/>
X
Why you can trust ZDNet ZDNet independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNet Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNet's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNet nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNet's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.

Close

The best stylus tablets: Top picks for content creation

Look to these stylus tablets if you seek high performance, great value, and all the precision.
1549928918804.jpg
Written by June Wan, Tech Editor on

Nothing beats the portability and accuracy that a stylus tablet offers when it comes to content creation -- at home or on the go. With a larger canvas than even the best stylus phones, tablets are excellent for photo- and video-editing, note-taking, sketching, and more. However, the best ones offer long battery life, extensive stylus support, and have the processing prowess to power through any application.

While the iPad and Apple Pencil are arguably the most popular tablet-stylus duo, there are plenty of other offerings on the market that, in some cases, benefit your workflow even more. We've hand-picked the very best stylus tablets below.

1-009-design-tab-s8-ultra-with-book-cover-graphite-hi.jpg
Image: Samsung

Display: 14.6-inch, 120Hz, Super AMOLED 2,960x1,848 display | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 | Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, microSD up to 1TB | Memory: 8GB, 12GB, 16GB | Colors: Graphite | Cameras: 13MP and 6MP rear. 12MP and 12MP ultra-wide front camera | Weight: 1.6lb | Dimensions: 12.85 x 8.21 x 0.22 inches | Connections: USB-C | Battery: 11,200mAh

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is the latest and greatest tablet from the Korean tech giant. Launched in February of this year, it caught the eyes of artists, designers, and S-Pen lovers, because -- frankly, it's a big tablet. With a 14.6-inch, 120Hz, Super AMOLED panel, the Tab S8 Ultra is arguably the largest tablet on the market (not counting 2-in-1s).

Besides providing an immersive entertainment experience, the 14.6-inch panel makes for an unbounded canvas, or at least it feels like. Samsung's S Pen, which comes included with the tablet, now carries a 2.8ms latency. That means your inputs and strokes appear on the screen the moment the stylus touches it. The Tab S8 Ultra also carries some nifty S Pen tricks that play hand-in-hand with the software experience. Air Commands, for example, allows you to capture and edit screenshots by pressing the S Pen's hardware button.

Also: ZDNet's Charles McLellan goes hands-on with the Tab S8 Ultra

On the spec front, the Tab S8 Ultra is as beefed up as an Android tablet can get. Under the hood is Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage, a quad-camera setup for video calls and 8K recording, and a massive 11,200mAh battery.

It's not a compact tablet by any means, but for the same price as the Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch), the Tab S8 Ultra is the stylus tablet to buy if you favor a large screen.

Pros

  • Large, Super AMOLED, 14.6-inch display
  • 2.8 millisecond latency on the included S Pen
  • An ultra-flagship tablet with the latest processor

Cons

  • Pricier than other stylus tablets
  • Large size can be uncomfortable to wield
ipadpro-pencil.png
Image: Apple

Display: 11-inch Retina or 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display | Processor: Apple Silicon M1 | Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB or 2TB | Biometrics: Face ID | Colors: Silver, space gray | Cameras: 12MP rear, 10MP ultra wide, 4K video. 12MP FaceTime ultra wide camera | Weight: 11-inch: 1.03 pounds 12.9-inch: 1.5 pounds | Dimensions: 11-inch: 9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23 inches, 12.9-inches: 11.04 x 8.46 x 0.25-inches| Connections: Thunderbolt/USB 4 port | Battery life: 10 hours

The latest iPad Pro is Apple's tried-and-true stylus tablet. On its own, the iPad Pro is capable of running the most graphics-intensive programs, like LumaFusion and Procreate. (You have Apple's in-house Silicon M1 to thank for that.) Toss in 5G connectivity and an Apple Pencil, and you get a productivity beast for your on-the-go duties. Both of those add-ons do come at a cost, but for the enhanced iPadOS experience, we've reasoned that they're worth the money.

More: Best Apple Pencil deals available right now

Coming in two sizes: 11-inch and 12.9-inch, the biggest differences between the iPad Pro configurations are display quality and battery life. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro offers a Liquid Retina XDR display, with XDR being Apple's slang for HDR. This difference is key if you want the most accurate color representation for graphics designing and color-coding videos. The smaller 11-inch iPad is much easier to hold and less of a burden to carry around.

Both tablets utilize Thunderbolt/USB-4 ports, ideal if you plan on connecting the iPad Pro onto an external monitor, storage device, or dock. ZDNet's Jason Cipriani covered the feature in his full review and found the increased speed and performance matching that of his pricier MacBook Pro.

Pros

  • Robust and optimized app support with iPadOS
  • Seamless integration with an Apple Pencil
  • Bright and color-accurate Liquid Retina XDR display (12.9-inch model)

Cons

  • Price can add up with extra accessories and 5G
  • Apple Pencil sold separately
surface-pro-x.jpg
Image: Microsoft

Display: 13-inch PixelSense display | Processor: Microsoft SQ 1 or Microsoft SQ 2 | Storage: 128GB, 256GB or 512GB | Memory: 8GB or 16GB | Biometrics: Windows Hello face unlock | Colors: Matte black or platinum | Cameras: 10MP rear, 1080p video. 5MP front facing camera | Weight: 1.7 pounds | Dimensions: 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.28 inches | Connections: 2 x USB-C, 1 x Surface Connect, 1 x nano SIM | Battery life: 15 hours

One of the best Windows-powered stylus tablets comes in the form of Microsoft's Surface Pro X. The 2-in-1 runs on the latest Windows 11 operating system and is now offered with an SQ2 ARM-based processor for improved performance and battery life.

