The Best Tablet for Architects and Contractors (Update 2020)
Need a tablet that will simplify working in the field? It’s a jungle out there with a mind-boggling number of tablets on offer. But I’ve got good news: If you’re looking for the best tablet for architects or contractors, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, because this guide is definitely for you.
Our aim is to help you find a tablet that truly suits your needs. We’ve done hours of research to uncover the top four tablets for architects and contractors.
Also, we’ve included 8 tablet selection criteria that architects should pay particular attention to when choosing a tablet. These are based on feedback from ArchiSnapper users, who are people just like you.
So let’s dig into it, shall we?
- Why a Good Tablet Is Essential for Architects and Contractors
- 9 Most Important Tablet Selection Criteria
- How Did We Test the Tablets?
- Best Tablet Selection
Budget | Small | for Architects | for Contractors
- In Conclusion
Note: If you’re specifically looking for a drawing tablet, then this guide is not for you. While some of the tablets we mention below might suit your needs when you add accessories, like a Stylus, these drawing tablets are very specific. If you’re interested in learning more, we recommend that you watch this great video series by Aaron Rutten. Or if you prefer reading here’s a great guide at the Pixpa blog, and here are the 6 best drawing tablets according to archisoup.
Don’t feel like reading the entire article?
Here are our top four tablets for architects and contractors:
|Best Budget Tablet
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite
Starting at $349
Read more ↓
|Best Small Tablet
Apple iPad Mini 2019
Starting at $384
Read more ↓
|Best Tablet for Architects
Apple iPad Pro 2020 11-inch
Starting at $799
Read more ↓
|Best Tablet for Contractors
Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro
Starting at $599
Read more ↓
A tablet is ideal for work at the construction site. Here’s why:
- A tablet has a bigger screen than a smartphone, and it’s less clunky to carry with you compared with a laptop.
- It’s lightweight, yet powerful.
- When it comes to size, you’ve got options! You can go as small as an 8-inch screen, or as big as a 12.9-inch screen for a great overview of floor plans and drawings.
- It’s easy to take field pictures with your tablet’s camera.
- You can protect your tablet with a rugged case, and easily carry it with you in a mount.
- The latest devices can be turned into small laptop-like devices when you add a keyboard, trackpad, and/or stylus to easily write out notes.
- There are so many amazingly useful apps at your disposal for use in the field.
- A tablet is your perfect partner to embrace digitalization in the construction business, helping you access all the data you need anytime, anywhere.
We’ll be the first to admit that tablets aren’t cheap. But when considering whether or not you truly need a new one, think about more than just the immediate costs. More specifically, consider the costs of not having a tablet. For example, you’d lose time — and therefore money — doing any of the following:
- Writing out worksite comments and notes with your phone’s small, less handy keyboard
- Clumsily zooming in and out of your phone’s tiny screen to search for the correct area on your floor plan
- Recharging your old tablet’s battery because it’s always running low on power
- Physically carrying outdated printed blueprints to the construction site
- Waiting on documents and files to open on your slow, old tablet
- Redoing your work because your darn application or tablet crashed and lost all your important information!
So, do we have you convinced, or do we have you convinced? If you decide that the benefits of owning a good tablet outweigh the costs, your next challenge is to find the right tablet…
Of course, everyone has their own tablet preferences. To give you a nice framework to find the best tablet for architects or contractors like you, we’ve put together the most important selection criteria you can use to hone in on your winner!
First things first: Device specs like “7-inch tablet” or “10-inch tablet“ refer to the length of the screen when you measure it diagonally. They don’t refer to the size of the tablet itself.
The ideal screen size is a matter of personal taste. It really depends on what you want to accomplish with your device at the construction site and elsewhere.
Smaller screen sizes
If your worksite visits are typically brief because you mostly just take pics and attach the occasional note, then a smartphone could very well suffice. Keep in mind, however, that phones generally offer a small 5- to 6-inch screen (~13-15 cm), so writing out longer texts or navigating documents and floor plans might be inconvenient.
Larger screen sizes
Need to write out thick blocks of text, scrutinize detailed docs, or perform any sort of intensive task at the worksite? If so, a regular tablet like a Samsung Galaxy Tab or iPad Pro with a 10- to 13-inch screen (~25-33 cm) will be your best option.
If you’re still struggling to decide, consider a small tablet. It will fit into your coat’s pocket and still be more convenient than a smartphone for reading or editing documents, and typing text. A good example is the iPad mini with a 7.9-inch screen (~20 cm), or Android models of the same size. This is a popular format among our users.
Still in limbo about whether you need a smartphone, tablet, or both? Maybe this article can help you decide.
