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Xencelabs Pen Tablet Review: Already Better than Wacom

by kyngsam

What do you get once you take a bunch of former Wacom staff, begin a brand new firm, and provides them carte blanche to develop a model new pen pill? What you get is Xencelabs, a brand new participant in graphics that’s bringing some much-needed innovation to a stale market. That is no low cost knock-off we’re speaking about, Xencelabs’ new Pen Tablet Medium simply put Wacom on discover.

For these of you who haven’t been following this area, it’s not that Wacom has been wanting competitors recently. XP-PEN and Huion particularly have been releasing high-quality pen tablets and pen shows at an alarming clip, whereas additionally charging a fraction of Wacom costs for the same mixture of core specs. We’ve reviewed a number of of those merchandise and have been duly impressed by what we discovered.

However each XP-PEN and Huion are very clearly Wacom knock-offs. They’re high-quality knock-offs that supply comparable efficiency for lots much less cash, however knock-offs all the identical. You possibly can’t shake the sensation that you just’re utilizing a product designed to undercut Wacom, which often means chopping a number of corners relating to construct high quality, software program, buyer help, and extraneous options like wi-fi connectivity.

That’s the place the Xencelabs Pen Pill units itself aside. It’s a true-blue competitor that meets or exceeds essentially the most stringent construct requirements, provides some refreshing design parts, and checks all of the professional-grade packing containers.

Design and Construct High quality

The Xencelabs Pen Pill Medium is offered in two totally different configurations: a standard kit that features the pill and two pens ($280), and a “bundle” that features the pill, two pens, and the Fast Keys specific key distant ($360). Whichever configuration you select, every thing within the field merely oozes “premium” high quality.

The Pill

The pill itself is constructed like a tank, with a 16:9 facet ratio, a10.33 x 5.8-inch lively space, and some actually neat little design cues that make it very snug to make use of.

The lively space is marked off on the corners by lighted insets that may be custom-made to a colour of your alternative, the underside tapers to a easy edge so you’ll be able to comfortably relaxation your drawing hand on the pill with no sharp edge digging into your palm, and the three built-in specific keys on the high help you rapidly entry the pill settings, alter pen strain, or swap shows for those who’re utilizing the pill with a number of screens.

That final characteristic is especially helpful to me, as I’m ceaselessly drawing on a laptop computer hooked as much as a secondary show. On the contact of a button I can now toggle the pill mapping between laptop computer solely, fundamental show solely, or each.

The lights across the lively space are additionally extremely handy, as they are often set to totally different colours for various apps, supplying you with a fast reference to make sure the suitable app/shortcuts are lively.

Lastly, the floor of the pill itself was tooled to provide you simply the correct quantity of “chew.” It’s sufficient in order that it feels such as you’re drawing on a pure floor as a substitute of slick plastic, however not a lot that you just discover the resistance combating you. The floor texture could be very comparable in really feel to my Intuos Professional, and positively superior to the opposite third-party tablets I’ve examined.

The Pens

The truth that Xencelabs contains not one however two totally different pens within the field is a superb transfer that additional units them other than their fundamental competitors. The thick, conventional model pen contains three buttons whereas the thinner model has solely two, however each embrace EMR erasers on the opposite finish and they are often configured independently.

If you’d like the identical from Wacom, you’ll have to drop a further $70 on the Pro Pen Slim.

I principally caught to the thick three-button pen as a result of it felt higher in my hand and I like the additional customization, however I can think about many customers who will arrange the strain curves and shortcut keys of their two pens in another way, and switching between them for various duties. One pen for pen device alternatives and one other for brushwork, for instance.

And since they each are available in the identical (very sturdy) pen case, it’s simple to maintain every thing collectively once you throw the pill in your bag.

The Fast Keys Distant (Bought Individually)

Should you resolve to spend the extra $80 on the Pen Pill Medium Bundle — and I recommend that you just do — you’ll get the entire above plus the wonderful Xencelabs’ Fast Keys distant.

The shortage of conventional specific keys on the Xencelabs Pill is one among its few downsides, for the reason that three customizable buttons on the high should not actually meant for use for widespread shortcuts. However for $360 — which remains to be $20 inexpensive than the Wacom Intuos Pro Medium — you will get the pill, each pens, and the Fast Keys Distant.

The distant options eight shortcut buttons, a multi-function adjustment dial with a light-weight ring round it, and an OLED show that tells you what every button will do. The dial will be programmed to 4 totally different settings, every with its personal gentle colour, which you cycle by way of by urgent the button within the heart. The OLED show, in the meantime, means that you can program as much as 40 totally different shortcuts, biking by way of a most of 5 units of Eight shortcuts by urgent the button on the high of the distant.

Right here, once more, you see Xencelabs consideration to each little element: The customizable gentle colour, the actual fact it takes full benefit of the display screen, and you may even choose from 4 totally different orientations relying on how you favor to work.

As with the pens and pill itself, the distant will be programmed in another way for every app, with a distinct set of shortcuts, a distinct set of dial settings, and a distinct colour scheme for every of these settings.

The whole lot concerning the design and constructed high quality of this pill and its equipment impressed me. I’ve used high-quality Wacom rivals earlier than, however no product, not a single one, felt like Wacom’s equal till now. The supplies that Xencelabs selected, the eye to each design element, and the usability of the entire above units a brand new bar for graphics pill design.