The Surface Pro X is most compatible with the Surface Slim Pen 2, a wireless-charged stylus that enables you to sketch, write, and navigate the tablet with what Microsoft calls "Zero force inking". As the name suggests, using the Slim Pen 2 on the Surface device produces near-zero latency, giving your inputs 4,096 points of pressure and a sense of realism. Like the Apple Pencil, you will have to buy the Slim Pen 2 separately, and if you want Microsoft's Signature Keyboard with a housing for the stylus, then you'll have to pay extra.

Still, the Surface Pro X is arguably the best Microsoft-owned stylus tablet on the market and offers a familiar Windows experience in a slim and lightweight form factor. It also comes with an LTE variant if you're expecting to use the tablet outdoors.

Pros

  • A familiar Windows experience in a portable body
  • Excellent battery life for a day's use
  • Available with LTE

Cons

  • ARM-based processor limits to 32-bit apps
  • Slim Pen 2 and Signature Keyboard sold separately
screenshot-2022-02-18-124813.png
Image: Apple

Display: 10.9-inch Retina display | Processor: A14 Bionic | Storage: 64GB or 256GB | Biometrics: Touch ID | Colors: Silver, space gray, rose gold, green, sky blue | Cameras: 12MP rear, 4K video. 7MP FaceTime camera | Weight: 1.0 pound | Dimensions: 9.74 x 7 x 0.24 inches | Connections: USB-C port | Battery life: 10 hours

The Apple iPad Air (2020) is a worthy alternative to the aforementioned iPad Pro. As the name suggests, It's the most lightweight tablet that Apple offers, and with the latest 2020 model, you're not only getting a revamped design, but a magnetic frame to snap a second-generation Apple Pencil onto.

While a step short from the performance and capabilities of the Pro model, the iPad Air still runs on iPadOS 15. That means you'll have a very similar software experience, access to the same catalog of Apple-approved tablet apps, and use the Apple Pencil the same way as you would on the more expensive Pro.

The iPad Air sports a 10.9-inch Retina display and weighs exactly one pound. Together, you get highly portable stylus tablet that gives you 80% of what the Pro model does, for significantly less money.

More: ZDNet's Jason Cipriani reviews the iPad Air (2020)

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable tablet
  • iPad OS 15 feature-set is the same as that on the Pro
  • Starting price of $599 is fairly affordable versus the competition

Cons

  • Base storage of 64GB may not be enough for power-users
  • Second-generation Apple Pencil is sold separately
screenshot-2022-02-18-125803.png
Image: Lenovo

Display: 13.3-inch OLED display | Processor: Qualcomm ARM Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 | Storage: 128GB | Colors: Abyss Blue | Cameras: 8MP rear, 1080 video. 5MP front-facing camera. | Weight: 1.5 pounds | Dimensions: 12.05 x 7.32 x 0.27 inches | Connections: USB-C port | Battery life: 12 hours

Users who crave the simplistic Chrome OS experience can look to the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 for $599. While much cheaper than other stylus tablet options, the Duet 5 carries a spec sheet that's worth a look.

For starters, it's a 2-in-1 Chromebook, meaning you can detach the 13.3-inch OLED display and use the Duet 5 as a standalone tablet, or keep it stationed to utilize the physical keyboard and trackpad. Under the hood is a Qualcomm ARM Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 processor and 8GB of RAM, which is more than enough power to run through the cloud-reliant Chrome OS. The battery efficiency that we've come to expect with Chromebooks is also present with the Duet 5. From testing, we found the 2-in-1 to last up to 12 hours on average.

More: Read our full review of the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 here

The Duet 5 plays well with the Lenovo USI Stylus, which boasts 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, over 150 days of battery life (via AAAA batteries), and is optimized for Chrome OS. A stylus sells for $39.

Pros

  • 2-in-1 form factor provides flexibility
  • Gorgeous and sharp 13.3-inch OLED display
  • Battery-efficient tablet

Cons

  • Lack of professional app support on Chrome OS
  • Lenovo USI sold separately

How did we choose these tablets?

After testing each of these tablets for an extended period of time, we found them all to perform exceptionally well as standalone devices, and even better when paired with a stylus.

Form factor was another consideration. Whether you're planning to use a stylus tablet for work, business, or during a commute, there are available options that prioritize portability and comfort, and ones that do best when stationed.

Lastly, some consumers prefer Apple's clear-cut and user-friendly iPadOS, while others enjoy Windows for the customization and PC-like experience. That's why there's a recommended pick for every popular operating system. 

Can I use any stylus with my tablet?

Tablets are built with capacitive touch screens which allow your fingers to interact with them. That said, most styluses have capacitive tips that function and replicate the same physical input, allowing them to tap and swipe on virtually all touch screen displays. 

Still, smart features found on the Apple Pencil and Samsung S Pen are hardwired to their respective tablets, limiting the functionality when used with anything else.

What if the stylus breaks?

Whether your stylus breaks or is nowhere to be found, most manufacturers offer replacements at an additional cost or free with a qualified insurance plan. The Apple Pencil, for example, can be purchased on Amazon.

Related

Best online colleges for working adults: Our picks for 2022
Middle aged woman sitting at a table reading using a tablet computer, holding a cup, front view

Best online colleges for working adults: Our picks for 2022

Education
Best tuition-free online colleges: Top options for 2022
A long-haired person in hiking clothes leaps into the air on a beach in Washington.

Best tuition-free online colleges: Top options for 2022

Education
The 5 best credit cards of 2022: Top cards compared
gettyimages-855388884.jpg

The 5 best credit cards of 2022: Top cards compared

Credit Cards