What kind of connectivity do you need? Generally, tablets come with either “Wi-Fi only” or “Wi-Fi plus a cellular connection (4G or 4G-LTE).”
You can save several hundred dollars for a device with no cellular connection. Plus, you’ll save on the cost of paying an internet connection provider for your data usage. Keep in mind, though, that most construction sites don’t have (good) Wi-Fi. So ask yourself:
- How often do you need an internet connection on the go? (If you’re unsure, monitor your usage during a typical day. How many times do you use the internet on your phone, or the Wi-Fi connection at a worksite?)
- Do you work with apps that require an internet connection?
- Do you frequently need to check your emails, download the most recent version of a blueprint, or send field reports or other documents to colleagues?
If you answered yes, you should probably go for a more expensive tablet with 4G. That way, you can be online at a moment’s notice without hassle.
If you’re looking for a future-proof device, you might want to consider investing in one that’s already capable of using the 5G network, as this network’s coverage is growing every day. There aren’t too many options available yet, but we expect them to launch in the year to come.
We’ll leave it to you to decide whether 5G is worth the extra investment or not. Here’s an interesting guide if you’re curious to learn more about it.
Of course, if you need an internet connection only from time to time, you can always create a temporary hotspot with your phone. You can also buy a dedicated mobile hotspot. In either case, just be aware of the monthly fees for data usage.
In the end, you may decide that you’re fine without an anytime-anywhere connection for your tablet. Whatever the case, consider your connectivity needs and weigh them against the price increase before you choose your tablet.
An operating system (OS) is a software program that enables the computer hardware to communicate and operate with the computer software. The OS determines the layout of the touchscreen interface, and which apps it can run.
The 3 main players are iOS, Android OS, and Windows.
iOS | Apple
iOS, the oldest operating system for tablets, is hugely popular because of its intuitive, straightforward setup that requires almost no learning curve. Another advantage of iOS devices is that they’re all part of an ecosystem that can easily connect all your Apple products (iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iCloud, etc.). So, you won’t have to go through an intensive technical setup yourself.
Additionally, you get an automated notification when an update is available for your device. So you don’t have to worry about manually keeping it up to date yourself.
iOS is considered to be the most secure OS because you can’t go rogue when it comes to adapting settings and installing apps. You’re also limited to Apple-approved apps available in the Apple App Store, and the approval process to showcase an app there is quite demanding. Fortunately, a wide range of apps is available. If you’re interested, check out our list of the best apps for Architects.
Another advantage of Apple’s OS is Apple CarPlay, which you can use with a tablet that has a cellular connection. If your car has this functionality, you can connect your iOS device with your car and control apps like Waze and Spotify immediately from your car’s display.
Android OS | Google
The keyword to describe Android OS is flexibility.
And that’s what immediately sets iOS and Android lovers apart. Whereas iOS fans mostly love smooth and streamlined processes, Android aficionados go wild about the wide variety of customizations they can set up on their devices.
This flexibility goes for both users and developers. The biggest difference when it comes to installing apps is that you’re not limited to using the Google PlayStore. You can also download apps from third parties.
Tablets running on Android OS won’t necessarily look the same. One reason for this is because of the different app stores whose myriad apps are available for customization. There are manufacturer-specific app stores, and even brand-specific app stores. For example, Samsung has its own app store for Samsung-specific apps. And Amazon has its own app store for Amazon Fire tablets that run on a modified version of Android.
The biggest disadvantage of this flexibility is security. Google Play Store is less strict in accepting apps, which makes it easier for developers with bad intentions to add malware. So, be sure that the vendor offering an app you want is trustworthy.
Another critical point worth emphasizing is that you won’t get automated update notifications on Android devices when there’s an OS update available. Most of the time, these updates include security improvements. So, to avoid getting your phone or tablet hacked, be sure to update!
And as for developers, as great as the Android OS system’s flexibility is, it’s incredibly difficult — if not impossible — to test applications on all Android devices. There are just way too many of them! And that’s why we’d advise that you go for an Android device of an established brand; you’d be less likely to run into frustrating software issues.
Windows 10 | Microsoft
The Microsoft Windows 10 OS is an established operating system for laptops and desktop computers. But for mobile devices, much improvement is needed.
The big advantage of using Microsoft Windows 10 tablets is that they work on both your Windows 10 computer and your tablet. But more importantly, you can run any program you’re using on your Windows 10 tablet that you can use on a Windows 10 PC.
This opens many opportunities when using Windows 10 tablets for professional use, but the range of apps available for these devices is still very limited. We see them more like laptops with a touchscreen, and that’s also the reason you won’t find any Windows 10 tablets in the selection below.
We’ll keep following how Windows evolves. For a future revision of this article, hopefully we’ll be able to include Windows 10 devices. There are many powerful options available on the market, like the Surface! Let’s see what the future brings.
