Artist Review: Parblo Coast 12 Pro pen display

Review unit provided by Parblo

The Parblo Coast 12 Pro is an 11.6-inch pen display for creating digital art and drawing. This pen display joins the Parblo Coast Pro series with the other models being the Parblo Coast 16 Pro and Parblo Coast 22 Pro.


Official retail prices for the 12, 16 and 22-inch models are USD $299, $399 and $549.

Video review

Things included


These are the items included in the box:

  • Pen display
  • Full-size HDMI to mini-HDMI cable (1.5m)
  • USB-C to USB-C video cable (1.5m)
  • USB-C to USB-A cable (1.5m)
  • Artist glove
  • Micro fiber cleaning cloth
  • Quick start guide and warranty info
  • Parblo P08 Pen
  • Pen stand
  • 8x replacement nibs
  • Nib remover


When you first take the pen display out, there will be a glossy protector film you have to peel off. Make sure you do not peel off the matte screen protector beneath the glossy protective film. This pen display is supposed to have a matte textured drawing surface.


The pen display supports USB-C video connection. As shown above, my Macbook Air was able to provide video and power through the USB-C port, but this of course will drain the laptop battery faster.

The maximum brightness from the USB-C connection is just 156 nits (measured). Connecting additional power to the other USB-C port will black out the display. 156 nits is still alright for use indoors, but brighter would be better of course.

The maximum brightness from HDMI connection with USB power is higher at 176 nits (measured).

Since there's no USB power adapter included, to power the pen display while using HDMI connection, you can use another USB port from your computer or any extra under-powered phone chargers you have.

The included cables are each 1.5m long and are not proprietary. This means you can replace faulty cables easily. All cables shown in the photo above are my own cables and not the Parblo cables.


This pen display looks nice. It's made with a mix of plastic (buttons and front case) and metal (back and plate holding the buttons). Build quality is solid.

There's no tablet stand included and I highly recommend you get one so that it's more ergonomic for drawing and better for your posture, especially if you have to draw for long periods of time. I'm using the Parblo PR100 which is an excellent stand.

The drawing surface area of an 11.6-inch display is 25.7cm x 14.5cm. That's almost A5 size but wider.

When it comes to choosing a size for pen displays, I usually recommend 13 inches or larger, but the larger the display the higher the price. A larger drawing area is more comfortable to work with, and all the visuals will also be larger and easier to see. If you need to work on the pen display for long periods of time, I recommend getting a larger display.


Display resolution is 1920 x 1080 which on an 11.6-inch display will have slight pixelation but overall visuals can still be considered sharp when compared to 1080P on 15-inch or larger displays. You can still have palettes displayed on both sides and still get some canvas space for drawing only limited by the physical size of the display.

Text and UI elements are on the smaller side at 1080P without scaling. If you scale the user interface, UI elements will take up more space and reduce the drawing area. I use 125% scaling with this display. On larger 13-inch displays, I can use 1080P without scaling and get more desktop space.


Colours on the pen display look good out of the box. With a Spyder5pro colour calibrator, I measured colour support for 98% sRGB, 76% AdobeRGB, 76% P3 and 71% NTSC. Colour accuracy is good enough for creating art for the web. Viewing angles are good with minimal colour shift and slight drop in brightness when viewed from extreme angles.


The back has two long pieces of rubber feet with good grip on the table.


The pen display is so thin it may look like a tablet but it's not a tablet. A pen display is a monitor that has to be connected to a computer to work. And there's no touchscreen.


On the right side of the pen display, there are buttons for brightness control, power, power light indicator, USB-C port for power, mini-HDMI port and a USB-C video port.


On the left side you can find a dial with a button in the middle you can press to switch functionality. There are six shortcut buttons. All the shortcuts are customisable.


The matte screen protector provides a nice textured surface to draw on. The anti-glare isn't that aggressive but due to the lower brightness, it can be difficult to see content on the display through diffused reflections. The anti-glare isn't a problem unless there are always reflections on the display.


The matte screen protector also adds slight grain or colour noise to the image quality. It's not a big issue though.


The display is laminated so there's almost no gap between the lines drawn and the pen tip.


Cursor tracking is quite accurate except at the extreme edges of the display where the cursor will stray few pixels away from the pen tip. It's not a big issue as I did not have problems clicking on things I want to click at the edges of the display.


This is the Parblo P08 pen that supports tilt and 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity. It is not battery powered so no charging is required.


There are two customisable side buttons.


