Butter Fingers…

Recently I had to replace my Android tablet after I somehow managed to put a great big crack in the screen. When analyzing the market I realized that Android tablets had come a long way since I last checked. In particular, the Samsung range caught my attention as they feature Wacom digitizers, making them an option for artists. More on Samsung tablets in a little bit. 

Finding a replacement

But I was skeptical. Could I really use an Android tablet for my artistic needs? This is the inspiration for this post. For context, for many years my artistic tool of choice for making comics was the Wacom MobileStudio Pro. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have completed CATAPULTED in time for LSCC2017 without it.

If you’re not familiar with the Wacom MobileStudio Pro, it’s a Windows tablet computer combined with the Wacom technology. This enables you to draw straight on the screen. As it’s a built-in computer it’s portable… to a degree. I bought the 13-inch version, which while smaller than the 16-inch variant, it’s not as thin or light as Apple and Android tablets. The battery life leaves much to be desired giving somewhere between 2-4 hours of use when new and about 1.5 to 2.5 hours of life after 5 years of regular use. Although this might not seem great, the device does allow me to avoid being tied to one spot. The degree of portability suited me and I’ve even taken it away with me on holiday.

It’s a powerful device but it’s starting to show its age. The device tends to get warm/hot under use and full-blown art programs are starting to push the device to its limits. For all its negative points, the tablet’s drawing capability is hands down the best digital drawing experience I’ve encountered. The screen has an etched matte finish and whether you use the normal plastic nib or the felt nib, the experience is very similar to drawing on paper. I use Clip Studio Pro EX, which runs very smoothly.

If you’re curious about the specs of the 13-inch MobileStudio Pro, here are the details:

  • Intel i7 Processor 6567U
  • Integrated graphics, Intel Iris 550
  • 16GB RAM
  • 512 GB SSD storage
  • 13.3 inch (33.8 cm) Display ; Resolution WQHD (2560 x 1440)
  • 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity
  • Wacom Pro Pen 2 with Tilt Support

The 16-inch variant also includes a graphics card upgrade over the integrated graphics. There are also a variety of combinations of RAM and SSD storage. Although the price has come down over the years the technology hasn’t really been updated and it’s still a pricey option when it comes to purchasing a device for digital art. I still use it and I plan to use it as a display input device by connecting it to a more powerful PC (that I plan to build in the near future). 

To recap, this was my main device for creating art and comics. It was…

When my Android tablet died, I wasn’t considering finding something that I could draw with as I already owned something that could do the job. However, in researching the options, I saw that the best Android tablets available came from Samsung. Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be many great Android tablets, although Google is planning to release a Pixel tablet soon. The Samsung Galaxy tab range has started to include Wacom digitizers. I had tested them in stores and they seemed to draw well.

I initially decided to purchase the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, however, by the time I decided to purchase one, the model was discontinued as the new Galaxy Tab S8 had been released. The S7 had received fantastic reviews but It seems I was now looking at the S8. But there are 3 versions of the S8, the S8, S8+, and the S8 Ultra. After a lot of careful research and watching many, many reviews I finally settled on the S8+, which was a little more than I had budgeted for but I planned to use the device in ways that I hadn’t with my previous tablet. 

The Verdict

After about 2 months of use, this Samsung tablet is the piece of technology I use the most when it comes to creating art. In fact, I’m even writing this post on my tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard. I’ve found it to be a great device for my creative needs. I was skeptical if it would replace my MobileStudio Pro but it seems to have done just that. The Android version of Clip Studio is great and while not quite the same as the Windows version, I am confident that I could create the whole of my comic, CATAPULTED, on it if I only had this device. In addition to Clip Studio, I have Art Rage Vitae, Bamboo, and Sketchbook Pro. All run super smoothly. The battery life is great and the screen is super sharp and bright. The tablet is really thin and light making it very portable and easy to carry.

I’m glad that I opted for the S8+ which has an AMOLED panel screen over the LCD screen that the standard S8 uses. The main downside to this tablet is the price which, while I’m sure it will drop over time, is pricey when you think of Android tablets. Therefore, its value really comes down to what you get out of using it. If it’s going to help you create your next masterpiece then it’s money well spent. If you’re going to use it to jot down notes and watch YouTube, you may find it’s an expensive piece of kit that you’ll never fully utilize.

I purchased some accessories to help me fine-tune the experience of the tablet. These included some replacement nibs for the S-Pen. The default included nib was quite rubbery and gripped the screen a little too well. It also seemed like it would wear down pretty quickly. 

As I am always paranoid about damaging my devices, I also purchased a matte screen protector. This has just enough texture to enhance the drawing experience. I did notice that on some drawing apps it does reduce the pressure sensitivity when drawing. However, this isn’t a problem when using Clip Studio (where you can adjust the pressure sensitivity on a per brush/pen basis). 

As time passes, I’ve seen lots of video reviews highlighting the S8+ as the best Android tablet available on the market today and I agree with them. I hope this article has been useful for some of you. I always see the question of which device is best and as a rule of thumb, I always say it depends on what you are going to use it for and your budget. When doing serious digital art, I’ll still want a Windows version of Clip Studio with some strong resources behind it. But on a daily basis, I’ll most likely be using my Samsung tablet. I just need to make sure I’m producing lots of content with it!

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