Display tablets are one of the most basic tools digital artists need. They have a lot of advantage over traditional non-display tablets. But most of the display tablets in the market are way too expensive for beginners. And of those tablets who claim to be budget devices – have some major limitations.
In this Xp Pen Artist 12 review, we would take a deep look at what features the tablet has to offer. We would also figure out what makes this tablet so inexpensive and finally “should you buy it“. So make sure you don’t miss the end.
Xp Pen Artist 12 – Features and specifications
Here is the list of all the prime features the tablet has to offer. This will give the basic idea of what we are looking at. But features alone does not give the full idea about a tablet so we suggest you to read the full review…
|Xp Pen Artist 12|
|Display||11.6 Inches (diagonally)|
|Display Dimension||25.6 cm x 14.4 cm|
|Tablet Dimension||36.4 cm x 21.8 cm x 1.15 cm|
|Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Color||72% NTSC Color Gamut|
|Pen Type||Passive (Batteryless)|
|Buttons on Pen||Two (including eraser)|
|Buttons on Tablet||Six + Touch Bar|
Unboxing, first look and impressions
The tablet comes in a neatly organized box. On top, you have the tablet itself followed by all the other accessories like the pen holder, power adapter, cables and drawing glove.
Holding the tablet for the first time, you will get a sense of great build quality. The tablet is lightweight and slim. Thanks to its small size it is very portable and fits in a backpack.
The Artist 12 has shortcut buttons on the left-hand side and drawing area on the right. The USB connection point is located at the top left edge of the tablet, followed by the power button and brightness control buttons.
The tablet comes with a 3 in 1 cable to minimizes wires on your desk. There is a single USB cable which connects to the tablet which gives you more freedom of movement. Fewer wires going to the tablet also mean they are less prone to get damaged. The USB connector is L-Shaped which points away from the tablet.
If your laptop does not have an HDMI port or a full-size USB port. You need to get an adapter, Yeah! Welcome to dongle life. We recommend using Kingston Nucleum for this which has all the ports you will need including the powered USB inlet.
The other cables include a USB extension cord and the last cable is HDMI to mini display cord. Overall you get everything you need to get started.
Design and build quality
The tablet is made of plastic but feels strong and sturdy. It does not flex or makes creaking sounds on applying pressure. It comes with an anti-reflective matte finish on the screen which substantially reduced screen glare.
The matte screen also provides a slight texture while drawing which helps to control the stylus better. Artist 12 maintains a slim profile in-spite of having a full-fledged display unit inside.
Turning the device over its back you will find the rear end quite plain. There are four rubber pads on the back of the device which stops it from slipping around on smooth surfaces.
Shortcut buttons are one of the important components of the tablet. It saves a lot of back and forth between keyboard and tablet. The Xp Pen Artist 12 has a total of 6 shortcut buttons located at the left side. The buttons are arranged in two groups of three buttons with a touchpad in between.
Some buttons have a small dotted structure on them to easily identify them without looking. The button are flush to the surface and have a different texture than the surrounding material.
On clicking, they make a distinct click sound with good feedback. The buttons are fairly easy to press and overall feels high quality.
You can assign a custom shortcut to all the buttons including the touch bar in the driver settings. The tablet supports application-specific shortcuts where the shortcut buttons change depending upon the application you are using.
This one is a bit tricky. While in concept a touch bar is a great idea. It allows you to zoom, change brush size and scroll. The placement and implementation are also great as it is positioned in-between shortcut keys. The only matter of concern is that it does not works well, at least not as good as it should be. It takes a lot of swipes for just a little scroll or a small change in brush size.
Artist 12 Display – Quality and color accuracy
A screen is one of the most important parts of the display tablet. It is very important to have a bright and color accurate display. A lot of times when you work on the cheap monitors or older laptops, their display is really bad and have distorted or desaturated colors.
Many people use monitor calibrators for correcting their display but they could be very expensive. On top of that, every display has its limitations to color.
So, it becomes very important that the display tablet has a color accurate display. The Xp Pen Artist 12 has a 1920 x 1080p HD display. Almost all display tablets come with a 1080 p resolution display, but due to its small size the Artist 12 display looks sharper.
