This guide provides an overview of popular tablet (both stand alone and non-stand alone) options. If are you planning to record/capture writing or annotations, a digital tablet might be a useful device.
What is the difference between a stand-alone and non-stand-alone tablet? Tablets can be both stand alone devices (e.g. Surface Pro) or can be connectd to your computer and used as extensions to your computer set up (Wacom Tablets). They can be also do both - the iPad Pro, for example, can be connected to your Mac computer and used as a input device.
Before you purchase a tablet:
- Confirm that it works with all the software that you will be using from start to finish (including content creation, annotation, screen capturing, editing, storage, etc.).
- If you are planning on using it in a classroom/physical space, test to make sure it is compatible with the space (some devices don't work with certain projectors, for example).
- Check to make sure you have all the necessary dongles and adapters. If you want to connect in various places (or to various devices), double check to make sure its all working as desired.
During COVID-19, many items are being sold for much more than their original price (especially by resellers). Please use your due diligence to investigate the seller before purchase - if it seems too good to be true, it probably is (see How to avoid fake and scammy Amazon sellers).
1. Digital Tablet (Stand Alone Tablet Options)
These tablets are independent devices, with their own software and app ecosystems. You do not need to connect these devices to a computer in order to use them (though they can often double in this capacity).
1.1. Microsoft Surface Pro
Pro models start about $1200); it is recommended to purchase the keyboard and stylus accessories, which should be considered in the overall cost of this set up before purchasing.
1.2. iPad Pro
If you are already a Mac user, then the iPad Pro might be the right extension for you. (You can also use your iPad as a second display for your Mac, which might be a nice bonus for recording and other uses). Just ensure that whatever tools you are using for your set up are compatible all the way along and for all the activities that you plan to use the device for.
Thinking about your using your tablet for synchronous (e.g. webinar) course activities, too? You might want to consider if your tablet is compatible across all the various uses you have in mind for it. For example, the iPad is app based and sometimes has limited feature sets for webinar tools.
Most tablets do not include a stylus (your writing utensil) at the time of purchase. Most tablets also have a specific stylus that they work best with, but, you can choose to purchase off brand, third party tools.
1.3.1. Apple Pencil
1.3.2. Surface Pen
2. Non-stand alone Tablet Input Device Options
The tablets in this section require a connection to a computer/lap top. They will not work as devices on their own.
Picking an input display tablet can be tricky because there are so many options and brandnames. We always encourage you to do your research, to read reviews, and to verify that you are ordering for a source that provides a money-back guarantee and return policy. If you're considering between a few options, chances are the Internet has already done the comparison and it's always worth a search. For example, check out this comparison video between a Wacom and a Huion tablet.
2.1. Cintiq Pen Display Tablet
This tablet is the creme de la creme of tablets and is recommended for large scale projects with a long time line (as there is some training involved in using a tablet like this.).
Want to try the tablet out before purchasing? The Instructional Technology Office has two Wacom Cintiq pen display tablets. They are available for loan but do require advance scheduling. The tablet is an input device and monitor. It is much easier to use that a simple pen tablet, but also requires more financial investment. The tablet will display any software that a monitor would display and the pen acts as a mouse. Usually the set up includes this display as a secondary display, attached to your computer. Drivers for this device can be found on the Wacom website. This device is only hardware, to use the device effectively you need to install the appropriate software on your computer.
2.2. Huion Graphic Drawing Tablet
This display tablet features most of the features of the better known Wacom tablets at a much friendlier price point. This is a strong contender for anyone to purchase. While both the Wacom and the Huion can connect directly to Android phones, be aware that you need to purchase the cables for this connection separately (they are not included in the purchase of the tablets).
2.3. Wacom Intuos Tablet
The Instructional Technology Office has 1 Wacom Intuous pen tablet. Unlike the pen display tablet, this tablet does not display. This means that it is only a mouse/input device. You connect the device to your computer (via USB) and you use the pen tablet to draw on an installed software application. Drivers for this device can be found on the Wacom website.
