At the time of this review, XP-Pen is selling four 22-inch pen displays and here's the table comparison:
|Model||Artist 22 (2nd Gen)||Artist 22 Pro||Artist 22E Pro||Artist 22R Pro|
|Price||US $469||US $449||US $499||US $699|
|Drawing area||21.5 inch||21.5 inch||21.5 inch||21.5 inch|
|Drawing surface||Matte screen protector||Matte screen protector||Matte screen protector||Matte screen protector|
|Brightness||250 nits||Not stated||Not stated||Not stated|
|Colour support||90% Adobe RGB, sRGB≧122%, 86% NTSC||77 to 82% Adobe RGB||77 to 82% Adobe RGB||90% Adobe RGB, sRGB≧120%, 88% NTSC|
|Data and video interface||USB-C, HDMI, Headphone Jack||USB A, HDMI||USB-A, HDMI, VGA port||USB-C, 2x USB Hub, HDMI, VGA|
|Pen||PA6 Battery-free Stylus||P02S Battery Stylus||P02S Battery Stylus||PA2 Battery-free Stylus|
|Pressure sensitivity||8192 levels||8192 levels||8192 levels||8192 levels|
Main thing to note is whether there are physical shortcut buttons, tilt sensitivity and battery-free pen, and the colour support. The better models are the Artist 22 (2nd Gen) and Artist 22R Pro which have battery-free pens and better colour support.
By the way, this is a review unit XP-Pen has provided for me to show you guys how the Artist 22 (2nd gen) looks and performs.
These are the accessories and cables included, namely:
- Artist glove
- Warranty info
- Micro-fiber cleaning cloth
- USB-A to USB-C cable
- USB-C to USB-C cable
- Full-size HDMI to full-size HDMI cable
- Power cable and adapter
- PA6 battery-free pen and pen case
- 8 replacement nibs
If you buy the pen display from XP-Pen's website, you get to choose the power plug. If you buy from elsewhere, eg Amazon, it should come with the appropriate plug used in your country.
The cylindrical pen case is well build and solid.
The pen is extremely safe in the case.
The cap from one end of the pen case can be used as a pen stand.
At the other end of the pen case you can find 8 replacement nibs.
The XP-Pen PA6 pen is a stylus that does not use a battery so no charging is required.
The pen is well built, solid and comfortable to hold with its huge rubber grip. The two side buttons are customisable and have good feedback when pressed.
The pen tip has slight movement but overall still considered firm. The pen supports tilt sensitivity and up to 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity.
The stand is already attached to the back of the pen display.
The stand can be removed with a screwdriver to reveal a VESA mount area that measures 10 x 10cm.
The two big rubber feet provides good grip and keeps the pen display stable on the table.
Rollers on the bottom of the movable stand allows you to adjust the angle of the pen display easily.
Lifting the latch behind will unlock the stand and let you deploy the pen display at any angle. Changing the display's angle is a two hand operation.
This is with the pen display almost vertical.
The lowest angle is comfortable to work with.
Beside the stand is the compartment for the ports and inside are some plastic protrusions to help with cable management.
Ports there are 3.5mm audio jack, USB-C, full-size HDMI and the power port
After the cables are connected, you can cover the cables and ports with the plastic flap provided.
On the top right side of the pen displays are buttons for the OSD menu. Two buttons there are for quick volume adjustment.
The OSD menu allows adjustments for brightness, contrast, gamma and colour temperature
The pen display comes with a pasted note that says you should peel off the protective film before use.
The order is this:
- Protective film #1 (looks dirty)
- Protective film #2 (glossy)
- Matte screen protector (don't peel this off)
- Actual display surface
Those are the two protective films.
Peel off the first protective film and you'll see a glossy protective film #2 which you have to peel off.
Thankfully, the matte screen protector seems to adhere to the pen display well so it's not likely to accidentally peel that off.
Design of the pen display looks clean and simple. There are no physical shortcut buttons on either side. You'll have to use a keyboard for keyboard shortcuts which is my preferred way of working. Bezels are thick but not too thick.
All corners are rounded off and edges are beveled.