It covers a 72% NTSC (National Television Standards Committee) color gamut which is very similar to Adobe RGB. It means the display is capable to show a lot more colors than the normal RGB monitors.
The viewing angles are great and the tablet was able to maintain its color on steep angles without distortions. The screen is bright and vibrant and combined with its sharpness you would be pleasantly surprised with what you are getting at this cheap price.
Portability and size are inter-related. Bigger tablet are heavier and cannot be moved much, with smaller devices like Artist 12 you get great portability. The tablet easily fits inside a backpack which makes it convenient to take it to your workplace or home.
Drawing Pen – Stylus with eraser
It has been said again and again that the overall performance of the drawing tablet is greatly affected by the stylus. A good stylus can add to a better drawing experience whereas a bad pen can really mess that up. Broadly speaking, display tablet usually has some issue with the stylus. Other than Wacom there are only a few brands who have been able to come up with a good stylus, Xp-Pen is one of them.
Pen features and form factor
Xp Pen comes with their newly designed Stylus with 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity. The physical length, width and weight of the stylus are near perfect. The pen comes with a hexagonal side and kind of mimics the feel of the pencil. The stylus is comfortable to hold for a longer duration of time.
It has a single button at the side which sits flush to the surface to avoid false presses. But it takes a little getting used to. There were also times when we found it difficult to find without looking. There is an eraser at the back which is compatible with most of the drawing software. The pen has a two-step texture on its surface. The bottom half of the pen has a soft textured material which feels nice to hold. The back end (near eraser) has a glossy plastic finish.
One weird thing about the Matte texture on the pen is. If you are someone who has the peculiar habit of holding your pen in the mouth you better not do that with this one. It leaves a bad taste in the mouse, especially when it is brand new but this effect fades up with time. Overall it is well built and does not feel cheap.
The Artist 12 uses the Passive stylus which does not need batteries. It works on EMR (electromagnetic resonance). The main advantage of the passive stylus is they are maintenance free as you don’t need to charge them, ever. They are less prone to accidental damage than their battery-powered counterparts.
The Artist 12 pen performs really good in terms of practical uses. In the slow line test, the lines are straight and perfect. We tested it with a ruler and the results are good as they should be. The pressure range is also on point and we found no weird pressure bumps. The ends of the strokes have no bend and bumps and everything seems to work perfectly.
Does Xp-Pen Artist 12 has parallax
In many old model display tablets, you would notice there is some distance between the point where stylus touches the surface and where the line appears. In some cases, the situation is worse around the corner edges of the screen.
Parallax happens when there is some gap between the actual display and the glass top on which you are drawing. With time the situation has improved and now there are a number of tablets in the market who have minimized the parallax issue. Xp-Pen Artist 12 is one of those tablets and does not have any major parallax or lag.
Xp Pen Artist 12 comes with a cylindrical pen holder. Many of the display tablets do not come with any pen holder so it was great to see it in a budget tablet. The Physical built and sturdiness of the pen holder is nice. The holder has a plastic construction with rubber pads on top and bottom.
The cylindrical side panel is coated with a soft touch material which feels good in the hand. Overall it provides great protection to the pen and feels like an expensive accessory which gives your setup a professional look.
Opening the top compartment you will find the pen resting inside the cylinder. The top cap can turn into a pen stand which holds the pen in an upright position. The pen stand is bottom heavy as the rubber pad at the base. Overall it does a good job of holding the pen.
The bottom end of the pen holder acts as a storage compartment for the pen accessories. The base opens up to reveal 8 extra pen-tips which placed neatly in their padded compartment. The center of the pen-tip holder has a nib remover tool. It helps in removing the nib out of the pen.
The nib remover tool has no physical barrier between the nib storage compartment and pen storage. So sometimes when you remove the nib it gets sucked into the pen chamber and comes out of the other end – just to let you know. Careful, don’t lose your nibs.
Connectivity – How Artist 12 connects to the computer
The Xp Pen Artist 12 connects to your computer with the help of different wires. It needs to transfer pen data, display data along with the power input to the computer. So the tablet uses a set of three wires (two USB and an HDMI) which connects to the computer.
