The best tablet for photo editing can be a lifesaver for a photographer who's on the move a lot. But which one is the absolute best?
iPads have a reputation as the best tablet for photo editing. But powerful rivals have appeared over recent years. With models to suit every budget from Microsoft, Samsung and more, there's a lot of consumer choice right now.
In retaliation Apple has struck back with the iPad Pro 2021. Running the M1 chip, which also appears in the Mac Mini M1, the iMac 2021 and some of Apple's best laptops, makes it the most popular iPad yet.
In this list, we've carefully curated best tablets for photo editing, for a range of uses and budgets. We'll start with the premium models, which are also the most expensive. But if you're on a tighter budget, don't worry; we've also included some older and more affordable tablets below.
• See also: Best Wacom tablets
Best tablet for photo editing
The iPad Pro is the first tablet to ever house the Apple M1 chipset. This means that the 8-core CPU will be 50% faster than the previous generation, while the 8-core GPU will deliver 40% faster graphics (interestingly, the new iPad Pro will be an astounding 1500x faster than the very first iPad Pro!).
Outside of the introduction of the M1 chip, some of the other exciting features include a 2TB storage option, the addition of 5G and a 12MP ultra-wide front-facing camera with a 122º field of view. This TrueDepth selfie camera is particularly delightful, as it features a Center Stage function that's perfect for video calls.
All this makes the iPad Pro (2021) 12.9 the best iPad for photo editing overall right now; and indeed, the best iPad for most creative tasks. That said, the iPad version of Photoshop doesn't have all the features of the full desktop software. If you want to run that, then you'll need a Windows tablet, and the next on the list is our top recommendation.
Number one on our list is the best iPad you can buy right now, but boy, is it expensive. So if you're short of cash, the great news is that you can get pretty much the same tablet in a slightly smaller version, for a lot less money. The 11-inch iPad Pro (2021) has the same processor, storage options, Retina display, 5G connectivity and camera lenses as the 12.9-inch version.
Obviously, it's smaller and lighter, which could be either a good or bad thing, depending on your needs. Other small differences are the 1.43:1 screen aspect ratio on the 11-inch iPad Pro, compared to a 4:3 ratio on the 12:9 inch. Again, it's going to come down personal preference which of these you prefer.
The big difference is that you only get 600 nits of brightness on the 11-inch Pro, rather than a more dazzingly 1,600 nits on the 12.9-incher. Still, we reckon 600 is still plenty to see you images and videos in clear and vivid colours. So unless you're a perfectionist for detail, and you spend a lot of time working in bright sunlight, we reckon the 11-inch iPad Pro (2021) offers the best value of the premium iPads today.
If you're seeking a tablet running Microsoft's OS, you'll be hard pushed to beat the Surface Pro 7. Featuring the processing power of a laptop, a beautiful 12.3-inch PixelSense display and a longer battery life than many, this is without doubt one of the best tablets for photo editing available today.
This device features the latest multicore processors, which means you're not limited to mobile versions of anything, including the operating system. The Pro 7 is able to run the full Windows OS and that means you can download the full version of Photoshop.
The Surface Pro 7 also has a dedicated full-size illuminated keyboard, touchpad and precise pressure-sensitive stylus (all sold separately). This combined package, then, provides photographers with everything they need for high-precision photo editing.
It might be a generation old now, but the iPad Pro 2020 is still a fantastic bit of kit with a big beautiful screen, portable and stylish design, useful peripherals and iOS running on Apple’s A12Z Bionic chipset. But does that make it one of the best tablets for photo editing?
The answer is, quite simply, yes. The Pro offers an attractive combination of high power and portability, which can run Lightroom Mobile and Photoshop for iPad without issue.
The luxury Retina LCD screen is one of the biggest on the tablet market – a whopping 12.9 inches – offering a crystal clear viewing experience and an excellent surface to draw on with the Apple Pencil (sold separately).
The downside with the iPad Pro is the price. It doesn't come cheap, so you'll probably be thinking of this as a laptop replacement. And if that's the case, be prepared to shell out extra for accessories (and check out the best iPad Pro cases).
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ is the best Android tablet you can get right now for photo editing. It's basically a laptop in terms of power, and makes for an excellent productivity tool and photo-editing base. With the S-Pen stylus included, it's easy to get cracking on your projects right away, with no extra cost, and the beautiful display has a refresh rate of 120Hz, making it smooth and enjoyable to use for long periods.
If you like editing with hotkeys, it's worth also picking up the Samsung Book Cover Keyboard. You do have to pay extra for this, but it's a satisfying tactile device that also includes a trackpad, providing more options for those who don't care for working on a touchscreen for long periods.
If it's stretching beyond your budget, though, consider the Galaxy Tab S7, which has a slightly less spectacular display and a smaller battery, but is available for a lower price, and will still do everything you need for photo editing.
While the S7+ and S7 steal the headlines, the Tab S6 is still well worth consideration. Weighing in at just 420g, it's one of the lightest, most portable tablets on the market. But don't be fooled by its appearance, this lightweight device features enough power to handle precision photo editing on the go.