Which OS is for you?
Choosing the best OS is a very personal matter. If you already own an iPhone or Mac, it makes sense to stay within the iOS ecosystem. You’ll immediately understand how the device works and all you can easily synchronize all your individual devices (for example, with iCloud).
If you already own an Android device and like Android’s flexibility, it’s probably best to stick with that setup. You’re already comfy with it!
We used to have a slight preference for Apple devices because they’re of better quality and are extremely easy to use. However, the latest Android devices perform very well, too. Android devices also tend to be cheaper, which makes the best choice even less obvious.
It’s frustrating to waste time removing files from a tablet because it’s reached its memory limit. Time is money. So, we advise that you get a tablet with at least 32 GB storage space or the capability to expand its inherent storage capacity. If you need to store a lot of pictures and videos on your tablet, then 32 GB is more of a need-to-have than a nice-to-have.
Most Android devices let you add an external memory card (SD card) to expand the memory. This is still impossible with Apple devices, so make sure to invest in enough storage space upfront if you’re considering getting an iPad.
💡 Tip: Connect your device to Cloud Storage platforms like iCloud, Google Drive, or Dropbox. You can set up these apps to make automated back-ups. You’ll need less storage capacity on your tablet, and your files will always be accessible.
The RAM memory is a decisive factor for the speed of your device, including how fast your tablet will be able to render floor plans. To easily work on numerous projects with their associated documents, we advise ArchiSnapper users to go with an absolute minimum of 3 GB of RAM.
You’ll notice that the devices that made it to the “best tablets” list all* have at least 4 GB of RAM. As we don’t want you to lose time, we strongly advise that you go for the most you can get.
If you want a tablet that will render floor plans and (3D) drawings in a snap, consider high-end options with 6 GB RAM like the latest iPad Pro, or even 8 GB RAM in the 256 GB version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6.
* except for the small iPad Mini device, which has “only” 3 GB of RAM, but which makes up for that with a very speedy processor.
If you’re often on the road the entire day, it’s a tablet that will last through the day without a recharge is a must-have. So, look for devices with at least 9 hours of battery power on a single charge.
If you plan to use your new tablet intensively, and if you drive from one construction site or client to another, we advise that you take a look at the fast-charging options via your car’s USB-C port.
(Fast) Car Charger
A handy and very affordable accessory is a fast USB-C car charger in combination with the right cable. These will enable you to recharge your tablet while you drive from one appointment to the next. And by using these, you won’t ever arrive anywhere with an empty battery. Just don’t forget to plug it in!
Make sure you buy the cable that’s compatible with your tablet.
USB-C to USB-C cable for:
- Samsung Tablets: S6, S6 Lite, and Active Pro
- iPad 10.2 and iPad Pro
USB-C to lightning cable for:
- iPad Mini 5
This car-charger-and-cable combo lets you fast-charge your device, meaning you’ll load it to 50% in only 30 minutes.
If you don’t need a superfast charge, you can also use the USB-A port that most cars by now have pre-installed, but keep in mind that charging will take more time.
Original image and more info on USB ports in your car on the cars.com blog.
Rugged Case and Mounts
A decent protection cover or rugged case is absolutely crucial to protecting your tablet against some of the hazards of construction work, including rain, dust, bumps, or drops on hard surfaces.
If you spend lots of time in the field, you need a secure place to keep your tablet safe when you don’t need to use it.
Armor-X has developed a nifty system of protective cases, mounts, and add-ons — all extremely helpful in the construction business. They developed a secure lock that’s suited for use in demanding environments. So, whether you’d like to install your tablet on a vehicle, keep it close to your chest, let it hug your arm, or wear it with a shoulder strap, there’s an add-on in their range that will suit your needs.
Stylus and designing tools
A digital pen or stylus helps you increase your productivity, and that’s the reason we love it.
First, it helps you work more accurately. It also prevents your screen from getting smudged or dirty when your hands are dusty on-site. If you’re equipped with a pair of big hands, or if you’re often wearing gloves, you’ll know that a stylus might prevent you from tapping a few times before you hit the right button.
A stylus is also a great tool to easily sketch on plans, make annotations on pictures, digitally sign documents, or jot down to-do lists.
If you like to write in the “old school” way, you can use a stylus to handwrite notes instead of typing everything in keyboard mode.
And last but not least, the number of architects who switch to digital sketching is growing every day. There are so many great apps you can easily integrate into your workflow; you might even wonder why some architects still don’t do it.
Speaking of drawing, an art glove helps you prevent smudges on your screen while designing, and a PaperLike screen protector mimics the feeling of drawing on paper for an even better drawing experience.
