“The difference between using a tablet and a mouse is like the difference between using a paintbrush to paint, and a brick.”
These days, photography is more about the editing and adding of digital effects than the actual taking of the photo. The word “photoshop” is even in the Oxford English dictionary to describe an image which has been digitally manipulated.
Can you really run Photoshop or Adobe’s other package, Lightroom, on a tablet? The answer is both yes and no, depending on your tablet. A cutdown version of Photoshop, known as Photoshop Express, can be run on most tablets, and even some smartphones.
To run a full-blown version of Photoshop, known as Photoshop CC, you would need a powerful tablet that runs Windows 10. Although Photoshop CC will be coming soon to iOS and the iPad Pro, Lightroom currently runs on all tablets.
What should photographers look for in a tablet? After trying to answer that question, we will recommend five of our favorite tablets for photo editing on the go.
What to Look for in A Photo Editing Tablet
It makes sense that the most important factor of any tablet for photo editing is the quality of the screen. It would just be stupid to try to edit your photographic works of art on a low-res and dimly-lit screen. At the very minimum, you will need a Full HD display, and the higher the pixel count, the clearer the image will be.
Editing photos, especially those with more pixels, or RAW files, will require a higher level of processing power and RAM. Try to choose a tablet which has a minimum of a quad-core processor for speedier processing of your photos. Remember, more intense tasks will also be power hungry and you will need a decent battery life.
Finally, consider the OS of the tablet and what apps or packages are available for it. Apple has always been seen as offering the best tablets for creative types, and the App store tends to have more professional photo editing apps than Android. You can always use a cutdown version of Photoshop or Lightroom on your tablet, and sync with the desktop via a cloud.
The Best Tablet for Photo Editing
We have looked at many of the top-selling tablets to bring you, in our opinion, the top five best tablets for photo editing. Although some are more expensive than most premium cameras, consider how much photo editing you will use it for. Do you want it as a replacement for your desktop, or just some casual photo editing?
Best Overall—Microsoft Surface Pro 6
We did say the “best” tablet for photo editing and not the “cheapest,” didn’t we? The Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is never going to win any prizes for the best budget tablet, but it does offer a full laptop experience—a pretty decent one at that!
This latest Surface Pro is the most powerful yet, with 8th Generation quad-core Intel processors. A stunning 4K PixelSense display features 2736 by 1284 resolution in a 12.3-inch screen. It even beats the Apple Retina display PPI of 264, but only just, with 267 PPI.
Out of the box, it runs a full desktop version of Windows 10 Home, which can be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro. With the powerful processor and 8GB of RAM, it easily meets the required specifications of all the major photo editing software, including the Adobe suite.
Unfortunately, you will have to buy the keyboard cover and stylus as extras, to make the most of the Surface Pro. The Surface Pen is recognized as one of the best you can get and features 4096 levels of sensitivity.
With full-sized USB ports, an HDMI out and SD card slot, this is truly a laptop replacement. The compatibility and power to run all those Windows photo editing packages makes this the ideal tablet/laptop for photographers.
- Powerful Intel 8th Gen CPU and 8GB RAM can handle even the largest of RAW files.
- Photos look great on the high definition, high pixel density display.
- Full Windows 10 operating system.
- Fast SSD drive, configurable to 1TB.
- Works with all Windows-based photo editing software, including all Adobe packages.
- Full sized USB-3 ports for connection to external accessories, including hard drives.
- SD card slot for expanding storage.
- The Surface Pen offers 4096 levels of pressure, ideal for fine detail editing of photos.
- Long 13-hour battery life.
- Very expensive—even more with official Surface Type cover and Surface Pen.
- No 4G cellular option. A missed opportunity for uploading photos in free Wi-Fi areas.
- Magnesium alloy body makes it heavier than other tablets, at 1.7 pounds.