The display is an IPS panel so viewing angles are great. Colours don't shift much even when display is viewed from the side.
That's how the anti-glare matte screen protector looks when there's reflection. Just make sure there's no light source pointing directly at the display and there won't be the white "haze".
The matte drawing surface is considered the smoother type but not slippery. There are matte screen protectors with more texture but the tradeoff is you get even more aggressive anti-glare and white "haze".
Generally speaking, the rougher the surface, the easier it is to have your palm glide on the surface while drawing. The smoother surface on this XP-Pen may introduce some friction with your palm, especially so if you happen to sweat easily, in which case it's great that there's an artist glove included.
XP-Pen did not mention whether or not the display is laminated. If you look from the side, you can see a small gap between the pen and LCD beneath. That gap is not noticeable when looking at the pen display from the front.
This is not a laminated display but that small gap so it doesn't cause significant parallax. By default, the cursor is already set to track directly beneath the pen tip. At extreme edges where there could be slight parallax, you may need to calibrate the pen and cursor.
I noticed after the pen and cursor calibration, when the pen tip is near the left and right edges, the cursor's position will offset from the pen tip by a few pixels. The tracking accuracy is not perfect near the edges. But thankfully the offset is not that serious and I was still able to click on things accurately enough.
Pixelation is quite noticeable due to the 1920 x 1080 resolution on a 21.5 inch display. It would be nice to have a sharper display but that would mean a higher price too. 1080P resolution is still a very usable resolution. At least all the user interface elements are large and easy to see and read.
The matte screen protector does affect the image quality of the display. All matte screen protectors produce this colour noise that affects the image quality so it's not surprising. Having said that the colours and brightness do look good out of the box.
With colour calibration using a Spyder5Pro, I measured colour support for 99% sRGB, 84% AdobeRGB, 82% NTSC and 91% P3. Measured maximum brightness is of 233 nits isn't too far off from the advertised 250 nits.
This is basically an sRGB monitor which means it's good for graphic design, digital art or any work that's meant to be put online. This level of colour support is more than sufficient for most people and most type of work. If you work with print, and have to compare against printed proofs, or need even better colour accuracy, you'll have to look for AdobeRGB displays which are more expensive.
The pen display can connect to devices that can output video signal from USB-C. The upside of using the USB-C to USB-C cable for video and data connection with your computer is you will only need to use one cable. If you use HDMI cable, you will also need to use the USB cable so that the pen display can detect the pen.
Shown above is the pen display connected to my Samsung Tab S7+. The pen display does not have touch screen so you still have to navigate the tablet with the tablet. Unfortunately I don't have any computers with USB-C ports to test.
There's no power delivery via the USB-C port on the pen display.
These are the two drivers I used
- Mac driver "XP-PENMac_3.0.6_201226(New UI Beta Driver)" from Dec 29, 2020
- Windows driver "XP-PENWin_18.104.22.168225(New UI Beta Driver)" from Jan 6, 2021
There are instructions on how to install the driver on MacOS 10.15 so my guess is the driver is supported on Apple Macs with the M1 chip.
I have an issue with the Mac driver. When my system boots up, the pen doesn't work. The pen only works after I launch the driver. When I quit the driver, the pen stops working again. This is unusual because the driver is suppose to work in the background and you don't have the manual launch the driver each time you start your computer. Thankfully, the workaround is simple: just have the driver launch during startup. You can do that on the Mac via the dock, select the app and choose "Open at login" or through System Preferences - Users and Group - Login.
If you're using dual displays, you will need to set one side button on the pen to the Switch Display functionality so that you can have the cursor switch between two monitors.
These are the other functions or shortcuts you can set to the pen's side buttons.
Generally speaking, drawing experience is better on MacOS than with Windows because there are several issues that may be related to Windows Ink.
Medibang Paint Pro (Mac)
Lines taper nicely. Line transition from thin to thick is smooth. Pressure sensitivity works great. The pen is also able to maintain consistent pressure for a consistent line thickness.
This is the drawing performance to expect with most drawing software.
