Apple drawing tablets.
An overview of the Apple iPad and Apple pencil series for drawing
Buying an Apple iPad is not as simple as it used to be just a few years ago. With the iPad line-up, Apple’s competing at every price point, and it’s trying to target a wide range of consumers.
It makes the current iPad line-up highly diversified, with the past generations of iPads still lurking around with their sustained attractiveness.
As consumers of Apple products, it is a pleasant scenario for us to be surrounded by options. But that comes with a drawback.
How do we know, exactly, which one to buy? Surrounded by options that are diversified yet almost identical at some key features, it does get harder for us to come to a conclusion with our decision. Apple’s iPads’ performance can’t be called into question no matter what version of it we’re talking about. But to reduce price and target different groups, apple makes changes to the sizes, screen type/resolution, battery life, the type of verification processes, etc.
Additionally, adding updated features like widgets, trackpad support, and various other features that make it more Mac-esque.
I reviewed and listed all the types of iPad’s available on the market, along with jotting down the types of features they offer, their drawbacks, and their price range.
The intention of this article is, as always, to help you in your quest for a perfect tablet. I hope by finding all the required information, specifications along with detailed reviews in one place, your searching process is simplified and cut short positively.
Disclaimer – This website contains affiliate links. If you find the information useful and click on a product link and make a purchase, a small commission will be earned by Big Red Illustration
01) iPad Pro Series:
iPad Pro 12.9‑inch (5th generation)
iPad Pro 11‑inch (3rd generation)
iPad Pro 12.9‑inch (4th generation)
iPad Pro 12.9‑inch (3rd generation)
iPad Pro 12.9‑inch (2nd generation)
iPad Pro 12.9‑inch (1st generation)
iPad Pro 11‑inch (2nd generation)
iPad Pro 11‑inch (1st generation)
iPad Pro 10.5‑inch
iPad Pro 9.7‑inch
- A9X chip: iPad Pro 9.7-inch, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 1st gen, A10X Fusion Chip: iPad Pro 10.5-inch, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 2nd gen, A12X Bionic chip with Neural Engine: iPad Pro 11-inch 1st gen, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 3rd gen, A12Z Bionic chip with Neural Engine: iPad Pro 11-inch 2nd gen, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 4th gen, M1 chip with next-gen Neural Engine: iPad Pro 11-inch 3rd gen, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 5th gen.
- Apple Pencil 1st gen: iPad Pro 9.7-inch, iPad Pro 10.5-inch, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 1st gen, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 2nd gen, Apple Pencil 2nd gen: iPad Pro 11-inch 1st gen, iPad Pro 11-inch 2nd gen, iPad Pro 11-inch 3rd gen, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 3rd gen, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 4th gen, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 5th gen.
- Retina Display: iPad Pro 9.7-inch, iPad Pro 10.5 inch, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 1st gen, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 2nd gen, Liquid Retina Display: iPad Pro 11-inch 1st gen, iPad Pro 11-inch 2nd gen, iPad Pro 11-inch 3rd gen, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 3rd gen, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 4th gen, Liquid Retina XDR display: iPad Pro 12.9-inch 5th gen.
- 32 to 256 GB: iPad Pro 9.7-inch, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 1st gen, 64 to 512GB: iPad Pro 10.5-inch, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 2nd gen, 64GB to 1TB: iPad Pro 11-inch 1st gen, iPad Pro 12.9 inch 3rd gen, 128GB to 1TB: iPad Pro 11-inch 2nd gen, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 4th gen, 128GB to 2TB: iPad Pro 11-inch 3rd gen, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 5th gen.
- Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating (All Models)
Apple iPad Pro, The ultimate iPad experience, High Specifications, FlagShip iPad, Specifications differ from 9.7-inch model to 12.9-inch 5th gen 5th Model.
Performs like many top-end computers
Arguably, the best tablet screen available
Can sometimes be under-equipped for digital art purposes.
Still no option to wirelessly charge
The iPad Pro, or the performance powerhouse for as long as it’s existed, should be a no-brainer when deciding to buy the best drawing tablet.
