Affordable drawing tablet that rivals the ‘big boys’

New quality tablet brings an affordable option to digital artist

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Up until now, Wacom has dominated the drawing tablet industry. Professionals and hobbyists alike have been stuck with only one option. But thats starting to change. Companies like Apple, Huion, Microsoft and XP-Pen offer artists a large array of tablets at different price points and quality. I’ve tried them all and recently got my hands on the new Artist Display 12.

Artist Display 12 is the latest tablet offered by XP-Pen. While its the smallest tablet display of their line, its packed with features and very affordable. Lets roll up our sleeves and put this tablet to the test.

What’s in the box

You know you are getting a quality product when the packaging is of high-quality with a sleek design. Artist Display 12 is wrapped with care and comes with everything you need to get up and running. Besides the usual micro fiber cleaning cloth and artist glove, an HDMI-miniDisplay port adaptor is included - nice addition. A 2-in-1 power and data cable is included with a USB extension cable as well as a variety of power plugs. No matter what country you’re in, there is a power plug for you.

A multi-function pen holder is also included with 8 replacement tips/nubs. Other tablets at this price point do not come with extra tips or a pen case, so this is a very nice inclusion.

A stand and carry case is not included. Those would have been a nice addition but would increase the cost. You can buy a carry case from their online store for just $20.99 and a stand for $49.99.

Sturdy and sleek design

Artist Display 12 is the smallest display tablet of the Artist series but it's not lacking. It is thin, light weight and perfect for the artist on-the-go or with limited desk space. The 11.6 inch display area gives you a drawing space similar to a medium-sized sketch pad. There are also 6 customizable shortcut keys and a touch bar which speeds up your productivity.

I love the way Artist Display 12 feels in my hands. While it is thin, it's very sturdy. It is solid and has a nice sleek, flat design which gives a seamless feel while you work. Unlike a large Wacom tablet, I can move it around just like my sketch pad and even sit it on my lap while I work. Artist Display 12 also doesn’t heat up that much allowing you to work on any surface.

The Pen and pen holder are also nicely designed. The pen feels good in your hand - similar to the shape of a pencil and thickness of a paint marker. With not needing a battery, the pen is very light weight giving it that pencil feel. A right-click button is flush with the surface so it doesn’t get in the way of your fingers. But, because of this, I find that it gets lost while I’m drawing and I have to look at the pen to find it. The eraser is a nice feature and works well though you can’t use the side or edge of the eraser. You have to have it almost vertical for it to register which doesn’t feel natural.

The pen case is nicely designed with it housing your extra tips. Your pen slides in and screws shut so you won’t lose anything while on the go.

Screen size and features

Like I’ve said, 11.6 inch display area is similar in size to a sketch pad which feels right when drawing. There are larger tablets in the Artist series if you prefer a bigger workspace but for my taste its perfect. When shipped, the Artist Display 12 has a protective film which you need to remove. The screen itself has a more “slick” texture than some tablets and has good viewing angles. It feels good while drawing. I did find it a little tricky to calibrate the colors but it wasn’t a huge issue. The brightness is perfect at its default setting. There are also buttons on the side of the tablet to quickly change the brightness which is a nice feature.

The 6 customizable shortcut keys are a nice feature. It comes set with Photoshop shortcuts but can be customized through the Pen Tablet Setting app. You can completely customize each button and the touch bar giving you full control. I set the touch bar and button combo to size my brush, zoom in/out and scroll as these were features I really needed while working. You can set up the keys for each program you use and export them. This lets you import a setup for the program you are using. Though you must launch the setting app to import the setup you need. It would have been nice to be able to do this with a button press.

One nice feature of the Artist Display 12 is that it can run without being plugged into a power outlet. Depending on the computer that you are using, the tablet can be powered by the computer itself. Its a small feature but does come in handy if you use the tablet on multiple computer or have limited outlet space. Just plug and play.

How does it perform?

A tablet may look great, have a sleek design with great features but it has to perform. Artist Display 12 performs great.

The biggest thing I look for in a drawing tablet is low latency - the delay between pen movement and cursor movement. I can’t draw or sculpt if I draw on the screen and don’t see the cursor following the pen. Latency is a huge issue in drawing tablets and thankfully not an issue with the Artist Display 12. The latency is very low. I’m able to draw and sculpt naturally on screen.

The pressure sensitivity level is good at 8192. Its comparable to most tablets of the size but less than half of some of the higher level tablets. The more pressure sensitivity you have, the smoother and more control of the line weight you have. While I’d prefer more sensitivity, 8192 is good for most projects that you will work on. And you can easily adapt your workflow.

Besides low latency, the programable keys factor into its performance. Being able to set the 6 shortcut keys is a huge deal. And being able to set them up differently for each program is a great feature. While it would be nice to switch configuration on the fly, you are still able to switch them.

Is it good?

Overall, this is an amazing display tablet. For a very affordable price, you get a quality display tablet packed with features. Its about the size of a medium-sized sketch pad which feels good in your hands. Not as rugged as some of the tablet displays out there, but its very sturdy and does not heat up as much as most. The touch bar and 6 shortcut keys are very helpful and a feature usually found on the higher end tablets. Screen quality, drawing performance and pen quality are all good.

I prefer this over my giant, heavy Wacom. I have a smaller workspace and a tablet thats bigger than my computer just doesn’t work for me. I love the size of of the Artist Display 12. Its the size of a sketch-pad, slim and light weight allowing me to move it around and work with it like a sketch pad. With low latency and configurable shortcut keys, this tablet performs as good, if not better, than more expensive tablets.

This is a fantastic display drawing tablet. Whether you're a hobbyist or professional artist, I highly recommend this tablet. You get the biggest bang for your buck.

A note to artists with older Macs: My personal iMac doesn’t have a mini-display port so I needed to buy a Mini DVI to HDMI cable. You can find them on Amazon from about $6 and up.

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