Medibang Paint Pro (Mac)
The pen supports up to 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity. The initial activation force is lower than I expected. You can draw with the lightest of pressure and still get a line. And since you can adjust the shape of the pressure curve, you can get finer controls with the pressure.
There are some issues with tilt sensitivity. Tilt works fine when drawing at normal speed.
When drawing slowly with tilt brush, when the pen changes direction from right to left or up to down vice versa, there will be a gap. When shading at moderate speed, and the pen changes direction, there's no gap.
Another issue with tilt is tilt sensitivity will stop working when the pen is about 1 inch away from the edges of the display. If need to use tilt brushes at the edge of the display, this is going to be a deal breaker. The areas around the edges are usually taken up by the palettes, menus, taskbar, dock so we are usually drawing away from the edges which means we won't be experiencing this problem.
Pressure sensitivity does not work with Adobe Illustrator on Mac. The functionality to turn on pressure to affect brush size is greyed out and can't be selected. The workaround is to install Wacom Intuos driver in addition to the XP-Pen driver (and hope there's no conflict with other drawing software).
Affinity Photo on both Mac and Windows work surprisingly well.
Tilt sensitivity works with Affinity Photo.
Pressure works with Adobe Illustrator (Win)
Tilt and pressure sensitivity works fine with Krita (Win).
I noticed two problems when Windows Ink is enabled. First, when drawing, the line only appears split second later meaning you will start drawing with a gap, e.g. you can't join lines together properly. Second problem is when tapping on the display to create dots, dots won't appear until you drag the pen tip slightly.
Pressure sensitivity works fine with Affinity Designer on Mac and Windows.
The problem with Windows Ink
Windows Ink will interfere with the XP-Pen driver to cause problems with tilt and pressure sensitivity. E.g. Windows Ink is needed with Photoshop (Win) but not Medibang (Win).
If you see the Windows Ink starburst cursor, it's a sign that tilt and pressure sensitivity may have issues. You'll want to see the normal arrow cursor. It is possible to permanently disable Windows Ink if that's something you want to do, but it's a hassle to always be turning Windows Ink or or off.
The XP-Pen Artist 22 (2nd gen) is a well built pen display that looks good. The colour accuracy is reasonable good and brightness is adequate.
Other downsides. The lack of physical shortcut buttons is not a big deal for me since i prefer to use my keyboard for shortcuts. If you use dual monitors, you'll have to customize one side button on the pen to Switch Display. The other downside is with the minor MacOS driver glitch where you need to launch the driver before the pen can work but thankfully the workaround is simple.
Windows Ink is a perenial problem with Photoshop and Medibang Paint Pro, and it's not specific to XP-Pen products.
Medibang Paint Pro (Mac)
Overall drawing performance is very satisfying. Drawing performance is consistent, predictable with no surprises (except for tilt). Line quality is good. The initial activation force is surprisingly low making the pen really sensitive.
Official retail price of US $469 is price competitive with other brands. And the pen display comes with 18 months of warranty. You can decided whether it's worth your money based on the performance I've presented.
Pros and cons at a glance
+ Clean and simple design
+ Good build quality
+ 21.5-inch display is massive to draw on
+ Good colour accuracy. 99% sRGB measured
+ Maximum brightness of 233 nits measured
+ Matte drawing surface has nice texture to draw on
+ Laminated display with minimal gap between pen tip and LCD
+ Using USB-C connection means you can use one cable for video and data
+ 8 replacement nibs included
+ Pen does not require charging
+ Pen supports tilt and 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity
+ Initial activation force is mininal
+ Stand can be deployed at various angles.
+ Stand is stable at all angles.
+ Can be VESA mounted (10 x 10cm)
+ Does not produce much heat
+ Excellent drawing performance when driver works properly
+ Works with MacOS 10.15 (eg. on Macs that run M1 chip)
- Windows Ink affects pressure and tilt for some apps
- No physical shortcut buttons
- Mac driver needs to be launched before pen can work
- Tilt sensitivity does not work when pen is one inch away from the edges
At the time of this review, the XP-Pen Artist 22 (2nd gen) is only sold through XP-Pen's online store. Click here to buy or to see the full specs and more details.