The case against pen computers


Pen computers are standalone drawing tablets with screens that you can use without being attached to a computer. Essentially they are laptops that work with an EMR pen.

Even though some people love using pen computers, I do not in general recommend buying one.

Key characteristics of a pen computer:

  • Run a desktop OS - these are intended to be full-fledged personal computers. As of 2023, all pen computers run Windows.

  • Have a battery - because they must be run without being connected to a source of power

  • Pen tech - It varies. Some use EMR, some use MPP, some use AES.


  • Microsoft Surface Pro (..7,8,9,10,etc)

  • Huion Kamvas Studio

  • Wacom Mobile Studio Pro

Alternatives to pen computers

Instead of pen computers, I recommend looking at mobile devices that support pens. These are devices such as:

  • Apple iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil

  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S series tablets that use the Samsung S pen

More here: Standalone drawing tablet recommendations


Pen computers are incredibly expensive.

I certainly do not recommend pen computers for people who are just getting started with drawing tablets. I will always recommend that you go with cheaper alternatives. And the reason for this is simple: You may find that the wrong experience doesn't live up to your expectations.


Pen computers typically have very limited upgradability.

Typically once you buy pen computer you'll be stuck with those specifications in terms of memory processor speed and GPU for the entire lifetime of the device.

If you are going to purchase a pen computer please verify how upgradable it is before you make the purchase.

Customer support

Companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Dell sell a lot of laptops and all-in-one systems. These companies have built world-class customer support organizations and support systems to ensure that their customers are getting the help they need when a customer has a question or something goes wrong with these complicated devices.

The truth is that drawing tablet manufacturers aren't as big as these companies. They handle a much smaller volume of products and users and you may find that their customer support may not be as helpful as these larger companies.


As with most laptops and all-in-one systems a pen display is typically not intended to be user-serviceable. If something goes wrong it's going to be difficult to fix by yourself. Not only are these computers often not designed to be opened. Even if you are successful in opening the case and fixing whatever problem there is it will most certainly void your warranty.

If you need to have the pen computer repaired by the manufacturer. You are going to find that both the process is difficult and the cost is extraordinarily high.

You cannot take these devices into a local retail store for the tablet manufacturer to take a look at. You'll have to send the pen computer back to the manufacturer and you will have to pay for the cost of shipping. And the repair cost can be as expensive as getting another laptop.

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