Every serious photographer carries a highly portable photo editing device in the bag at all times. The device can be a tablet or an ultra-compact convertible laptop that can switch between laptop and tablet mode.
What to look for when buying tablet for Photoshop and photo editing?
No matter what the device is- a convertible laptop or a tablet, it must be able to do its task with the speed and efficiency that is desired by a professional user. And it must be compatible with the primary photo editing software packages such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, etc. Besides being able to run all these software, your tablet must also be compatible with a multitude of input methods, such as mouse, keyboard, pen tablets, stylus, etc. to ensure that you are able to create professional level work no matter where you are.
You should be able to shoot a great photo on your camera, transfer it to your tablet and be able to use all the tools that your software package of choice offers you, without experiencing any delays or inconveniences in your production workflow. Being able to use a Wacom pressure sensitive pen on the screen of your tablet is an extremely important feature since most artists and creative designers prefer a graphics tablet and pen as their method of input instead of a mouse. Most artists and hobbyists prefer to be able to use the same pen input method on both their main as well as mobile workstations in order to ensure that their creativity and skill does not suffer due to a hardware inconsistency.
All that said, the most important parts of a good photo editing tablet or convertible laptop are the display, CPU, RAM and graphics chip. A high-resolution touch display is of paramount importance to view every color and detail of the photo you are working on. High-resolution displays are always the better choice. Choose something with a resolution equal to, or greater than 1080p. Always choose a tablet with a lot of RAM installed as you will need a ton of RAM to work on larger files and for smoother multitasking. A good Core-i series processor from Intel is absolutely essential to increase productivity and decrease time required in applying effects and transferring a large group of photos. A faster processor also ensures you can work on entire batches of photos simultaneously, without slowing down your tablet.
We did not list the operating system out here, since you will be only be using tablets that run Windows 10, as currently neither Android nor iOS support any of the major photo editing software such as Photoshop, Lightroom, etc. Our list is designed to show you the best tablets and convertible laptops for photo editing work. We also included a couple of digital pen tablets as they make a great addition to your existing Windows tablet, and can be used as input method alongside your keyboard and mouse to create incredible looking pieces of art.
Check out our list of best laptops for Photoshop, photo editing, and photography.
Parblo Coast10 10.1″ Digital Pen Tablet Display Monitor
The Parblo Coast 10 is a budget digital tablet with a really nice screen on it. It is a great choice if you want a good pen tablet for drawing and editing in your favorite photo editing software. You can connect this tablet to your desktop or laptop workstation via USB interface and watch your work come to life on the bright vivid 16.7 million color display. The pen does not require a battery and is very light, feels really good in the hand. The Parblo supports Windows and Mac OSX, but for some reason, the driver CD provided with the tablet does not contain Mac drivers, which means that you will have to download the drivers from the company website. Another issue that many people complained about was that you need to install the drivers in a specific order otherwise, the device will malfunction, and the drivers themselves seem to crash often. These issues will eventually be fixed in the form of software updates are no big deal breakers that you need to worry about. Crashes happen on every complex software platform, especially the Windows operating system.
Software issues aside, the tablet allows you to create incredibly detailed art work on Photoshop, thanks to the pressure sensitive pen and the unique angled stance that you get by lifting the pegs on the back side of the tablet. It allows you to work for several hours without straining your wrists or fingers. While it may be cheap, the joy that you experience when you see your completed masterpiece on the crystal clear display of the Parblo is priceless.
Wacom Cintiq 13 HD Interactive Pen display
Designed with the needs of a creative professional in mind, the Cintiq series is the most feature packed interactive pen display in the market. It is loaded with everything you need to begin on your next big project, and the build quality makes us feel like the tablet might outlive its owner. The full HD, 13″ IPS display breathes life into your work and the multi-touch gestures allow you to speed up your workflow.
Tilt and rotate recognition along with extremely precise pressure sensitivity lets you unlock your true creative potential, which will never be limited by hardware restrictions again. You can choose between wired and wireless connectivity as the Cintiq 13 comes with both USB as well as wi-fi for connecting to your PC or laptop. There are no real problems with this masterpiece, except for a poorly designed magnetic cable connector port.
