Creative’s searching for a high performance drawing tablet that’s capable of providing both enhanced usability and performance than many of the other digital display tablets on the market, may have found their search a little narrower and a lot pricier than usual.
However, if you have a generous budget, its highly likely that you’ve come across the three current heavyweights of the drawing and computer tablet world: the Microsoft Surface Pro, the Wacom MobileStudio and the Wacom Cintiq (links to amazon product pages). Whilst it would be difficult to be disappointed with either one of these, each tablet does of course come with its own has its own merits and disadvantages. So how do we start to narrow own our options?
Who are Wacom?
Wacom have been in the game for many decades now, and have made an art out of making drawing tablets. Their products are known for their quality and superior performance and are coveted by aspiring and professional digital artists, illustrators, and designers around the world.
Their technology is so far ahead that it is often incorporated into drawing tablets made by their competitors! With a reputation like that, you know you’re buying a great product if you buy Wacom. The only downside is that their products are forbiddingly expensive for most people, so they tend to live more in wish lists than on actual work desks.
For some further reading, we have discussed and compared the other big players of the tablet industry against Wacom below:
Who are Microsoft
Microsoft gained their fame in the computing and operating system worlds. They make excellent computers, laptops, and tablets, and their operating system is the most popular among consumers. In fact, even Wacom products use the Windows operating system.
That said, Microsoft are not traditionally known for making drawing tablets. They have only been in the game for a few years, and so they are the underdog in this match-up. That said, they have made quite a number of serious devices, and they are a force to reckon with.
Their Surface series of tablet computers have some serious specs and capabilities that any digital artist is likely to appreciate. Hence why we think it’s appropriate and worth while making this head-to-head comparison between them and the industry leaders: Wacom.
Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 7
In a hurry?…
Dimensions: 14.4 x 9 x 0.7 inches | Display Area: 13.3 inches | Display Resolution: 2560 x 1440 | Item Weight: 1.44kg | Camera: Yes | Connection Type: USB-C | Compatible with Keyboard: Yes | Processor: N/A | Memory: N/A | Shortcut Keys: Yes
The Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 16 sits at the very top of the drawing tablet price pyramid, but for a very good reason. Purposely targeting serious professionals, this tablet is a compact computer designed for creatives who require ultimate portable performance for demanding workloads. Despite the expense of what is really a powerful performing computer, the 4k display lets you view and work with full versions of your favorite applications in vivid and rich colors.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 presents a highly usable and adaptable 2-in-1 detachable tablet, that blurs the lines between a drawing tablet and computer, by providing an all in one solution for artists who require their digital tools to quickly adapt with an ever changing working environment.
Before we go to the head-to-head, let us talk briefly about each tablet
Wacom Mobile Studio Pro
This is the only portable tablet from Wacom, made so artists can take their work with them wherever they go. If you have used Wacom’s more serious products before, such as those in the Cintiq line, then you know how notoriously heavy they are, not to mention they have to remain tethered to a monitor for them to be any good.
The MobileStudio Pro comes in two sizes: 13” and 16:. The screen has 4K resolution, supports multitouch, and utilizes an IPS panel, while the color gamut is 85% Adobe RGB.
The stylus is the Wacom Pro Pen 2, which is one of the best styluses you will find on any tablet. It has excellent pressure and tilt sensitivity, as well as next to no lag or parallax. It also has a very comfortable shape for easy ergonomics.
We have a full article review on this here.
Microsoft Surface Pro 7
As for the Microsoft Surface Pro 7, it was designed to be something of a complete solution for drawing, as well as general digital needs. It’s a computer that lives in a tablet, letting you have the best of both worlds.
There’s a lot going for this tablet. For starters, it comes with a 10th gen Intel processor. You can also pick between the Core i3, i5, and i7, with plenty of options when it comes to storage and memory capacity (HDD/SSD and RAM, respectively). That said, make sure you pick a combination that’s future proof as the storage and memory are not upgradeable.
The bezel on this tablet is larger when compared to other Microsoft products. That said, it’s still smaller than the one on the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro. It also has an aspect ratio of 3:2 while the MobileStudio Pro has a 16:9 aspect ratio. You can decide which one you like more. We prefer the 16:9 ratio.
Shortcut buttons are an important part of the drawing experience for every digital artist, as they make the workflow easier. It’s important to point out that the Surface Pro 7 does not come with shortcut buttons.
As for the stylus, the Surface Pro 7 comes with the Surface Pen. Surface pens from previous generations had a number of issues, including parallax and latency issues, so Microsoft went ahead and solved many of them, creating a much better Surface Pen.