Here’s the breakdown of all the models that this lineup has to offer. I’ll begin with the iPad’s smallest in size models, The iPad Pro 9.7-in and the iPad Pro 10.5-in. Both of these models utilize a Retina with True Tone display, with the latter getting an upgrade with ProMotion technology.
Both have the same sensors and battery life, with the main difference being the 10.5-in model’s A10X Fusion chip that’s snappier. Moving on to the iPad Pro 11-in variants, both consist of the same screen, battery life, and storage options. This duo is a natural power machine, but the 2nd-gen model’s A12Z chip is a notable upgrade. Moreover, the iPad Pro 11-in second-generation gets additional sensors like Face ID and the LiDAR scanner.
Now on to the giant 12.9 inches models!
The first and second generations of these beasts contain the powerful A9X and A10X Fusion chips, respectively. Both are compatible with the first-gen Apple Pen and Smart Keyboard. The second-generation model gains an upper hand with the addition of ProMotion technology to its retina display and with better storage options (up to 512GB).
Steadily on an upwards trajectory, The 3rd and 4th generations of the iPad Pro 12-in got significant upgrades. The new visibly better 12.9″ Liquid Retina display was one of those. Storage option of up to 1TB, Face ID, compatibility with 2nd generation of Apple Pen adds to the list.
Meanwhile, the fourth generation of the iPad Pro 12.9 inches sits on the top of the pack with its power-packed A12Z Bionic chip with Neural Engine. With its power and diversity, this series has to be top of the list of best drawing tablets to buy for a smoother drawing experience, with its handling of apps like Procreate and Photoshop being top-class.
02) iPad Air Series:
iPad Air (4th generation)
iPad Air (3rd generation)
iPad Air 2
iPad Air (1st generation)
- A7 chip with 64-bit desktop-class architecture: iPad Air 1st gen, A8X chip with 64-bit desktop-class architecture: iPad Air 2, A12 Bionic chip with 64-bit desktop-class architecture: iPad Air 3rd gen, A14 Bionic chip with 64-bit desktop-class architecture: iPad Air 4th gen.
- Retina Display: iPad Air 1st gen, iPad Air 2, iPad Air 3rd gen, Liquid Retina Display: iPad Air 4th gen.
- Up to 10 hours of battery life (All Models)
- Fully Laminated Display (All Models)
- 16-32-128 GB: iPad Air 1st gen, 16-64-128 GB: iPad Air 2, 64-256 GB: iPad Air 3rd gen, iPad air 4th gen.
iPad Air, Powerful, Colourful, Wonderful, with a slightly Larger Display than the iPad, and thinner in Size.
Thinner in size yet powerful
Cheaper than iPad Pro models yet powerful
Still no option to wirelessly charge
Battery Life is not ideal
iPad OS is not suitable for multitasking compared to Mac or Windows
The light and practical iPad Air proves to be an attractive and sensible option when compared to other tablets on the market for any digital artist. It offers excellent performance in a highly portable design.
The first and second generations of the iPad Air offer the same 9.7-in HD screen with the same 128 GB maximum storage option. Both of these user-friendly iPads are compatible with Bluetooth keyboards and Apple Pencil (1st generation). The only major upgrade amongst them is the A8X chip of the 2nd-gen iPad Air.
The third and fourth generations of the iPad Air saw a steep rise in performance due to the addition of upgraded chips A12 Bionic and A14 Bionic with Neural Engine, respectively, making them of the best tablets in that regard. iPad Air 4 provides further notable upgrades on the 3rd-gen iPad Air with its Liquid Retina True Tone display, compatibility with 2nd generation Apple Pen, and USB-C connection for faster data transfer. The performance of this device ensures the smooth operation of any drawing apps, and it attracts artists looking for the best drawing tablets that are portable.
03) iPad Series:
iPad (9th generation)
iPad (8th generation)
iPad (7th generation)
iPad (6th generation)
iPad (5th generation)
- A9 chip: iPad 5th gen, A10 Fusion chip: iPad 6th gen, iPad 7th gen, A12 Bionic chip with Neural Engine: iPad 8th gen, A13 Bionic chip with Neural Engine: iPad 9th gen.
- Upto 128 GB: iPad 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th gen, Upto 256 GB: iPad 9th gen.
- All iPad models support up to 4G while the iPad 9th gen supports 5G network.
