What do you get once you take a bunch of former Wacom workers, 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 house, it’s not that Wacom has been in need of competitors these days. 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 just a few 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 normally means slicing just a few corners in the case of 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 probably the most stringent construct requirements, provides some refreshing design components, and checks all of the professional-grade bins.
Design and Construct High quality
The Xencelabs Pen Pill Medium is accessible in two completely 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 little thing within the field merely oozes “premium” high quality.
The pill itself is constructed like a tank, with a 16:9 facet ratio, a10.33 x 5.8-inch energetic space, and some actually neat little design cues that make it very comfy to make use of.
The energetic space is marked off on the corners by lighted insets that may be personalized to a coloration of your alternative, the underside tapers to a clean edge so you may comfortably relaxation your drawing hand on the pill with out a sharp edge digging into your palm, and the three built-in specific keys on the high let you shortly entry the pill settings, regulate pen stress, or change shows in the event you’re utilizing the pill with a number of displays.
That final characteristic is especially helpful to me, as I’m steadily 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, most important show solely, or each.
The lights across the energetic space are additionally extremely handy, as they are often set to completely different colours for various apps, supplying you with a fast reference to make sure the suitable app/shortcuts are energetic.
Lastly, the floor of the pill itself was tooled to present you simply the correct amount of “chunk.” 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 preventing you. The floor texture may be very comparable in really feel to my Intuos Professional, and positively superior to the opposite third-party tablets I’ve examined.
The truth that Xencelabs consists of not one however two completely different pens within the field is an excellent transfer that additional units them aside from their most important competitors. The thick, conventional model pen consists of three buttons whereas the thinner model has solely two, however each embody EMR erasers on the opposite finish and they are often configured independently.
If you’d like the identical from Wacom, you’ll must drop an extra $70 on the Pro Pen Slim.
I largely 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 stress curves and shortcut keys of their two pens otherwise, and switching between them for various duties. One pen for pen software alternatives and one other for brushwork, for instance.
And since they each are available the identical (very sturdy) pen case, it’s straightforward to maintain every little thing collectively once you throw the pill in your bag.
The Fast Keys Distant (Bought Individually)
If you happen to resolve to spend the extra $80 on the Pen Pill Medium Bundle — and I recommend that you just do — you’ll get all the above plus the wonderful Xencelabs’ Fast Keys distant.
The shortage of conventional specific keys on the Xencelabs Pill is considered one of its few downsides, because the three customizable buttons on the high are usually not actually meant for use for widespread shortcuts. However for $360 — which continues 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 may be programmed to 4 completely different settings, every with its personal mild coloration, which you cycle by by urgent the button within the heart. The OLED show, in the meantime, permits you to program as much as 40 completely different shortcuts, biking by a most of 5 units of 8 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 mild coloration, the very fact it takes full benefit of the display screen, and you may even choose from 4 completely different orientations relying on how you like to work.
As with the pens and pill itself, the distant may be programmed otherwise for every app, with a special set of shortcuts, a special set of dial settings, and a special coloration scheme for every of these settings.
All the pieces concerning the design and constructed high quality of this pill and its equipment impressed me. I’ve used high-quality Wacom opponents 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 all the 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 a number of thought and energy into usability and efficiency as effectively.
The guided setup is actually easy. It routinely detects all related units and hundreds them into a gorgeous interface that allows you to customise every little thing concerning the pill, pens, and Fast Keys distant to your hearts’ content material.
Nevertheless 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 laptop already has bluetooth constructed proper in — is a little bit of a drag, however Xencelabs insists that this permits them to chop down on latency and guarantee a secure connection.
I should buy that… and I can attest that I by no means had any connection points when utilizing the pill wirelessly, which I did nearly completely after the preliminary setup.
You have to to plug the pill again in when it runs brief 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 actually 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 stress 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 truth, from setup, by customization, by truly utilizing the Xencelabs Pen Pill as my most important graphics pill, I skilled just one main hiccup: in its present type, the pill driver WILL NOT WORK when you have a Wacom pill driver put in on the similar time.
I’ve by no means run into this drawback with some other pill maker, however regardless of the motive, you MUST delete your Wacom drivers earlier than putting in and utilizing the Xencelabs pill. Since many individuals are prone to be switching manufacturers from Wacom if/once they purchase this pill, it is a essential 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 bounce between factors, stress sensitivity would fail, and a few options would typically cease working outright. Hopefully by the point you obtain your unit, this will probably be a moot level; till then, in the event you plan to make use of each Xencelabs and Wacom tablets on the identical laptop — even in the event you’re not utilizing them on the similar time — you’re going to have a foul time.
The one different “problem” I noticed is the shortage of multi-touch performance, one thing that Wacom does embody of their Intuos Professional line. Actually, I truly choose not having contact performance, since palm rejection fails as usually because it succeeds on my Intuos, however your mileage might fluctuate. If utilizing multi-touch gestures to zoom or transfer alongside your canvas is vital, you’re out of luck.
King of the Hill
As a reviewer, considered one of my jobs is to seek out the quirks and points. I check options I don’t use, put the pill by some frankly ridiculous exams, and change 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.
Often, a first-generation product that tries to compete with the most important participant within the trade would fail in just a few apparent methods, particularly if it’s cheaper. Construct high quality, efficiency, buyer help… one thing normally has to endure. However that’s merely not the case right here.
In each means 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 house.
- Improbable construct high quality
- Inventive new ergonomic design
- Ships with two completely different pens and durable pen case
- Skilled-grade efficiency
- Straightforward-to-use software program with numerous customization choices
- Improbable quick-keys distant with built-in display screen
- Pill malfunctions if Wacom driver is put in
- Fast-Keys distant offered 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 primary options are the identical tried and true names that come up in each graphics pill assessment: XP-PEN and Huion. They’re not the one reasonably priced third-party options within the sport, however they’re the perfect, and the XP-PEN Deco Professional and Huion Inspiroy Dial tablets supply comparable core options to the Xencelabs pill and price between $120 and $180 much less.
You’ll get the identical 8000+ ranges of stress sensitivity from a battery-free pen, built-in dials and specific keys, and software program that has by no means given this author bother. You’ll quit construct high quality, customer support is hit-or-miss, the included pens merely aren’t on the identical degree as Xencelabs or Wacom, and the XP-PEN Deco Professional doesn’t characteristic any form of wi-fi connectivity.
Ought to You Purchase It?
There’s no different method to put it: as I write this, the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium is the perfect medium-sized pen pill cash should buy. 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 will probably be buying and selling in my Intuos Professional, and protecting a really shut eye on the updates from this firm.