M4 iPad Pro (2024) vs Tab S9 series tablets (artist comparison)


11-inch M4 iPad Pro (left) and 14.6-inch Samsung Tab S9 Ultra

In this review, we will compare the M4 iPad Pro vs the Samsung Tab S9 series tablets from the artist perspective for drawing purposes. I will only cover features that matter to artist so I won't be talking about things like Apple Stage Manager vs Samsung Dex, audio quality.

This review is an update for the M2 iPad Pro vs Samsung Tab S9 series comparison I wrote last year so if you want to compare those two, check out that earlier review. I will also duplicate parts of that review here since certain sections have similar content.

Some background first. I love urban sketching and while sketching outdoors it's usually under bright conditions. I have just upgraded from my 11-inch M2 iPad Pro to the 11-inch M4 iPad Pro with the main reason being the new display is noticeably brighter for outdoor use.

By the way, if you find this review useful and you have the intention to buy the tablet, consider using the affiliate links below to make your purchase to support the work I do here.

Bottom line

Both M4 iPad Pros and Tab S9 tablets have rather similar drawing performance. Both Apple Pencil Pro and Samsung S Pen are accurate, have good pressure sensitivity, consistent and predictable performance. The feel of the pen is slightly different though as Apple Pencil Pro is heavier and has a hard tip which is smoother on glass. Samsung S Pen is lighter, has a soft tip and has more resistance on glass.


The main advantage iPads (left) have over the Samsung tablets for visual content creators is there are more graphic design apps from the Apple App Store that can handle typography, layout and vector. I'm talking about apps such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer and Affinity Publisher, Linearity Curve (formerly Vectornator), Amadine.

The only vector graphic design app on Android worth trying is Vector Ink (USD 9.99/month or USD 29.99/year) and that's not even as good as those vector apps listed in the previous paragraph. If you're into vector graphic design, go with Apple and get Affinity Designer which is a one time purchase and you can access your files forever as there's no subscription to lock access to your files.

For example, to create the specs comparison table below is easy with Adobe Illustrator but extremely challenging with the Samsung tablets due to the lack of graphic design apps with good typography and font controls, e.g. leading, kerning, line space, indents, paragraph spacing, justification, alignment.

I personally don't do vector graphic design on tablets as I prefer the desktop apps. If you have a computer, you can use the tablet as a wireless external display and use desktop vector graphic design apps on the tablet. The downside is you need two devices to do the work.

If you're only into drawing, both tablets are great for drawing, and there are plenty of capable drawing apps on iPadOS and Android. So I suggest choosing which tablet based on what else you may want to do other than drawing.

Specs comparison table

Tablets M4 iPad Pro 11 M4 iPad Pro 12.9 Tab S9 Tab S9+ Tab S9 Ultra
Display 11-inch tandem OLED, 1000 nits SDR, 1600 nits HDR 13-inch tandem OLED, 1000 nits SDR, 1600 nits HDR 11-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x, 420 nits to 750 nits HDR 12.4-inch Super AMOLED, 420 nits to 650 nits HDR 14.6-inch Super AMOLED, 420 nits to 930 nits HDR
Resolution 2420 x 1668, 264 PPI 2752 x 2064, 264 PPI 2560 x 1600, 276 PPI 2800 x 1752, 266 PPI 2960 x 1848, 240 PPI
Refresh rate Adaptive 10 to 120Hz Adaptive 10 to 120Hz Adaptive 60 or 120Hz Adaptive up or 120Hz Adaptive up or 120Hz
Processor Apple M4 Apple M4 Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
Memory 8-16GB 8-16GB 8GB 12GB 12-16GB
Storage 256GB - 2TB 256GB - 2TB 128 - 256GB 128 - 512GB 128 - 1TB
Camera Front 12MP f/2.4, rear wide 12MP f/1.8 Front 12MP f/2.4, rear wide 12MP f/1.8 Rear 13MP wide, front 12MP ultra-wide Rear 13MP wide, 8MP ultra-wide, front 12MP ultra-wide Rear 13MP wide, 8MP ultra-wide, front 12MP wide and 12MP ultra-wide
MicroSD card slot No No Yes, up to 1TB Yes, up to 1TB Yes, up to 1TB
Battery 8340 mAh 10340mAh 8400 mAh 10090 mAh 11200 mAh
Connectivity Wifi or Wifi + 5G LTE Wifi or Wifi + 5G LTE Wifi or Wifi + 5G LTE Wifi or Wifi + 5G LTE Wifi or Wifi + 5G LTE
Ports USB C Thunderbolt 4 USB C Thunderbolt 4 USB C gen 3.2 USB C gen 3.2 USB C gen 3.2
Speakers Quad speakers Quad speakers Quad speakers by AKG, Dolby Atmos Quad speakers by AKG, Dolby Atmos Quad speakers by AKG, Dolby Atmos
Biometric authentication Face unlock Face unlock Fingerprint on display, face unlock Fingerprint on display, face unlock Fingerprint on display, face unlock
Dimensions 177.5 x 249.7 x 5.3mm 215.5 x 281.6 x 5.1mm 165.8 x 254.3 x 5.9mm 185.4 x 285.0 x 5.7mm 208.6 x 326.4 x 5.5mm
Weight 444 - 446g 579 - 582g 498g 581g 732g
Price USD From $999 From $1299 From $799 From $999 From $1199
Pen Apple Pencil Pro - USD 129 Apple Pencil Pro - USD 129 S-Pen included S-Pen included S-Pen included