Make sure the stylus you choose creates the kind of line you’re looking for. If you want to draw with it, you might need to look for special models optimized for a thinner, sharper line. You’ll find a big stylus selection here.
The best experience, however, is mostly with the stylus that comes with your device, like the Apple Pencil for iPad and S Pen for Samsung tablets.
Keyboard and trackpad
Also, a tablet keyboard, which you can connect to your tablet as needed, comes in handy if you’d like to continue working on your tablet in the construction barrack, on the go, or even in your office. It lets you type as you would on your desktop, so you’re less dependent on making the switch.
Want to explore more essential accessories? Read 14 must-have accessories and tech tools for Architects and Contractors.
Next, the price will play a decisive role in your choice of tablet. Consider what your budget limit is and go for the maximum quality and value that it’ll allow. Also, keep in mind that you’ll use a tablet for an average of two-to-three years.
And, of course, don’t forget that a work tablet is deductible from your taxes as a professional expense!
💡 Tip: Apple and Samsung usually release new devices around the same time of the year. So, if you’re planning on buying a new device, it might be a good idea to keep this in mind, as older products become cheaper. Or, maybe you want to make sure to buy the most recent device. Achim Tack made this nice graph below that shows the price decline of Samsung Galaxy phones over time. This demonstrates that for almost all devices, there’s a big price drop after around 60 days of the release of new products.
Apple tablets are released around March, smartphones in September (here’s an overview of release dates). Samsung also has some fixed release schedules (mostly around January – April – August), but you’ll need to Google it to get to know the latest rumors on the subject.
What do you plan to do with this tablet?
Do you need it for administration and reporting on the field, or to look at floor plans and drawings while you’re on the go? Then it should have a long-lasting battery and a solid case. You won’t need 6 GB of RAM to consult large floor plans; but if you want them to open in a smooth way, we advise that you opt for a model with an absolute minimum of 3 GB RAM. If you go for less, it will cost you too much time.
Will you mostly use it for drawing, sketching, or 3D modeling? Or do you plan to use it to show designs to your clients? Will you use the latest AR apps? Then you’ll probably need a device with more RAM, a LiDAR scanner, and a better processor. Covering your slim device with a rugged case while presenting your designs to clients might not be the most attractive way.
For every need, there are different options. So try not to get distracted with all the nice features some of these devices have, and stay focused on what you’ll use the tablet for.
That way, you’ll be sure to choose the tablet that best fits your needs.
We tested a number of tablets using our ArchiSnapper App to rank their performance in:
- taking pictures
- loading large floor plans
- sketching on floor plans and pictures
- reviewing huge inspection checklists
- synchronizing large volumes of reports and pictures to the cloud
- working offline
Using these criteria, we selected four exceptional tablets for you to consider. We’ve also included a few alternatives to make the selection a bit more nuanced.
For the 2020 review of this article, we decided to create two separate categories for architects and contractors. Their use-cases for tablets differ.
Digitalization in the construction business keeps evolving, so we felt the need to add these categories with special focus. There are numerous ways a tablet can be used in the field, during client meetings, on the go, and more.
For architects, we see that there’s a big shift toward digital design and drawing, together with the rise of AR applications. For these extra categories, we based our recommendations on research, specs, and client reviews.
Yes I know, the selected budget tablet is far from cheap. There are various cheaper tablets available on the market, with dazzling features from lesser-known brands. But we feel that the quality — and especially the durability — of these tablets can’t compete with the tablets of top brands like Apple and Samsung.
If you need a tablet only for occasional web-surfing or entertainment purposes, then these really cheap tablets (under $ 200) will do. But because you’re reading this article, we suspect you need a tablet for professional, and thus more heavy use. In that case, investing a little more in a device from an established brand will be worth every penny.
Budget tablets are perfect for:
- Online administration
- Drafting field reports – adding photos
- Viewing floor plans – blueprints
- Checking and writing email
- Social media management
- Taking notes on the go, with a stylus and/or keyboard
- On-site use, with a rugged protection case and holder
Why we chose the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite as the best budget tablet
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is the “lite” budget option for the Samsung Galaxy S6. Launched in March 2020, it’s quite new on the market. The Samsung Galaxy S6 Lite has everything you need to go out into the field, take notes, and get work done on the go.
First of all, it comes with the S Pen, which works comfortably for drawing and note-taking.
There’s a difference between the S Pen for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 and the S Pen for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite:
- It’s stored at the side of the tablet, instead of at the back.
- It doesn’t have control buttons for gesture movements like the Samsung S6 S Pen. The advantage is that the S Pen for the S6 Lite doesn’t need to be recharged; you can use it endlessly, and it even works when the screen is off.