The S6 is equipped with desktop-like software, up to 8GB of internal memory and 256GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD cards), so plenty of space for uploading images. Under the hood, the S6 is powered by a Snapdragon 855 processor, meaning it can handle photo editing software such as Lightroom and Photoshop Express with ease.
The S6's 10.5-inch HDR-ready Super AMOLED display makes viewing imagery a pleasure, and unlike with Microsoft or Apple devices, the S Pen is included in the purchase price. The S4 also features a larger batter capacity (7,050mAh), meaning it can last up to 15 hours on one charge, and be back to full force in as little as 200 minutes with fast charging.
If you're an Apple fan but can't (or don't want to) shell out for the iPad Pro, Apple's iPad Air is a more affordable but still highly capable option. A lot of attention has gone into this model, powered by Apple's A12 chip.
It's less powerful than it's older sibling, but still packs enough of a punch to be able to run photo editing software comfortably. In fact, the processing power and RAM is really quite impressive when you consider it's working in a device that weighs less than half a kilo and is just 6mm thick.
There is, as you would expect, less RAM in the Air, but still a respectable 3GB to play with. The 2019 iPad Air also includes support for the Apple Pencil (first generation).
The Amazon Fire HD 10 is a fantastic option if you want a cheap, portable device for light photo editing work. Its 10.1-inch full HD screen is more than adequate for showcasing work and it's highly portable, weighing just 500g.
The Fire HD 10 is available as a 32GB or 64GB version, both of which have a microSD card slot to expand memory up to 256GB should you need it, and the battery life is said to last up to 10 hours after one full charge.
Very much part of the Amazon eco-system, the Fire HD 10 helpfully has Amazon’s Alexa voice-assistant onboard. However it does mean using the FireHD for anything outside of that system – Google apps, for example – isn't possible.
That said, the ever-growing Amazon app store presents a number of lightweight photo editing apps, so you won't be short on software. A basic but capable option for anyone wanting a device for light editing work on the go.
If you prefer to work with the Windows OS and on a budget, Microsoft's Surface Go is the less powerful but still very capable alternative to the Surface Pro 6. With less power comes slightly less functionality and reduced performance, but the Surface Go has enough weight behind it to handle light photo editing work comfortably.
Unlike its bigger sibling, the Surface Go runs the locked down 10 S version of Windows, but also offers the option to switch to the full version for free. And by doing so, the Go offers the functionality of a standard PC, including running photo editing software, anywhere and everywhere.
Ok so we know that makes three iPads in this list, but each of these devices offer something slightly different and therefore all are worth consideration.
The latest iPad Mini is a good option if you spend a lot of time traveling. The lightest device on this list, it weighs just under 300g, so it will fit in almost any camera bag and you'd barely notice it's there.
The cheapest iPad option on the list, it also has the smallest screen size of all the tablets we've mentioned – but what a small but beautiful display it is. There's enough power in the Mini to run the mobile version of Lightroom comfortably and, like the iPad Air, support for the Apple Pencil makes the Mini well worth considering.
Do you do a lot of photo editing on the fly, while out on location? Are those locations often cold, wet and windswept? Then you need a rugged-ish tablet that'll withstand a few bumps and raindrops. We recommend the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3. It’s IP68 rated water-resistant, drop-proof to 1.5m drop resistance and comes with a replaceable battery. You also get an S Pen, and you can even use the touchscreen with gloves on.
If you just want to do some basic photo editing – using a lightweight, free app for example – you don’t necessarily need a top-of-the-range tablet. So here’s one that might suit a more limited budget. Released in 2019, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A is a fairly basic device, but has a nice 10.1-inch screen, and offers pretty decent performance for the price.
Be warned: you shouldn't expect to run any resource-intensive software on this budget tablet. But if you want something mainly for things like checking emails and watching Netflix, and occasionally want to do a bit of light photo editing, this offers excellent value for money.
Choosing the best tablet for photo editing
Just because a tablet has some impressive numbers and a slick design, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's the best tablet for photo editing. There are a few features that you'll want to keep an eye out for, including the size of the screen and its resolution. You'll also want to make sure that the quality of the screen and its color accuracy is assured.
One important aspect to consider is the tablet's battery life. There's nothing more frustrating than sitting down to edit, only to realize that you've only got a few minutes of charge left. You'll also want to consider how much the tablet weighs and whether it'll fit into your camera bag.
Most crucially, you'll need to consider whether the device you're looking at is capable of powering your favorite photo editing software without any risk of unnecessary lagging. Also, be aware that not every app is available for every OS, and if it is, not all the tools you're used to may be available.
Photoshop, for example, is available for Windows and iPad, but the latter version is less powerful and feature rich. For Android, meanwhile, there's an even more scaled-down version in the form of Photoshop Express. With Affinity Photo, meanwhile, the Windows and iOS versions are pretty interchangeable, but there's no Android app.
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