Graphic or drawing tablets are a staple part of any designer’s workflow, especially important if you do lots of post-production retouching. One of the most popular brands for many years has been the Wacom variety. These tablets are excellent to use in practice, with lots of features and seamless workings, but they can also feel quite expensive. Units such as the XP-Pen Deco Pro are showing that you can have your cake and eat it, too in this department, providing very good functionality at a cost-effective price.
There is also a good reason why the Wacom tablets have got such a good reputation. They simply work every time and the software is faultless. The XP-Pen Deco Pro may have the advantage of being very affordable, but can it produce the goods on a daily basis?
The XP-Pen Deco Pro is the 11×6 inch version, with smaller drawing area versions also available. On initial unboxing, the tablet and pen feel very sturdy and professional in quality. The drawing surface feels very smooth, with probably not as much textural feedback as a Wacom, but still very usable. The aluminum surround makes the tablet look very professional. It in no way resembles a budget version. Some very cheap tablets on the market have the symptom of poor build quality, but not in this case.
The size of the tablet makes it usable for working with two monitors. It’s very handy to know there are preset buttons and the dial on the left side for quick shortcuts. There is no wireless support, but the tablet does feature support for Android, which is very useful if you’re out and about and want to use a full-sized tablet screen for viewing. On this point, a hard-wired unit is still the most solid way to work, unless it’s imperative that you need wireless access.
The whole package comes with a battery-free stylus, pen holder, replaceable nibs, USB cable and adapters, and quick start guide. Also included in the package is one of those fancy artist gloves, which immediately makes things feel that bit more upmarket.
One of the standout features of the XP-Pen Deco Pro is the large scroll wheel which serves a multitude of purposes. This feature has a double wheel design where the outside can be turned for functionality such as zooming. The inner part of the wheel is touch-sensitive and can be configured to any functionality you like, such as scrolling. With a little practice, this functionality becomes very intuitive to use, especially when used for quickly zooming in and out of an image.
The trackpad can be used as a traditional mouse or configured to your own functionality needs. The battery-free pen feels very comfortable to hold and also comes with tilt sensitivity. This feature makes brushstrokes far more natural-looking and is very easy to set up and use in Photoshop. The nib of the pen provides just the right amount of feedback, with only tiny amounts of jitter displayed when drawing slow-moving lines. There is enough sensitivity in the pen to go through the whole range of opacity settings.
The Android functionality may not seem as obvious a need to some, but with an app that supports tilt and pressure sensitivity, this feature just adds to the overall functionality in general. Although the tablet can work straight away when plugged in via the USB connections, the included software provides far more configuration over things like shortcut keys and pressure sensitivity levels. The software may not be as comprehensive or as robust as what Wacom supplies, but it’s perfectly adequate for basic setups.
Overall, the XP-Pen Deco Pro worked far more seamlessly than initially expected. The pen is comfortable and precise to use over long periods and the build quality feels like the unit can last a good deal of time.
How Does It Compare to the Rest?
The obvious comparison here is going to be with what Wacom can provide, as their units are seen as the industry standard. The Wacom Intuos Pro M is a possible counterpart, with a similar drawing surface. The Wacom has very useful shortcut buttons and a slightly more tactile drawing surface. The pen of the Wacom feels slightly nicer in the hand and comes with a slightly fancier pen holder.
The software of the Wacom also feels more robust and less clunky than what is supplied with the XP-Pen Deco Pro. Programmable buttons and dials are also featured on the Wacom, plus the very useful tilt feature.
In total, the Wacom feels like the better-made unit with overall more solid features. However, the Wacom costs nearly twice the price of the XP-Pen Deco Pro which can be a dilemma for those who only need a budget graphics tablet to use on an occasional basis. One other option which comes in at an affordable price is the Huion Inspiroy WH1409 V2.
|XP-Pen Deco Pro||Wacom Intuos Pro M|
Is the XP-Pen Deco Pro Worth the Money?
Although the XP-Pen Deco Pro is clearly influenced by the Wacom line of tablets, the company has performed an excellent job of building a cost-effective graphics unit. Once the tablet is set up, it provides all the functionality you could ever need and the tilt feature will be especially useful for illustration work.
The double usage wheel is a nice addition for quickly zooming in and out of an image and can cover a lot of functionality in one feature. The unit may not have the overall professional feel of a Wacom, but it comes close and is very solid to use on a daily basis. This means that the XP-Pen Deco Pro is a very cost-effective way to buy into a professional quality tablet with very solid specifications at an affordable price. The tablet will suit everyone from basic retouchers to 3D artists, who prefer a cost-effective solution.
If this is your first graphics tablet purchase, the XP-Pen Deco Pro is a very worthy solution. However, for those who have already tried a Wacom tablet and are used to its features and feel, the XP-Pen Deco Pro, no matter its price point, may not be the ideal fit.
The extra levels of build quality and feature set of a Wacom are just some of the reasons why it is the go-to solution for many. But if you can’t stretch the price of a Wacom and you’re happy with near levels of build quality and features, the XP-Pen Deco Pro is a very solid unit for the price.