Should I Get an Older Surface Pro or a Cintiq for Digital Art?

Digital artistry is fun and seamless if you are using the right gadgets, and two contending brands are Microsoft’s Surface Pro and Wacom’s Cintiq. However, with both being highly effective, you might have concerns about which table you should use. That’s why you might be asking should I get an older Surface Pro or a Cintiq for digital art?

The brand to go for depends on your preferences as an artist. The Cintiq is the most effective of the two and more expensive. So if you have cost in mind, go for the Surface Pro, as it’s a great and efficient alternative to Wacom’s Cintiq.

Here, we have a detailed review for you to consider the distinct specifications of the two and their pros and cons. So if you’re ready to learn more, keep reading!

Should I Get An Older Surface Pro Or A Cintiq For Digital Art?

The decision to get an older surface Pro or a Cintiq for digital art depends on preference, requirements, and budget. Some specifications are vital to getting a great experience working with your digital canvas as a digital artist. These specifications differ based on the tablets and include screen size, hand rejection, battery life, pen pressure sensitivity, IAF, etc.

Older Surface Pro Or A Cintiq For Digital Art

Surface Pro vs. Cintiq has been an intriguing debate ever since. Each is highly effective for all kinds of digital arts and digital canvases, having great styluses.

These specifications depend on the purpose you have for the tablet. That said, we will compare the two tablets, but first, let’s look at them individually.

What Is Surface Pro

The Microsoft Surface Pro is a 2-in-1detachable tablet. The series operates on Windows 8.0, 8.1, 10, and just recently, Windows 11. Surface Pro tablets use Intel Core i5 and i7 processors to speed up tasks and activities. With its first debut on June 18, 2012, the Surface Pro has continued evolving and releasing improved versions annually.

Surface Pro

One thing to note is that the Surface Pro is not only a tablet but a hybrid between a tablet and a laptop. It comes together with a stylus pen to facilitate control and to help in drawing. This review talks about an older Surface Pro model such as the Surface Pro 4.

Here are the specifications we have used to analyze the Surface Pro 4.

General specifications

The Surface Pro 4 is a 12.3” Windows-Tablet that comes in 6th Generation Intel ® Core TM m3, i5, i7 variations. The model comes with a RAM size of either 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB RAM, and Intel HD graphics 515 (Core i5) or 520 (for Core i7). Also, its Surface Pro can have 128GB-1TB of storage.

Surface Pro 4’s screen resolution is 2736 x 1824. Unfortunately, this higher resolution makes it harder to click on menus and icons with your fingers.

Operating system

The Surface Pro 4 runs on the Windows 10 operating system, making it much easier for the cursor to flow with the pen. You can as well install android applications on the tablet if you desire.


While using the Surface Pro 4 for drawing, the battery can last you up to 5 or 6 hours. But this depends on the complexity of the task on the RAM. Battery lifespan also depends on the screen brightness and software you’re using.

This is a downturn compared to using a laptop, so we recommend that before you draw, ensure to charge the tablet till it’s full. One problem causing this reduced lifespan is the fact that Windows OS is a terrible power consumer. The OS usually uses Turbo Boost on the gadget’s processor unnecessarily.


Surface Pro has only one USB port. Thus, if you need to connect other USB devices to it, ensure to get a USB hub. Its Micro SD card port supports up to 2TB memory cards, offering you access to additional storage. It has a Mini DisplayPort for external display support. Also, this display port requires an adapter to allow you to connect it to any external screen.

Drawing experience

There are some distinct areas to consider about the drawing experience of Surface Pro 4. They include the IAF, Cursor accuracy at screen edges, Tilt, and sensitivity.

Let’s look at them individually:

The IAF (Initial Activation Force)

The Initial Activation Force is the minimum amount of pressure required to apply the style on the screen to register a stroke on it. More effective devices have lesser IAF. The Surface Pro 4 stylus has a pressure sensitivity of 1024 levels. This pressure sensitivity is adjustable if you open the Surface app within your Surface Pro 4 tablet.

However, the former Surface Pro Stylus with a pressure level of 256, offers a bit more pressure sensitivity when you want to draw softer lines. It also enables you to apply more pressure to get thicker strokes.

Also, an important thing you should note about the pressure sensitivity is that you’d be required to put on little pressure if you want faint lines. This is because once you hover the stylus’s tip over the glass of the screen without putting pressure, lines will not show. But if you use the graphite pencil feature, you’d see very faint lines.

The Surface Pro 4 and Stylus are not very sensitive.


Let’s define parallax first. Parallax is the offset between the cursor and your pen when seen from another angle. Usually, you will not notice any parallax until you change your viewing angle. Then, you may notice that your cursor is not in alignment with your pen from that new angle. A temporal solution to this problem is to calibrate your display as you’re viewing from your desired angle until you change your angle.

As we have earlier stated, Surface Pro 4 has a thin display, reducing its parallax problems.

Cursor Accuracy at screen edges.

The Surface Pro 4 is a relatively accurate device for using the stylus at the edge of the screen. You don’t have to worry about relocating menus and icons from the edge of your screen. This enhanced touch screen capability is because the Surface Pro 4 integrates the N-Trig art digitizer.

Tilt and Pressure Sensitivity.

Two major features in graphics and drawing are tilt and pressure sensitivity. In practice, the pressure and tilt sensitivity digitally represent how it’s done with a traditional pencil and paper. For example, using a pencil, you can get a thick or thin line depending on the amount of pressure you apply to the pencil. Digitally, if you make use of any drawing feature such as the pen displays, you should be able to get similar pressure sensitivity.

