Macbook vs. IPad (?)

  • Hello art community,
    I'd like to learn digital next year, so I've been doing some research into what tools to do it with - but it's all so varied and so expensive.
    I'm going to wait until after taxes come, so there is no rush, but I was curious what you all had to say about your experiences with the tech.
    I'd like to get a machine that can last 10 years. I have a history with Macs and feel comfortable with their navigation.
    Would you suggest a desktop, laptop or IPad?
    Anyone switch from Mac to PC and loving the experience?
    So curious to hear from you all!

  • Pro

    Macs are nice, but decidedly expensive! I personally think, too expensive for what it is... I've tried both since I have a PC at home but worked 3 years at a studio that had Macs. I used to work all day at the Mac then come home and work on my PC. They're not so different, both have pretty easy navigation and are very easy after a short period of getting used to. The thing is, you need a drawing tablet too in order to work comfortably of the computer, so I wouldn't suggest blowing all your money on the computer and have nothing left for a nice tablet...

    I definitely wouldn't suggest a laptop. They don't last as long as PCs, are more expensive and the screens convey colors and light very differently, which can lead to color issues. Your best options are either a desktop computer + tablet (Wacom Intuos is a great one to start) or an Ipad + Apple pencil. A lot of people really like working on the iPad and I think overall it might run you a bit less expensive than a desktop + tablet. However, I'm doubtful the Ipad will last you 10 years... If you're just starting though, it could be a good option that's less of a big commitment, until you can see if you even like digital art.

    I changed my entire set-up recently and did it very cheaply, actually. I got a refurbished computer for for about $300, and I found on Facebook an artist that sold me her large Intuos 5 for $40. The nice thing with the computer is that I can upgrade it over time, part by part. I'm adding some memory and a better power supply this Christmas, maybe a better graphics card next year. Anyway, it is possible to get a start quite inexpensively by going with refurbished or second-hand. I mean I've been doing this over 10 years and felt uneasy at spending too much, I can't imagine having to drop thousands just to get started O___O It's quite scary!

  • @nessillustration I feel you are wrong about laptops not lasting. That is all I use will never go back to a desk top. My Sony Vaio is seven years old and runs just like I bought yesterday. I also have a Dell that is four old that is perfect. In the past my Dell studio was good for eight years before I gave it away (only because I wanted to upgrade)

  • Pro

    @rcartwright We've had different experiences then! I've had 2 laptops that I paid a fortune for and they lasted 3 years each...

  • Thank you so much for your feedback @NessIllustration and @rcartwright. I didn't think everyone's experience would be the same - it's nice to have two different views and the pros/cons according to your experiences.
    I think I may just start with an Ipad, especially since it's due to get photoshop next year, and from there gauge what I need/want moving forward.
    I am very intrigued about desktops and how you can upgrade them as you go along - my little brother is also a wiz with PC's and gaming, so he could be a good resource for building/updating (for the rest of my life).

    I'm currently using a 2009 macbook, with CS4 - so I'm basically a hipster.

    Thank you again!

  • Pro

    @kaitlinmakes It's timely too, there's just been an update on Procreate that everyone is raving about!

    For upgrading desktops as you, it is a very cool solution if not very user friendly, so it's great if your little brother can help you. My boyfriend is helping me with mine 🙂

  • @kaitlinmakes just wanted to say that you don't need to buy an apple computer to use MacOS. I build my own custom machines and last one I built was a hackintosh so it was running both MacOS and Windows 10. More powerful than a Mac but built for much cheaper. You just have to make sure all the bits you buy are compatible with the MacOS. I use tonymacx86 for all the resources to build this kind of machine. It not only saves money, but you can also upgrade without having to buy a new machine.

  • I own all 3!

    When it comes to lasting 10+ years, you will almost certainly have to upgrade or repair your computer, macbook or PC.

    Let's break down some pros and cons.

    -Has some great software
    -Pencil is awesome
    -Can be hooked up to a mac to function as a tablet with the purchase of a special program.
    -Relatively expensive (You could have a cintiq instead)
    -Probably least likely to last 10 years
    -Software is generally not as powerful as on full OS (though Procreate is pretty awesome 🙂 )
    -Apparently in order to make the program that makes your ipad function as a tablet work you need to have a really good (expensive) mac.

    Macbook with tablet or cintiq
    -Full version of software
    -Will probably last 10+ years (my 2009 imac is still ticking, though I did have to repair it and upgrade it)
    -Not easily upgraded/modified (especially if it's a new mac)
    -Probably the most expensive option, even if you get a refurbished model.

    PC with tablet or cintiq
    -Full version of software
    -Will almost certainly last 10+ years, though you may need to swap out some parts.
    -Easily modified, upgraded and repaired, with MANY youtube videos on every conceivable topic for upgrading and repairing yourself.
    -Repair services are readily available.
    -off the shelf laptops and PCs can be loaded with bloatware or made from substandard parts (at least in my experience)
    -There's other cons, I'm sure, but I'm sleepy.

    -Just keep in mind that in order to do 2d digital art comfortably, you don't need anything fast or top of the line. I built my work PC for 1/4 the price of a modest mac with average parts and it is lightning fast for drawing.


    -Ipads are great but not up to most professional work yet. Macs can be awesome but super overpriced (ESPECIALLY now). PC's can be cheap but can also be made of garbage.

