Review unit provided by XP-Pen
The XP-Pen Artist 12 (2nd gen) has some good upgrades over the first model which was released in 2018, more specifically:
- Display has increased from 11.6 to 11.9-inches
- sRGB and AdobeRGB coverage are now 99% and 93% respectively
- Better contrast of 1000:1 vs 700:1
- Pen uses new X3 Smart Chip with improved sensitivity
- Support for Linux, Chrome OS and Android
- USB-C support
Official retail price is US $249. Black Friday 2021 is coming and it's now discounted at US $212.
The GIFT edition which I'm reviewing is priced at US $289. The Black Friday 2021 price is US $231.
The Artist 12 (1st gen) is US $199. Now discounted at US $169.
These are some of the more affordable pen displays I've seen.
The standard edition is available in four colours: black, green, blue & pink.
The GIFT edition is only available in black. The only difference here is there are additional stickers which you can use to customise your pen display, or where ever you want to stick them.
The packaging is quite nice. The internal of the box is not shown here so that you can experience the satisfaction of the unboxing it yourself.
These are the items included:
- 3-to-1 cable
- USB extension cable
- Micro fiber cleaning cloth
- Artist glove
- 10 replacement nibs
- X3 Elite pen
- GIFT edition stickers
The 3-to-1 cable has USB-C on one side that goes to the pen display. The other side has a full-sized HDMI, USB-A for data, and another USB-A for power. The USB-A for power is optional unless your computer's USB port cannot provide enough power for the display.
These are nice looking stickers. Whether they are worth the extra money is up to you to decide.
The pen display comes with a matte screen protector already applied. There's a notice telling you to peel off the plastic film on the matte screen protector. Make sure you do not peel off the matte screen protector. The display is supposed to be matte with anti-glare. If you peel off slightly and see a glossy reflective surface, stop and peel off again or from some other place.
Design of the pen display looks good. This is a clean design with gray rubberised edge.
There are 8 customiseable shortcut buttons with firm feedback when pressed.
Note that the matte screen protector covers the whole pen display and has a cutout for the buttons. This means if you want to replace the screen protector, you'll have to get one from XP-Pen if you want the exact screen protector. Replacement screen protectors from XP-Pen cost US $39 for two pieces. Pricey.
The back has four rubber feet.
The pen display is quite thin at just 1.2cm. It's thinner than most laptops.
The ports and buttons (left to right) are USB-C for the 3-to-1 cable, USB-C, brightness and power button.
One lesser-known feature is you can use the pen display as a screen-less drawing tablet too. Just press and hold the power button for 3s, wait for the orange and blue light to flash, and you'll be in drawing tablet mode.
There's a removable rubber stopper for the USB-C port. And unfortunately that rubber stopper is too big to go into the other port.
One important thing to note is there's no USB-C cable included. The size of the USB-C port isn't that big so even if you have your own USB-C cable, it may not fit. XP-Pen sells the USB-C cable separately and it's priced at US $14.
If you do want to get your own USB-C cable, make sure to get one where the plastic part is small. And make sure to get a USB-C cable that's capable of transmitting video, not just data. I'm lucky enough to have one USB-C cable that actually fits the port on the XP-Pen.
Colours of the 11.9-inch LCD display look good out of the box. This display certainly looks better compared to the previous model.
Colour support, as measured by a Spyder5Pro colour calibrator is 99% sRGB, 89% NTSC and 93% AdobeRGB and 94% P3. This is a huge and noticeable improvement over Artist 12 which was measured with 92% sRGB, 63% NTSC and 68% AdobeRGB.
The maximum brightness is just 151 nits. I wish the brightness could be higher but it's still bright enough for indoor use.
Viewing angles are good with minimal colour shift. Anti-glare is note too aggressive.
The display is laminated so there's no gap between the drawing surface and the LCD beneath. When drawing, the line looks like it's coming out from beneath the pen tip. There's no parallax. Cursor tracking for the pen is accurate out of the box and so there's no misalignment.
Resolution is 1920 x 1080 which is alright for a 11.9-inch display with still slight pixelation. Image quality is affected slightly by the matte screen protector but overall image quality is still considered quite good, not grainy.
Having USB-C support is good because it really minimized cable clutter.
No stand is included so you'll have to get yourself one if you want to draw at a more comfortable angle. I recommend the Parblo PR100.
When it comes to pen displays, I usually recommend getting something that's 13.3 inches or larger. 13.3 inches is quite close to A4 sized paper and is a comfortable size to work with.