The dimension of this tablet is pretty handy (10.4 inches, or ~26.4 cm).
When it comes to taking pictures, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Lite may not be the best option for this. When you’re working on your portfolio, you’ll need to consider taking another device with you. But if you’re taking notes on-site and want to add extra explanation with pictures, the front 5 MP and back 8 MP cameras will do.
The battery life is still ahead of the pack when compared with similar devices. It easily stays charged for 12 hours — a huge advantage for use at construction worksites and while you’re on the go. An extra plus is the superfast USB-C charging option.
The processor and RAM are what set it apart most from the more expensive Samsung S6 tablets. It has less power and less work memory (4 GB of RAM vs 6-8 GB of RAM). But if you’re not a heavy multitasker or gamer, you won’t even notice the difference, as the S6 Lite is a very fast and powerful option!
One disadvantage to consider is that Samsung chose to add an LCD screen for the Samsung S6 Lite (vs an AMOLED screen for the Samsung S6). This LCD screen can be hard to read in bright sunlight.
So, if you’ll frequently work with your tablet outside, you might want to consider going for a tablet with an AMOLED screen, which deals with sunlight better. However, if you’re used to Android and really want the best price/quality possible, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite remains our #1 recommendation.
Most important features
- Screen size: 10.4 inches (~26 cm)
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi only, or Wi-Fi and 4G
- Operating system: Android
- Storage space: 64 GB
- Speed: 4 GB RAM
- Battery life: 12 hours
- Price: $349.99 for the Wi-Fi version (check current prices here)
Keyboard: The IVSO Keyboard case is a good option for this device.
Stylus: The S Pen is included in the price.
Protection cover: If you’re often at the construction site, you might want to check out the Armor-X shockproof cover with an adjustable hand strap. You can even add an optional shoulder strap! The minimum protection this tablet needs is a booklet cover with storage space for the S Pen.
💡 Tip: If you don’t like to work with a pen on your tablet, and you’re on a limited budget, you can save some money by buying the Samsung Tab A 10.1 without the S Pen (starting at $269 for 32 GB, Wi-Fi version). Just be aware that if you choose this option, there’s no S Pen available for the Tab A 10.1. You could buy a generic stylus, but it may not work as smoothly as the combination of the Galaxy S6 Lite and the S Pen. (Watch this video for a comparison of the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite and the Tab A 10.1.)
Alternative budget tablet: iPad 10.2
If you work in an iOS system environment, then the best budget tablet option for you is the iPad 10.2. The older versions might be cheaper and even work fine for years to come, but the main advantage of this 7th generation iPad is that it’s the cheapest option to connect with a Smart Keyboard Cover.
This iPad starts at $279, but it doesn’t include the Apple pencil. Fortunately, it’s compatible with the 1st generation Apple pencil, which you can purchase separately for about $ 99.
Just like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, the iPad 10.2 comes with 32 GB of storage space (but there’s also a 128-GB version available). The iPad has less RAM, but also a better processor, making these two devices comparable in terms of power and speed.
The main difference is that the iPad has a fingerprint sensor. That’s an extremely valuable security feature, especially if you don’t like having to type in a passcode every time you start working on your tablet. Depending on your personal preferences, the fingerprint sensor might tip the scale for you.
Read an in-depth comparison between the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite and iPad 10.2.
The advantage of a small device is that it’s a little bigger than a smartphone. You also have more space to draw, surf the web, use apps for admin tasks, and take notes. But it’s still small enough for you to easily carry around and put away without hassle.
A small tablet is perfect for:
- Travel (because it’s compact, you can easily take it with you anywhere)
- Taking notes on the go (with a stylus and/or keyboard)
- Drafting field reports (with photos)
- Browsing the web
- Checking and writing emails
- Social media management
Why we chose the iPad Mini 2019 as the best small tablet
Apple’s latest iPad Mini 2019 is the champ of small tablets, starting at $384.99.
A nice extra is that the iPad Mini 5 works with the Apple Pencil (but only the older, 1st generation pencil). You get the famously powerful Apple processors, and with 3 GB of RAM, the tablet will run fast. Moreover, its ten hours of battery life is comparable to all other devices mentioned above.
Compared with the previous iPad Mini, this 2019 version has an upgraded front camera (1.4 MP to 7 MP), which is nice if you’re planning to use the device for face-time conversations or taking the occasional selfie. The back camera is still 8MP, which is perfect for adding photos when documenting open points on the construction site (in, say, our ArchiSnapper app 😉). But as we mentioned before, there are better options when it comes to taking pictures for your portfolio.
Downsides? As is the case for all Apple devices, accessories tend to be quite pricey, and you can’t expand the storage later on. The design is a little outdated, and there are thick bezels surrounding the screen. But the advantage of still having the home button present is that you can unlock this device with touch ID.
