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Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (2019) review

The Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 is a costly compact computer for creative connoisseurs

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (2019) review
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Laptop Mag)

Our Verdict

This portable-ish workstation can run demanding, full-version creative programs for artsy, on-the-go professionals, but it has subpar battery life and gets toasty.

For

  • Top-of-the-line pen
  • Colorful 4K display
  • Great palm rejection
  • Portable-ish
  • Can install full-version of Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.

Against

  • Pricey
  • Toasty
  • Low battery runtime
  • Dim display

"Mom, can we keep him?!" The Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (reviewed at $3,499.95) sparked flashbacks to my childhood when I'd fall in love with a stuffed teddy bear — or a cute, furry animal — that'd leave me starry-eyed and enchanted. This stunning drawing tablet is the first review unit I've actually wanted to keep. 

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 Specs

Price: $3,499.95
CPU: i7-8559U
GPU: Nvidia Quadro P1000, 4GB GDDR5
RAM: 16 GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: UHD (3840 x 2160)
Battery: 4:58
Size: 10.20 x 16.45 x 0.84 in
Weight: 4.6 pounds

But this dazzling slate isn't for kids. This is a grown-up tablet for creative professionals seeking a portable-ish digital studio to get their artistic groove on. Its vivid, colorful 4K display is a visual treat for the eyes. The tablet's state-of-the-art pen — a battery-free, electromagnetic writing tool that doesn't require recharging — simulated a pleasant and natural pen-on-paper sensation.

The second-generation Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 isn't without flaws, though. The device can get a little toasty, and its battery life could be better. But if you're a creative careerist seeking a compact computer that can run all of the demanding, full-version apps your desktop can, this is a quality workstation that can handle all the high-pressure artistic tasks you can throw at it.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 price and configurations

You'll want to sit down for this. The knock-your-socks-off price of this review unit is — wait for it —  $3,499.95. Yes, you read correctly. This device will set you back more than three grand. That's because it's juiced up with an Intel Core i7-8559U processor, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, an NVIDIA Quadro P1000 GPU with 4GB of VRAM and a 4K-resolution display — all stuffed into one drawing tablet.

If you need more storage, the SDD is upgradeable to a maximum of 2TB. You can also slip in an additional 16GB of RAM.

I'd suggest shelling out $49.95 for Wacom's wireless Bluetooth keyboard since the MobileStudio Pro 16 doesn't come with one. It does have an on-screen touchpad, but you may miss that oh-so-comfortable, rhythmic typing of a physical keyboard.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 design

The no-nonsense, let's-get-down-to-business design of this chunky tablet says, "Just because I'm fun doesn't mean I can't be serious!" The deep black, strict-looking slate will remind you to stay focused and keep your nose to the grindstone.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (2019) review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The tablet has a big bottom bezel, but it's all in the service of giving your fingers access to those all-important buttons. Each button is framed with a shiny, silver trim — the middle circular button is a fingerprint scanner and a Windows Home key. There are two sets of four buttons flanking that circular button called ExpressKeys. You can assign these are customizable buttons with specific functions. For example, you can assign one button as the Ctrl key and another as Alt.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (2019) review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The top bezel, which is much slimmer than its bottom counterpart, has a you-have-to-squint-to-see-it Wacom logo etched on it; underneath the skinny bezel, you'll find a 5-megapixel camera. Flip the tablet around, and you'll find an 8-megapixel rear shooter.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (2019) review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The beefy Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16, sporting dimensions of 10.2 x 16.5 x 0.8 inches and weighing 4.7 pounds, is portable … ish. The bulky tablet couldn't fit snugly into any of the bags I own — not even my favorite 14-inch NorthFace travel bag. This is an easy fix, of course. Get a larger bag, at least 17 inches wide or long, from our best laptop bags page.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (2019) review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Yes, the tablet is a chunker, but at the same time, I appreciate Wacom's ability to condense the power of a desktop computer into a smaller package. You can run full applications of weighty programs like Photoshop and Illustrator and not have to worry about stomaching "lite" versions with limited functionality.

If you want something more portable, check out the 15-inch Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5 x 9.0 x 0.9 inches, 4.2 pounds) or the featherweight 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro (11 x 8.5 x 0.2 inches, 1.4 pounds). You may not have the power of a desktop computer in the palm of your hands, but you will have lighter travels.

The Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16's ports

On the top of the tablet, there are three USB-C ports; two support Thunderbolt 3 —  perfect for speedier file transfers and connecting additional displays (i.e. two 4K screens) — while flanking a middle port that is USB 3.1 Gen 2. There's also a Kensington Security Slot.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (2019) review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

On the bottom, you'll find an audio-combo jack as well as a standard SD card reader.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (2019) review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

This tablet is a little stingy on port offerings. If you need more to satisfy your peripherals, check out our best USB Type-C hubs and best laptop docking stations pages.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 display

The 4K sci-fi film Tears of Steel on this drawing tablet's 3840 x 2160, 15.6-inch screen was a beautiful sight to behold. Yes, the visuals were crisp and clear — I spotted three pimples on a silver-haired character's face and a bulging vein on a gun-wielding man's forehead that I hadn't noticed before. But what was most eye-grabbing about the tablet's display was its colorful decadence. Greens were more verdant, yellows were sunnier, reds were richer — it was pure visual dessert for the eyes. Watching videos on the tablet felt like watching an immersive cinematic experience on a mini flat-screen TV.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (2019) review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The tablet's etched-glass display enhanced my illustrating experience because the surface allowed the pen nib to "grip" the tablet's facade, simulating a natural feel of pen on paper. I also loved the display's excellent palm rejection.

The MobileStudio Pro 16's touch-screen display has low brightness; it climbed up to only 157 nits, falling far below the category brightness of 352 nits. The tablet also was outshined by its competitors; the Microsoft Surface Book 2 and the Apple iPad Pro. Both can radiate a brilliant brightness of 417 nits and 484 nits, respectively. 

Skeptical about whether the screen has outdoor visibility, I stepped outside of my home at noon with the tablet to max brightness. Visibility did decrease, but the screen was still perceptible. However, I had to cradle the tablet at a certain angle to find the best viewing point of view. Once I found my "sweet spot," — a melange of both comfortability and visual satisfaction — I happily scribbled away with my right hand during daylight hours. 

According to our colorimeter, the drawing tablet can reproduce 129% of the sRGB color gamut, giving the Wacom a slight edge over the iPad Pro, with its 128%, and the category average of 123%. The Microsoft Surface Book 2, on the other hand, bests the Wacom tablet by 2 percentage points (131%).

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (2019) review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Although the MobileStudio Pro 16 lacks a keyboard, there is an on-screen touchpad. It can be difficult to summon the touchpad at first, but right-clicking the bottom taskbar and clicking Show Touchpad Button prompts a keyboard icon to appear. By tapping on this keyboard icon, you can command the touchpad to appear whenever you wish. According to the folks at Wacom, there’s another easy way to bring up the on-screen keyboard — use the five-finger Windows 10 touch-screen gesture.

Wacom MobileStudio 16 pen

The MobileStudio 16's pen is a top-of-the-line writing tool that offers 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity -- that's double what you'll get with competing styluses. I can tell the Wacom engineers designed this pen to optimize comfort and efficiency because it fit snugly between my thumb and index finger; I could draw with this pen in my sleep — it's that comfy.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (2019) review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The pen, powered by electromagnetic resonance technology, features two buttons that offer right and left click functionality by default, but you can assign new keys to each button. For example, you could assign one of these buttons as the "undo" function to quickly remove undesired strokes. The pen also comes with three replacement nibs, a pen case and a pen holder that you can attach to the tablet. Knowing its audience of unique creatives, Wacom also included four colorful pen rings: red, blue, green and black. You can snap these onto the mostly black pen to add some pizazz.

As I sketched a cartoonish bride on my favorite graphics editor, Inkscape, I enjoyed the pen's precision and lag-free performance. I could flip the pen upside down and use its eraser to wipe out mistakes, but this feature seemed to work only on industry-standard creative programs (e.g., Illustrator).

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 audio

I listened to Sam Smith and Normani's "Dancing With a Stranger" on the Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 tablet. There are no visible speaker grills, so it's difficult to say where the music is blaring from. But in following the music with my ears, it seemed as if the sound was primarily escaping from the bottom left quadrant of the tablet.

