Best Tablets for Music Production: Apple iPad vs Microsoft Surface Pro – Rolling Stone
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The Best Tablets for Music Production

Be ready when inspiration strikes

Best Tablets for Music Productions

Courtesy Shutterstock / ra2studio

This article is a part of RS Recommends, an editorial series reviewing products in music and entertainment. Items are independently selected; Penske Media may earn a commission from purchases made from our links.

This article is a part of RS Recommends, an editorial series reviewing products in music and entertainment. Items are independently selected; Penske Media may earn a commission from purchases made from our links.

The recording studio isn’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean amateur or traveling musicians can’t benefit from a lite studio that can go everywhere. Enter tablets. The devices you use to check out at food trucks and read the New York Times have steadily grown more and more powerful. And with that added power comes the ability to do more than swipe cards or read books. Now, you can create and record music, too.

With an endless sea of aftermarket components (like iRig) and apps (like FL Studios), as well as extra space and faster processors, the tablet has truly become the modern musician’s multi-tool. From iPads to the Surface Pro, see our list of tablets that pack the most heat. Because sometimes inspiration strikes on your way home from class or somewhere near Bakersfield in between San Francisco and Los Angeles. With a tablet at the ready, you can make your bedroom or your tour bus a mini recording studio.

1. iPad ProiPad Pro

The iPad Pro was an obvious choice for a list of powerful tablets. With a 12.9 inch screen and Apple’s most powerful chip, the A12X, this tablet is a beast that can and will handle anything you throw at it. We’ve listed the model with 256 GB of space, but if you plan on keeping this thing around for years, and using it to store tons of data, Apple actually offers a version with 1 TB of memory.

But the Pro offers more than a ton of space. For one, the Pro features Apple’s newest Liquid Retina display giving you 2732-by-2048-pixel resolution at 264 pixels/inch. Which is to say, the display is impressive. But for a musician, the most important quality in this tablet is the engine, and the A12X chip driving this iPad runs five trillion operations every second, according to the manufacturer. Needless to say, if Mark Foster could record and edit songs on his phone, imagine the possibilities with Apple’s newest Pro. Purchase: $999.00 on Amazon.

2. Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

If you’re looking for a tablet that functions like a laptop, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6 might be the option for you. Acting as the latest in the Surface Pro line, this tablet offers a variety of options for customization. The base model starts with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. However, we prefer a model with slightly more storage (256 GB to be exact) as creating and recording takes up quite a bit of space. Microsoft does offer their Surface Pro with the Intel Core i7, however that extra-fast processing will run you an additional $300. While we’re all for faster speeds, the i5 is no slouch, and can handle your FL Studio sessions just fine.

The biggest win for the Surface Pro, however, is the battery life. According to Microsoft, this tablet should last all day with regular use, and 13.5 hours of video playback. As producing and recording takes up a fair amount of battery, you can expect it to last closer to the 13 hour mark. But even at 13 hours, the Surface Pro is outlasting the iPad Pro and iPad Air by a considerable amount. And if you add on the keyboard accessory, you can transform your Surface into a laptop on a whim. Purchase: $885.00 on Amazon.

3. Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

Samsung’s entry into the powerhouse tablet section comes in the form of their Tab S4. The S4, while not as powerful as the Surface Pro or iPad Pro, still boasts an impressive amount of storage and power for the price. Their 256 GB model will run you $747.99 on Amazon, however you can upgrade the memory to 400 GB with the purchase of a microSD card. What’s more, it’s nearly the lightest option on our list, second to the iPad Air by .06 lbs.

This S4 comes equipped with a 10.5” screen, 2560 x 1600 pixel display resolution, Android Oreo and a Quad-Core processor which is plenty fast for recording and making music. Though it’s not the most powerful, it’s good for a musician on a budget. The S4 also comes standard with Samsung’s S-Pen, a nifty little device that allows you to write and draw on your tablet as if it were a Moleskine notebook. If lyrics tend to pup into your head on the road, this is a great device to have by your side. Purchase: $747.99 on Amazon.