- All Models Support Bluetooth keyboard
- All Models incorporate a Retina Display.
Apple iPad, Delightfully capable, Surprisingly affordable, Entry-level Device.
Selfie Camera is amazing
Receives OS updates multiple times a year
Speakers are very small
Smaller Screen than other iPads
Dubbed as the entry-level Apple device, these iPads are among the best drawing tablets you could buy when you consider the price range. The fifth, sixth and seventh generations of this iPad series contain similar features like their sensors, lightning connectors, and connectivity with Wi-fi as well as Cellular.
The 5th generation of this lineup lacks Apple pencil compatibility that pushes it down the pecking order, while the 7th generation iPad gets some notable upgrades with a bigger 10.2-in Retina display along with compatibility with a smart keyboard. All contain similar 128 maximum storage options.
The 8th and 9th generations of iPad get their performances enhanced with A12 Bionic and A13 Bionic chip with Neural Engine, respectively, which enable any top software to work properly. Both are compatible with the smart keyboard and first generation of Apple pencil. The major difference between the current iPad (9th-gen) and its predecessor 8th-gen iPad is the addition of the True Tone Display, which slightly enhances the screen experience for the users. It also offers a better storage option with up to 256GB available, which is always handy to artists in their drawing tablets.
The competitiveness of this iPad is one to behold. It gives the android and Wacom tablets a run for their money, making the decision of artists harder who are in search of the best drawing tablet.
04) iPad mini Series:
iPad mini (6th generation)
iPad mini (5th generation)
iPad mini 4
iPad mini 3
iPad mini 2
- A7 Chip: iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, A8 Chip: iPad Mini 4, A12 Bionic chip with Neural Engine: iPad Mini 5th gen, A15 Bionic chip with Neural Engine: iPad Mini 6th Gen
- 7.9-inch retina Display: iPad Mini 2, 3, 4 and 5th gen, 8.3 inch Liquid Retina Display: iPad Mini 6th gen.
- Up to 128 GB: iPad Mini 2, 3, 4, Up to 256 GB: iPad Mini 5th gen and 6th gen.
- All Models Support up to 4G except iPad Mini 6th gen which supports 5G as well.
- Support for Bluetooth keyboards (All Models)
iPad Mini, Mega power, Mini size, Compact Device with Specifications that differ by model.
Performance is amazing
Battery Life is great
Compatible with Apple Pen 2nd gen
iPad OS does not allow multiple users
Priced higher than the previous model
Smaller in Size
Apple has released over 6 iPad mini’s over the years, and with each new one, it had something great to offer.
The iPad mini 2 and 3 released on only a year’s gap have no notable differences other than the fact that the latter comes with touch id.
After the release of the iPad mini 4 came the iPad mini (5th generation); The iPad mini 4 has the A8 chip and holds up to 128GB storage, whereas the 5th generation has the A12 Bionic chip with neural engine, and can hold up to 256GB storage.
The iPad mini-4 is not compatible with the apple pen (1st generation), while the iPad mini (5th generation) is.
Apple has recently released a new addition to the mini family, the iPad mini (6th generation), which comes with an 8.3” Liquid Retina display True Tone whereas the iPad mini (5th generation) comes with a 7.9″ retina display true tone.
The iPad mini (5th generation) has an A12 Bionic chip with neural engine but in the iPad mini (6th generation) apple had decided to incorporate the A15 bionic chip with neural engine.
The iPad mini (6th generation) is also the first iPad mini that supports the USB-c cable connector.
05) Apple Pencil 2nd Generation
- Compatible with iPad mini (6th generation), iPad Air (4th generation), iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd, 4th, and 5th generations), iPad Pro 11-inch (1st, 2nd, and 3rd generations)
- Pixel-perfect precision, and tilt and pressure sensitivity.
- Enables sketching, doodling, and even note.
- Magnetic attachment and wireless charging.
- Change tools with a simple double-tap.
Apple Pencil (2nd Generation), L: 166 mm, D: 8.9 mm, W: 20.7 grams, Bluetooth, Magnetically attaches and pairs.