On a 11.9-inch display, after you have palettes and the sides, the remaining canvas space isn't that big so your art is going to look smaller. I highly recommend you check out XP-Pen Artist 13 Pro to decide whether you want to spend the extra dollars for a larger display because the price difference isn't that big.
FYI, the XP-Pen Artist 13 Pro holiday edition is Black Friday price is currently US $239.
If you make a habit of hiding the palettes while you draw, sure you can get a larger canvas space.
There are drivers for Windows, MacOS and Linux. The pen display can be used with Android and Chrome OS but because there's no driver, you won't be able to use or customise the shortcut keys or pressure sensitivity.
The drivers I've used are Windows and Mac driver v3.2.2 from October 2021. Functionality for the Windows and MacOS drivers are quite similar except for two differences which are shown further below.
Pressure curve can be adjusted here but there's only one moveable control point. If pressure or tilt sensitivity is not working as expected, you may have to toggle Windows Ink on or off to troubleshoot. MacOS does not have Windows Ink.
If you're a left handed user, you can change the rotation. Here there's a Display Settings button which is not available on the MacOS driver.
The pen display does not have OSD menu. Windows users can adjust display settings with the driver (shown above). MacOS users have make adjustments through MacOS System Preferences.
Here's where you can customise the 8 physical shortcut buttons.
These are the options you can customise, and these are the same options available for the pen's side buttons.
If you use dual displays, there's the Switch Display shortcut. You can also set your own specific keyboard shortcuts.
Drawing performance is similar on Windows and MacOS with only one difference that I found: pressure does not work with Adobe Illustrator on MacOS.
These are lines from Medibang Paint Pro.
1. Initial Activation Force (IAF) is minimal and the pen is very sensitive. You can draw thin lines very easily by applying minimal pressure. The pen can draw on its weight alone. This improved performance is thanks to the new X3 Smart Chip which made its first debut with the XP-Pen Artist Pro 16.
2. There's slight diagonal line jitter or wobble. This could be the deal breaker for those who need completely straight lines.
3. Lines can taper very smoothly. Note that the lines start thin, becomes thicker, then tapers. That's the perfect taper.
4. Line transition from thin to thick is smooth. Lines are also able to go back to its thinnest from thick.
5. To draw dots with Medibang Paint Pro, you have to tap and drag. With other apps, you just have to tap to draw dots.
6. Pressure can be maintained consistently to produce lines with consistent widths.
The X3 Elite pen has excellent line quality. Presure and tilt sensitivity works great with almost all the drawing apps I've tested.
If you want to read more about the X3 Smart Chip, visit: https://www.xp-pen.com/topic/X3chip
Pressure may not work initially with Photoshop with default driver settings. I had to turn off Windows
There's tilt sensitivity and it works well. This is Krita (Windows)
Pressure works on Adobe Illustrator CC 2022 (Windows) and Affinity Designer (Windows). I wasn't able to get pressure to work with Illustrator on MacOS and my usual hack of installing Wacom driver didn't work.
The new XP-Pen Artist 12 (2nd gen) is a much improved product over the first generation in so many ways. The display now has better colours and drawing performance is even better. The only downsides I can think of are the brightness could be better. 151 nits is alright but higher is better. The brightness could be a limitation of how much power you can get from the USB ports though.
Currently only the XP-Pen Artist 12 (2nd gen) and XP-Pen Artist Pro 16 are using this new pen. It will be many more months or years before XP-Pen can transition all their pen tablets and pen displays to use the new pens with the X3 Smart Chip. The future products are very promising.
Pro and cons at a glance:
+ Excellent build quality
+ Beautiful design
+ 1.2cm thin
+ USB-C support
+ Pen does not require battery
+ Pen supports 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity
+ There's tilt sensitivity
+ Pen has very low initial activation force
+ Cursor tracking is excellent right up to the extreme edges
+ 10 replacement tips included
+ Artist glove included
+ 8 shortcut buttons
+ Matte anti-glare screen protector nice to draw on
+ 1920 x 1080 resolution adequate for a 11.9-inch display
+ IPS panel colour support is good. 99% sRGB, 93% AdobeRGB
+ Viewing angles are good
+ Laminated display with no parallax
+ Does not produce much heat. Can be used for long periods of time without discomfort
+ Fantastic drawing performance on Mac and Windows
+ Support for Linux, Android and Chrome OS too
+ Competitive pricing
+ 18 months of warranty
+ Can be used as screen-less drawing tablet
- Slight diagonal line wobble or jitter
- Maximum brightness at 151 nits
- No stand included
- USB-C cable sold separately
You can find the XP-Pen Artist 12 (2nd gen) on XP-Pen's webstore. Links below.
Free shipping may be included depending on your location.
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