Art & Culture

Review: XP-Pen Deco M & MW budget drawing pen tablets

Review: XP-Pen Deco M & MW budget drawing pen tablets

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Review units provided by XP-Pen

XP-Pen Deco M and MW (wireless) pen tablets are now available. These are the medium size models compared to the XP-PEN Deco LW that I featured a few months ago.


Four colours are available: black, green, pink and blue.

Price for Deco M is US $49.99 and the wireless Bluetooth Deco MW is US $69.99.


These are the items included in the box for the Deco MW

  • Tablet
  • Pen
  • Replacement nibs
  • Nib remover
  • USB-C to USB-A charging cable
  • microUSB to USB-A adapter
  • USB-C to USB-A adapter
  • Bluetooth USB-A receiver
  • Quick start guide


The two tone design of the tablet looks good. Deco LW uses rubber material for the edges but with Deco M and MW it’s hard plastic. I actually prefer hard plastic because rubber may develop issues with humidity.

This design is friendly to left handed users. Build quality is solid.

Dimensions are 259.8 x 157.8 x 8.8 mm and the working surface area is 8 x 5 inches. I usually recommend people get pen tablets that are at least 10 by 6 inches because that size pairs well with a larger variety of monitor sizes. For an 8 x 5 inch drawing area, this should work fine with monitor sizes up to 20 inches.


The wireless tablet will come with a power button.


Pairing the tablet with Bluetooth connection involves holding down the top left button for three seconds. If you computer does not have Bluetooth, you can use the Bluetooth USB-A receiver included.

Bluetooth connection seems strong. I did not experience any disconnection, lag or latency.


The eight shortcut customisable buttons have nice firm feedback when pressed.


Battery capacity is 1000mAh and battery life is rated to last for 10 hours. The tablet can still be used when it’s charging.


The back is matte textured and have four rubber feet with good grip on the table.


The matte textured drawing surface provides a nice tactile drawing experience.


The X3 Elite pen is lightweight and comfortable to hold. There are two customisable side buttons but no eraser. The pen is not powered by battery so no charging is needed.


This is the X3 Elite pen that supports tilt and 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity.

Driver

The driver I’ve tested is Mac driver version 3.3.4 released on 24 June 2022.


There are two issues with the Mac driver that I discovered. First, the Mac driver needs to be running for the pen to work. And the Mac driver doesn’t open automatically upon startup so you have to have the driver “Open at Login”. Secondly, pressure sensitivity doesn’t work with Adobe Illustrator (Mac).


Here’s where you can customise the two side buttons on the pen. There mouse mode too. The Windows driver has the Windows Ink function which you may have to toggle on or off for troubleshooting if pressure sensitivity is not working as expected.


You can create groups for shortcuts that will update automatically depending on the app that’s currently being used.


These are the possible settings you can use for the shortcut buttons.


You can probably leave the mapping as default unless the aspect ratio of your monitor is very different from the tablet aspect ratio which is 8:5 or 1.6.

This aspect ratio is good for monitors with 1920 x 1200, 2560 x 1600 and 3840 x 2400 pixel resolution.


If you’re a left handed user, you can change the orientation of the tablet 180 degrees.

Drawing performance


These are line tests created with Clip Studio Paint (Win).

By default, the lines from the X3 Elite pen actually came out thicker than I expected. The line tests above were done after I adjusted the pressure sensitivity of the pen.

1. Initial activation force seems good. You can drawn thin lines easily by applying almost no pressure.

2. Strokes can taper smoothly and sharply

3. Line can transition from thin to thick and back easily.

4. It’s easy to draw lines with consistent thickness with consistent pressure.

5. Dots can be created by just tapping the pen.


This was drawn with Medibang Paint Pro (Mac).


This was drawn with Affinity Photo (Mac).


This was drawn with Clip Studio Paint (Mac)

Drawing performance with the X3 Elite pen is good. I didn’t really experience any issues or driver glitches while drawing. Performance is predictable and consistent.

Android support

I had issues with using both the Deco M and Deco MW with my Android tablets: Huawei MatePad Pro 10.8 (2021) and Samsung Tab S8 Ultra.

I wasn’t able to get Bluetooth to work with the Android tablets. You can connect the XP-Pen Deco with Bluetooth but the pen won’t work. I read the quick start guide and it seems that you have to use the USB cable and/or adapters included.

When I connected XP-Pen Deco with the USB cable to the Huawei MatePad Pro 10.8, it worked fine. When connected to the Samsung Tab S8 Ultra, there was no cursor even though the pen works. Without the cursor, you can’t draw. So the Huawei MatePad Pro shows the cursor but the Samsung Tab S8 Ultra doesn’t.

Also, you have to use the Android tablet and XP-Pen Deco in vertical orientation. If the Android tablet is in horizontal orientation, the mapping of the working area will be off, and it doesn’t matter whether the XP-Pen Deco is in horizontal mode too.

I don’t recommend buying this tablet if your primary purpose is to use it with an Android tablet or phone because you cannot be sure whether the cursor will show.

Conclusion

The Deco MW and M are nice looking graphics tablet with good drawing performance. The driver works fine and I didn’t have any issues with Bluetooth connectivity. Pricing of US $49 and $69 (wireless) seems reasonable.

Personally I still prefer a 10 x 6 inch tablet though. Even though I paired this tablet with 13-inch display for drawing, I still feel the tablet is kinda small. Maybe that’s because I’m just used to larger size tablets. Anyway, there is the larger models Deco L and LW which are US $69 and $89 respectively.

Pros and cons at a glance
+ Beautiful design with colour options
+ Solid build quality
+ Sensitive pen with low initial activation force
+ Battery-less pen
+ Excellent drawing performance
+ Wireless via Bluetooth or USB receiver
+ 10 replacement nibs
+ 8 customisable shortcut buttons
+ No major driver glitches
– No pen stand
– Slight issues with MacOS driver
– Android compatibility issues
– Reasonable pricing

Availability

The XP-Pen Deco M and Deco MW are currently available through XP-Pen online store.

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