Best Apple Tablet for Photo Editing—Apple iPad Pro 12.9” (2018)
This latest version of the iPad Pro features what Apple claims is its best screen ever on a tablet. The new A12X Bionic chip with 64-bit architecture is so powerful that Adobe plans to launch a full version of Photoshop CC for iOS in 2019.
The stunning Liquid Retina display of this new iPad has a resolution of 2732 by 2048 pixels, with 264 pixels per inch. The wide color display, ProMotion technology, and TrueTone capabilities scream out for showing off your photos as well as editing them.
The iPad Pro has all the features you need to work in either Photoshop or Lightroom, and many other professional apps too. An extra purchase, the Apple Pencil, allows you to work with more precision. The 12MP rear camera also makes it a decent device for shooting photos on the go, if rather cumbersome.
Apple fans will love this tablet; if you already work on a Mac, it’s the ideal partner. However, it is crazy priced— when you add the cost of the keyboard or stylus, you could get a pretty decent laptop for the same price. And, as usual, there’s no option for boosting the memory or external storage.
- The slim design, 0.26 inches, is ideal for fitting in the pocket of your satchel or backpack.
- Stunning, fully laminated Liquid Retina display goes corner to corner.
- Powerful A12X Bionic chip with neural engine makes light work of rendering photos.
- Magnetic charging now included for the Apple Pencil.
- 10-hour battery life is ideal for editing more photos or rendering a 4K video.
- Fast Gigabit-class LTE cellular data for a quicker upload of photos.
- Hundreds of quality photo apps in the App Store. Photoshop CC will be available in 2018.
- Extremely expensive
- No external storage facility.
Most Portable Tablet for Photo Editing—HP Pro 608 G1 7.86”
The HP Pro 608 G1 is a professional style Windows 10 tablet with a stunning Full HD QXGA screen. Although only a 7.86-inch screen, it is one of the most lightweight tablets you can currently buy for photo editing or Photoshop use.
The importance of a quality screen is paramount when editing photos and this tablet certainly doesn’t fail to impress. Packing a resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels into a 7.86-inch screen it has a higher pixel density than the Microsoft Surface tablets.
A 24-bit color depth for each pixel offers the vibrant visuals and high definition images you need for editing photographs. The optional pen offers 1024 levels of sensitivity for more precision in your Photoshop or Lightroom work.
Running Windows 10 Home edition, you can run the Adobe CC suite on this tablet including full-blown versions of Photoshop and Lightroom. However, armed only with a 1.44GHz Intel Atom processor it’s not quite as powerful as other Windows tablets. Processing data-heavy files like the RAW format can take some time.
The HP Pro 608 G1 offers a reasonably powered tablet for photo editing, with full Photoshop CC compatibility. It includes a USB-C port for connecting external accessories and a MicroSD slot for expanding the storage. A versatile, yet affordable tablet for the casual photo editor.
- Compact and extremely lightweight at just 0.79 pounds—ideal for use when traveling.
- Pixel rich display with QXGA resolution.
- BrightView WLED technology for more contrast.
- Windows 10 Home offers compatibility with more photo editing software and apps.
- Highly responsive pen, not included, adds to the fluidity of Photoshop editing.
- Expandable storage up to 2TB with MicroSD SDXC support.
- Lower computing power means heavy duty Photoshop tasks can often take more time.
- The 21 WHr battery only provides about 6 hours of use.
Best Android Tablet for Photo Editing—Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 9.7”
Although the Galaxy Tab S3 has been replaced by the DeX supporting Tab S4, this tablet still includes all you need for photo editing. The DeX software on the new tablet is purely aimed at giving a more Windows-like desktop, which you don’t really need for photo editing.
What sets this tablet apart from other tablets in the price range is the HDR display, with a resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels. High Dynamic Range, or HDR, offers higher contrast ratios and highlights to your on-screen images. Although most content you download isn’t HDR yet, for anybody editing photos, it’s a powerful feature to have.