Display


The 11 and 13-inch M4 iPad Pros both use tandom OLED displays with SDR brightness up to 1,000 nits. All Samsung Tab S9 tablets use Dynamic AMOLED 2x with SDR brightness up to 420 nits. Both displays have almost similar visual quality except for minor variance caused by factory colour calibration. From what I can see, colours on both displays look great and rather true to life provided you don't go with the extreme vivid colour profiles.

Both Apple and Samsung OLED displays have pulse width modulation (PWM). People with sensitive eyes may be affected by PWM and eyes can get tired more easier. If you don't know if you're affected by PWM, it's best to see the tablets in store.

You can see PWM flicker in the video above at the 45:30 mark. I have set the camera settings to make it possible to capture PWM, but it's not something I can see myself in the real world.

Aspect ratio of the display is quite important as it affects productivity and how you use the tablet.


Aspect ratio of the iPad Pro (left) is 4:3 and this makes the tablet useable in both landscape and portrait orientation. Samsung tablets (right) use the 16:10 aspect ratio which more suited for landscape orientation. When using Samsung tablets in vertical orientation, together with the UI elements, e.g. palettes, your canvas space is almost too vertical. Watching videos and gaming are better on the Samsung tablets with minimal or no black bars at the top and bottom.

On the 14.6-inch Samsung Tab S9 Ultra, the narrow vertical aspect ratio is not too much of an issue since the display is so big and has enough space for the UI elements.

Pen

Both Apple Pencil Pro and Samsung S Pen supports tilt, pressure and palm rejection. Both pen are sensitive and have accurate tracking. Drawing performance is fantastic for both pens.

Both pens have low initial activation force and can detect minimal pressure changes quite well when drawing with minimal pressure. Lines are able to taper smoothly and sharply. There's no wobble when drawing diagonal lines slowly.


The main difference comes down to the design of the pens. Apple Pencil Pro has a hard tip and is powered by battery. Apple Pencil Pro does have more features than the Samsung S Pen. There's double tap and squeeze for shortcuts, haptic feedback and Find My feature to locate the misplaced pen.

The Samsung S Pen has a rubberised nib, a shortcut button and does not need battery power for drawing. The feel of drawing with the pen tips are different and which is better will come down to personal preference. Again, I don't prefer one over the either.

You can get hard and soft tips for either pens from third party manufacturers.

Apple Pencil Pro is priced at US $129. Samsung S Pen is included. If you don't like the physical design of the Samsung S Pen, there are alternatives such as the Staedtler Noris Digital, Staedtler Noris Digital Jumbo, Lamy EMR and Wacom One pen. Replacement pen nibs for the S Pen are also cheaper.

Latency

Both pens have very low latency so when writing or drawing, the gap as the line's catching up with the pen tip is minimal.

Not all drawing apps have been updated to take advantage of the low latency. Anyway, latency isn't a big issue because when drawing, we don't usually draw that fast and unless you're really looking out for the latency, you probably won't even notice the latency.

Palm rejection

Palm rejection for the pens and tablets work great. With apps where you can choose to accept only pen input, you can get perfect palm rejection.

Apps

The variety and quality of drawing apps available from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store are on par.

Many will say that Procreate on iPad is the best drawing app ever to appear on any tablet. Maybe. On Android, there's no lack of capable drawing apps too. Having a huge variety of drawing apps is certainly nice but ultimately you'll just be using one or two drawing apps mostly. Note that Procreate is exclusive to iPad which means you will be locked into the Apple ecosystem.


Here are some of the more popular drawing apps available from the Apple App Store:

  • Procreate
  • Clip Studio Paint
  • Medibang Paint Pro
  • Sketchbook
  • Tayasui Sketches
  • Concepts
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Fresco
  • Affinity Photo
  • PaintStorm
  • Infinite Painter
  • ArtStudio Pro

For graphic design, vector, layout apps on iPad, there are

  • Affinity Designer
  • Affinity Publisher
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Vectornator

From the Google Play Store, there are

  • Clip Studio Paint
  • Krita
  • Medibang Paint Pro
  • Sketchbook
  • Tayasui Sketches
  • Concepts
  • Ibis Paint
  • HeavyPaint
  • Infinite Painter
  • Artflow

File management

Most of the artworks created are saved within the drawing apps, and file management will depend on the apps you use.


