Review unit provided by XP-Pen
XP-Pen’s lineup on 16-inch pen displays is getting lconger now with the addition of the new XP-Pen Artist 16 (2nd gen). Price is US $399, and currently there’s 15% off during the pre-order period until 1 June 2022.
Shown below are the various 15 to 16-inch pen displays available from XP-Pen currently. Links are to my reviews.
And below’s the table comparing the features. Click for a larger view.
It’s difficult to choose which pen display to get because many models have rather similar features. Price range is from USD 299 to 449, excluding the outlier which is the USD $899 4K touchscreen Artist Pro 16TP. You can choose based on budget, looks or features. Just note that even though the Artist 16 (2nd Gen) has no “pro” attached to the name, it is no less pro compared to the pro models. Anyway, the pro label nowadays doesn’t mean anything and is just use for marketing.
XP-Pen ships to many countries, and may include free shipping depending on the country.
These are the items included in the box:
- USB wall power adapter with interchangeable plugs
- 3 to 1 cable includes HDMI
- USB-A to USB-A extension cable
- X3 Elite Pen
- 11 replacement nibs
- Nib remover
- Micro fiber cleaning cloth
- Artist glove
- Warranty info
- Quick start guide
This is the 3-to-1 cable. The L-shaped connector is USB-C and goes to the pen display. The other end has a black USB-A for data, red USB-A for power, and full-size HDMI. For power, the power adapter is putting out 5V, 2.3A, 11.5W.
No USB-C video cable is included even though the pen display supports USB-C to USB-C connection. You can get a USB-C cable from XP-Pen and it’s USD 16, or you can use your own USB-C cable but you should read what I have to say about that further down.
When using the pen display with a laptop via USB-C to USB-C, it will drain the laptop battery very fast if the pen display is not connected to external power.
No stand is included. You can get XP-Pen stands but I recommend you get the USD 38 Parblo PR100 stand instead because it’s so much better.
The pen display comes with a huge label with instructions to remove the protective film over the matte screen protector.
Make sure you do not peel off the matte screen protector while you remove the glossy protective film.
This is a good looking pen display with solid build quality. This is the same design used by the XP-Pen Deco LW and XP-Pen Artist 12 (2nd gen).
The pen display is available in four colours: green, blue, pink and black. Mine’s the green colour and the colour looks good in contrast against the black.
The back is matte textured and there are four rubber feet with good grip on the table.
The pen display is 12.9mm thick, slightly thicker than the included pen.
The pen display is so thin it feels like a tablet, but it’s not a tablet. There’s not built-in battery. A pen display is monitor you can draw on, and since it’s a monitor you will need to connect this to a computer to use it.
The 10 customisable shortcut buttons have firm feedback when pressed.
There are two USB-C ports on the side, one for the USB-C connector from the 3-to-1 cable, and the other port is for a USB-C video cable. The two USB-C ports are not interchangeable and are labeled on the back of the pen display.
The USB-C ports are actually recessed inside the holes.
If you want to use your own USB-C cable, make sure the connector is small enough to go into the hole. In the photo above, my Spigen cable (above) can fit but the other cable below cannot even though the sizes don’t differ much.
Colours on the pen display look good out of the box. After colour calibration, I measured colour support for 99% sRGB, 92% AdobeRGB, 94% P3, 89% NTSC and a maximum brightness of 176 nits. The brightness is sufficient for use in a birght room environment. If I have curtains drawn, I can use the pen display at 50-70% brightness.
The anti-glare from the matte textured screen protector isn’t that aggressive which is great. You can still see colours beneath the diffused reflections. The matte textured surface provides a tactile experience while drawing.
Usually there’s a compromise between the roughness of the matte texture vs the image quality that’s affected. The rougher the surface, the more the image quality affected. This matte screen protector is considered smooth, at least smoother than other rougher screen protectors I’ve tested, but not slippery. And because this matte screen protector is smoother, it does not introduce much or any grain or colour noise to affect image quality.
The only thing that affects the image quality is the pixelation that’s noticeable with the 1920 x 1080 resolution on the 15.4-inch display. 1080P resolution is still very usable. You can still get a good amount of canvas space to work with. The overall drawing area is almost A4 size but wider, and this is a comfortable size to work with for drawing.
The display has good viewing angles with minimal colour shift.
This is the X3 Elite pen that supports tilt and 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. There are two side buttons that are customisable.
There’s another version of this pen called the X3 Elite Plus which includes an eraser button at the back.
This pen uses the X3 Smart Chip with an initial activation force of just 3g.
The pen feels solid, lightweight, has a matte textured body and is comfortable to hold. Pen nib has minimal movement (0.6mm).
The display is laminated so there’s no or minimal gap between the line and the pen tip.
Cursor tracking is quite accurate even to the edge of the display. And the cursor does not stray away from the pen tip regardless of the angle of the pen.
The drivers I’ve tested are MacOS driver version 3.3.4 and Windows driver version 3.3.3.
