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What is the Best Tablet for UX design?

Tablets improve with every new version that gets released. In today’s market, tablets can be as powerful as regular laptops. This brings us to the question of whether or not a tablet can replace the laptop you’ve been using as a UI or UX designer. And if so, what is the best tablet for UX design?
Best tablet for UX design

With Apple’s introduction of the first iPad well over 10 years ago, the development of professional tablets gained a lot of traction. We now have tech giants like Microsoft and Samsung releasing great tablets every year.

We have Surface tablets, the Galaxy line by Samsung, and Apple releasing a new iPads every other year. You might be wondering which one of these great tablets you should buy. Here’s what to keep in mind when looking for the best tablet for UX and UI design work.

Table of Contents

UX design checklist for tablets

Just as with our guide on laptops for design, we are going to create a checklist for tablets as well. By doing so, we can create an honest comparison between laptops and tablets for design without letting company bias be of any influence.

One thing to keep in mind with tablets is that certain features play a part in deciding on buying a tablet as well. These include features like pencil support, the operating system, and how the tablet fits into the entire ecosystem of its manufacturor.

Screen size

For tablets, the screen size is a two-way street. On the one hand, a bigger screen enables you to be more productive. You have a lot of room to really zoom in on your work. This is an important aspect to consider since UI and UX designers need a lot of space for their tools.

However, a bigger screen contradicts one of the advantages of a tablet, namely the portability. Tablets with a bigger screen size usually weigh more and are more expensive. This makes a tablet harder to travel with and less accessible for a UX designer with a smaller budget.

We suggest a tablet with a screen size of around 11 inches. This is balanced enough to give you enough space to do your work without losing the portability of a light-weight tablet. Most tablets come in screen sizes between 9 and 13 inches. The 11 inches solution provides a nice middle ground here.

Storage

The storage of your tablet is ever so important. Cameras get better every year, resulting in bigger photos that require more disk space. The same goes for the tools you use as a UI or UX designer. Your file sizes increase over time as well. Just think of that one UX design project you’ve worked on recently. How many gigabytes of storage did it take?

Don’t get fooled by starting prices. In most cases, these include just the basic storage option. Going for extra storage can increase the price of your tablet by hundreds of dollars.

Keep this in mind when you need extra storage. Most big tablet providers also have a cloud solution. Apple has iCloud storage for example. You then pay a monthly fee for a couple of gigabytes of online storage.

Don’t spend too much on storage. Instead, opt for a cloud storage option. The low monthly fee is cheaper than the expensive storage upgrade. Only after years of paying the monthly fee, the extra storage will become the better choice. In most cases, you will have replaced the tablet before this moment occurs.

Operating system

As we mentioned earlier, features other than hardware specifications are important when determining the best tablet for UX design. One of these features is the operating system.

The operating system of a tablet is a big factor in how the tablet connects to the entire ecosystem of the manufacturer. For example, Apple uses a feature called Handoff to enable you to continue your tablet design work on another device.

You have to make sure that the tablet you select fits in with your other devices. Do you already work on Windows? Chances are you’ll be happiest with a tablet that runs Windows as well. The same goes for Apple devices, Samsung devices, and any other mainstream manufacturer.

Accessories

There are a lot of accessories available for tablets. Especially for UI and UX designers, these can be of great importance to your productivity.

For example, if you want to draw or sketch, you will need a  pencil, like the Apple Pencil or Microsoft Surface Pencil. Pencils you can use with your tablet work just like regular pencils. They are of great value to any type of designer out there.

In addition, you can also choose to purchase an additional bluetooth keyboard if you know you have to write a lot for work. This will greatly enhance productivity for any designer.

We believe that the pencil is an absolute necessity. The keyboard is optional.

The best tablet for everyday UX design work

Alright! If you put it all together, your best UX design tablet will consists of the following specifications. All that’s left to do is connect them to a tablet or two for you to take a look at.

  • Screen size of around 11 inches.
  • Average storage with a supplemental cloud storage plan.
  • Pencil for sketching and drawing.
  • An operating system that fits your other devices.

If you put those together, our suggestion would be to get either an iPad Pro or a Surface Pro. The distinguishing factor between the two is your OS preference. For example, if you already own an iPhone or Mac, it is better to get an iPad Pro. The same goes for any Microsoft Windows product obviously.

Best tablet for UX design suggestion

The great thing about these two tablets is that they both have pencil support. You can get the Apple Pencil for the iPad and the Surface Pen for the Surface Pro tablet. They also support external bluetooth keyboards if you require one.

  • In the case of the iPad, we suggest the 2020 iPad Pro 11 inch with 128Gb storage. It fits all of the aforementioned requirements.
  • If you’re looking for a Windows tablet, the Surface Pro is your tablet of choice. It has a screen size of 12 inches and 8Gb of RAM.

One thing to keep in mind is that Apple has announced new iPads during their Spring Loaded event on April 20th of 2021. New features include 5G support, an XDR display, and an M1 chip. This makes the new iPad Pro a part of the Apple Silicon family.

These new products will be available soon. Keep this in mind when buying the iPad Pro we suggest above.

Further reading

Tablets are great. They get better by the day and are capable replacements for laptops. Even UI and UX designers can now use tablets for work. In case you’re not sure yet, you can take a look at some of our other guides that answer similar questions.

Start with our guide on which laptop is best for UI, UX, and graphic design.

Nick Groeneveld

About the author

Nick Groeneveld is a designer from the Netherlands with over 5 years of UX, visual design, and consultancy experience. He has worked in many different industries, including retail, finance, and sports.

Take a look at Nick’s LinkedIn and Medium for more.

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