Most important features
- Screen size: 7.9 inches (~20 cm).
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi only, or Wi-Fi and 4G
- Operating system: iOS
- Storage space: 64 GB or 256 GB
- Speed: 3 GB RAM
- Battery life: Up to 10 hours
- Price: $385 for the 64-GB version without 4G/cellular (check current prices here)
Keyboard: We recommend the super light, aluminum Brydge Keyboard for $99.99, or the ZAGG Rugged Book currently for $44.99. The latter is built to protect your iPad and lasts up to two years on a single charge.
Stylus: For a superior drawing experience, go for the more expensive Apple Pencil first generation ($99).
Protection cover: A very strong, drop-proof, shock- and debris-resistant option with a built-in pencil holder is the Otterbox Defender Case, for $62.96.
Alternative small tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.4” 2020
A great Android alternative is the brand new Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.4”.
And when compared with the iPad Mini 5, this tablet’s biggest advantage is its price!
You can buy the Tab A 8.4” for $279.99.
The features are very comparable to the iPad Mini’s: long-lasting battery power (11h), expandable memory (up to 512 GB), and enough power and speed for daily use on the go with 3 GB of RAM.
And the greatest plus? The 4G LTE functionality, which allows you to use 4G without adding a separate data plan. You can simply add it to your current plan to stay connected even without Wi-Fi.
The biggest disadvantage is that it doesn’t come with an S Pen. If speculations are true, a new version of the Tab A 8.0 with an S Pen will be released soon. But if you need one now, you could opt for the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0” with S Pen included. You could use another stylus, but it probably wouldn’t work as smoothly as the S Pen.
There’s no way around it — the Apple iPad Pro remains as 2020’s state of the art tablet.
If you’re an architect, working in an iOS ecosystem, ready to adapt your workflow, and ready to use a tablet for more than administration and on-site use, then the Apple iPad Pro is for you.
This Pro tablet is perfect for:
- Designing (drawing with amazing apps like Procreate, Morpholio Trace, and more)
- Designing with the Apple Pencil 2nd generation
- Working superfast
- Multitasking (split-screen availability)
- Taking high-quality pictures
- Connecting with your MacBook (or adding a Magic Keyboard for a laptop-like experience on the go)
- Use for AR applications (such as measuring, real-time walks with new design elements, environmental scans, and more)
Why we chose the iPad Pro 2020 as the best tablet for Architects
The iPad Pro is an extremely powerful device. You can easily multitask thanks to the split-screen option, and there are so many great apps available that will smoothen your workflow. (Also, check out our Best Apps for Architects article.)
Especially when it comes to drawing and designing, the iPad Pro in combination with the Apple pencil is our all-time favorite.
The only major downside of the iPad Pro is the price. If you can find a good deal for the iPad Pro 2018 version (which might be a challenge since Apple no longer sells the iPad Pro 2018), you might still be fine for the next several years to come. After all, it’s still a powerful device.
But particularly if you’re an architect, there are major differences between the 2018 iPad Pro and the and 2020 iPad Pro that you should be aware of:
- The iPad 2020 has a better camera, with a wide and ultra-wide lens that might come in handy when photographing your projects. (If you use a different device for this, then just ignore this point.)
- LiDAR Scanner. This is mostly used for AR applications, and it’s an area that’s rapidly evolving — the possibilities are growing every day! Examples of the application of this technology include real-time augmented reality visualization (like Morpholio’s AR Sketchwalk, and ARki), measuring/drafting apps (like MagicPlan and RoomScanPro), and native iOS measure apps.
- There’s more storage space in the 2020 version. This is especially useful for when you use numerous apps that demand lots of space. (Here’s a how-to article on checking app storage space.)
And here are important features with virtually no differences between the 2018 and 2020 versions of the iPad Pro:
- They look exactly the same. Both have high-quality screens with intense colors, and neither have a home button. The only way to spot a difference is by looking at their cameras at the back of the device.
- Accessories like the Apple Pencil 2nd generation ($125) and the Magic Keyboard work on both devices. For the 11-inch screen, the Magic Keyboard costs $289; and for the 12.9-inch screen, it costs $349. Adding this keyboard will practically turn your iPad into a laptop.
- Although the iPad Pro has an updated chipset, the iPad Pro 2018 chipset is still very fast, though a little dated — 4GB of RAM vs 6GB of RAM
- Battery. Both models keep you going all day: they run for 10 hours before their batteries need a recharge. If you add a high-wattage charging block, you can even “fast charge” to bring your battery level back up to 50% in just 30 minutes. (Here’s how that works.)
