REVISION – Whether you are a professional or hobby digital artist, you know what a drawing tablet is. And you probably even have one. And that tablet is probably a Wacom because it has been the “big kahuna” in the tablet market for years. They practically invented the drawing tablet.
what probably No What I do know is that more recently Wacom has had some decent (and sometimes very good) competition. Today, if you’re on a tight budget, you can have your digital cake and draw on it too. Introducing the XP-Pen Deco LW Pen tablet. Is it as good as a Wacom? No, it’s not, but it’s close!
The XP-Pen Deco LW Digitizing Tablet is a drawing tablet that sits on the desk while the artist looks at the monitor screen. deco does No have a built-in monitor like more expensive tablets. It’s XP-Pen’s affordable answer to Wacom’s Intuos line of professional tablets with a few notable differences. The small-sized Deco has a slate design with a row of hotkeys (more on those later in the review) and a cordless pen that doesn’t need to be charged.
The Deco LW has a 10 x 6-inch horizontal drawing area. It’s light, slim, and easy to maneuver on the desk, but it has rubber feet to keep it from sliding around. There is a row of eight hotkeys (direct access) along the side. The tablet can be rotated so that the keys are on the left or right side depending on whether you are right or left handed.
One of the unusual features of the Deco LW is wireless Bluetooth 5.0. Another novelty is that XP-Pen has rebuilt its wireless pen (stylus) from scratch. The X3 Elite pen has a ridiculous 8192 levels of pressure at a high resolution of 5080 LPI (lines per inch).
The XP-Pen Deco LW Pen drawing tablet comes in four colors: green, pink, blue, and black (this review). It is edged with a rubber coating for added drop protection.
- Size: 12.5 x 7.3 x 0.35 inches (L x W x D)
- Screen drawing area: 10 in. x 6 in.
- Colors: Black, Green, Pink, Blue
- 8 shortcut keys
- stylus X3
- Resolution: 5080LPI
- Bluetooth 5.0
- 8192 pressure levels
- 10 hour battery life
- Compatibility: Windows 7 (or later), Mac OS X 10.10 (or later), Android 6.0 (or later), Chrome OS 88 (or later), Linux
In the frame
- XP-Pen Deco LW Pen Drawing Tablet
- X3 Elite Pen
- tip extractor
- USB to USB-C adapter
- USB to Micro USB Adapter
- USB Cable
- 10 extra tips
- Fast guide
- bluetooth receiver
Design and features
XP-Pen has been in the pen tablet market for a few years. They started out making really cheap tablets, but as time went on the quality got better. Its line of pen-and-graphics tablets consistently undercuts Wacom’s price. I’ve reviewed a few XP-Pen tablets: the Artist 22 Display, Deco Fun Graphics, the Artist Pro 16, and one of my favorites, the Artist 24 Pro. Each tablet is improved on the previous version.
XP-Pen makes two Deco L models: Deco L (without Bluetooth) and Deco LW (with Bluetooth 5.0). The LW version in this review matches the regular Deco in all respects except Bluetooth. I suspect the LW weighs a bit more due to the internal battery required, but it weighs nothing. It can be a portable accessory for any laptop that you want to use outdoors. XP-Pen does not state how much the Deco LW weighs on its website.
Bluetooth may or may not require the supplied USB dongle to work; It depends on the model and configuration of your computer. I tried (stupidly) with the dongle into my MacBook Pro laptop and the results were… interesting. With the USB-C dongle attached, the screen would flicker and jump. It was unusable. Then I tried Bluetooth without the dongle and everything worked as advertised (need to read the instructions more carefully). The dongle is USB A, but XP-Pen provides USB-C and Micro USB adapters if needed. Battery life when using Bluetooth is 10 hours, so if you plan on going wireless every day, plan on recharging every night.
XP-Pen says that Deco LW will work with Android. All my digital equipment is from Apple, so I’ll have to take their word for it.
When connected, the XP-Pen Deco LW Pen drawing tablet is powered by the USB cable, no power supply is needed. The tablet can be easily configured to rotate 90° for portrait use or 180° for left-handed use, which places the shortcut keys on the right side instead of the left.
Speaking of shortcut keys, Deco LW has 8. Each one can be set to whatever shortcut you need and can also be application specific, meaning each key can perform different functions depending on the application being used. It’s easy to set up and easy to use, except I don’t. I’ve said in previous reviews that I’m old school and used to using my trusty keyboard for shortcuts. Old habits are hard to die I guess.
The LW is slim. The on/off switch is located on the same side as the shortcut keys, near the USB-C port.
The new X3 Stylus (ballpoint) is light (3 grams) and comfortable to use, although I prefer the slightly heavier weight of the XP-Pen Artist Pro pen that I use on a daily basis. That pen feels more substantial. As with most tablet pens, there are two shortcut keys themselves. And just like the tablet hotkeys, I turn them off. Pressure sensitivity exceeds 8000 levels, which means you can smoothly vary the thickness of the line as you draw.
The Pen is cordless and battery-free (now aren’t they all?). Supports 60° tilt.
Drawing with the XP-Pen Deco LW Pen Drawing Tablet feels just like other tablets. the drawing surface is slightly roughened, providing a pencil-on-paper feel. The downloaded XP-Pen driver allows countless configurations for the keys. Also, the tablet can be mapped to fit the monitor you are using.
Some artists have trouble looking at a monitor without looking at their hand while drawing. It’s does it It seems difficult at first, but you quickly adapt to working like this. It’s easy to mentally match the tablet’s proportions to the monitor you’re working from. Its small 10×6 size makes it easy to quickly navigate the entire monitor with minimal arm movement. Using the pen with its pressure sensitivity makes drawing or manipulating photos a breeze. There are plenty of extra drawing tips when one wears out.
What I like
- Performs well above its price
- Ideal for new digital artists or even experienced ones.
what would change
- Pencil feels too light
- There may be problems with the MacBook Pro and its Bluetooth
If you’re just starting out in digital art and on a tight budget, the XP-Pen Deco LW Pen drawing tablet is about as good as a Wacom Intuos. It works flawlessly (on my iMac) and provides a professional experience at a fraction of the cost of Intuos. Drivers aren’t as great, and the tablet feels a bit cheaper than an Intuos, but not by much. In other words, the LW performs well above its price. As good as they are, Wacom can’t say the same about their tablets.
The XP-Pen Deco LW Pen drawing tablet is only $20 more than the L. If you think you’ll ever want to go wireless, you might as well spend the extra $20 on the LW.
Where to buy: XP-Pen and Amazon
Font: This product sample was provided by XP-Pen.