 7, and Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 are amazing choices. They’re the best of the best. But all of them are quite expensive, and unless you need lots of performance, you’ll get a very similar experience with one of the cheaper ones.
You should also consider the screen sizes. The 12-inch iPad Pro and Surface Pro 7 are very big. You’ll need a proper backpack or laptop bag to transport them. The iPad Mini and Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 with S Pen, on the other hand, will probably fit in the pocket of your jacket or your purse.
How I Review Tablets
To get comparable results, I review all tablets the same way. Usually, I start by running a couple of benchmarks to test their performance. I also do a battery test and check if they’re capable of running Netflix in HD. After I’m done with that, I use them as my daily driver. I watch YouTube and Netflix, play games, browse the web, and work with them with apps like Microsoft Word.
If the tablet supports an active pen, like the ones on this list all do, I also test the stylus. Does it support different levels of pressure sensitivity? Does it have a battery and do you need to recharge it? How do you recharge it?
Usually, I use the pens to write down handwritten notes and, if the tablet supports it, to edit photos in apps like Adobe Photoshop. Handwriting notes in apps like OneNote are a great way to test if the tablet supports palm rejection and how good it is. All tablets on this list are very good at that.
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