- Screen size. Both models are available in 11-inch and 12.9-inch sizes.
- You can Unlock through face-id in landscape and portrait mode.
The takeaway? If you plan to use your iPad for sketching, browsing, and administration, you might save some money buying the 2018 version. If you want to use the iPad Pro for making ultra-wide landscape pictures and more important advanced AR applications, then you’re better off with the iPad Pro 2020.
But wait, there’s more!
If you already have a good working tablet and still have some patience, you might want to wait just a few more months. Rumor has it that the next iPad Pro will be launched very soon, probably later this year. The new device is expected to be more different compared with the innovations that were added between the iPad Pro 2018 and iPad Pro 2020. Several things we’re quite sure of is that there’ll be a 5G model available, the processor will be faster, and the screen will be different.
Most important features
- Screen size: 11 inches or 12.9 inches (~28 cm or ~33 cm)
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi only, or Wi-Fi and 4G
- Operating system: iOS
- Storage space: 64 GB (only 2018), 128 GB (only 2020), 256 GB, 512 GB or 1 TB
- Speed: iPad Pro 2018: 4 GB, except for the 1-TB version which has 6 GB RAM (all 2020 versions have 6 GB RAM)
- Battery life: Up to 10 hours, with fast charge options
- Price: $798 for the 11-inch 128-GB version without 4G/cellular (check current prices here)
Keyboard: Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio will cost you around $179 depending on the model. If you don’t want to spend too much on accessories, we recommend the Soke iPad Pro Case with pencil holder, for about $19.99. Or you can opt for the more expensive Magic Keyboard for $289 (11-inch) or $349 (12.9-inch) and practically turn your iPad Pro into a laptop.
The Apple Pencil
If you frequently use a stylus to draw and do more detailed work, the iPad Pro 2018/2020 works with the second-generation Apple Pencil ($125), which is a technically more advanced option. It’s very pressure-sensitive and will react in absolute unison with your hand’s movements.
You can charge it with a magnetic connection, which means it automatically recharges while you’re not using it. There’s no need to plug it into your iPad to charge, which gives it a clear edge over the first generation of Apple Pencils.
And while the old pen was completely round, the second generation pen has a flat side that generally prevents it from rolling away.
- PaperLike Screen protector. This screen protector has a little friction to mimic the sensation of drawing on paper. And as an extra advantage, you won’t see greasy fingerprints on your screen. ($14.99 for a two-pack 11 inch, or $13.99 for a 12.9-inch.)
- Art Glove. Draw frictionlessly and without smudges with an Art Glove. The Huion Art Glove comes at $8.99 and works for left-handed artists and right-handed artists alike.
The best-looking option is the Smart Folio or Magic Keyboard, but if you want something more solid to take with you into the field, consider the ZUGU Muse Case. You can expect to pay $59.99 for the 11-inch version, or $69.99 for the 12.9-inch version. It protects against drops from up to five feet, and includes a cradle for the Apple Pencil.
Or, consider this heavy-duty protective case. It has a practical back handle and shoulder strap for $27.99.
Check out this video to see how architect Eric W. Reinholdt from 30X40 Design Workshop integrated the iPad Pro, the Apple Pencil, and the Procreate app into his designing workflow:
Alternative Best Tablet for Architects: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 with S Pen
If you really love the Android operating system and don’t mind spending a bit more on your tablet, definitely consider the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6. It costs around $700 (S Pen included), which is a lot for an Android device, but it comes with quite the lineup of nifty features.
For example, it has an impressive 16-hour battery life, an ultra-fast chipset and 6GB of RAM (which means that it works extremely fast, even when multiple heavy programs are running), a 13-MP rear camera resolution, in-screen fingerprint sensor, and facial recognition.
And important when you’re in the field: a smart AMOLED display that adapts itself to any situation. Even when you’re in direct sunlight, you can still see what’s going on with your tablet.
Samsung has already announced that for the fastest connection when in the field, a 5G version of the S6 would follow soon. Just like the iPad Pro, the Samsung Galaxy S6 lets you connect with your PC through Samsung DeX, enabling you to use your tablet as a graphics pad to sketch and draw.
If you’re not into iOS but you want a superior quality tab, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S series is a great place to look.
In terms of hardware, you might even get more value for your money buying the Samsung Galaxy S6. But the reason we chose this exquisite device as the runner-up is that in terms of software, we feel there are many more options available for iOS devices. Let’s see what the future brings.
When you spend most of your time in the field, you know that slim design isn’t the most important feature of your new tablet. And that’s also exactly what you won’t get with the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro.
