Thinking about getting a tablet for music production? Which tablet should you get? It’s a question we are often asked! Whether you go for Android or iOS, here are our 2 golden rules:
1. Avoid old tablets.
It is tempting to look on eBay for deals on older tablets. Unfortunately, the mobile space has evolved so rapidly that these tablets have long since had their day. Old tablets lack the ability to take advantage of the most useful features of the latest operating systems. In fact, you may find that some old tablets can’t even install the latest operating systems, and you’ll very likely find that you can’t install the apps you want. The reality is that many smaller developers cannot afford to maintain legacy codebases. The old operating systems simply lack the features they need to keep their apps competitive.
And don’t forget about hardware issues. With many of these old tablets the battery is often on its last legs. You can’t even connect most new peripherals without adapters. Raise your hand if you already have a bag full of useless adapters!
“Yes, but all I want to do is run Lemur!”
– Someone who has never owned a tablet before.
People who have never owned a tablet before often say to us “Yes, but all I want to do is run Lemur”, which is fine, until you discover that having a tablet is so much more useful than you initially realized. You will want to take it with you on the train, use it to watch movies in bed, or play games with your kids, only to discover it now doesn’t serve you at all. What you have done, ironically, is wasted your money to save a hundred bucks. Rather, save up for a few more months and get a tablet that will truly serve you. Invest in a device that is capable of evolving with you. You will be much happier for years to come.
But, if you insist on getting an older tablet we highly recommend the iPad Air 2. Our iPad Air 2s are still rocking. Unfortunately, the older models are looking more and more like junk. This is the sad reality of a hardware space that evolved rapidly. The fact that Lemur even runs on a first generation iPad is astonishing— not to be taken as a given!
Yes, Lemur will run on an an old school iPad 2. If your needs are extremely limited it will be OK. Don’t even bother with a first generation iPad.
2) Get two normal sized tablets, not a single giant one.
Search Youtube for videos of composer’s workstations and eventually you’ll come across videos of sexy studios that use a single giant tablet. Indeed a large tablet does look sexy, but it is not even remotely as functional as having multiple, normal sized tablets.
Part of the problem is that a single tablet lacks good multitasking. Apple has introduced a certain amount of multitasking with their `Split View`, but its usefulness in music production is incredibly limited. Split View doesn’t work like windowing on a desktop. In fact, not all mobile apps even properly support Split View because it is up to the developer to support it or not. If iOS began to support a fully windowed system akin to macOS, even then, screen real estate on a tablet is still too limited. Many developers will simply not have the financial incentive to support it properly because they often need to maintain 2 totally different layouts.
In contrast, having two tablets allows you to run 2 completely independent, fully-featured tasks at once. You can have one tablet for your virtual instruments (Composer Tools Pro!), and another for your DAW shortcuts (C_brains!), and another to run a virtual Mackie mixer to control your monitoring. Throw in an iPhone for transport in the recording booth (MKTransport!). Sure you could have a single tablet and tab between your different interface pages, but this is a convenience built into Lemur only. Hot-swapping between apps on a tablet is a total chore.
Another problem with large tablets is that they are incredibly difficult to fit on a desk. As any film composer can tell you, desktop ergonomics is a serious problem. Composers can spend the entire day at their desks hunched over instruments. Real estate on a music rig comes at a premium. By having to accommodate a large tablet you will have to make many major workspace design decisions centered around it. It is very likely you will have to build some custom mounting solution, or have some mammoth desktop stand wedged between your screen and keyboard.
In contrast, smaller sized tablets have a much better chance of finding a natural home somewhere on your desk. They can usually rest comfortably covering your piano’s faders and knobs (which you don’t need anymore anyways because you’re using Lemur, right!?). By having 2 tablets, you can put your different controls where you need them most. For example, you could put your MIDI performance controls on top of your piano, your DAW macros behind your mouse and keyboard, and your mixer controls next to your audio interface.
Finally, we can’t stress enough that you want to invest in a device that is capable of evolving with you. Larger tablets, like older tablets, suffer from the same limited usability issues. Eventually you will want to use your tablet for something besides music. Portability and convenience is the whole reason tablets exist, and large tablets are simply not as convenient nor as portable. Don’t spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on a tablet that is destined to live on your desk forever. Make the most out of your hard-earned dollars. Think about ways you might use your tablet beyond that as a dedicated MIDI controller.
Happy music making!