Xencelabs are the new kids on the block in the graphics tablet world. The team includes ex-Wacom employees, and they’ve put all their design and industry know-how into the Pen Display Medium – it’s as user- and artist-friendly as you'd hope. We tried the Pen Display Medium Bundle, which comes with the Xencelabs Pen Tablet, two pens (the 3 button and Thin Pen) and a case, a Quick Key remote, and other bits like a drawing glove and a very nice soft tablet carrying case, all for just $359.99 / £319.99.
So far, so good, but how does it measure up compared to the other tablets in our best graphics tablet guide? Read on to find out more.
Xencelabs pen tablet: design and build
Xencelabs Pen Display Medium sits just under a 13-inch MacBook in size, neither too big nor too small, and at only 8mm thick it looks and feels like a very nice piece of design. It has an ergonomic curved front edge, which feels like the user's comfort has been taken into account. This is especially welcome considering those long hours spent drawing.
The tablet seems super sleek and well made – from the texture, or 'tooth', of the active drawing zone, to the metal alloy underside with six rubber non-slip pads, it all adds to a build quality you might expect from a more premium piece of kit by someone like Wacom – an Intuos Pro medium would be a fair comparison.
Product Dimensions: 12.61 x 9.16 x 0.3 in / 320.5 x 232.85 x 8mm
Active area size: 10.3×5.8 in / 262.4×147.4 mm
Active area aspect ratio: 16:9
Pressure levels: 8192 levels
Weight: 710.5 g
Ports: USB-C to USB-A
The active area is delineated by four corner LEDs you can customise in eight different colours. It’s a nice addition. You can set different colours for different programmes, for example, when they light up blue, you know you set for Photoshop, pink for Affinity, yellow for Corel, etc, or whatever you like.
Three small buttons sit at the top of the tablet, fully customisable of course. They seem perfect for accessing the tablet or pen settings, for example, or for switching programmes. You may well ask – where are the rest of the shortcut buttons, so common on graphics tablets? And that's where the Quick Key Remote comes in...
Xencelabs pen tablet: Quick Key Remote
Because Xencelabs seems to be all about the refinement and attention to detail on a single product (meaning the bundle as a whole), those quick key shortcuts have been lifted off the tablet, save the three primary buttons, and configured, if you will, into this very cool, separate, OLED display and nine-button remote with physical wheel dial.
The remote itself is as nice a build as the tablet and is customisable with up to 40 shortcuts. The best thing about it is its ability to configure by colour too, just like the tablet itself. A bit of time spent in the settings means a relatively easy configuration of dial sequences, which is perfect for scrolling, zooming, rotating, and changing brush sizes. Just assign a colour to each job.
You can configure the eight buttons into different sets for different art jobs, so to speak – Set A for sketching, B for editing, C for colouring etc. The OLED display makes it easier to remember which button is set to what, when in each configuration. If that all sounds a bit like too much trouble – it really isn't. Compared to other drawing tablets, this, as well as the initial set up and driver installation, is pretty easy and stress free. Xencelabs has got the user's experience from beginning to end in mind, and it shows.
Xencelabs pen tablet: stylus/pen
Opening up and unboxing the Xencelabs pen tablet medium bundle is pretty satisfying, even surprising, especially considering the cost. It's when you uncover the pen case that it really gets a bit 'ooh la la'. The pens also have a nice weight –reminiscent of an old fountain pen.
Wacom sells its slim pen separately, but Xencelabs includes one with the Pen Tablet medium. So, you get a regular three-button pen and a slim two-button pen, both with 'erasers' on the opposite ends (or whatever you want to configure them as). I spent most of my time using the slim pen and not even bothering with the regular, but it is nice to have a choice.
Being able to customise both pens to different settings is a nice touch – you can grab one for shading or light pencil work, and use the other for inking or painting in, for example. It saves a great deal of time having to go back into the settings and reconfigure each time you want something different. Both pens have the standard (and very high) levels of pressure sensitivity, and 60 degree tilt functions, as standard. The drawing experience with the pens is really very good – no lag, smooth lines, and no marks missing when sketching at speed.
Ten extra nibs are included in the case, four of them felt (as in the material) for extra 'tooth', plus a nib extracting ring.
Xencelabs pen tablet: power
The pen tablet and Quick Key Remote both link up with to your computer via USB (USB-A to USB-C connector included) and once charged, are both connected to the tablet wirelessly via bluetooth – with a dongle included in pen case. The battery of both the tablet and remote lasted a fair few hours. The pen takes less than an hour to fully recharge (whilst using it), and the remote about half an hour. The pens are of course completely battery free.
Xencelabs tablet: price
The cost of the bundle is very reasonable: $359.99 / £319.99. This includes the Xencelabs Pen Tablet, two pens (the 3 button and Thin Pen) and case, the Quick Key remote, a drawing glove and a very nice soft tablet carrying case.
The Tablet alone is $279.99 / £259.99, the remote $89.99 / £79.99, and the regular and thin pens $49.99 / £35.99 and $46.99 / £33.99 respectively. The bundle is clearly a bargain. It is significantly more than an XP-Pen Deco Pro at $129.99 / £129.99, but worth the hike in price due to the design build, quality and expertise that has gone into it.
It sits around the same price as a Wacom Intuos Pro Medium $379.95 / £329. Both the XP-PEN Deco Pro and the Wacom Intuous Pro Medium are comparable to the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium in terms of their technical prowess.
Xencelabs tablet: should you buy it?
Between the Deco Pro and the Intuous Medium and this tablet, Xencelabs comes out on top. The Xencelabs Pen Display Medium bundle is a clear signal that the Xencelabs team are serious competitors in this market, offering a capable tablet and accessories set that is understated yet very cool, for a sensible price. Whether you’re a professional or are just starting out, we recommend Xencelabs Pen Display Medium Bundle.