Microsoft Surface 3 Tablet
The Surface 3 tablet is a great little machine that is 90% tablet and 10% laptop. Meaning that if you attach the optional type-cover provided by Microsoft for an extra 100 bucks, you can convert the Surface 3 into a laptop. The touch screen is excellent and is full 1080p HD. For some users who are worried about 1080p not being enough for their image editing needs, we must say that it is more than sufficient given that the screen is a really compact 10.8″, and the overall pixel density is quite good as a result of a smaller display. Its contrast ratios and brightness levels are optimized to deliver a great experience and even 7 to 8 hours will not strain your eyes one bit. The battery lasts up to 8 hours in ideal conditions, however, if you plan to watch movies or edit photos, create illustrations, and logos, the actual life will drop to about 5 hours, which is still okay for most people.
Where the real issue lies is the weak processor and 2GB of RAM. Two gigs is horribly insufficient for any sort of image or photo editing and what is even worse is the fact that the RAM modules are soldered onto the board and are not upgradable. You can still edit photos on it, but don’t buy this version if you are a professional, or if you own a powerful camera. You can stick a funny face on your friend’s body and edit the family picnic photos, but don’t adventure beyond that or you will be thoroughly disappointed as the Intel Atom processor and 2 gigs of RAM will let you down.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
For a device that is as popular as the Surface Pro, this particular version has some rather serious flaws. Not fatal, but quite irritating if you choose to step up your photo production in the future. Putting the cons aside, for now, let us talk about the best thing in the whole tablet- the display. A stunning 4K pixel resolution and amazing color balance will bring every single creation of yours to life, and you will be needing true to life colors and details if you’re serious about creating great images and beautiful artwork.
The processor is more than enough for budding professionals as well as hobbyists, however a core-i 5 or above is what we would recommend for professional level image editing and serious multitasking. As long you are okay with editing the photos from your digital camera or camcorder, this tablet is really great. Venture beyond that, and we recommend you get a model with more RAM and a better processor. 4 GB of RAM is enough for moderate workloads and the occasional movie viewing experience, but as we said before, anything less than 8GB is a matter of concern, especially when you are spending precious money on a device, and want it to be as future-proof as possible. That said, 4 gigs is definitely enough for light photo editing and for touching up the photo.
If you want a device to do minor operations in Photoshop, just to prep your image for real editing on your desktop workstation, then this tablet is a great choice. It offers 9 hours of battery life and is very lightweight. The body is constructed from premium materials such as magnesium alloy and aluminum to make it sturdy and lightweight, while also feeling premium and classy. The touchscreen is excellent and recognizes multi gesture touch.
Dell XPS9250-1827 12.5″
This touchscreen laptop from Dell would have been the perfect device for photo editing and entertainment purposes, but the awful battery life destroys such hopes. Once you detach the screen from the laptop base and begin to use it for any sort of heavy multimedia task the battery goes from full to empty in just 3 hours. That is simply not acceptable if you are planning to use the XPS outside your home, to edit and refine your favorite images, or to create a poster or illustration in Photoshop or Illustrator. However, that does not mean it is a bad machine. If it were actually bad, it would never have received a place on this list at all. In fact it is just one step shy of being called the best tablet replacement laptop ever. Or laptop replacement tablet, whichever name you prefer. Because it combines the best of both worlds, its screen is under an inch thick and can be easily detached to go into tablet mode.
Windows 10 is factory installed with the product and is THE most touch-optimized PC operating system ever built in the history of mankind. Its display is just gorgeous and the 3840×2160 4K screen is a feast for the eyes. You might want to buy one of these just for the display, it is that good. All your photos captured on your 4K camera will look brilliant and every single color correction you do on your photo will be every bit as accurate as you want it to be, thanks to the 100% color gamut and 1500:1 contrast ratio.
The storage is a solid state drive, with options for either a 128GB drive or a 256GB drive depending on which model you choose to buy. We would recommend you go for the 256GB version as it allows you to store more photos and files on your laptop, and you can start working right away without having to import stuff from an external storage medium. Talking of importing files from an external storage, you can do that at lighting fast speeds thanks to the two USB 3.1 C type ports that you get on the Dell XPS 9250, along with 2 Thunderbolt 3.0 connectors to ensure data transfer at speeds up to 22 times more than the old USB 2.0 ports.
To ensure smooth image editing even with larger photos such as RAW photos and 4K panoramic shots, you are getting 8GB of high-speed RAM. Meaning, no more lagging if you open multiple high res photos simultaneously, while also listening to your favorite band in the background, with 20 tabs open on Firefox, and an anti-virus scan running in the background. You get the idea…