I’d like to throw my two cents worth into the ring on this topic as it’s come up a few times, and I’ve had reasonable hands-on experience with this. I’ve had contact with the following machines and their respective drawing technologies from least to most recent:
Cintiq 15X (Wacom) - 1998-2007 (On Perma-loan)
Advantages: Solid Cintiq Level Quality, two sensor (lavish) pen.
Disads: Utterly a fixed desktop emplacement, requires separate computer for use. Low resolution by today’s standards.
Notes: Bought used in 1998 for $1200. It was so unergonomic and intimidating, I eventually ended up preferring the Fujitsu P16xx series and gave it to a friend who was a better, more serious artist than I.
Fujitsu P1630 Lifebook (Proprietary Capacitive Touchscreen) 2007-2014 (Backup Role)
Advantages: No special pen required so you can use whatever is comfortable that does not scratch the surface. Uses Win 7. As light as a Surface Pro with the 3 cell battery, and converts into a fully usable netbook sized form factor laptop.
Disadvantages: No pressure sensitivity, somewhat dicey palm check, not multi-touch compatible, somewhat slow by today’s standards (dual core 1.2ghz) but acceptable for drawing tasks. Smallest screen to draw on.
Notes: Some Lifebooks have an active style pen with pressure sensitivity, but not the P16xx series. You may find some of the other Fujitsu Lifebooks even better, if heavier, than the P16xx series.
HP TX2-1020US Touchsmart Laptop (N-Trig) - Early 2014 (Retired)
Advantages: Reasonably Modern Processor, Short but reasonable one sensor pen, High levels of out-of-the-box accuracy under a fresh install of Windows 7. One of the earliest multi-touch capable laptops. Surprisingly inexpensive used on E-bay.
Disadvantages: Does not have 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, which likely you’d only notice if you are a cyborg. Will elicit potential whining from people who paid 5 times too much for a Cintiq to get the same general digital art ability. May be a little heavy for tablet aficionados since it is a 12 inch convertible laptop.
Notes: I had a water-damaged unit closed out from work that I was able to do tests on, so I can’t judge for the quality of the hardware outside of the drawing tablet aspects, but in my short time I was fairly impressed.
Microsoft Surface Pro (Wacom) - Late 2014:
Advantages: About the same weight as a P1630 (around a kilogram). Decent Wacom-like response (with edge caveats below). Two sensor (cheap-feeling) pen. Modern processor (i5).
Disads: Windows 8 Only. Has dicey detection at edges. Not user serviceable. Terrible native keyboard connectivity. Is basically a tablet and not a laptop, unless you add peripherals.
Notes: The starting drivers do not give pressure sensitivity in Photoshop, but Wacom’s updated Dualsense drivers will fix that. Possibly the most comfortable machine I’ve used, tied with the Fujitsu P1630 Lifebook. but not the best. Some features of Windows 8 regularly interfere with the function of a screen tablet unintentionally, especially at the edges. With patience, it can be made into a serviceable Cintiq-like tool.
My feelings are that while Wacom was the defacto standard in the 2000s and still a high-quality contender in the current market, they’re vastly over-priced - especially for solo starving digital artists. N-Trig has been making some decent enough hardware since 2009, and there are other options than Cintiqs to be had for screen-drawing. There is no reason for you to be plopping down a grand for one if you do your research.
PS: I had considered a Yiynova DP-10U+, which despite in earlier model (The DP-10U), had seen some promising reviews. It’s a Cintiq-like alternative that one of my friends has as well, but I have no personal experience with it so I can only footnote it. As of this time, the DP10U+ has been superseded by the MVP10U (renamed possibly dropping the DP to get out of the shadow of the first model) and runs about $300 on amazon. It uses a battery pen and 2 USB connections to run it as a second monitor/digitizer.