For iPad backups, Apple uses iCloud which will make a backup of everything on the iPad.

Samsung provides three options for backup. You can use Samsung cloud, Google Drive or backup to external storage. These backup options may not backup everything. So it's useful to know where your artworks are saved, and check the backup afterwards. And if you're not sure whether your backup actually includes your artwork, you have to backup your artworks manually. So backup on Samsung tablets is not as convenient because you have to make sure the backup has everything you need.

Backups are important because tablets can be lost, damaged or stolen.

External display support

M1 iPad Pro with Stage Manager SamsungDex
For external display support, M4 iPad Pros have Apple Stage Manager. Samsung as Samsung Dex. I prefer SamsungDex because the UI is more desktop-like.

Battery life

Both tablets have good battery life and can usually last more than 9 hours. Samsung has 45W fast charging which get the tablet to 100% in 2 hours. iPad Pro charges more slowly but there's enough battery life to last for a day so charging speed isn't an issue.

For outdoor use under bright conditions, battery life is around 4-5 hours.

Ecosystem

The ecosystem is how well the devices work with each other.


Software ecosystem is a big thing nowadays. Apple has an ecosystem with many shared features such as AirDrop for wireless transfers, iCloud for backups across all Apple devices, Apple TV app that lets you have access to shows across all Apple devices.

For Samsung, some of the ecosystem features are contributed by third party apps and it's actually more flexible this way.

If you are a heavy user of Apple-only apps, you will be locked into the Apple eco-system. For example, I have many movies from Apple TV app, so I need an Apple device to play those movies. If you use Procreate exclusively, it means your next tablet will also be an iPad. If you use Clip Studio Paint which is available on MacOS, Windows, iPad and Android, you can switch to a tablet from any brand.

I try to use apps that run on all platforms so that I can access my files easily regardless of the device and OS I use.

While the iPad Pro has Thunderbolt 4 transfer speeds (40Gbps), the USB-C port on the Samsung Tab S9 tablets has USB 3.2 gen 2 speeds (10 Gbps, 1.25MB/s) is pretty fast for most use cases.

Using your tablets as external displays
You can use the iPad Pro and Samsung tablets as external displays to your Mac or Windows computers easily.

In the table below, the column on the left are devices which you may want to use as external displays.

iPad Android Mac Windows
iPad Apple SideCar, Duet DIsplay, Duet Air, Luna Display Luna Display
Android Duet Display, Duet Air, SpaceDesk Samsung Second Screen, SuperDisplay

It is possible to connect both Apple and Samsung tablets to your computer and use them as pen displays so that you can draw with your desktop apps. However, there is usually more noticeable latency so the best experience is still to draw with the tablet apps instead.

Which tablet to get if you're already using a Mac or Windows computer?

If you already have a Mac, there are definitely many advantages to getting an iPad Pro over the Samsung tablet. The main advantage of getting an iPad is wireless file transfer with AirDrop is very convenient even though it's slow. When I need to transfer files on iPad to my Windows computer, I always save it to Google Drive and download it from there so it's not a direct file transfer.

To transfer from Samsung tablet to Windows computer, you can use Nearby Share. To transfer from Samsung tablet to Mac, you can use cloud storage services, ShareDrop or SnapDrop web browser direct file transfers, or just connect a cable.

So which is the better tablet for artists?

Both M4 iPad Pro and Tab S9 tablets are very capable tablets for drawing. But if you also need to do graphic design work, go with the iPad Pro.

But otherwise, I will recommend you choose based on the software/apps you want to use, and the other features you may find useful.

Availability

If you want to support the work that I do and have the intention to buy any of the tablets, consider using my affiliate links to make your purchase. I earn some commission but at no extra cost to you.

Here are affiliate links:
M4 iPad Pro: Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP) and Lazada SG, Shopee SG.

Samsung Tab S9: Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | ES | IT | JP) and Lazada SG, Shopee SG

I find the Procreate's one-time purchase more appealing than those subscription-based ones, as it allows beginner artists to save money ON THE LONG RUN... however, given that Apple devices (including the new Apple Pencil Pro) batteries deteriorate after some years, now I'm starting to have second thoughts... if the stylus' battery fails, you cannot repair/replace it, you have to buy a whole new Apple Pencil altogether! so that's what 100 USD more? then add also the iPad's battery replacement cost too after 5yrs for example...aagh!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

@Anonymous
My Apple Pencil 2 is still working after 6 years. Such digital stylus will usually be damaged if they are not used for long periods of time. Since the Apple Pencil 2 or Pro are attached by the tablet all the time, they should not suffer battery damage.

Pen replacement or battery replacement cost after 5 years for USD 100 is worth the money. I just sent my 2018 iPad Pro for battery replacement yesterday actually. Will be using that tablet for another 5 years.

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