The pressure feels much better on this pen, and tilt recognition works significantly better. The latency issues have also been solved. It feels like a good stylus, and it’s fun to write with, with the rear side doubling as an eraser. The Surface Pro 7 also has good palm rejection so it’s a joy to work with.
Now that we have a basic understanding of what the two have to offer individually, let’s compare them on a variety of factors:
Both styluses come with tilt recognition and pressure sensitivity. However, the Wacom Pro Pen 2 has 8196 levels of pressure recognition, which is twice what is offered by the Surface Pen at just 4096 levels of pressure.
Now, to be entirely honest, this isn’t a significant difference, as you’re unlikely to ever feel like 4096 levels are too few for your drawing range. That kind of sensitivity is good for most practical purposes. Still, the Wacom Pro Pen 2 does have more.
The Wacom MobileStudio Pro comes in two options: 13” and 16”. This gives you the option to decide how large you want your tablet to be, depending on your needs. Unfortunately, you don’t get that same level of choice with the Microsoft Surface Pro 7, as it only comes in one size: 12.3”.
Wacom Tablets are known for being rather unwieldy, and despite their efforts to make a portable tablet, the MobileStudio Pro is still quite large by tablet standards. The 16” version measures 10.2 inches wide by 16.5 inches long and 0.8 inches thick. It also weighs 4.7 lbs., which makes it heavier than your average laptop.
To carry this tablet around, you will definitely have to purchase a laptop bag or laptop sleeve. We would advise a laptop bag you can actually wear on your back, since hauling around 4.7 lbs. of electronics for long can get pretty tiring!
The Microsoft Surface Pro 7, on the other hand, measures 7.9 inches wide by 11.5 inches long and just 0.33 inches thick, which is significantly thinner than the MobileStudio Pro. It also weighs just 1.7 lbs., making it also significantly lighter.
In terms of portability, the Surface Pro 7 wins hands down. In terms of working area, the MobileStudio Pro wins, as both 16” and 13” provide more drawing room than 12.3”.
Having shortcut options significantly improves an artist’s workflow, as it brings important functionality closer, at the touch of a button.
The Wacom MobileStudio Pro has 8 physical shortcut buttons, as well as a touch ring for finer control. You can also program both the buttons and ring to whatever settings you like. You can also set up radial menus via the settings, which can improve your productivity.
The Surface Pro 7, on the other hand, does not have physical shortcut buttons. Instead, you can either use the keyboard cover to set up shortcut buttons or on-screen hotkeys, which give you unlimited shortcuts on your screen. That said, this is a far cry from the physical shortcut buttons on the MobileStudio Pro.
Both brands offer you the option to buy additional shortcut devices. Wacom sells the ExpressKey remote while Microsoft sells the Surface Dial (links to amazon product pages). That said, the Surface Dial does not expand functionality as much as the ExpressKey remote, which has a whopping 17 physical buttons and a touch ring!
The Surface Pen feels more like a generic stylus with its flat edge and cylindrical shape. Wacom’s Pro Pen 2 is a clear winner here, as it has an ergonomic design that tapers toward the rear tip, making it more comfortable to hold for hours.
The Pro Pen 2 comes with 2 extra shortcut buttons on the side, which you can program to perform whatever functionality you like. The Surface Pen, on the other hand, has an eraser tip at the back and a single button on the side, which you long press to take screenshots or click to open some application.
Another cool think about the Pro Pen 2 is that it is battery-free, so you don’t need to charge it. The Surface Pen, on the other hand, uses AAAA batteries, which you will need to replace when they run out.
The Pro Pen 2 comes with a separate holder for storage while the Surface Pen does not. Instead, the Surface Pen is magnetically attached to the side of the Surface Pro 7.
As far as surface texture goes, the Wacom MobileStudio Pro comes with etched glass, which gives it a matte texture. It has very minimal reflection, which makes it significantly easier to see images. Moreover, it offers just the right amount of friction to the pen so that drawing on the MobileStudio Pro feels like writing on normal paper. This makes the drawing experience more natural.
The Surface Pro 7, on the other hand, has a glossy screen. The pen also has a default soft tip, so you get the distinct feeling of writing on glass when you use this tablet. It gives you less control over the pen and takes a while getting used to. Some artists don’t mind this, while others can’t stand it.
Both tablets come with support for multitouch. Basically, that means your display does not only respond to the stylus, but doubles as a touch screen as well. Touch screens can be very helpful to an artist’s workflow, as you can use the screen directly to scroll, rotate your canvas, pan, and zoom.
