Welcome to our review of the XP-Pen Deco MW Pen Tablet. XP-Pen is a smaller name on the drawing tablet scene: they offer more affordable products than the bigger name brands like Wacom and Cintiq, so it can be easy to doubt quality. However, we frequently feature their products and the lower price point makes them a fantastic starting tablet for amateurs and younger artists.
As a digital artist, I've used both the prior mentioned Wacom and Cintiq but had never tried my hand with the XP-Pen brand. I was sceptical about how this would live up to my Wacom tablet, but I will happily say I was pleasantly surprised and now find myself reaching for my XP-Pen Deco MW tablet over my older Wacom model. While I definitely wouldn't consider this a high-end tool for full-time digital art, it's a fantastic addition to my desktop setup and the slim, compact design makes it easy to store. But is it good enough to make it among one of the best drawing tablets out there? Let's find out.
XP-Pen Deco MW review: Price
Costing $69.99/£69.99, the XP-Pen Deco MW is a mid-range tablet when it comes to cost vs. size. There are plenty of good affordable tablets on the market now that can start from $40/£40, so competition is very high when it comes to choosing a cheaper yet good quality tab.
Overall, I find the $69.99/£69.99 price tag a reasonable ask for the XP-Pen Deco MW as it's a fantastic entry-level tablet that is easy to set up and feels good to use, especially when there are frequent discounts from various retailers on the device.
XP-Pen Deco MW review: Design and build
Measuring 8x5 inches, this tablet is nicely mid-sized. It sits comfortably on my desk when I'm hooked up to my laptop and slots away unobtrusively when I store it. It's very lightweight, but still has a solid build that gives it a nice weight. The tablet features 8 shortcut keys that you can easily customise using the tablet driver which was very easy to assign. Speaking of the tablet driver, I really appreciated how simple it was to install and set up. It has a clean UI design that is easy to navigate. There is a live pressure input sensor, but I wish it had a visual representation of your pen stroke to show if your tablet is picking up pressure differences for artistic apps as I had an issue getting pen pressure to work in Photoshop, but was unable to tell if it was a fault with my tablet or the programme.
Colour-wise, I went for the blue variation. It's a pale navy blue and visually I can't fault it. It's easy on the eye and looks really unique compared to my past tablets. The XP-Pen Deco MW comes in a total of four colours: blue, pink, green and black. Graphics tablets usually come in a bog-standard black or grey, so this funky selection of vibrant colours is a nice change of pace.
XP-Pen Deco MW review: Stylus
The XP-Pen Deco MW comes with the new X3 Elite plus stylus. The new X3 smart chip promises an authentic drawing experience thanks to its 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity and up to 60° tilt recognition. The pen is incredibly light, which in the long term is a good thing but it does feel a little cheap compared to other art styluses I've used. One major downside I noted after extended use was the lack of grip where you hold the pen: it got a little uncomfortable after a while and I feel the stylus could definitely benefit from some kind of groove or grip beneath where your fingertips sit.
The stylus comes packaged with over 10 spare nibs and a tool to easily replace them. As someone that goes through pen nibs frequently, this was very appreciated and a great addition that prolongs your product's lifespan. It has 2 buttons on the side that you can customise to quickly switch between tools as you work, and these have a really satisfying "click" to use.
As with most graphic tablet pens, it's important to note you do not need to charge the stylus to use it. The technology works using pressure recognition, so no need to worry about batteries or fiddly charging cables. Another small issue I have in regards to the stylus is that there is nowhere to store it on the tablet, like a fabric loop or clip, meaning it would be very easy to lose if you're out and about and I struggled to find somewhere safe on my desk to store it where it wouldn't go missing.
XP-Pen Deco MW review: Drawing experience
Considering this is a cheaper tablet than ones I've used before, I was pleasantly surprised with how good it felt to draw on. It has a surprisingly large "active area" considering the size of the tablet itself, and the smooth surface felt good to draw on thanks to the matte finish. It has four rubber grips on the bottom which hold it secure against your desk/workspace so I didn't have to worry about it sliding around when I was putting pressure on it.
You have two different options when it comes to connecting the XP-Pen Deco MW to your chosen device: it works both through a wired connection and Bluetooth. Simply download the free driver from the website and you're good to go. It even comes with two adaptors to connect to a range of devices: USB-C to USB and Micro-USB to USB. I like to limit my cables, so I pretty much exclusively used the Bluetooth connection which works by plugging in a Bluetooth adaptor to the USB port of my laptop/PC. I did experience a few issues when it came to Bluetooth pairing where the laptop was registering it was paired, but not picking up any input. To rectify this I had to remove and then re-pair the tablet each time I wanted to use it which was a considerable downside.
Overall, the actual drawing experience felt good and easy to handle. As an artist that has used a multitude of tablets, I would definitely consider this a "starter" device that would be better suited for beginner digital artists, especially in regards to the lower price point. The aforementioned stylus has 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity thanks to the X3 chip and I found my brush strokes and lines to be accurate to my pressure input. I found the eight side buttons to be very helpful when working, and once I'd assigned them custom shortcuts they considerably sped up my artistic process.
XP-Pen Deco MW review: Is it worth buying?
Overall, the XP-Pen Deco MW is a great tablet if you're looking for a compact yet affordable digital art option. It would be a great beginner tablet as well as a nice cheaper addition for long-term artists. Despite having a few small issues when it came to connection via Bluetooth and picking up pen pressure, these were quickly rectified and minor inconveniences given the decent price point of the XP-Pen Deco MW tablet. If you want to get an idea of a wider range of tablets, you can find our guide to the best drawing tablets right here. But be warned: most options on this list are a lot more pricey which is why I think the XP-Pen Deco MW is a great and easy-to-use device to start with as an artist.