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Compared: The Best Tablets for CAD

Microsoft Surface Studio, Scan2CAD logo

So, you have just paid for and downloaded your favorite CAD application. You are all pumped up and ready to start creating and innovating, only to discover that the application is lagging! Alas, you have the wrong hardware. For CAD, it is very crucial that you have the right hardware, powerful enough to run tasks.

Once upon a time, only huge mainframe computers could run CAD. Thankfully, over the years, desktop computers that had enough power to run CAD applications became available. For a while, engineers and designers were content but another problem arose. The need for mobility. It was impossible to move desktop computers around but this movement was required to make work faster. Then came the solution; laptops. Again, all was well but if you think that everyone was content, think again. It didn’t take long for engineers and designers to start to look for on-the-go mobility. 

Some designers tend to be on the move and they love their work to go with them sometimes to beat deadlines, other times so as not to interrupt the flow of design creativity, and other times to be ready for a “Eureka” moment. As compact as laptops are, they don’t always solve the work-on-the-go issue as they are still considered a bit bulky for this purpose by many engineers and designers. So how does one get handheld mobility combined with the computing power required for CAD? The answer is Tablet Computers. Many CAD software developers, recognizing the need to work on the go, have fully functional versions of their products for tablets.

Now, there are thousands of tablets available in the market today. From play tabs for kids to mobile cinemas to powerful computers. How does one know which one of these would be perfect for running CAD applications? To help answer this question, we at Scan2CAD, after a lot of research, have come up with a list of the best tablets for CAD.

In this article, we will be reviewing the top 5 tablet computers for CAD, what makes them great, their features, their prices, where to buy them, and much more.

Note that some of the products on our list are 2-in-1 laptops and tablets known as convertibles. These are considered tablets as they are still fully functional when detached from their keyboards.

Also, we would simply be reviewing and not comparing the tablets.

What makes a tablet great for CAD?

Before we go to the list, it is important that we first understand the selection criteria. What are the features that should be considered before selecting a tablet for CAD applications?

CPU

The CPU (Central Processing Unit) of a device is considered as its brains. It is where the majority of tasks are processed. An insufficiently powerful CPU would lead to a lot of lagging during basic activities such as opening CAD software; creating, saving, importing, and exporting files; switching between interfaces; applying general instructions.

GPU

The main function of the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) is to render high-resolution graphics. CAD tasks such as simulation, rendering, visualization, presentation, and animation are handled by the GPU. A powerful GPU is required to perform these tasks properly.

Display

The only feedback you receive when creating a model is the visual output displayed on the screen of your device. Therefore, display size and resolution are very important. Not only do you require a sufficiently large screen but also clear crisp visuals.

Battery

What is the need of having a portable device if you need to charge it all the time? With the processing power required to run CAD applications, long-lasting batteries are important.

Operating System

There are hundreds of little-known operating systems in existence today. Not all these are capable of running CAD applications. Some don’t even have CAD versions. When choosing a tablet, you have to go for an OS that is widely accepted and compatible.

Accessories

Accessories often increase productivity when using CAD applications. While you may not always require them, it is a good idea for tablets to have accessories such as keyboards and smartpens in case the need for them arises. Smartpens, for example, can be used for interacting with CAD applications’ interfaces like a mouse pointer.

 

iPad Pro

iPad Pro

CPU

Apple A12Z Bionic chip + M12 Motion

GPU

PowerVR Series 7xT

Display

12.9″ (2732 x 2048)

Memory

6 GB

Storage

32, 64, 128, 256, 512 GB, or 1 TB

Battery

36.71 Wh

Accessories

Apple pencil, smart keyboard, and cover

Price

$998

 

First on our list is the iPad Pro. The latest version, iPad Pro 4th Generation (12.9″) was released on the 24th of March, 2020. Considering that it is manufactured by Apple, you are probably expecting great things. This tablet computer does not disappoint.

With a 12.9″ screen size and a 2732 x 2048 resolution, the display is very crisp and accurate. The lightweight and sleek design of the iPad Pro doesn’t hint at what’s under the hood. For a CPU, it uses an octa-core, 64bit Apple A12Z Bionic chip clocked at 2.49 GHz, and an embedded M12 Motion co-processor. The GPU is 12-Core PowerVR Series 7xT. All these run on the IpadOS. Combined, the CPU and GPU of the iPad Pro are capable of handling any tabs on any CAD application whatsoever.

Of course, all this computing power would be a waste if the battery isn’t strong enough to back it up. With a 36.71 Wh battery, the iPad Pro can take more than 6 hours of designing and modeling.