When you use digital tools like this, you can get similar results. Little pressure creates thin lines, whereas much pressure creates thick lines.

Tilt sensitivity is a much newer feature, seldom used in pen displays. You already should know how to create different shades of lines by tilting your pencil while drawing. That’s very similar to digital drawing.

Also, you can use the tilt and pressure sensitivity to manipulate other things, such as your strokes’ opacity.

That addressed, Surface Pro 4 has a pressure sensitivity of 1024 levels of pressure. Also, it doesn’t support the tilt sensitivity feature.

What Are The Advantages Of Older Surface Pro For Digital Art?

  • More affordable than its Cintiq counterpart.
  • Silent fan.
  • More cursor accuracy at the edge of the screen.
  • Although bulkier, it is compact, as there is no need to carry a screen and an additional laptop in your backpack.

What Are the Disadvantages of Older Surface Pro for Digital Art

  • Lesser pressure sensitivity levels.
  • The screen lags when zooming in.
  • The hotkeys have limited customization.
  • The lesser USB port becomes a bottleneck when you need to use more USB devices.

Is It Safe To Buy An Older Surface Pro?

It is safe to buy an older Surface Pro although it depends on your requirements.  Some of the older versions can still serve multiple purposes. For example, the Surface Pro 4 is a 5-year-old product in the marketplace. However, it still serves a set of high-efficient capabilities.

With up to 16GB RAM capacity, core i5 and i7 processors, 128GB of storage, Intel HD graphics 515 and 520, the Surface Pro 4 is still a handy choice.

What Is Cintiq?

The Cintiq tablets are specific types of tablets used for creating digital artworks. They are also called the “Pen Tablets” or “Graphics Tablets.” Cintiq tablets are dedicated to the graphics industry as they offer the most superior quality technology for digital arts.

What Is Cintiq

Now, we are considering the Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 tablet. Read on!

General specifications

The Cintiq Companion 2 is a 13.3” tablet with a 2569×1440 resolution. It has a 5th Generation Intel Core i7-557u 3.1GHz (Broadwell 28W Processor). It weighs 3.75lbs (much heavier than Surface Pro 4’s 1.75lbs) and is reinforced with Iris Graphics 6100 graphics. The storage capacity of the Cintiq Companion 2 ranges from 128GB to 512GB.

Operating system

The Cintiq Companion runs on a Windows 8.1 Operating System.


Battery life is a very serious consideration for having a digital canvas. Unfortunately, the battery life of the Cintiq Companion 2 is relatively lagging, as it lasts for only 3 hours while drawing on battery power.

So, if you choose to buy this tablet, note the battery lifespan and regularly plug it into a power supply.


The Cintiq Companion comes with six hotkeys and a single rocker ring. You can program the buttons to do whatever things you desire them to do on the tablet. Also, the rocker ring enables you to set functions such as changing the size of your brush. These hotkeys are very effective while drawing, and you should consider getting a system that has hotkeys.

Drawing experience

The IAF (Initial Activation Force)

The Companion 2 was built for digital art creation. Thus, it has a comparatively more superior IAF to the Surface Pro 4.


One of the things you will notice—not only about the Cintiq Companion 2 tablet but about every Wacom tablet—is the presence of parallax. If you encounter a parallax while drawing, ensure to calibrate your viewing angle while in this position until you change back to a better position.

Cursor Accuracy at screen edges.

Another bottleneck of Wacom tablets is that they are more likely to have lesser cursor accuracy at screen edges. Most times, this is not something to bother about while drawing but, if you need to access your icons and menus at the edge of your screen, just relocate them to the middle of your screen or someplace more accessible to you.

Tilt and Pressure Sensitivity.

For tilt and pressure sensitivity, the Cintiq Companion 2 has 2048 degrees of pressure sensitivity. This makes it more optimal than Surface Pro 4, and other contenders. In addition, it has a tilt sensitivity of ±60°. However, only professional painters can truly fully utilize the capabilities of the 2048 level it offers.  The other levels are still so effective and have specific perks.

What Are The Advantages Of Cintiq?

  • Lower screen resolution, making it easier for you to select icons and tools in your canvases.
  • Optimum stylus pressure interpolation and levels.
  • Much better IAF (initial activation force).
  • Up to 3 USB ports.
  • Has Hotkeys and ringer locks, as well as two customizable buttons on the pen.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Cintiq?

  • It has a noisy fan, which will eventually be unpleasant to you.
  • It is almost twice as heavy as the Surface Pro.
  • More expensive and unaffordable for beginner painters, student painters, etc.
  • Prone to parallax.
  • More likely to be limited around the screen edges.

Which One Should You Choose?

If you are looking forward to getting a high-end art creation tablet that is cost-effective, then go for the Surface Pro. But if you’re looking for the best performance and can afford it, then go for the Cintiq Companion 2.

Note that, because of price, most artists use Surface Pro tablets.


Should I get an older Surface Pro or a Cintiq for digital art? It depends on several factors. These factors include the cost of the tablet, your preferences, and the battery lifespan of the devices.

While Cintiq offers superior quality technology, it comes at a very expensive cost. However, Surface Pro is more affordable but offers lesser features.

Ronald Bryan

After completing my graduation in computer engineering, I started a business where I’m selling different types of laptops and their accessories. Besides my business, I love to do research and blogging on computer technology. While operating my business, I saw many of my customers didn’t have adequate knowledge about laptops. Therefore most of them are purchasing the wrong one and don’t get the right output they expected. That motivates me to write on this matter, and Laptopgeeky is the result of that. I created this site to share my knowledge with people who are looking for laptops for specific tasks.

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