A Rugged tablet is perfect for:
- Daily use in the field
- Taking notes on the go (with a stylus and/or keyboard)
- Viewing large blueprints
- Online administration
- Drafting field reports (with photos)
- Browsing the web
- Checking and writing emails
Why we chose the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro as the best tablet for Contractors
It’s a solid and powerful device specially designed to withstand demanding environmental situations, like, say… a construction site! No, seriously, when using this tablet, you’ll definitely get a sense that the developers put themselves in the shoes of construction professionals to see what they’d need.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro has the IP 68 rating, which means it’s dust- and water-resistant. Additionally, it has the MIL-STD 810G shock-and-drop resistant rating, which means it’s compliant with a set of U.S. military specifications to guarantee this level of durability. (For more info about the MIL-STD 810G, read this Wikipedia article.)
On top of that, it’s delivered with an extra protection case, in which the included S Pen (also IP 68 rated, by the way) fits nicely.
The Tab Active Pro has a great battery life of up to 15 hours (!) — perfect for heavy use when you’re on-site. A nice extra is that it’s easy to replace the battery yourself when necessary. You can easily connect and charge the tablet superfast through the POGO pin.
At 10.1 inches (~25.6 cm), the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active Pro’s display is neither too small nor too big. Unlike the other new devices, this tablet still has some real “buttons” below the screen — pretty practical when you have to wear gloves. The water-resistant touchscreen has different modes for different weather conditions: wet touch mode for rainy days, glove mode for cold days.
So, besides being firm, can you do something with it? Of course!
A fast Octa Core processor and 4 GB RAM ensure a great workforce, and the 13-MP camera makes crystal clear pictures — perfect for everyday photography.
The default display mode is landscape. You can unlock the tablet with face recognition in that mode when you’re wearing gloves. Or, you can unlock it with your fingerprint using touch ID. Samsung Knox, a defense-grade security platform, secures your device and so helps keep your business safe.
Just like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6, this tablet can be transformed to desktop mode thanks to Samsung DeX. You’ll get the full desktop experience when connecting it with a keyboard, mouse, or even an extra display.
Most important features
- Screen size: 10.1 inches (~26 cm)
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi only or 4G LTE
- Operating system: Android
- Storage space: 64 GB, expandable until 512 GB
- Speed: 4 GB RAM
- Battery life: Up to 15 hours
- Price: $599.99 (Wi-Fi only) – $731.47 (LTE) (check current prices here)
Stylus: S Pen included
Protection cover: Included
Alternative Rugged Tablets for contractors
This might not really be a “runner-up” per se; it’s more of an alternative from an entirely different category. There are many other high-quality rugged options available, but most of them run on Windows 10, with prices ranging between $1,500 and $3,500.
The great disadvantage that professional rugged tablets have over consumer tablets is that they mostly don’t have the latest cutting-edge technology implemented. This doesn’t mean they’re outdated or useless, but it is something to keep in mind.
Rugged Case vs Rugged Device
I hear you asking, Can’t I just buy my favorite tablet and put it into a solid rugged case?
For some of you, this might work very well. But for others, this rugged case won’t be sufficient, and there are multiple reasons for that.
Rugged devices are built for endurance and solidness from the inside out. If you use a rugged case, the outside might be well-protected; but if you’re working in a rough environment, you’re better off with a device whose components were built for these circumstances.
Also, keep in mind these other considerations: Rugged devices are better protected against mostly water and dust. Additionally, they have more ports to enable them to connect with other business-related tools. They also have removable batteries and will fit in mounts specially designed to help them attach to, say… a forklift.
Wondering what happened to the Surface Pro?
We know that a lot of architects and contractors love Microsoft’s Surface Pro. However, we haven’t included it in our list of best tablets because, in our opinion, it’s more of a lightweight laptop. Still, we felt it deserved a mention.
You might have noticed that none of the “best tablets” above are devices running on Windows. That’s absolutely not because we don’t like to work with Windows as an operating system (this article was written on a Windows 10 laptop).
But we still feel that there are too few apps available for Windows 10 tablets. So, it’s more of the software that holds us back, not the hardware.
Anyway, let’s see what’s in store for the future. Maybe our opinion will change next year. Let’s hope that the new Foldable Surface gives developers a boost for developing more Windows 10 apps.
We hope this review helps you select a tablet you’ll love — one that truly fits your needs, both on and off the worksite.
However, our most important advice is that you sit down for a couple of hours, consider what you really want to use the tablet for, and jot down your most important criteria for it.
Only then can you find that perfect tablet that will ultimately increase your productivity and free up your time for more important things as a construction professional.
To round up and give you a nice overview of our recommendations (including the criteria we deemed particularly important), here’s a table that you can easily download and print out to help you in your future research.
Have a burning topic you’d love to know more about? Feel free to leave a comment below, or email me at mart at archisnapper dot com.