What do you get while you take a bunch of former Wacom staff, 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 currently. XP-PEN and Huion specifically 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 a number of 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 provide related efficiency for lots much less cash, however knock-offs all the identical. You’ll be able to’t shake the sensation that you simply’re utilizing a product designed to undercut Wacom, which normally means slicing a number of corners on the subject 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 essentially the most stringent construct requirements, provides some refreshing design parts, and checks all of the professional-grade containers.
Design and Construct High quality
The Xencelabs Pen Pill Medium is out there in two totally 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 categorical key distant ($360). Whichever configuration you select, all the pieces 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 custom-made to a colour of your selection, the underside tapers to a clean edge so you possibly can comfortably relaxation your drawing hand on the pill with no sharp edge digging into your palm, and the three built-in categorical keys on the high mean you can shortly entry the pill settings, modify pen strain, or swap shows when you’re utilizing the pill with a number of screens.
That final characteristic is especially helpful to me, as I’m regularly 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, primary show solely, or each.
The lights across the energetic space are additionally extremely handy, as they are often set to totally different colours for various apps, supplying you with a fast reference to make sure the appropriate app/shortcuts are energetic.
Lastly, the floor of the pill itself was tooled to provide you simply the correct amount of “chew.” 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 simply discover the resistance preventing you. The floor texture may be very related in really feel to my Intuos Professional, and positively superior to the opposite third-party tablets I’ve examined.
The truth that Xencelabs contains not one however two totally different pens within the field is a superb transfer that additional units them aside from their primary competitors. The thick, conventional fashion pen contains three buttons whereas the thinner model has solely two, however each embrace EMR erasers on the opposite finish and they are often configured independently.
If you’d like the identical from Wacom, you’ll have to drop a further $70 on the Pro Pen Slim.
I principally 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 strain curves and shortcut keys of their two pens in a different way, and switching between them for various duties. One pen for pen instrument picks and one other for brushwork, for instance.
And since they each are available the identical (very sturdy) pen case, it’s simple to maintain all the pieces collectively while you throw the pill in your bag.
The Fast Keys Distant (Bought Individually)
When you determine to spend the extra $80 on the Pen Pill Medium Bundle — and I counsel that you simply do — you’ll get the entire above plus the wonderful Xencelabs’ Fast Keys distant.
The shortage of conventional categorical keys on the Xencelabs Pill is certainly one of its few downsides, for the reason that three customizable buttons on the high should not actually meant for use for widespread shortcuts. However for $360 — which remains to be $20 inexpensive than the Wacom Intuos Pro Medium — you may 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 might be programmed to 4 totally different settings, every with its personal gentle colour, which you cycle by means of by urgent the button within the middle. The OLED show, in the meantime, means that you can program as much as 40 totally different shortcuts, biking by means of 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 gentle colour, the very fact it takes full benefit of the display screen, and you’ll even choose from 4 totally different orientations relying on how you favor to work.
As with the pens and pill itself, the distant might be programmed in a different way for every app, with a distinct set of shortcuts, a distinct set of dial settings, and a distinct colour scheme for every of these settings.
All the things in regards to 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 the entire 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 whole lot of thought and energy into usability and efficiency as effectively.
The guided setup is actually easy. It routinely detects all linked gadgets and hundreds them into an attractive interface that permits you to customise all the pieces in regards to the pill, pens, and Fast Keys distant to your hearts’ content material.
Nonetheless 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 sincere, having to plug in a Logitech-like dongle to make use of the pill wirelessly — when my pc already has bluetooth constructed proper in — is a little bit of a drag, however Xencelabs insists that this enables them to chop down on latency and guarantee a secure connection.
I can purchase that… and I can attest that I by no means had any connection points when utilizing the pill wirelessly, which I did virtually solely after the preliminary setup.
You’ll need 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 usefulness of the gadgets 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 strain 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.
Actually, from setup, by means of customization, by means of truly utilizing the Xencelabs Pen Pill as my primary graphics pill, I skilled just one main hiccup: in its present kind, the pill driver WILL NOT WORK you probably have a Wacom pill driver put in on the identical time.
I’ve by no means run into this drawback with some other pill maker, however regardless of the purpose, you MUST delete your Wacom drivers earlier than putting in and utilizing the Xencelabs pill. Since many individuals are more likely to be switching manufacturers from Wacom if/once they purchase this pill, it is a crucial 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, strain sensitivity would fail, and a few options would typically cease working outright. Hopefully by the point you obtain your unit, this will likely be a moot level; till then, when you plan to make use of each Xencelabs and Wacom tablets on the identical pc — even when you’re not utilizing them on the identical time — you’re going to have a nasty time.
The one different “situation” I noticed is the shortage of multi-touch performance, one thing that Wacom does embrace 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 essential, you’re out of luck.
King of the Hill
As a reviewer, certainly one of my jobs is to search out the quirks and points. I take a look at options I don’t use, put the pill by means of some frankly ridiculous assessments, and trade numerous emails with Product Managers to ensure I’m not lacking one thing. It makes me a little bit of a ache as a reviewer, but it surely’s a great way to tease out the problems.
Normally, a first-generation product that tries to compete with the largest participant within the business would fail in a number of 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 method that issues, the Xencelabs Pen Pill Medium meets or exceeds my expectations and reveals that there’s nonetheless room for innovation within the graphics pill house.
- Unbelievable construct high quality
- Inventive new ergonomic design
- Ships with two totally different pens and durable pen case
- Skilled-grade efficiency
- Straightforward-to-use software program with numerous customization choices
- Unbelievable 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 categorical keys
- Wi-fi performance requires separate dongle (included)
- No contact/gesture performance
Are There Alternate 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 very best, and the XP-PEN Deco Professional and Huion Inspiroy Dial tablets provide related core options to the Xencelabs pill and price between $120 and $180 much less.
You’ll get the identical 8000+ ranges of strain sensitivity from a battery-free pen, built-in dials and categorical 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 stage 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 technique to put it: as I write this, the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium is the very best medium-sized pen pill cash can purchase. 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 likely be buying and selling in my Intuos Professional, and preserving a really shut eye on the updates from this firm.