A total of 3 reviews of this product on Reddit.
Are you looking for a drawing tablet or pen display? Or an actual tablet like Surface Pro/iPad? Drawing tablet is where you draw on a flat mat-like surface with a stylus and look at your screen. You can get these pretty cheap. A pen display is basically a second monitor that you can physically draw on and see the lines as you go. They cannot operate without a computer/laptop to plug into. And the other option is the actual tablet with touchscreen/stylus options – these are generally $1000 range for a quality one. I like Surface Pro over the iPads I’ve tried (haven’t used any other brands). Not much difference between SP4 and SP6 (current model) in terms of quality and screen. SP4 is about $850, but might go on sale for black Friday.
My home setup is a simple laptop with a Huion pen display. These are incredible displays and I cant recommend them enough. They are roughly half the price of Wacom and only really lack rotation/tilt options. 8000+ pen sensitivity, HD resolutions, older models only around 70% gamut (newer models 100%) and parallax, especially on newest versions, is barely noticeable. Compared to a $2000+ cintiq, you are getting a display with double the size and damn near equal quality and options. They have lightning deals and usually a coupon/% discount on amazon and typically come with lots of extras, like bonus nibs, extra pen and hand gloves. A 22″ display is like $400-500 depending on model. I have this one. It’s insanely huge and barely have to zoom in PS, CAD, Revit or other programs. Its an older model and I paid about $100 less than the current price. Look for sales. Huion pretty good for holiday sales. Id expect something on Friday. Its pretty damn amazing for me. I use Wacoms at work and would never drop like $2500 for an equivalent sized display. XP-Pen and Gaomon have similarly lower priced alternatives to Wacom.
Similarly, the plain drawing tablets can be found for $30-50 for smaller models. I could never stand the looking at screen while drawing on the pad. The pen displays are only digital option for me. Your mileage may vary.
As for programs, you have to pay for them unless you look for illegal means. They wont ever be pre-installed. Krita is free. Gimp, too. Google sketchup is pretty solid for creating and manipulating 3d objects that you can import for art. Ctrlpaint has a good tutorial on it and digital painting in general. But you’ll have to pay for them. I like Clip Studio Paint Ex for sketching personally.
For the ability to run the programs, it comes down to specs. If its a laptop, a basic 15″ with an i5 processor and dedicated graphics for about $500 should be able to run any program. Desktop probably built for less. Youd still need a drawing tablet or pen display. You wont get a decent portable tablet like an iPad or Surface Pro for the price range you want and you’ll still need accessories and other options to make them viable drawing tablets.
Comes down to what you want and need and can afford. I recommend pen displays for the feeling of actually drawing on the screen compared to the older tablet style. I dont particularly like the ipad/surface pro options purely from price. I dont need to have it that portable. A smaller pen display can be quite portable if you have a school computer or laptop. Fits in the same bag if you have a 15″ or so pen display.
I would wait. Its an investment that will last you sometime but it would be wise to buy the newer model when it arrives rather than buy the older one that is on its way out.
Of course you could consider one of the Huion “cintiq” clones which are significantly cheaper. $650 vs $1700! My friend has this one. Its quite nice for the price.
Recently I encountered another option that might stretch your budget a bit (but not more than surface pro or ipad pro) that is awesome if you already have a computer and don’t care about portability. I picked up a Huion GT-220v2 for myself before easter https://www.amazon.com/Huion-GT-220-v2-Linearity-Positioning/dp/B01LWYZO1P/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492462613&sr=8-1&keywords=huion+gt-220v2
I have to say that the experience of drawing on 21 inches is far superior to the 12 inches of the surface pro. In all other senses, pressure sensitivity, parallax etc, it is just as good, but the size by itself just makes it a joy to work on. The only con is that it doesn’t have touch support, but depending on software you use it might not be an issue (in sketchbook pro for instance I just use the space tab and then rotate and pan canvas with the pen).
On a similar note Artisuls 13 inch graphics tablet might also be an option within your budget, it is getting great reviews but I have never touched one myself.