Using a 2.2 GHz Snapdragon processor and with 4GB of RAM, it has enough power for most photo editing tasks. An S Pen is included in the box for precision editing from day one. A detachable keyboard is also available, to unlock the full potential of the S3.
When equipped with the keyboard and S Pen, the Tab S3 is a powerful tool for Photoshop or Lightroom tasks. It has the power to work with larger files, even those processor hungry RAW files. If you need more storage space, you can easily upgrade up to 256GB with a MicroSD card.
The Samsung offers excellent value for money as an effective photo editing tool. There are many apps now available in the Google Play store, which offer features similar to Photoshop CC. And there’s always Photoshop Express and Lightroom which can sync with your desktop.
- Compact and lightweight at just short of one pound.
- Fast quad-core Snapdragon processor for multitasking or heavy duty tasks.
- SuperAMOLED HDR enabled screen provides contrast rich and sharp images.
- Includes an S Pen in the box. Precise and pressure responsive and never needs charging.
- Memory can be expanded with MicroSD card.
- Optional keyboard for a smoother workflow when photo editing.
- Impressive rear camera with 13MP, quality images even in low light.
- 7,300 MAh battery offers up to 12 hours of battery life and fast charging technology.
- No LTE models available, you’ll need to rely on Wi-Fi.
- A full glass back, rather than metal, can be fragile and slippy to hold.
Best Budget Apple Tablet for Photo Editing—Apple iPad 9.7” (2018)
Although we have already looked at one Apple device, the 2018 entry level iPad addresses the one big issue we had, the price. It’s not often you will hear an Apple product referred to as budget, but with added stylus support, the 9.7 iPad just got even closer to the costly iPad Pro.
The main reason so many creative types and photographers love their Apple products is the stunning displays. This latest iPad manages to pack a 2046 by 1536 display into a 9.7-inch Retina screen with the same PPI as the iPad Pro. Images appear vibrant and pin sharp, ideal for those photo editing tasks.
Obviously, at under half the price of the Pro, compromises have been made. The screen isn’t fully laminated, and a noticeable air gap can be a hindrance when using the stylus. The older LED technology used on the screen also lacks contrast when compared to the newer AMOLED displays found on other tablets.
A custom Apple A10 chip offers a powerful performance for editing photos and other productivity tasks. The App Store is full of professional photo editing software, like Affinity Photo, which can be used to open and edit PSD files.
This is a great little tablet for occasional photo editing on the go, you could always use Photoshop Express and save to the iCloud for later work. At less than half the price of the iPad Pro, it should be enough to keep Apple fans happy.
- Slimline design at just 0.29 inches.
- Stunning HD Retina display, with one of the industry’s leading pixel densities.
- Now supports the Apple Pencil.
- Powerful A10 processor with embedded M10 graphics coprocessor.
- Fingerprint scanner for added security for your photos.
- A 32.4-watt-hour battery offers up to 10 hours of use.
- Plenty of quality photo editing apps, including Lightroom and Photoshop Express, in the App Store.
- Less powerful processor than the iPad Pro—no support for Photoshop CC app.
- Poor quality cameras.
- No facility for external storage.
- Still uses Lightning connector rather than USB-C.
A Final Snapshot
Although Photoshop CC is incoming to the iPad Pro, at the moment the only true way of running a full Photoshop package on a tablet is with Windows 10. The Microsoft Surface Pro 6 offers a high specification tablet which can replace your desktop in every way.
For editing photos using Photoshop or Lightroom, it features one of the best screens on any tablet, and a powerful processor for faster editing. The Surface Pen and the optional Surface Dial offer great tools for more precision editing which would need an additional graphics tablet on a desktop PC.
The cameras may not be too great on the Surface Pro 6, there are certainly better cameras on much cheaper tablets. We’re not talking about taking photos though, rather tablets which can be used for editing your photos. Anyhow, you could look ridiculous holding up a large slab of metal to take a photo.