Usability and Efficiency

Xencelabs consideration to element didn’t cease at construct and design, as the corporate put loads of thought and energy into usability and efficiency as properly.

The guided setup is de facto easy. It robotically detects all linked units and masses them into a good looking interface that allows you to customise every thing concerning the pill, pens, and Fast Keys distant to your hearts’ content material.

Nonetheless you select to set issues up, you’ll have the choice of utilizing the pill plugged in or wirelessly by way of the included dongle. I’ll be trustworthy, having to plug in a Logitech-like dongle to make use of the pill wirelessly — when my pc already has bluetooth constructed proper in — is a little bit of a drag, however Xencelabs insists that this enables them to chop down on latency and guarantee a steady connection.

I can purchase that… and I can attest that I by no means had any connection points when utilizing the pill wirelessly, which I did virtually completely after the preliminary setup.

You will want to plug the pill again in when it runs quick on battery, however many hours of use over the course of 1 month has solely drained the battery of my pill and Fast Keys by about 50%, so battery life is de facto not a problem. In some ways, the connectivity, charging, and value of the units jogs my memory of my Logitech MX Grasp sequence keyboard and mouse. To borrow an overused phrase from Apple: it simply works.

Efficiency was stellar. The pill/pens boast an exacting strain response that’s extraordinarily delicate on the low finish of the curve, and each built-in characteristic functioned as marketed. I even examined options I by no means use, like Mouse Mode, and nothing ever let me down.

In actual fact, from setup, by way of customization, by way of really utilizing the Xencelabs Pen Pill as my fundamental graphics pill, I skilled just one main hiccup: in its present type, the pill driver WILL NOT WORK you probably have a Wacom pill driver put in on the identical time.

I’ve by no means run into this drawback with every other pill maker, however regardless of the cause, you MUST delete your Wacom drivers earlier than putting in and utilizing the Xencelabs pill. Since many individuals are more likely to be switching manufacturers from Wacom if/after they purchase this pill, it is a crucial level.

Xencelabs tells us they’re engaged on a correct repair, however earlier than working with them to determine my points, the pill was virtually unusable. The cursor would leap between factors, strain sensitivity would fail, and a few options would generally cease working outright. Hopefully by the point you obtain your unit, this shall be a moot level; till then, for those who plan to make use of each Xencelabs and Wacom tablets on the identical pc — even for those who’re not utilizing them on the identical time — you’re going to have a foul time.

The one different “situation” I noticed is the shortage of multi-touch performance, one thing that Wacom does embrace of their Intuos Professional line. Actually, I really want not having contact performance, since palm rejection fails as usually because it succeeds on my Intuos, however your mileage could differ. If utilizing multi-touch gestures to zoom or transfer alongside your canvas is essential, you’re out of luck.

King of the Hill

As a reviewer, one among my jobs is to seek out the quirks and points. I take a look at options I don’t use, put the pill by way of some frankly ridiculous exams, and alternate numerous emails with Product Managers to verify I’m not lacking one thing. It makes me a little bit of a ache as a reviewer, however it’s a great way to tease out the problems.

Normally, a first-generation product that tries to compete with the largest participant within the trade would fail in a number of apparent methods, particularly if it’s cheaper. Construct high quality, efficiency, buyer help… one thing often has to endure. However that’s merely not the case right here.

In each approach that issues, the Xencelabs Pen Pill Medium meets or exceeds my expectations and exhibits that there’s nonetheless room for innovation within the graphics pill area.


  • Implausible construct high quality
  • Artistic new ergonomic design
  • Ships with two totally different pens and durable pen case
  • Skilled-grade efficiency
  • Straightforward-to-use software program with a lot of customization choices
  • Implausible quick-keys distant with built-in display screen


  • Pill malfunctions if Wacom driver is put in
  • Fast-Keys distant bought individually
  • Solely three built-in specific keys
  • Wi-fi performance requires separate dongle (included)
  • No contact/gesture performance

Are There Options?

Aside from the elephant within the room, the principle options are the identical tried and true names that come up in each graphics pill evaluation: XP-PEN and Huion. They’re not the one reasonably priced third-party options within the sport, however they’re the most effective, and the XP-PEN Deco Professional and Huion Inspiroy Dial tablets supply comparable core options to the Xencelabs pill and value between $120 and $180 much less.

You’ll get the identical 8000+ ranges of strain sensitivity from a battery-free pen, built-in dials and specific keys, and software program that has by no means given this author hassle. You’ll hand over construct high quality, customer support is hit-or-miss, the included pens merely aren’t on the identical stage as Xencelabs or Wacom, and the XP-PEN Deco Professional doesn’t characteristic any sort of wi-fi connectivity.

Ought to You Purchase It?


There’s no different approach to put it: as I write this, the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium is the most effective medium-sized pen pill cash can purchase. They’ve leapfrogged Wacom on their first strive, leaving me very excited to see what they’ll do subsequent.

Xencelabs already instructed us they’ve a pen show within the pipeline. Within the meantime, I shall be buying and selling in my Intuos Professional, and retaining a really shut eye on the updates from this firm.

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