I had some problems with the Windows driver version 3.3.3 initially. After driver installation, the driver could not open. I contacted XP-Pen support through the chatbox on their website and they managed to solve the problem. They had to uninstall the SuperDisplay driver (that I use to extend my Android tablet screen), and after that the Windows driver worked fine.
If for some reason the cursor does not appear directly beneath the pen tip, you can calibrate the display with the driver.
If you’re left handed, this is where you can change the orientation of the display.
Pressure sensitivity curve can be adjusted by moving the three control points. The two side buttons on the pen can be customised.
This is where you can customise the 10 shortcut buttons.
And these are the shortcuts you can assign to the shortcut buttons.
For some reason with MacOS, the XP-Pen driver does not start/load automatically upon startup, and hence the pen doesn’t work.
The workaround is to set the XP-Pen driver to start upon log in via MacOS System Preferences.
Drawing performance is fantastic.
1. Initial activation force is minimal. You can draw with almost no pressure applied as long as the pen tip is touching the surface.
2. Lines can taper smoothly.
3. Line transition from thin to thick is smooth. Curves are smooth.
4. With Medibang Paint Pro, to draw dots I have to tap and drag slightly with the pen. I can’t just tap the pen to draw dots. This issue does not happen with other apps.
5. I was able to maintain consistent pressure to draw lines with consistent width.
Tilt sensitivity works fine.
Drawing performance is consistent and predictable. The pen is sensitive and accurate.
This was drawn with Medibang Paint Pro (Mac).
There were no surprises when drawing. I didn’t experience any glitches or issues.
I have also tested the Mac and Windows version of Photoshop, Illustrator, Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, Sketchable, Sketchbook Pro, Clip Studio Paint and Krita. The only problem I encountered was with Adobe Illustrator on MacOS where pressure sensitivity doesn’t work.
Getting this pen display to use with Android should not be the main reason to get this pen display.There are several issues with Android connection.
First, if your Android tablet already supports an active stylus, it doesn’t make sense to get a pen display to draw on when you can already draw on the Android tablet.
Secondly, not all Android tablets will have video output. The pen display cannot be used with Android tablets that do not have video output.
Thirdly, there’s no Android driver so you won’t be able to use the shortcut buttons or customise pen pressure sensitivity. Some Android devices may not show the cursor. I used the pen display with my Samsung Tab S8 Ultra and there is no cursor. Not having a visible cursor isn’t a problem as the pen tracking is accurate so you can rely on the pen tip location.
Fourthly, the Artist 16 (2nd Gen) is not a touchscreen so it will be difficult to use most of the drawing apps which are designed for use with finger gestures. You cannot zoom, pan, rotate or navigate with fingers.
Fifth, the pen display does not differentiate pen from finger so there’s no tilt and pressure sensitivity.
The XP-Pen Artist 16 (2nd Gen) is a beautiful pen display with solid build quality, good colour accuracy and fantastic drawing performance. The pen is accurate and sensitive. My drawing experience with it is very positive.
I did not experience any major issues except with the Windows driver installation which was solved by XP-Pen support under half an hour. And there’s no pressure sensitivity with Adobe Illustrator on MacOS.
I don’t recommend this for use with Android because of the various reasons mentioned above. Linux drivers are not available yet too but I don’t use Linux so I can’t say much.
The competing model for the USD 399 Artist 16 (2nd Gen) is probably the Artist Pro 16 (shown above) which is USD 449. Price difference is $50. Both pen displays use the same X3 technology in the pen so the drawing performance is similar. Between the two, I’ll probably recommend the Artist 16 (2nd Gen) it’s $50 cheaper and I don’t like how the cable of the Artist Pro 16 sticks out at the top. You can use the money saved to buy a USB-C cable, stand and/or the XP-Pen AC-19 shortcut remote if you need the dial or more shortcut buttons.
Pro and cons at a glance:
+ Excellent build quality
+ Beautiful design
+ USB-C support
+ Pen does not require battery
+ Pen supports tilt and 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity
+ Pen has very low initial activation force
+ Cursor tracking is excellent right up to the extreme edges
+ 10 replacement tips included
+ Artist glove included
+ 10 shortcut buttons
+ Matte anti-glare screen protector nice to draw on
+ 1920 x 1080 resolution adequate for a 15.4-inch display but higher would be better
+ IPS panel colour support is good. 99% sRGB, 92% AdobeRGB
+ Non-aggressive anti-glare
+ Display image quality is very good
+ Viewing angles are good
+ Laminated display with no parallax
+ Does not produce much heat. Can be used for long periods of time without discomfort
+ Fantastic drawing performance on Mac and Windows
+ Competitive pricing
+ 18 months of warranty
– Maximum brightness at 176 nits
– No stand included
– USB-C cable sold separately
– MacOS driver does not launch automatically
– Pressure does not work with Adobe Illustrator on MacOS
– Android user experience not ideal
You can find the XP-Pen Artist 16 (2nd gen) on XP-Pen’s webstore. Links below.
Free shipping may be included depending on your location.
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