Interestingly, the pen designs are different for Coast 12 Pro (bottom), Coast 16 Pro (middle) and Coast 22 Pro (top). They are interchangeable though and can work with other the other two pen displays.


The pen stand included has 8 replacement nibs hidden in the interior.

Driver

Drivers tested are Windows driver 3.5.1.3 (6 Jan 2022) and Mac driver 3.5.10_1 (22 March 2022).

The main thing is there is no Switch Display functionality where you can control the cursor with your pen across multiple displays. Meaning you can be drawing on the pen display, but to move the cursor onto your other display, you have to use something else, e.g. mouse, touchpad, touchscreen.

The Windows and MacOS drivers have almost similar functionality, except for the Windows Ink feature which you may have to toggle on or off for troubleshooting when pressure sensitivity is not working properly.


Here's where you can customise the pen's side buttons and pressure sensitivity.

I usually set one pen button to Switch Display but as mentioned earlier there's no Switch Display functionality.

I highly recommend you remove the Brush/Eraser toggle shortcut from the side button. Once you engage that function, it's difficult to disable it so it's best to disable it before you use the pen for drawing.


Mapping can be left as default.


Left handers can change the orientation here.

If there is cursor offset, you can calibrate the pen. My review unit came with cursor offset so I had to use the calibration.


Here's where you can customise the 6 shortcut buttons and dial (up to 6 shortcuts).


You can create your own keyboard shortcuts or choose from the pre-programmed shortcuts.

Drawing performance


These are line tests created with Medibang Paint Pro.

1. Initial activation force is low but there's wobble with slowly drawn diagonal lines (coloured red). Lines are smoother and straighter when drawn faster (coloured black). That line wobble will affect drawing performance which you can see later.

2. Lines are able to taper smoothly.

3. Line transition from thin to thick is smooth. You may notice some wobble with the diagonal strokes.

4. Here I'm trying to maintain thickness of the line by maintaining consistent pressure. There's variance to the line thickness and wobble.

5. Dots can be drawn easily by tapping the pen.

The main issue is diagonal lines drawn slowly can have wobble and look wavy. This affects accuracy. It is possible to apply smoothening to the lines with certain apps but that will increase latency.

Based on my tests, Parblo Coast 22 Pro has the best pen performance, followed by Coast 16 Pro and Coast 12 Pro.


The pen has tilt sensitivity but it seems there's latency with tilt. Shape of the cursor will take a second before matching the direction of the pen. When drawing with tilt brushes, the tilt effect will only come in after a split second. In the picture above, the circled area is when tilt is not in effect yet.


This was drawn with Adobe Photoshop (Win). The straighter lines were drawn faster. The lines circled in black just above the wheels are wavy.


Clip Studio Paint (Win) works fine.


Slow diagonal lines with Medibang Paint Pro (Win) are wavy.


This was drawn with Affinity Photo (Win). The pen seems to be too sensitive with this pen. It's too easy to transition from thin to very thick lines. Drawing lines with moderate thickness is difficult. This is after trying different pressure curve profiles.


Affinity Photo (Win) will have stray marks at the end of the stroke if you have Windows Ink turned off.


With Affinity Photo (Mac), thin and thick lines are easy to draw but not lines with moderate thickness.


These were drawn with Affinity Photo (Mac).


Medibang Paint Pro (Mac) works fine.


Clip Studio Paint (Mac) works fine.

Conclusion

The Parblo Coast 12 Pro is a good looking pen display with solid build quality. The drawing performance is affected by wobble which affects slow diagonal lines, and that affects accuracy. The diagonal line wobble is quite common with portable tablets, e.g. older Microsoft Surface or Android tablets, but not with pen displays so I'm surprised to see that here.

Pros and cons at a glance
+ Nice looking design
+ Good build quality
+ USB-C support with cable included
+ 98% sRGB colour support
+ Laminated display
+ Tactile drawing surface with matte screen protector
+ Pen is not powered by battery
+ 8 replacement nibs included
+ One artist glove included
+ 6 shortcut buttons
+ 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity with pen
+ Pen is not powered by battery
+ Does not produce much heat
- Maximum brightness 176 nits (HDMI + power), 156 nits (USB-C)
- Stand not included
- Matte screen protector affects image quality
- Switch Display does not work with Mac and Win drivers.
- Tilt sensitivity performance inconsistent on Windows and Mac
- May have cursor misalignment at the extreme edge
- No OSD menu for display colour controls

Availability

You can find the Parblo Coast 16 Pro at these locations:

The pen display is also available on Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de | Amazon.fr | Amazon.it | Amazon.es | Amazon.co.jp

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