Artist Review: Simbans PicassoTab XL portable drawing tablet

Review unit provided by Simbans

The 11.6-inch Simbans PicassoTab XL is a portable drawing tablet running on Android 11. This is the larger model of the 10.1-inch Simbans PicassoTab released in 2017, and at the time of this review has over 5,000 reviews on Amazon which to me is quite incredible.


Official retail price is US $349 and currently it's US $259 on Simbans online store and on Amazon.

The main selling point of this tablet is pricing. This is a budget tablet so the limitations would be the specs which aren't as good compared to more expensive tablets.

Here are the specs:

  • Display: 11.6-inch IPS LCD
  • Resolution: 1366 x 768
  • Processor: MT8175 graphics, Mali-G52 MC1 (650 - 800Mhz)
  • Battery capacity: 7000 mAh
  • Battery life: 5 - 8 hours
  • Bluetooth: v5
  • Wifi: 2.4 and 5Ghz
  • Storage: 64GB
  • RAM: 4GB
  • MicroSD card slot: yes
  • Camera: 8 and 5MP
  • Ports: USB-C and micro HDMI
  • OS: Android 11

Bottom line: You have to manage your expectations because this isn't a powerful tablet and so it's not the most responsive. Battery life is 5 and half hours at full brightness. Drawing performance is alright but there are definitely tablets with better drawing performance out there provided you have more budget. This tablet for those with a tight budget, beginners and maybe for children who are just happy they have something to draw on and won't care too much about specs.


These are the items included in the box:

  • Tablet
  • Artist glove
  • USB-A to USB-C charging cable
  • USB-A power adapter with plugs
  • Quick start guide
  • Pen and battery
  • Flip cover case


A glass screen protector is already applied on the tablet.


The case comes with a flip cover and the other side is a hard shell. The elastic band will hold the front and back cover.


The material for the case looks tough and repels water.


Those two flaps to hook onto the cover for deploying the case as a stand.


It's actually not easy to put the flip cover into the two flaps.


This is the angle to use for drawing if you want to prop up the tablet.


I could not find the tablet's weight on the company website. Anyway, the weight is not that heavy even with the case included.


The tablet is actually quite thin without the case.


Colours on the display look alright but I'm pretty sure it's not 100% sRGB. Brightness seems bright enough.


Viewing angles are good with minimal colour shift when viewing from side angles, but has colour shift when tilting the tablet up and down. The display, actually the glass screen protector, is glossy and very reflective.


The back is matte textured and nice to hold.


Ports available are for microSD card, USB-C, micro HDMI and 3.5mm audio jack.

I don't have a micro HDMI so I can't test whether this tablet can actually output video signal.


The power and volume buttons are red in colour, interesting.


The tablet runs on stock Android 11 so there is no bloatware except for the pre-installed Google apps and Sketchbook Pro. There is Google Play Store so there's access to a huge variety of apps.

General performance of the tablet isn't that responsive. You can feel the lack of responsiveness during set up after powering on the tablet. Even installing apps from the Google Play Store takes longer. I can't say the tablet is sluggish though, it's more like it's not as responsive compared to other (more expensive) tablets.


The included pen (PP2) has palm rejection and supports 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity.

The pen is powered by one AAAA battery which is user replaceable.


The pen nib is full plastic and is quite slippery on the display. There are no replacement pen nibs included so hopefully the pen nib can last.

There's no mention of which pen protocol is used but it's likely to be Microsoft Pen Protocol. I was able to use other MPP pens such as the ASUS Pen 1, Microsoft Surface Pen and Slim Pen 2 on this tablet. There's no tilt sensitivity support and it's likely due to the tablet and not the pen.

Drawing performance


1. There's jitter and wobble when drawing diagonal lines slowly. Initial activation force is on the higher side and I find myself drawing thicker lines more easily than thinner lines.

2. Lines are able to taper smoothly and sharply.

3. Lines with consistent width can be drawn with consistent pressure. There's some wobble in this case because the lines are diagonal.

4 Dots can be drawn easily by tapping on the display.

There are other issues that affect drawing experience.


There seems to be a hardware issue with the review unit. There is cursor misalignment on the left side of the display regardless of how you hold the pen. This cursor misalignment makes it difficult to join lines without leaving gaps or overshooting.


There's no issue with cursor misalignment on the right side of the display.


The display is not laminated so there's a gap between the line and the pen tip. But this is a minor issue as parallax usually affects larger displays more.


There seems to be more latency compared to other tablets.


And certain apps have more latency, especially Medibang Paint Pro (above). And if you want to stabilise the lines to make lines straighter, you'll get more latency as well.

Lastly, the pen tip is quite slippery on the display.


I had difficulty drawing the street scene above with Medibang Paint Pro.

The biggest issue I have is with latency for this drawing. I like to draw fast and the lines don't quite come out as fast as I would like. I'm fine with the usual latency from pen displays and drawing tablets but there's slightly more latency with this tablet so it's kinda difficult to get used to the larger gap as the line is catching up to the pen tip.

The other issue is with diagonal line wobble or jitter. This is a very common problem with tablets so I'm not surprised to see that here. The workaround is to draw diagonal lines faster or use stablisation to make the lines smoother at the expense of more latency.


Here's another sketch drawn with Medibang. This sketch is easier to drawn because there are no straight lines so it's just the latency that affects my drawing experience.


Drawing performance with Sketchbook Pro is quite bad as the diagonal line jitter or wobble is obvious. You can use line stabilisation but again at the expense of more latency.


Concepts also has the diagonal line wobble. But the pencil tool still works quite well.

Conclusion

The Simbans PicassoTab XL feels and performs very much like the first few pen-supported Android and Surface tablets with non-laminated displays, diagonal line jitter and latency. Even today there are more expensive tablets that still suffer from this problem.


The PicassoTab XL is not trying to be the best drawing tablet. The pen performance is not good enough to create professional art but for casual sketching or drawing it works fine. The company is likely targeting those with very limited budget, or parents who just want to buy their kids an inexpensive tablet to draw on. Those target customers may not be too bothered by the diagonal line wobble, non-laminated display or even latency. Kids certainly will not mind, and having tablet to draw on will probably put them on cloud nine.

The pricing of US $259 is extremely competitive. Any downsides or limitations can be probably be excused with "but it's just $259". It's not surprising for a budget tablet to have limitations. There aren't many tablets that come with a pen and case at this price point.

Is this worth the money? You can decide based on the findings I've presented.

Pros and cons at a glance
+ Good build quality
+ Large display
+ Comes with pen and case
+ Stock Android 11 with no bloatware
+ 5 and half hours of battery life at full brightness
+ Micro SD card slot
+ Competitive pricing
- 1366 x 768 resolution
- Diagonal line wobble/jitter
- More latency than other tablets
- Non-laminated display
- Hollow sounding speakers
- Weak processor

Availability

You can find the Simbans PicassoTab XL on the Simbans online store and on Amazon (US | SG)

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