Review unit provided by XP-Pen
I have always wondered why pen tablets are still using wireless USB receivers and it looks like 2022 is the year pen tablets are adding Bluetooth as a feature.
Deco LW is the wireless model and Deco L is the wired. These new pen tablets are released end 2021/early 2022 and are available in four colours: black, blue, green and pink. The model I'm reviewing is black but all the colours look good from what I can see from the product photos.
Deco LW and Deco L are US $89.99 and $69.99 respectively.
These are the items included in the box:
- USB-A to USB-C cable
- USB-A to USB-C adapter
- USB-A to micro-USB adapter
- USB-A wireless receiver
- Nib remover
- 10 replacement nibs
- X3 stylus
- Warranty info
- Quickstart guide
The two small adapters for use with Android or Chrome OS devices with USB-C or micro-USB ports. More on Android usage later.
The XP-Pen Deco LW looks good and has solid build quality.
This design uses two-shot molding with a rubber material to protect the edge. Overall design looks quite seamless. Thickness is 8.8 mm.
The matte textured surface is nice to draw on.
On the back are four rubber feet for grip.
There are eight customisable shortcut buttons with firm clicks on the side.
The driver allows for left-handed use, and the USB-C cable is reversible.
This is the new stylus that uses the X3 Smart Chip that XP-Pen has started using with some of their products, eg XP-Pen Artist Pro 16 (2021).
The pen supports tilt and 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity. Its initial activation force is just 3g which is to say that it's a really sensitive pen. It can draw a line from the weight of the pen itself.
The pen is plastic throughout with a matte textured surface. Build quality is solid.
There are two customisable side buttons, no eraser. The pen nib has minimal movement. The pen is no powered by battery so no charging is required.
No pen stand is included.
The drawing area is 10 by 6 inches and that's a good size that can be paired with computer monitors of different sizes. This is the size I always recommend.
The size of the pen tablet is quite compact too and doesn't take up much space on the table. There's no cable clutter since there's no cable.
The cable is needed to charge the non-removable internal 1000mAh battery. Battery life is rated at least 10 hours or more. If you're a professional who draws the whole day, you may have to recharge this every few days. If you're a casual user, then perhaps the battery can last a week or more. I wasn't able to test the battery life though since I don't draw for extended periods of time.
The driver I've tested are Mac driver version 3.2.3_211203 and Windows driver version 188.8.131.52027.
The Mac and Windows driver have almost similar functionality except the latter has Windows Ink which you may have to toggle on or off to troubleshoot if pressure's not working.
There are two issues with the Mac driver that I discovered. First, the Mac driver needs to be running for the pen to work. And the Mac driver doesn't open automatically upon startup so you have to have the driver "Open at Login". Secondly, pressure sensitivity doesn't work with Adobe Illustrator (Mac).
Other than the Mac driver issues, the driver works great.
The pen's two side buttons can be customised here. There's Switch Display shortcut which I always assign to one button since I use a dual display setup.
The orientation can be changed here for left-handed use.
You can set your own keyboard shortcuts for the eight buttons. The shortcuts work well.
Drawing performance is fantastic with this new pen that uses the X3 Smart Chip.
The pen is accurate and sensitive. Lines always come out exactly the way I expect them to. Performance is consistent and predictable. You can expect the same performance across different drawing software except on Adobe Illustrator CC (Mac) where the pressure doesn't work.
These are line quality tests done using Medibang Paint Pro (Win)
1. Initial activation is minimal. It's easy to draw thin lines even if you have a thick brush selected.
2. Strokes taper very smoothly.
3. Line transition from thin to thick is smooth.
4. For some reason, to draw dots using Medibang Paint Pro, you have to tap and draw instead of just tapping on the tablet. With other apps, you can draw dots by just tapping.
Affinity Photo (Win)
Clip Studio Paint (Win)
Photoshop CC (Win)
Pressure works with Affinity Designer (Win).
Tilt sensitivity works well.
When used with Android
I've tried connecting the Deco LW to my Samsung Tab S7+ using Bluetooth and only a portion of the drawing area was mapped to the Samsung tablet. When I connected with a USB-C cable, the mapping works fine.
There's no driver for Android so there's no way to customise the pen buttons or shortcut buttons. The XP-Pen tablet only works in vertical orientation so you have rotate your Android device to portrait orientation too.
How the tablet performs will depend on the Android used. Most common problems are with the cursor. For example, the cursor should appear but on some tablets there's no visible cursor. If there's no cursor, you can't draw.
Pressure and tilt sensitivity work fine on Android.
I don't advise buying this if your sole purpose is to use the tablet with an Android device.
The tablet is compatible with Chromebooks too but I don't have one to test.
The XP-Pen Deco LW is a well designed pen tablet with excellent drawing performance. The pen with the new X3 Smart Chip is extremely sensitive which makes the drawing quality predictable and consistent. In short, this tablet is a reliable tool capable and suited for creating professional art.
The drivers work well generally speaking. My only issues are with the Mac driver not launching automatically but thankfully there's a simple workaround. And pressure sensitivity does not work with Adobe Illustrator CC on MacOS.
The Deco L and Deco LW are pen tablets that sit between the high end Deco Pro (from US $129.99) and the budget friendly Deco Fun (from US $29.99). The pricing is quite reasonable so the Deco L tablets are worth the money based on the drawing performance alone. A nice looking tablet is the cherry on top of the cake.
Pros and cons at a glance
+ Beautiful design with colour options
+ Solid build quality
+ Sensitive pen with low initial activation force
+ Battery-less pen
+ Excellent drawing performance
+ Wireless via Bluetooth or USB receiver
+ 10 replacement nibs
+ 8 customisable shortcut buttons
+ No major driver glitches
- No pen stand
- Slight issues with MacOS driver
- Android compatibility issues
- Reasonable pricing
Where to buy
The XP-Pen Deco L and Deco LW are currently available through XP-Pen online store.
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