Special thanks to Parblo for making this review possible by sending over a review unit.
The Parblo Coast16 is the latest addition to the Coast family of pen displays which so far consists of Coast10, Coast13 and Coast22. With this addition, Parblo now has a range of pen displays at different sizes from small to large.
Parblo Coast16 will be available for sale in April 2018 at the retail price of US $429. By the way, the larger Coast22 is priced at US $459. For an extra $30 and get a significantly larger screen but what's missing are the shortcut buttons on the side. To me, the main difference is really the shortcut buttons because they affect productivity. If you're someone who prefers keyboard shortcuts, then you may not miss those side buttons.
This pen display uses 15.6-inch IPS panel that supports a resolution of 1920 x 1080.
If you don't know what a pen display is, it's basically a monitor that you can draw on. And just like a monitor, it needs to be connected it to a computer, and therefore it will have access to all your computer software. The Parblo Coast16 is not a tablet even though it has the thin tablet form.
The screen is matte and has a nice texture to draw on. Usually, matte screens can affect the sharpness but on this pen display, the sharpness is still quite good.
There are eight physical shortcut buttons and a dial ring on the side. The buttons have a firm feedback and click to them. You can customise them to your preference keyboard shortcuts.
The dial ring allows you to change brush sizes, zoom and scroll depending on the mode. You can switch between different modes by pressing the button in the middle. I wished that the dial ring has more protrusion to allow for easy turning. It's a bit too stiff for my liking.
Unfortunately on the Mac, I was only able to get the dial ring to zoom. I wasn't able to change the function (to brush size change) using the driver provided (Mac driver Dec 2017).
On the other side are the small buttons for display menus. You can change the brightness, contrast, colour temperate and other display settings with these buttons. Beside those buttons are two ports for the cable.
This multi-port cable is the only cable provided. Unlike other brands, there's no power brick, power cable and USB charging cable for the pen provided. Having one cable reduces cable clutter and I like that.
The cable has several ports on each side. At the end that connects to the pen display, there are USB-C and mini-HDMI ports. On the other side that connects to the computer, there are two USB type A ports and a full size HDMI port.
The Parblo Coast16 does not use a lot of power. If your USB port is powered, you need to connect just one of the two USB type A (the one with thicker cable) to the computer. That single USB port should be able to power the pen display. If your USB port is not powered, then you'll need to connect the second USB port to a powered USB outlet, e.g. phone charger.
And because the display does not use a lot of power, it also doesn't generate much heat even after hours of usage.
On the back, there are several rubber feet strategically placed.
Coast16 comes with a built in stand that allows you to prop up the display to 30 degrees.
The stand is useful and stable, and doesn't add to the thickness of the display.
These are the other things included: a cleaning cloth, artist glove, installation disc and the quick start manual. Note that the driver installation disc is those small format CD. You can also download the latest driver from Parblo's website.
The pen case included feels tough and has a nice weight to it.
The pen case houses the pen, a nib remove and six replacement nibs.
The pen is well build. The body is matte surface and it has a nice feel and weight to it.
This pen supports up to 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity. There is no tilt sensitivity support.
As mentioned earlier, it feels good to draw on the screen because of the matte surface. It has that additional friction that provides additional control.
That's the eraser on the back.
This pen is not battery powered and does not need charging.
I calibrated the screen with the Spyder5Pro calibrator and got a readout of 75% sRGB and 57% AdobeRGB.
The colours on this screen may not compare to 99% sRGB but it's still very good. How good is it really? Well, let's just say that when I saw the 75% sRGB reading, I thought my calibrator had malfunctioned and I had to calibrate the display again just to double check. The colours are definitely good enough for creating art.
Anyway, for the price of this pen display, the colours are considered satisfactory.
Depending on which OS you're using, the driver may be lacking some features.
Windows driver seems to have all the features while the Mac driver is missing some.
This is where you can change the pressure sensitivity on the Windows driver. See that circular thing I marked out? You have to click inside to adjust the pressure sensitivity curve. I'm not sure why they don't use the no-brainer slider dial instead, or even best, let use adjust the curve directly.
This is where you can customise the keyboard shortcuts to the side buttons and the dial ring.
The dial ring has two functions, scroll and brush size change. You can click on the button in the middle of the dial ring to switch between the two functions.
The way you customise keyboard shortcuts is by choosing the buttons from this virtual keyboard. It works fine on Windows.
On the Mac, the virtual keyboard does not come with all the keys shown above. I wasn't able to set the buttons to [ and ] to change brushes sizes because those keys are missing from the Mac driver virtual keyboard. Argh! And you can't set the keyboard shortcuts by typing on your keyboard. -_-"
If you're a left handed user, you can set the display to rotate 180 degrees using the Windows driver. On the Mac, rotating the display involves using the Mac's System Preferences, and that only works (if I'm not wrong) when you're not using the dual screen mode. So if you're using dual screen mode on the Mac, you can't rotate both screens.
These are the other driver settings on the Mac.
Drawing performance on both Windows and Mac is generally quite good. There are some quirks with certain apps though.
Photoshop (Win) works fine. Pressure sensitivity works well. Strokes are smooth, curve well and tapers nicely. There's no jitter when drawing diagonal lines slowly.
Clip Studio Paint (Win) works well too.
Adobe Illustrator (Win) works well.
Krita (Win) works well.
Mischief (Win) works well.
Sketchable (Win) is the odd one out of the apps I've tested. Pressure sensitivity did not work. This is very strange because Sketchable is usually the app that will work well with such pen displays. This is the first time I've experienced this.
Photoshop CC (Mac) works well. The lines are smooth and they taper nicely. Pressure works great.
Photoshop CS5 (Mac) has no problem too.
Pressure works on both Mac versions of Illustrator CC (top) and CS5 (bottom).
For some reason, lines on Krita (Mac) are a bit jittery.
Clip Studio Paint (Mac) works really well. Pressure works fine.
Medibang Paint Pro (Mac) is another great app to use on this pen display.
Mischief (Mac) supports pressure too.
Tayasui Sketches (Mac) works but it's not the best app for use because the brushes apply their own styles.
Update 1 July 2018: Parblo had sent me a faulty unit initially that had a problem with the mouse cursor jumping around when the pen is lifted from the screen. That was incredibly frustrating and a deal breaker. I've shipped back the faulty unit and received a new one and it's working fine now.
The overall drawing functionality is very satisfactory.
The 15.6-inch is a good size to draw on, and with the matte surface it is comfortable to work with. The 1080P resolution for a screen this size makes everything appear sharp enough and the colours are decent.
Build quality is good. The finishing and design are nice.
For the price that Parblo is charging, it's quite competitive compared to other brands, and certainly more affordable compared to the Cintiq.
Pros and Cons
+ Good build quality
+ Matte screen nice to draw on
+ Tactile buttons with good feedback
+ Can be powered by USB 3 port
+ Runs cool
+ Wireless and battery-less pen
+ 6 replacement nibs provided
+ Pressure sensitivity works great
+ Strokes are smooth and taper well
+ 1920 x 1080 resolution is sharp on this 15.6 inch screen
+ Colours look good even though it's only 75% sRGB support
- Parallax exists, corrected by calibration (on Windows)
- Mac drivers has problems assigning keyboard shortcuts
- Only HDMI port so you might need an adaptor
- Matte screen affects the sharpness slightly
On Parblo's website, use code SVEAFF10 for 10% discount.