Everyone wants a clean desk, wires look messy and have to risk of getting damaged easily. They also restrict your movements and in this particular case defeats the purpose of getting a small and portable device.
Xp Pen has implemented a genius design which solves all these issues. They have put together all the three wires into one single cable. The cable then connects to the tablet via USB-c port. At the end what you get is a single wire coming out of your tablet instead of three.
It comes with two additional wires namely – a USB extension cord and an HDMI to mini display port for Mac computers. If your computer does not has a powered USB outlet than you can use the USB extension cable to connect it to the power adapter.
how to set up – driver/settings
- Go to Xp Pen download section and download driver for Artist 12.
- Extract the files and Install
- Restart your computer.
- Right click on your desktop > display settings > change scale and layout to 100% > multiple displays to Extend
Driver and Settings
Your computer does not necessarily understand pen and pressure data. A driver is a software which helps your computer to communicate with the display tablet. It also enables you to change settings, assign shortcuts to buttons and change pen pressure sensitivity to your personal taste.
Main Driver window
The main window of the Xp Pen Artist 12 driver allows you to change the pen buttons as well as change the pressure and stiffness of the pen with the help of the graph on the left.
The driver also allows you to calibrate your display, change the display color settings and edit expresskeys to the shortcut of your choice.
Changing the expresskeys
Click on the express keys buttons on the bottom right of the main menu
Another window will open up with buttons from k1 to k6. You can select your custom shortcut by pressing the given buttons.
The driver also allows you to put application specific shortcuts. You can do this by clicking the plus(+) button on the top right corner which will open the dialog box where you can select any drawing/ modeling application. This also works when you are working on two applications simultaneously. Once you switch to another application the driver automatically changes the shortcut buttons for that application.
Similarly, you can also change the settings for the touch bar by clicking on the dial button on the top left corner. You can assign a total of five shortcuts to it.
For those who are left-handed, the driver has a button which lets you rotate your screen by 180 degrees so that you can work comfortably without any limitations.
Artist 12 does not come with a tablet stand but xp pen has an official stand which they recommend using with this tablet.
The aluminum makes the stand feels strong and does not collapse on heavy load. I really loved its slim profile when unfolded. It makes it easier to carry along with the tablet.
The stand can be set from 0° to 65° with an increment of 1°. Which is a very comfortable range for drawing on the screen.
There are other alternatives to this stand but some of them are way too expensive for the simple task of keeping your tablet upright. Most of the cheaper stands are of plastic and fall down/break on heavy load.
Does Artist 12 gets hot on extended use
Everything gets hot whether be the mobile phone or the computer itself. We may ignore this factor in other devices. But in display tablets when it gets hot it becomes quite uncomfortable to draw on. Some of the tablets have good heat dissipation but in other tablets, heat zones get created. Heat zones are the part of the tablet screen which gets very hot.
The Artist 12 does not get heated on mild use but after four to five hours of continuous use it slowly heats up and you can feel it. But the heat remains low and does not feel overwhelming and you can continue to work without any issues.
Conclusion – Why you should buy Xp Pen Artist 12
The first reason to buy this tablet is that you will not get this value for the price you are paying, anywhere else.
In spite of being extremely cheap the tablet works perfectly, to cut the cost they may have reduced the size of the screen but they have not reduced the functionality. Everything works perfectly be it the software, the shortcut buttons or the pen itself.
Cheap tablets suffer the most in terms of the display quality but that is not the case here. The color accuracy, contrast and brightness are at the level you will find in much higher range display tablets. The 1080p display on a small screen makes it sharper than most other displays tablets.
Display tablets are generally not portable. The12-inch display and fairly small form factor make it the most portable display tablet.
- 11.6 inch 1080p display
- Accurate and reliable stylus
- Stylus with eraser
- High-quality matte display
- 3 Buttons with Touch bar
- Thin, Lightweight and portable
- Stable and easy to use driver
- Tablet Stand not included
- Display not precalibrated
- Carrying case not inluded