Special thanks to XP-PEN for providing the Deco 03 for this review.
XP-PEN has two series of graphics tablets and they are the Star and Deco series. Star series currently has more than 10 tablets and the Deco series only has two: Deco 01 and Deco 03.
I'm not really sure what's the difference between the two series though. I've previously reviewed the XP-PEN Star 06 which is a tablet that I recommend quite often when people ask for my recommendation. In terms of functionality, the Deco 03 is not too different from the Star 06. They perform quite similarly, just that the design and some features are different.
Here are the specifications for the XP-PEN Deco 03:
- Active area: 10 by 5.62 inches
- Resolution: 5080 lines per inch
- Expresskeys: 6 and a dial
- Report rate: 266 RPS
- Pressure levels: 8192
- Hover distance: 1cm
- Connection port: USB C
- Wireless: Yes
- Pen: Passive, does not require battery
These are the things included:
- Manual and warranty card
- Pen case
- 8 replacement tips
- Wireless USB receiver
- USB type C charging cable for tablet
- USB thumb drive with drivers on it
- Artist glove
The drivers are found on this 4GB USB thumb drive. It's best to download and install the latest driver from XP-PEN website though. My review uses the Mac driver from 12 March 2018.
The tablet is wireless and battery powered, and that's the USB charging cable for it. I'm not sure of the battery life. Anyway, even if it runs out of battery life, you can connect the cable and use the tablet while it's charging.
To conserve battery, it will power off after a period of inactivity.
I like the velcro strap that comes with the cable. This is useful when keeping the cable.
The pen case included is a solid matte surface cylindrical case. Both ends have rubber so it sits really firmly on table when placed vertically. If you lay the case on the side, it may roll around.
The case opens on both ends. On one side with the larger cap, it reveals the pen.
At the other end, it reveals 8 replacement tips, the nib remover and USB receiver.
This case protects the pen and USB receiver if you need to bring them elsewhere.
The pen is well built, sturdy and has a nice weight. The surface is smooth matte and the grip section has a matte rubberised texture to it (not the kind that attracts dust).
The pen has two side buttons.
The design of Deco 03 looks sleek and minimalist. The working area is 10 by 5.6 inches and it comes with large bezels that you can rest your hands on.
Drawing surface is matte and has a nice texture to draw on.
Corners are nicely rounded off. The overall construction and build quality is good, and feels premium despite its plastic build. This is one good looking tablet.
The top left corner has the dial and six physical shortcut buttons. You can choose different functions for the dial using the driver, or customise your own keyboard shortcuts to each of the six buttons.
The dial is designed and placed in such a way that allows you to turn it from the side with your thumb or index finger. Both the dial and buttons have nice feedback when turned or pressed.
The indicator lights on the side of the dial are for the active mode (when the pen is near or dial is turned), wireless indicator, and battery charging status.
On the back of the tablet are 4 rubber feet and the power switch.
I'm using a Mac so the screenshots and apps below are all from Mac.
If you're left handed, the dial and six buttons will go to the bottom right instead of at the top.
As for the coordinate mode. Absolute means the pen is mapped onto the active area and will appear on screen where you place the pen on the tablet. Relative mode means you're using the pen like a mouse or a trackpad.
These are the available functions you can choose for the dial.
You can also limit the available functions. What you want to do that is because sometimes you may want to use the dial to change brush sizes, and sometimes to zoom in and out. You can set one of the Expresskeys to switch between the functions that you choose. And when you press the Expresskeys, the mode will appear on screen for a second telling you which mode you're in.
It works really well on Photoshop (Mac). The pen is very sensitive, the lines are smooth and tapers nicely. There's very little activation force require to draw a thin line. You can use the lightest of pressure on the drawing surface and it will produce the thinnest of lines.
I wasn't able to get pressure working on Adobe Illustrator (Mac) by default though. Wacom driver needs to be installed together with XP-PEN's driver if you want pressure to work with Adobe Illustrator.
Drawing performance on Medibang (Mac) is fantastic too, similar to Photoshop (Mac).
I've some problems with Krita though. There's pressure but the lines aren't smooth.
Both Affinity Photo and Designer can recognise the tablet's pressure sensitivity too.
There isn't any major downside to this tablet. It works predictably and the lines come out just the way I expect.
The Expresskeys and the dial are really useful.
The overall drawing performance is great unless you're using Krita. The lines are very smooth and tapers very nicely. Drawing performance is no different from more expensive Wacom tablets. I love that the competition is catching up and the quality of such tablets are improving at such a fast pace that you can now get something as good at more affordable prices.
I haven't used many other XP-PEN tablets so I can't really compared exhaustively. I did use the XP-PEN Star 06 before and that was a good tablet too. The Deco 03 is slightly more expensive at USD $99 compared to Star 06's official retail of USD $89. I guess you can justify the difference in price when you consider the nicer design of Deco 03 (in my opinion) and the pen case included.
Anyway, if you want to check out other XP-Pen products I've reviewed, visit https://www.parkablogs.com/tags/xp-pen