    -Just keep in mind that in order to do 2d digital art comfortably, you don't need anything fast or top of the line.

  • @sigross Love this! Didn't even know this was a possibility!

  • @art-of-b
    Thank you for the indepth breakdown - the part about the computer not having to be fast or top of the line really helps me too, because I thought it did. So that just opens up so many different avenues for me.

    It's really good to know that I don't have to break the bank to get into the digital game, and I'm so grateful for all the feedback - this is all so foreign to me, but less so now.

  • You are going to be hard pressed to find any computer system that will be viable solution for 10 years.

    The argument that macs are expensive is ridiculous. If you build a PC at dell with the same components as a Mac uses, the price will be nearly identical, so pricing is a wash. (Apple does not make lower end computers and a $300 pc, is a lower end computer).

    It comes does to your workflow. Do you wish to have portability (iPad, surface) or be tethered to a desk (desktop/laptop with a plug is drawing surface)?

    If you want it to last 10 years, you need to spend some money. The question is how much?

    If you buy an iPad or surface (I chose iPad), you have 0 options for expandability (ssd memory, ram) but some surfaces do allow sd card storage and cloud storage is an option.

    Laptops would reduce a desk footprint but often the ram is soldered into place and is not expandable. Besides, with a laptop you are still plugging in an intuos or a cintiq. So I would recommend a desktop with a great screen, expandable memory and something that would give you a long life.

    For me that would be an iMac 27” with retna display and as much ram as you can afford to purchase. then purchase the drawing unit of choice (intuos, cintiq, etc).

    So it comes down to portability of an iPad (buy the best you can) or iMac.

  • SVS OG

    I have a 2015 Mac laptop with a Cintiq Pro 16. I already had the notebook and for various reasons, will probably always have a Mac laptop. But if there had been larger Cintiqs available at the time I got mine, I would have preferred one.

    The pros are that it's really easy for me to use this setup, also in conjunction with my phone, to quickly share files and photo reference materials. Also, since I usually work on my living/dining room table and need it for other things, this allows me to put away my setup easily or detach my laptop and carry it around. I only have one computer. Sometimes I also change rooms.

    The cons are: I really wish I had a way to take my work with me when I go to the US! I can take my laptop, but not my Cintiq. So usually when I have the most leisure time, I have no way to work digitally. Also I think it would be fun to carry an iPad around town and do quick sketches on it.

    Also--I am having some major tech problems with my Photoshop/mac/Cintiq set up at the moment. I don't know which is the culprit, but wasting so much time on tech support with no results is a drag, especially considering that my system is relatively new and should be of good quality.

    I don't think any computer is likely to last ten years. Maybe if one knew how to build a PC one could make it last by adding components, but the problem usually isn't even durability; it's obsoletion. For that reason I recommend buying the most RAM possible. It helps.

  • I have an iMac that has lasted me 8 years now, great investment. The screen is starting to show it's age but it still runs great. I recently purchased a very large Huion pen monitor and I cannot say enough great things about it. If anyone is looking for a cintique without the super expensive price tag I highly recommend checking them out. They have arguably better pressure sensitivity than Wacom in most of their products and while their pens do not currently have tilt sensitivity they recently started beta testing that function with their newest products (so I can only imagine it's coming soon).

    I agree with the others on here saying that you are going to be hard pressed to find a laptop that will last 10 years, technology is just so fast moving now-a-days that it is going to take a lot to find a laptop that is so spec-ed out that the software coming out 5 years from now won't bog it down. A shame when you look at the price tags they come with but thats the reality of it. That being said, I personally still prefer a laptop over an iPad for design and illustration.

    Most tablets use the same operating system as your cell phone. Running on a mobile operating system limits how much you can do and the programs you can run. Procreate is great but still sub-par to photoshop and while adobe has said that they are bringing photoshop to the ipad it's not here yet and when it's released it's likely to cause lag and have bugs so I wouldn't bet on using that on your primary workflow just yet. File size limits and export quality are often effected when working on a mobile OS. For smaller illustrations this isn't an issue but if you ever need to do some larger pieces down the line it may be limiting. I have never used a surface pro but if you are looking for some sort of in-between this may be a good option because it gives you the tablet screen and it runs a full windows operating system as opposed to a mobile one.

  • In terms of tablets, if you cant stretch to a cintiq but you still want a display tablet, check out huion, supposed to be really good, and a fraction of the cost (about 300 quid english money). Combine that with a purpose built budget PC (500 quid ish) that will be more than powerful enough, and you can upgrade that at your leisure. All much of a muchness these days i recon, depends which mast you pin your flag to, PC or Mac.

  • Everybody here has excellent points and I don’t have much to add other than I have an iPad Pro and I’ve never regretted it for a second. It’s super lightweight and thin so I can throw it in my purse and use it wherever. I did a full painting the other day while waiting at the mechanic shop for my car to get fixed.

    Like others have mentioned, you can use it as a tablet with Photoshop or whatever, but a better computer will give you better results. It’s a little laggy with my laptop but works like a dream with my desktop at work.

    Another thing to think about if price is a concern (and you’re fairly responsible) is you can finance through Apple/Barclaycard and depending on the final cost, you can get up to 18 months with no interest.

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