That said, one downside of a touch screen is that it could pick up your palm when it touches the screen, such as when you’re resting your hand on the screen while drawing to get a specific angle. A good drawing tablet should therefore incorporate palm rejection if it has a touch screen.
The Surface Pro 7 is significantly better in this respect, as its palm rejection is unrivaled. While the palm rejection on the MobileStudio Pro works fairly well, it isn’t nearly as accurate as the Surface Pro 7. That said, the settings on the MobileStudio Pro allow you to switch off the touch screen altogether.
Wacom Cintiq vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 7
In a hurry?…
With Wacom firmly positioned at the top of most of our guides, when it comes to architecture, interior design and landscape architecture, the Cintiq 22 is a clear winner with its exceptional performance and large high quality drawing area.
With Wacom firmly positioned at the top of most of our guides, and good reason, the Cintiq 22 is renowned for its quality and performance, but it does lack the multiuse capabilities of the below Surface pro, and is confined to a desk.
The closest analog to the Surface Pro 7 in the Cintiq line is the Cintiq 16. In this section, we shall compare its features to those of the Surface Pro 7.
The Wacom Cintiq 16 uses the Pro Pen 2, just like the MobileStudio Pro. It therefore has the same advantages over the Surface Pro 7 here.
Working area and tablet size
The Cintiq 16 measures 16.6 inches long by 11.2 inches wide by an inch thick. This is even larger than the MobileStudio Pro, and significantly larger than the Surface Pro 7. It uses an IPS panel for the screen, with a 72% NTSC color gamut and 1080p HD resolution (1920 x 1080).
This is significantly less than either the 4K resolution on the MobileStudio Pro or the 2736 x 1824 resolution on the Surface Pro 7, so the Surface Pro 7 wins on the resolution front.
That said, the Cintiq 16 has a significantly larger working area at 15.6 inches, so the artist has more room for drawing here.
Unfortunately, the only physical button on the Wacom Cintiq 16 is the power button. You can only use onscreen controls for shortcut buttons. Otherwise, you will have to purchase the Wacom ExpressKey remote.
The Wacom Cintiq 16 does not come with a pen holder or stand. Instead, it has a fabric loop on the side of the tablet to which you can attach the stylus. This puts it at a tie against the Surface Pro 7, since that one lets you magnetically attach the pen to the tablet and lacks a pen holder as well.
The Cintiq 16 does not come with etched glass, like the MobileStudio Pro. Instead, it comes with a THT (Thin Film Transistor) LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screen with an anti-glare textured overlay. At the end of the day, the textured overlay still gives the familiar feeling of paper, though it’s not quite as good as the etched glass on the MobileStudio Pro. That said, it’s still better than the feeling of glass on the Surface Pro 7.
The Cintiq 16 does not have a touch screen. For that, you would have to upgrade to the Cintiq 16 Pro. This can feel limiting when you want to pan and zoom, especially with the lack of physical shortcut buttons and a touch ring. The Surface Pro 7 wins here.
General brand comparisons
Warranty and support
Both products have excellent customer support. Warranties vary by product, but you can expect both of them to offer 1 year warranties on their tablets at least.
All these tablets are pretty expensive. An entry level Surface Pro costs $1800+, while the 13” MobileStudio Pro costs $1400. The Cintiq costs multiple thousands of dollars. That said, they both offer excellent quality and, depending on what you want to do, will do the job well.
Since both products come from reputable brands, they both have excellent build quality.
Long term reliability
Wacom devices, in particular, are known to last years before needing an upgrade. Microsoft devices are rarely ever future proof, with their specs often falling short every time major software like Adobe do an update. The Surface Pro 7 cannot match the long term reliability of either the Cintiq 16 or the MobileStudio Pro.
Is Wacom compatible with Surface Pro?
Yes. Some Wacom pens, like the Bamboo Ink, work on the Surface Pro. This makes it possible to get a better pen than the Surface Pen when you purchase a Surface Pro 7.
Which is better, Surface Go or Surface Pro?
The Surface Go is significantly cheaper and lighter, but has lower speed and processing power than the Surface Pro. If you are planning to use your tablet for hardcore artwork, you are better off with the Surface Pro.
And with that we come to the end of our comparison between Wacom and Microsoft Surface Pro tablets. As you can see, both have a lot going for them. However, Wacom’s MobileStudio Pro seems the better choice, beating the Surface Pro 7 and the Wacom’s own Cintiq 16 in many important features.
If you want something more general, however, with only light drawing here and there, then the Surface Pro 7 is an excellent tablet computer. Until next time, happy drawing!