Feels great in the hand
Charges while attached to iPad
Not compatible with older iPads
The apple pencil (2nd generation) was released alongside the iPad Pro 2018. It is compatible with iPad mini(6th generation), iPad Pro 12.9-inch(5th generation), iPad Pro 12.9-inch(4th generation), iPad Pro 12.9-inch(3rd generation), iPad Pro 11-inch(3rd generation), iPad Pro 11-inch(2nd generation), iPad Pro 11-inch(1st generation) and the iPad Air (4th generation).
Since the lightning connector and end cap are now gone, the apple pencil (2nd generation) is much shorter than the first one. To pair your Apple pencil, you simply have to connect it to the magnetic slot at the side of your iPad and voilà! Your apple pencil is now connected and ready for use.
06) Apple Pencil 1st Generation
- Multi-touch subsystem
- Pixel-perfect precision
- Features sensitive pressure and tilt sensors
- Sleek design complements the look of a standard Apple iPad Pro
- Compatibility: iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st and 2nd generation), iPad Pro 10.5-inch, iPad Pro 9.7-inch, iPad (6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th generation), iPad Air (3rd generation), iPad mini (5th generation).
Apple Pencil (1st Generation), L: 175.7 mm, D: 8.9 mm, W: 20.7 grams, Bluetooth, Lightning connector, Magnetically attached cap.
Very accurate in testing.
Does not have an eraser end.
The back cap is easy to lose.
It tends to roll.
The 1st-generation Apple pencil is the best stylus to draw with for most people. Why do I say that? With the impressive levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt recognition, and with just as impressive price in 2021, this ticks most if not all boxes for a user that needs a stylus to expertly draw with.
The stylus adeptly blends with the iPadOS giving the user a smooth and tidy experience whether the user uses the stylus to draw their art or to just casually write down some notes.
All in all, this stylus proves to be a great value in 2021.
General Information About Apple Drawing Tablets
Various variants of the Apple iPad line-up offer various specifications to meet a broad range of consumer needs.
One thing that is certain though, with an iPad, you are guaranteed excellent performance. With that being a constant, features like compatibility with the Apple pencil, screen size and type, battery life, connectivity, etc are variables.
Your decision will be based on which of these features are most important to you as an artist. You could go with the Apple iPad Pro for its marvellous performance and handling of high demanding drawing apps such as Procreate, Photoshop, and the like, or you could go with the Apple iPad Mini for the luxury of portability or with the best of both worlds, the Apple iPad Air.
Weigh such factors against the money that you intend to spend and you will get the best tablet for you.
Conclusion / Roundup
As elaborated in the article, Apple inc tablets are some of the best performing drawing tablets available for any of your art needs. They are portable, and you don’t need any external device or computer to use with them.
You are able to carry out graphic design tasks or draw directly on their own screen with a high level of accuracy, and the impressive pen pressure sensitivity of the Apple pencil ensures that.
Like many of their rival android and Wacom graphics tablets, Apple inc tablets can function as graphics tablets as well supporting almost all the major art software. Apple creates an ideal range of options with its iPad variants.
You, as an artist, will have to make a balanced decision based on the aforementioned factors, variables, and your desired features with this diverse range of iPads.
I hope my article proves to be significant in easing your search process.
Question: Which iPad can be used to replace Wacom tablets such as the Wacom Cintiq 22, and is the Apple Pen better than the Wacom Pro Pen?
Answer: The Wacom Cintiq 22 and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro differ in resolution, but their size difference is not that significant. The iPad Pro is actually more usable than the Wacom Cintiq 22. The Apple Pen is lower in terms of latency and has a higher speed, giving it a slight edge.
Question: Is the XP Pen Deco with the XP Pen a better option than Apple tablets?
Answer: A cheaper option, yes, A better option? Not so much. The XP Pen deco is a drawing pad that requires a computer to work with, which has many drawbacks, while Apple tablets are standalone tablets.
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Written By Adam Rushton
Adam has made a name for himself in the illustration industry and is a passionate blogger and writer on the subject of art, illustration and graphic design.
His artwork has been featured in countless publications and used for very well-known media projects. As a professional illustrator for over 20 years, Adams media outlets, a wealth of knowledge, and experience enable him to consult and advise artists and illustrators in this country (from York and Manchester to Southampton and London) and all over the world.