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XP-PEN Innovator 16 review

The XP-PEN Innovator 16 is a reliable digital drawing tool that holds its own.

XP-Pen innovator 16 review
(Image: © Ben Brady)

Our Verdict

Sleek design and good build quality makes the XP-PEN Innovator 16 feel and look like a bargain for the price. The drawing experience itself is pretty slick, in terms of responsiveness and pressure sensitivity. It also comes with free drawing software Artrage 5, and its pared down interface allows more surface area for drawing.

For

  • Free drawing software
  • Slim and portable
  • Very reasonably priced

Against

  • Not touch screen
  • Could be brighter
  • Lack of adjustable stand

The XP-PEN Innovator 16 is a great example of a mid-range pen display that sits snuggly between Wacom’s Cintiq 16 and Huion’s Kamvas Pro 16 at a more than reasonable $529.99 / £449.99. 

How does it stand out? In terms of build quality it is slimmer and more compact than either of the previously mentioned tablets, has marginally better colour gamut (meaning colour reproduction), and is equal if not slightly brighter, too. If I were upgrading from smaller tablet, or were weighing up the options on this best drawing tablets list, I’d give the XP-PEN Innovator 16 serious consideration.  

XP-PEN Innovator 16: Display and drawing experience

XP-Pen innovator 16 review

The size is ideal for most people (Image credit: Ben Brady)

Firstly, a 15.6” display is something to be excited about. Yes, there are bigger displays out there, priced accordingly, but this is what I would call a (more than) happy medium, and most certainly not a compromise. 

Full HD is about right for this too, there were absolutely no signs of pixelation, and unless you’re a highly advanced concept artist then the 92% Adobe RGB is, or should be, more than enough in terms of accuracy of colour. My only qualm with the XP-PEN Innovator 16 display is that it could be a smidgen brighter – but this may be due to the laminated matt screen, the small price you pay for that ‘tooth’, which emulates the feel of paper when you draw. 

Key specs

- Screen size – 15.6”
- Resolution – 1920×1080 (full HD)
- Display –  344.16×193.59mm
- Colour gamut – 92% Adobe® RGB, 88% NTSC, 125% sRGB
- Pen – Battery-free
- Pressure levels – 8192 levels
- Weight- 1.4 kg
- Ports – HDMI/USB

Overall, the experience of drawing with the XP-PEN Innovator 16 is good. The screen seems close to the glass, like a high-end phone or iPad Pro, and so reduces a gap that sometimes makes the whole experience of using (a not much older) pen display somewhat ‘clunky’ in nature. It’s very slick, and responsive, too, and once calibrated it is about as accurate in terms of hand/eye coordination as you’d hope – there's no discernible lag. 

The eight programable shortcut buttons are also very useful but most useful is the dual virtual and moveable dial – perfect for zooming, scrolling or changing brush sizes. It’s a really nice touch, with a nice action. Just to clarify – this does not have touch capabilities and only works with the stylus, but to be honest you are buying it to draw with, and through a computer, as it is not a stand alone unit, so touch would only be a superfluous bonus. It’s all about the drawing!

XP-PEN Innovator 16: Stylus/pen

XP-Pen innovator 16 review

The stylus pen comes with its own case (Image credit: Ben Brady)

XP-PEN’s styluses are pretty standard. They are somewhat light weight, especially if you are used to using Wacom, but feel comfortable in the hand, and as is industry standard more and more – battery-free. Maybe a weighty stylus helps convince you you’re using something of quality – but if you’re new to drawing digitally then you’ll remember pencils aren’t that heavy! (Unless you used to draw with an antique fountain pen!) 

It’s a good quality pen/stylus all the same, with two (quite sensitive) programmable buttons, handy for switching to an eraser, or an undo/redo combo like I prefer. It also boasts a 60 degree angle of tilt – meaning great variance in mark making. What is nice is that XP-PEN make a real effort in build quality and packaging – the pen comes in a very chic holder (with plenty of spare nibs), which is very Lightsabre-esque. 

XP-PEN Innovator 16: Design and build

XP-Pen innovator 16 review

The Innovator 16 has a nice weight to it (Image credit: Ben Brady)

This is a good-looking pen display. Its super slim at 9mm thick and looks as stylish if not more so than anything else in its price range. It also has a nice weight to it as well, couple this with its metal and glass exterior and it looks and feels very legit indeed. 

XP-PEN has done a great job with the build quality, especially considering the price. However, although it is touted as ‘portable’ the tablet’s 15.6” screen (one of the best things about it) means it is a little too large just slide into a rucksack and hit the road. It is portable, just not as portable as an iPad. 

XP-PEN Innovator 16: Power

XP-Pen innovator 16 review

You may need to buy an extra cable, depending on your setup (Image credit: Ben Brady)

I profess I’m not the most savvy or up-to-date and I did have to buy an extra HDMI to thunderbolt (just to be annoyingly retro) in order to link it up (I have a late 2013 iMac). Along with the HDMI there is a USB-A so even if you have a newer mac you’ll still need an adaptor for both connections to go into a USB -C. If you're a PC user, you’re probably good to go. 

It also has another USB-A that connects to an AC power adaptor. It comes with numerous country dependent adaptors. It’s not a huge amount of wires, though I’m not entirely sure why XP-PEN doesn’t just have a standard USB-C to USB-C like it provides for its 24 Artists Pro (see our XP-PEN Artist 24 Pro review), and have it as a standard across the board. If you wanted to take it out to work elsewhere you don’t need the AC adaptor, though the trade off is further reduction in brightness.  

XP-PEN Innovator 16: Price

At $529.99 / £449.99 you are not going to as good a quality pen display, full stop, in terms of size and technology. Wacom, XP’s biggest competitor’s, Cintiq 16 isn’t much more expensive at $649.95 / £529.99 but the Innovator 16 is somewhat lighter, boasts better colour accuracy, and has a better body build. 

XP-Pen is supposedly the underdog here, but as such it is ever so slightly more 'ferocious'. What this pen display also sizes up to is the iPad, but needless to say an iPad starts at at least twice the price and doesn’t come near the Innovator 16’s screen size. Plus there's no battery-free stylus included. 

XP-PEN Innovator 16: Should you buy it?

If you are serious about making that step to digital, or even still contemplating it, then both the price and quality of the XP-PEN Innovator 16 should convince you enough of its suitability. It’s compact in design, somewhat portable, and serves very well as a second monitor, too (though you’d need to buy an additional adjustable stand, which XP makes).  

This pen display offers remarkable quality for a more-than reasonable price. Similarly, if you’ve been using a drawing tablet for a while and want to upgrade to draw-on display unit – this would be a logical upgrade, I can’t emphasise enough what you’d be getting for a very decent price. I’d go as far as saying that it’s more than suitable for professionals, too. XP-PEN’s main draw is it allows those with smaller budgets access to good quality creative tools. 

Read more: The best drawing tablets for animation

The Verdict
8

out of 10

XP-PEN Innovator 16

Sleek design and good build quality makes the XP-PEN Innovator 16 feel and look like a bargain for the price. The drawing experience itself is pretty slick, in terms of responsiveness and pressure sensitivity. It also comes with free drawing software Artrage 5, and its pared down interface allows more surface area for drawing.

Ben is an artist and illustrator working in traditional woodcut, drawing and digital mediums.