2.4. Wacom Intuos Graphics Drawing Tablet
3. USB Headset with microphone
Another strong option for audio recording is a headset with a microphone. If you are not recording your video (some prefer not to be recorded wearing a head set), you could consider this option. A benefit is that the microphone moves with you (if you turn your head, move slightly, etc.) and the audio quality can be more consistent across your recording.
Buy it! Logitech H390 Wired ClearChat Comfort USB Headset ($59.99)
Wireless types of microphones are especially useful if you:
- Plan to be on camera (e.g. you might be using a whiteboard or chalkboard and a wireless microphone will be easier to "hide" on camera)
- Plan to be moving during a recording (e.g. you might just want the flexibility to move from location to location or device to device without constant microphone set up in each new setting)
In addition to bearing in mind the cost, you'll also want to be mindful of the range of these microphones (how far the microphone can be from the receiver and still work; this tends to vary by brand). Tt's also important to highlight the need for batteries. Since the microphones are not connected to any power supplies, you'll have to eventually replenish the devices with batteries as you use them.
Wireless microphones consist of two major components - the receiver and the lavalier (this is the part that looks like a microphone); make sure you are purchasing both!
1. FIFINE Wireless Microphone
This particular wireless microphone option is the cheapest among the bunch. Given the favourable customer reviews and relatively low cost, it is something worth considering if you're looking for a cheaper solution. While we haven't tested the unit ourselves, it's safe to say that the audio quality will not be as pristine as more expensive units (e.g., Rode Wireless GO-W).
Buy it! FIFINE Wireless Microphone ($56.99)
4. Video Recorders: Webcams and Document Cameras
Before using an external camera to record, you could consider whether your integrated webcam (if your system has one; most common on lap tops and tablets) will do the trick. Usually, the cameras on those devices are hard to angle, so some decide that they'd prefer the flexibility of an external device.
Looking for a DSLR or HD external video camera? See our guide to cameras for recommendations and things to keep in mind. A camera might be something you are considering if you plan to be on camera, need to film things in high definition, and/or are creating content that you plan to re-use term after term.
4.1. Webcam: Logitech C290 Webcam HD Pro
You can use a HD webcam to capture your video, a small demonstration, or even your handwriting. You can get great webcams for a good price. You mostly want to ensure that it records and streams in HD. If you have a device with a built-in camera, you can use that, but you might decide you want the flexibility of moving/angling an external camera (if you are recording yourself as part of your content).
Looking for tips on how you up your webcam game? Review the tips in How to Look and Sound Fabulous on a Webcam by Prof. Gary Gould (Ryerson University), covering how to position your devices, lighting tips, framing, audio, etc.
4.2. USB Document Camera: IPEVO V4K Ultra High Definition USB Document Camera
If you plan to do a lot of handwriting (or annotation on something printed), you might consider using a document camera instead of a digital tablet. This is entirely based on preference and how your teaching style is naturally expressed. Like a tablet, this will allow you to record your writing in real time, helping you to maintain a natural pace during your videos (you are limited by how quickly you can write!). It works especially well if you are annotating complex diagrams, charts, or other visuals and want to provide step-by-step walk through details.
- Buy it! IPEVO USB Document Camera ($149.99)
Self-filming doesn't mean unprofessional content and lighting can really elevate the quality of what you are recording.
To help select a lighting option, see our guide to ring and softbox lights.
5. Speakers (for playback/testing your footage)
Before you get too far down the path of recording, you'll want to test to make sure that what you are recording sounds as good as it can. It is highly recommended to test your recording with high quality headphones (this is likely what others will be using to playback your content and will allow you to hear any imperfections - like background noise, feedback, or other distractions - most easily). If you do not have headphones, use speakers to review your content.
It is also recommended that you listen to the video with a device other than that which you used to record. For example, if you recorded with a headset and microphone, try listening to the footage with a different set of headphones.