The editing tablet market is usually dominated by the Bamboo models from industry-leading Wacom, but several competitors have sprung up in the last few years. Most notable among these have been Huion and XP-Pen. In addition to them, Apple has thrown its hat in the ring with the launch of the Apple Pencil some years ago for usage on their iPad and iPad mini models. Now there’s a new player in the market who’s making heads turn with their Pen Tablet models – Xencelabs. They are designed by industry veterans with over three decades of experience and with sizeable input from artists worldwide. The Pen Tablet models attempt to make inroads in an established market. Can Xencelabs woo digital artists and photography editors with their products? We got our hands on the Pen Tablet Medium model to test out.
It’s a bold move by Xencelabs to challenge some well-established competitors, but their Pen Tablet Medium ticks a lot of the right boxes. It comes with two pens and multiple nibs, and there’s zero noticeable lag while using them. They also add a half-glove that you can wear while using the tablet to rest your palm on it. At just over half a pound in weight and 8mm thickness, it won’t weigh you down while carrying it around. It’s great to use with laptops and desktops.
Setup is straightforward. You’ll need to download a driver installation file from their website and connect the Xencelabs Pen Tablet with the provided cable. I love that I can configure the physical shortcut keys on an overall level and an application level. I mapped the middle key to perform an Undo function in Adobe Photoshop.
When not using the tablet with a particular app, I can even use the shortcut keys to launch other apps. I configured the middle shortcut key to launch Capture One Pro 22.
After the initial setup, you have the option of using it wirelessly. Just ensure the provided wireless dongle is connected to your computer.
Cursor Movement Can Be Confusing Initially
If you’re used to using a trackpad instead of a mouse for your iMac, Macbook, or Mac Mini, you’ll initially struggle to get used to the tablet’s pen/cursor relationship. On my trackpads, the cursor’s movement is relative, while on the Xencelabs Pen Tablet medium, it’s absolute. This means that if I move the pen tip accidentally and touch another area of the screen, the cursor’s position will jump to that point on your computer’s screen. It’s a relatively small learning curve, but one that you will find irritating at the onset of using this device.
The unit itself is very robust. It’s light enough to carry around in a handy pouch that comes with it (not the thickest of materials, but could handle soft bumps and knocks).
Smooth Responsiveness While Editing
I tested the device with my M1 Macbook Air. I used the Magnetic Lasso tool on Adobe Photoshop and did some basic editing on Capture One 22 with sliders. Using the thicker three-button pen felt smooth: almost like you’re dragging the pen through water. You can customize the pen’s responsiveness on seven different levels. I noticed that you didn’t need to physically touch the nib to the tablet to get a response on the cursor. Hovering it just a few millimeters over the tablet would activate it too, but who’d use it this way anyway.
The nibs come in two varieties: softer nibs or the standard stiff nibs. You’re provided with several replacements for each type. Using the softer nib allowed for less harsh strokes.
Reasons to Love it
- Zero noticeable lag while using pen on surface
- Very comfortable grips for both pens. No fatigue while using pens
- Multiple nib sizes included
- Pen has virtual erasers at other end of nib, to undo edits done
- Fine build quality. Comes with neat carry case
- Three shortcut keys on tablet, each of which are individually configurable on an application level
- You can place it over your laptop’s keyboard and use. It’s just slightly larger than my M1 Macbook (13 inch) Air’s base.
- Great price point for the features it provides.
They’re a relatively new company in this industry, but the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium feels premium in design and features. It’s competitively priced too. They can definitely compete with the bigger tablet manufacturers and I look forward to seeing more products from them.