4. Apple iPad Air

iPad Air

While the Pro brings a lot to the table, the brand new Air is a serious contender in nearly every category for a music forward tablet. From a storage standpoint, the Air comes in either a 64 GB or 256 GB model. And compared with the Pro’s 256 GB model, an Air of the same size would save you over $300. The Air also boasts Apple’s A12 Chip with Neural Engine, which is the second highest level of chips that Apple has in production at the moment (the highest being the A12X found in the iPad Pro).

What this all means for music production and musicians, is that the iPad Air has a lot of memory and power for a great price. It can run apps like GarageBand, Cubasis and FL Studios with serious ease and it won’t cost you over $1,000 like the Pro. Furthermore, the Air is almost 40% lighter than its Pro counterpart, so if your goal is to be truly mobile while recording or toying around with songs, this is a solid bet. If a lightweight tablet with a beautiful display and one of the most powerful chips on the market sparks your fancy, this is worth consideration. Purchase: $614.00 on Amazon.

One Final Note:

You’ll notice in this roundup we left out any mention of the tablets’ speakers. This was on purpose. While several of these options boast impressive speakers for tablets, they’re nothing compared to a good pair of headphones or a good Bluetooth speaker. And if you’re using these devices to create tunes (or listen to music), don’t use the built-in speakers. Pick up a pair of headphones if you’re solo or connect to a Bluetooth speaker if you want to share your work.

 

  

1. Apple iPad Pro

The iPad Pro was an obvious choice for a list of powerful tablets. With a 12.9 inch screen and Apple’s most powerful chip, the A12X, this tablet is a beast that can and will handle anything you throw at it. We’ve listed the model with 256 GB of space, but if you plan on keeping this thing around for years, and using it to store tons of data, Apple actually offers a version with 1 TB of memory.

But the Pro offers more than a ton of space. For one, the Pro features Apple’s newest Liquid Retina display giving you 2732-by-2048-pixel resolution at 264 pixels/inch. Which is to say, the display is impressive. But for a musician, the most important quality in this tablet is the engine, and the A12X chip driving this iPad runs five trillion operations every second, according to the manufacturer.

PROS: Four speaker audio with wider stereo sound; up to 10 hours battery life.

CONS: No headphone jack. You’ll need to buy an adapter to plug in a set of cups.

iPad Pro

Courtesy of Amazon

  

2. Microsoft Surface Pro 6

If you’re looking for a tablet that functions like a laptop, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6 might be the option for you. Acting as the latest in the Surface Pro line, this tablet offers a variety of options for customization. The base model starts with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. However, we prefer a model with slightly more storage (256 GB to be exact) as creating and recording takes up quite a bit of space. While we’re all for faster speeds, the i5 is no slouch, and can handle your FL Studio sessions just fine.

The biggest win for the Surface Pro, however, is the battery life. According to Microsoft, this tablet should last all day with regular use, and 13.5 hours of video playback. As producing and recording takes up a fair amount of battery, you can expect it to last closer to the 13 hour mark. But even at 13 hours, the Surface Pro is outlasting the iPad Pro and iPad Air by a considerable amount. And if you add on the keyboard accessory, you can transform your Surface into a laptop on a whim.

PROS: Easily converts to laptop with addition of keyboard accessory; a true all-in-one unit.

CONS: No USB-C connection.

Microsoft Surface Pro 6 best tablet

Courtesy of Amazon

 

  

3. Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

Samsung’s entry into the powerhouse tablet section comes in the form of their Tab S4. The S4, while not as powerful as the Surface Pro or iPad Pro, still boasts an impressive amount of storage and power for the price. Get the 256 GB model to start working on your productions, then upgrade the memory to 400 GB with the purchase of a microSD card.

This S4 comes equipped with a 10.5” screen, 2560 x 1600 pixel display resolution, Android Oreo and a Quad-Core processor which is plenty fast for recording and making music. Though it’s not the most powerful, it’s good for a musician on a budget. The S4 also comes standard with Samsung’s S-Pen, a nifty little device that allows you to write and draw on your tablet as if it were a Moleskine notebook. If lyrics tend to pup into your head on the road, this is a great device to have by your side

PROS: Up to 16 hours battery life – the longest on our list. This is also the lightest option on our list.

CONS: Only 4GB of RAM; some users say the parts felt cheap compared to an iPad.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

Courtesy of Amazon

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