The iPad Pro has a 6 GB memory and depending on the exact model, a storage capacity of 32, 64, 128, 256, 512 GB, or 1 TB.

For enhanced functionality, there are three main accessories for this tablet computer. Apple Pencil, a Bluetooth tracking stylus; a magnetic, attachable smart keyboard; and a smart cover all sold separately.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

CPU

Core i3, i5, i7

GPU

Intel UHD graphics or Intel Iris Plus graphics

Display

12.3″ (2736 x 1824)

Memory

4, 8, or 16 GB

Storage

128, 256, 512, or 1024 GB

Battery

43.2 Wh

Accessories

pen, dial & mouse, and keyboard

Price

From $749.99

Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is not only the first 2-in-1 tablet computer on our list but also the first that runs on the Windows operating system. This amazingly light tablet was released by Microsoft on the 2nd of October, 2019. When you design with the Microsoft Surface Pro 7, what you create is exactly what you see. A 12.3″ screen with a 2736 x 1824 resolution makes this possible. There are various models of this tablet that vary in their hardware specifications. This is so that no matter the combination of specifications that you require, there’s a Microsoft Pro 7 version for you. For a CPU you can choose between Core i3, i5, i7; GPU options are Intel UHD graphics and Intel Iris Plus graphics; 128, 256, 512, or 1024 GB storage; and 4, 8, or 16 GB RAM. All models have a 43.2 Wh battery and can last more than 6 hours of heavy CAD use.

Major accessories include a pen, dial & mouse, keyboard, and covers.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6

CPU

Qualcomm Snapdragon 855

GPU

Adreno 640

Display

10.5″ (2560 x 1600)

Memory

6 or 8 GB

Storage

128 or 256 GB

Battery

7040 mAh

Accessories

S-pen and keyboard

Price

From $649.99

For hardcore fans of the Android OS who require the power of a laptop computer, look no further than the ultra-slim Galaxy Tab S6. It was released by Samsung on the 1st of August, 2019 to put mobile computing power into the hands of Android fans.

The tablet has an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor clocked at 2.84 GHz, and an Adreno 640 GPU. It also has a 6 or 8 GB memory and 128 or 256 GB storage. You can expand the storage up to 512 GB using a microSD card. For a clear and crisp display, the Galaxy Tab S6 has a 10.5″ Super AMOLED screen with a 2560 x 1600 resolution. It has a 7040 mAh battery capacity.

While the tablet is capable of running very tasking CAD software, it can only work on their Android version. This, however, is no restriction as all major CAD software developers have an Android version.

You can expand the functionality of the Galaxy Tab S6 with the S-pen and an attachable keyboard with a built-in trackpad. The S-pen comes with the tab but other accessories are sold separately.

HP Spectre X360

HP Spectre X360

CPU

Core i5/ i7

GPU

Nvidia Geforce GPU

Display

15.6″ (3840 x 2160)

Memory

8 or 16 GB

Storage

256 or 512 GB

Battery

61 Wh

Accessories

Pen

Price

From $1,099.99

If you think that any list of great computer hardware would not be complete without a product from HP, you are right. Introducing the HP Spectre X360, a true laptop, and a true tablet that runs on Windows OS. This 15.6″ machine has the best display on our list with a jaw-dropping 3840 x 2160 resolution. Combining the 8th Generation Intel Core i7 processor with an Nvidia Geforce GPU, this machine can handle even the most graphically demanding CAD tasks. There has never been a greater tablet for 3D rendering and simulation.

The HP Spectre X360 has various models that vary in memory and storage. You can choose between 8 and 16 GB RAM. Storage options are 256 and 512 GB. All models have a 61 Wh battery.

One drawback of this convertible is that the keyboard is not completely detachable. However, you can completely fold it behind the screen.

Microsoft Surface Pro X

Microsoft Surface Pro X

CPU

Microsoft SQ1

GPU

Adreno 685

Display

13″ (2880 x 1926)

Memory

8 or 16 GB

Storage

128, 256, 512 GB

Battery

38 Wh

Accessories

Pen, dial & mouse, keyboard

Price

From 899.99

For the last tablet on our list, we go back to Microsoft Surface Pro family for the Microsoft Surface Pro X. This tablet was released on the same day as the Pro 7 and also runs on Windows 10 OS. It comes with a 13″ display and a resolution of 2880 x 1926. The Microsoft Surface Pro X has a Microsoft SQ1 processor which was jointly developed by Microsoft and Qualcomm.

There are various models of this tablet that vary in storage and memory capabilities. You can choose between 8 and 16 GB memory, and among 128, 256, and 512 GB storage.

Accessories for this tablet include a pen, dial & mouse, and an attachable keyboard.

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