Hands-on review: Xencelabs Graphic Display Tablet
For the longest time, the digital art space has been dominated by two products and two products only: Wacom tablets and iPad Pros. As an artist myself, those were the only two brands I would trust with my hard-earned money. I knew that even though they were very expensive, I would get a product that was reliable and would get the job done. This might have finally changed with the sudden arrival of Xencelabs.
Xencelabs seemed to show up out of nowhere on the market. I had no idea who they were or what they were about, but I was very intrigued. I got my hands on their medium tablet, which as of when I am writing this review, is cheaper than Wacom's medium-sized tablet.
Before I even opened the box, I had really high standards for the product. In my mind, it needed to compete with my tablets that I have been emotionally attached to for years. I was blown away when I first opened the box. Xencelabs blew my visual expectations out of the water. The tablet is packed really nicely in the box. It also comes with a high-quality bag to house the tablet as well as a drawing glove. I did not expect that from a brand that I had never heard of before. The quality of the bag alone was impressive. The tablet also came with a high-quality magnetic case that housed not one but two pens!! A thick one with three buttons and a thin, more normal pen like one with two buttons. It also housed extra nibs, nib remover and all the necessary dongles to connect the tablet to any device.
This little magnetic case alone was so well put together that it raised my expectations and excitement tremendously. Before I had even used the tablet, it felt like I had a high-quality product in my hands.
Connecting the tablet to the laptop was extremely easy. It used Bluetooth 5.0 and has a direct connection to the dongle, which means other Bluetooth devices around would not interfere with the signal. The tablet can also be used while it is plugged in.
I downloaded the drivers from the website, and my expectations were blown out of the water today. Everyone who has ever worked with a Wacom tablet knows that you have to go layers deep into the software to edit all the little bits and pieces like lighting and pen sensitivity. However, the Xencelabs team have managed to build a very straightforward software experience that lets you control both pens and the tablet from one clearly laid out interface. It even allows different settings for different software and applications. This means you can program the buttons to any shortcut you want, based on the different software you use.
After playing around with the settings, it was finally time to test it out. At the moment, my tablet of choice is Wacom One which has a 1080p screen. I had not used a screen-less tablet in a couple of years, so I was scared it would not go well. Luckily, it came back to me really quickly. Sort of like riding a bike. After just ten minutes into drawing, I was used to looking at my laptop screen instead of down at my hands.
The tablet functions exactly like you would expect it to. It has the same feel as the Wacom ones from this range. It did take me a while to figure out the right pressure sensitivity for pencil drawing specifically, but once you get it the first time, you can save it and never have to deal with it again.
Overall, Xencelabs is an awesome product that will help a lot of artists out there digitise their art. My only complaint is that, personally, I still prefer having a screen to look at. I like to look down at the pen as I draw. This is making me excited to see what Xencelabs does next. If they ever release a tablet with a screen, I will definitely run to the stores to buy it, because if the quality is anything like this one, It will be the best on the market.