Tracing Tannenbaum: the best cheap tablets for artists this Christmas

best cheap tablets for artists

There are but a few days ahead of Christmas, and one of the few people remaining on your shopping list is a digital artist of sorts. With little more to go on than that, and a spending limit to consider, we have a few ideas for you.

Specifically, we've found three of the latest tablets that strike a fantastic balance between power and price. These below tablets are all priced below $500, some narrowly touching the $400 mark with the additional stylus purchase, one of which even includes a digital pen in the box.

And, since you have no idea exactly which operating system the artist in your life would prefer, we've included one pick for each of the big three: Windows, iOS and Android.

With that, here are three cheap tablets for artists we confidently recommend – all for less than $500 – for gifting to your friends and family this season.

best cheap tablets for artists

Microsoft Surface Go

The most versatile cheap drawing tablet

CPU: Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | RAM: 4GB - 8GB | Screen: 10.5-inch 1,800 x 1,200 PixelSense touch display | Storage: 64GB eMMC - 128GB SSD | Connectivity: 802.11ac; Bluetooth | Camera: 8MP rear, 5MP front | Weight: 1.15 lbs (522g) | Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.9 x 0.33 inches

Light and easy to hold 
Not as powerful as the iPad
Stylus not included

A budget Surface device that actually works is something we've been waiting years for, and the wait is finally over. Slim, feathery, and luxurious without costing a fortune, Microsoft has crammed in everything it could in a device at this price point. If you pick up the additional $99/£99 Surface Pen stylus, then this becomes an excellent digital drawing and illustrating device with the high-resolution and responsive PixelSense display. Oh, and this is also a full-blown Windows 10 machine, so you can edit your creations in any desktop app you wish.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Go 

best cheap tablets for artists

Apple iPad (2018)

The most powerful cheap drawing tablet

CPU: A10 Bionic | RAM: 2GB | Screen: 9.7-inch 1,536 x 2,048 Retina | Storage: 32 – 128GB | Connectivity: 802.11ac; Bluetooth | Weight: 1.54 pounds (469g) | Dimensions: 240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm

Works with Apple Pencil
Its education ambitions are overhyped
Smart Keyboard Cover incompatible

This is the best cheap drawing tablet for both average doodlers and the diehard digital artist alike. Also, this the first of the basic line to work with Apple Pencil, making it the cheapest way to create artwork on iPad. This version comes in the same premium metal unibody you're used to, and the $99/£99 Apple Pencil is rechargeable. This is the most affordable cheap drawing tablet on this list, but it's also the least versatile with iOS under the hood. Still, that display is basically unbeatable.

Read the full review: iPad (2018)

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

The most value-packed cheap drawing tablet

CPU: Snapdragon 820 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 9.7-inch 1,536 x 2,048 | Storage: 32GB | Connectivity: 802.11ac; Bluetooth | Weight: 429g | Dimensions: 237.3 x 169 x 6mm

Includes S-Pen stylus
HDR-ready screen
Keyboard a costly extra
Multitasking can't replace laptops

Samsung's Galaxy Tab S3 is getting old, but its lower price and simpler approach makes it more preferable to the newer model. The HDR screen paired with the bundled S Pen stylus make this an artist-ready tablet out of the box. Several video apps now support HDR, but its improved contrast ratio should boost color accuracy across the board, an essential feature for some artists. Just know that Android is the least supported OS of the three when it comes to artwork apps.

Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

Joe Osborne

Joe Osborne is the Senior Technology Editor at Insider Inc. His role is to leads the technology coverage team for the Business Insider Shopping team, facilitating expert reviews, comprehensive buying guides, snap deals news and more. Previously, Joe was TechRadar's US computing editor, leading reviews of everything from gaming PCs to internal components and accessories. In his spare time, Joe is a renowned Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master – and arguably the nicest man in tech.