The sound was decent and offered a pleasant mishmash of full vocals and great bass. I found myself jamming along with the beautiful duet while doodling. But because of the speaker's location, the sound waves felt confined to one side of the tablet. The speaker did its job, though, and filled the room with sound.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 performance

I challenged the tablet's multitasking capabilities by inundating it with 25 power-hungry Google Chrome tabs — four of which were playing 1080p YouTube videos simultaneously. While those tabs were up and running, Adobe Illustrator was powered up in the background and I doodled away. There was no system slowdown and drawing continued to be a breeze, but the tablet started sizzling. It wasn't burn-your-pants-off hot, but the taxed tablet was definitely warming up. The fans kicked in after the ninth Chrome tab popped up; they weren't distracting or loud, but just barely audible. Still, it's important to reiterate that the drawing tablet performed well despite being put through the wringer.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (2019) review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 delivered sensational results on our synthetic tests as well, nabbing an impressive 16,006 on the Geekbench 4.1 overall performance test. This figure outshined the 15,863 category average in performance. The Wacom tablet also surpassed Microsoft Surface Book 2's Intel Core i7-8650U CPU (12,505). However, the Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 was no match for Apple iPad Pro's A12X bionic chip, which delivered a smashing performance score of 17,995.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 battery life

Jam-packed with a vivid touch-screen display, 4K resolution and powerful machinery, it's no surprise that the MobileStudio Pro 16 tapped out after just 4 hours and 58 minutes. If you plan on lugging this bad boy around, you should always be in the vicinity of a power source. 

Still, the MobileStudio Pro 16 outlasted the Microsoft Surface Book 2, which conked out after 3 hours and 12 minutes. With the base of the Microsoft Surface Book 2 reattached, however, the Wacom tablet was crushed by the Surface Book 2 device, which delivered a runtime of 11 hours and 34 minutes. 

The 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro bested all the competition with an incredible 13 hours and 14 minutes of battery life.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 webcam

The camera quality on this tablet was exactly what I expected it to be — unimpressive. This is no offense to Wacom; most tablets and laptops don't offer highly-quality cameras for videoconferencing.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (2019) review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Using the front 5-megapixel camera, I took a selfie and the image had noticeable digital noise. My electric-pink top seemed more salmon in the picture. The 8-megapixel rear camera wasn't much better in crispness or clarity, but colors seemed to be slightly more accurate.

We definitely recommend buying an external webcam.

The Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16's heat

Whew, as Nelly would say — it's getting hot in here! This toasty tablet won't fry an egg, but you'll surely feel the temperature increasing on your lap. During our heat test, which involves playing a 15-minute, full-screen video, the top-right corner of The MobileStudio Pro 16 sizzled up to 99 degrees Fahrenheit, which is higher than our 95-degree comfort threshold.

Fortunately, the tablet comes with a stand so that you can prop it up away from any vital parts. Thankfully, the rest of the tablet did not surpass 91 degrees during our heat test.

The Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16's software and warranty

Remember when I mentioned that users can assign certain keys to customizable buttons on the pen and tablet? The Wacom Desktop Center is where you can accomplish this. You can also use this app to calibrate your pen, customize the pen's sensitivity and pressure, change the touch-screen settings and manage the display. If you want to become a Wacom wizard, check out a link in the app that navigates to tutorials on Wacom's official YouTube page.

The Wacom Desktop Center also allows you to manage your devices and keep an eye out for updates. This tablet operates with Windows 10 Pro, which comes with the usual bloatware like Candy Crush Saga, Solitaire and Skype.

The Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 comes with a one-year limited warranty.

Bottom line

Wacom's made it clear that the target audience for the MobileStudio Pro 16 isn't a blasé hobbyist who wants to scribble on a display every once in a while. This tablet is a compact computer for creative connoisseurs. 

At $3,499.95, this drawing tablet is for serious artsy professionals seeking a powerful workstation that can handle demanding workloads when they’re away from their desks. Let's hope, though, that these professionals make a pretty penny from their creative work because the Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 is a pricey investment.

It might be worth the expense, though, with such a powerfully performing computer crammed into a semi-portable tablet. The 4K display on this device is pure eye candy; the vivid, rich colors are a sight to see.

The tablet does get toasty, though, and you'll want to be adjacent to a power source because the battery runtime on this device doesn't surpass 5 hours. You may want to consider the 12.5-inch Apple iPad Pro for a satisfactory battery-life experience.

But if you're looking for a device that can run full versions of creators' favorite applications, such as Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as super demanding motion graphics, 3D and CAD software, this is an excellent option. It should perform well for work-swamped creators who need to keep on grinding — even when they're on the go.