Whether you’re looking for a graphics tablet or a drawing tablet, there are lots of options on the market, and they are probably all pretty compelling. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the abundance of options.
Two particular heavyweights are Wacom and XP-Pen. Both manufacture graphics tablets and drawing tablets and have different strong and weak points.
While XP-Pen tablets are generally cheaper than Wacom tablets and have more features, Wacom tablets tend to have more of a premium and durable build, and a lot more brand recognition.
In this article, we shall compare Wacom and XP-Pen on two fronts: graphics tablets and drawing tablets, looking at the things each excels in. By the end, you should have a clear sense of which would be best for you, given your current needs.
Wacom Intuos vs XP-Pen Deco series
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Very affordable within reason and suitable for new artists through to professionals, this tablet is lightweight, durable, and highly functional. Combine this with multi touch features and one of the smallest physical footprints, the Wacom Intuos S is the perfect desk and travelling companion.
Ergonomically this is an excellent light weight tablet with a predictable output and several express keys and a handy dial to help with workflow. The XP-Pen Deco 03’s build quality and specifications are up there with the market leaders.
The stylus on the Wacom Intuos comes with a pressure range of 4096 levels compared with the XP-Pen’s pressure range of 8192 levels. It would seem that, in this case, the XP-Pen is a clear winner. After all, more pressure is better, right?
Well, not exactly. While 8192 pressure levels are twice as many as 4096, the difference is barely noticeable in practice. Unless you’re looking very closely, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll notice a pressure difference between a Wacom Stylus and an XP-Pen stylus. Most artists are quite comfortable with 4096 pressure levels, and 8192 can feel like overkill. Of course, if your line of work absolutely demands that you have 8192 pressure levels, then the XP-Pen Deco series of tablets might be better for you.
That said, it should be noted that something else that needs to be considered is the pressure response. Even with so many sensitivity levels, it won’t do if you have to press a little harder at lower pressure levels to get a line registered on your graphics tablet. Overall, despite having as many pressure sensitivity levels as the XP-Pen, the Wacom Intuos has a much higher response and can draw the faintest of lines at the lower end of the pressure sensitivity spectrum better than the XP-Pen Deco tablets.
Working area and tablet size
The Wacom Intuos tablet comes in two sizes: small and medium. The smaller one is smaller even than the tablets in the XP-Pen Deco series, and has the least amount of drawing space. The medium option, on the other hand, has a size comparable to the tablets in the Deco series. However, it also costs twice as much as the XP-Pen Deco series tablets.
The thing about the medium-sized Wacom Intuos tablet is that you won’t be getting any extra features with it that you wouldn’t have with the smaller option. Also, if you tend to work on a small monitor below 19 inches or a laptop, you should be just fine with the smaller version. It should be enough.
If you really need a tablet with a larger drawing surface, the savings you would make on the XP-Pen Deco tablets far outweigh any advantage you would get by opting for the doubly priced medium sized Wacom Intuos tablet.
Shortcut buttons are little physical buttons on a tablet that you can program to do any action you want. In drawing applications, these can be simple but important and repetitive tasks like undoing and redoing, zooming, and free transforms. Shortcut buttons help you to rely less on the keyboard and drastically enhance your workflow by helping you to work faster.
Dials and rollers are a particular kind of advanced shortcut buttons that help you perform more complicated (analog mostly) tasks, such as smoothly changing the size of a brush or eraser or zooming in and out, all by rotating a dial or sliding a roller.
The number, type, and placement of shortcut buttons on a tablet determines just how usable they are at the end of the day. The Wacom Intuos tablet comes with 4 shortcut buttons, while the XP-Pen Deco Series tablets come with 6-8 shortcut buttons plus a roller. In fact, the newly released Deco Pro comes with a combination of physical buttons, a mechanical dial, and a touchpad that makes drawing on the tablet much easier.
In this sense, the XP-Pen wins over the Wacom Intuos.
The Wacom Intuos tablet comes with the latest stylus from Wacom, which has 4096 pressure levels and two shortcut buttons on the side (if you could these shortcut buttons it would bring the total number of shortcut buttons on the Wacom Intuos to 6). The back of the Wacom Intuos stylus can be opened to show 3 extra nibs inside. It also comes with tilt support out of the box. The good news is that you can swap out this stylus with any other Wacom stylus if you’re looking for more functionality (barrel roll support is one). More over, Wacom provides all sorts of nibs separately, emulating brushes, chisels, charcoal tips, and many others.
The XP-Pen Deco series tablets come with styluses with 8192 pressure levels. While the Deco 02 has an eraser at the back, the rest do not, and only the Deco Pro and Deco 01 have tilt support. Also, you cannot swap the styluses out for others with better functionality.
In terms of performance, the two styluses both do quite well. The Wacom feels natural and light, and is very responsive, despite having half the pressure levels of the XP-Pen. I would say both styluses are evenly matched in terms of performance. However, the Wacom stylus has more features and flexibility, even though the XP-Pen has double the pressure sensitivity.
The Deco 01 comes with a pen stand in which you can place your stylus when not using it. That way you don’t have to worry about it rolling off the table and falling. The Deco 02, Deco 03, and Deco Pro come with a barrel-shaped plastic pen holder. It is quite sturdy and fits the entire stylus, protecting it and keeping it safe, especially when traveling. The front cap of the pen holder can be opened to function as a pen stand while the rear end has slots for storing extra nibs.
The Wacom Intuos does not come with a pen holder, but has inward curved shortcut buttons, where you can store your stylus. Also, the back of the stylus can be opened to reveal extra nibs. You can buy a separate pen holder from Wacom if you need one, and while it comes at an extra cost, it is made of metal, is lighter, has a more premium feel, and is far sturdier than the pen holder on the XP-Pen.
Graphics tablets have plastic surfaces. The stylus you use to write or draw on this surface has a plastic tip. Now, to prevent the stylus gliding so much it becomes a bit difficult to control, the surfaces contain little bumps, which are known in the industry as micro-textures. These micro-textures are there to provide resistance,or friction, which prevents the pen from sliding around when you try to draw. The result is that you have much more control over your stylus.
It’s a small detail, and may seem insignificant when you’re looking at a graphics tablet for the first time, but it has an outsized effect on the drawing experience when using the tablet. After all, it is on the surface of the tablet that you will spend the vast majority of your time writing and drawing.
Both the Wacom and XP-Pen graphics tablets have micro-textures on their surfaces, and both provide adequate resistance to draw. However, after using both of them for a while, I found it much easier and more natural to draw on the Wacom. It just felt better. It’s also more resistant to scratches then the XP-Pen in the long run.
Wacom Cintiq 16 vs XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro
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Capable of performing as a second monitor, the Wacom Cintiq 16 sits below the pro addition and for this reason does not come with several key features that professional artists will likely opt for and require. This does however make this tablet very affordable for what it is.
The XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro is an excellent choice for novice and hobbyist artists with an exceptional color accuracy that’s comparable to most other high-end tablets. It’s a worthy contender to the above Cintiq tablet and a lot cheaper!
Design and build quality
When it comes to design, the Cintiq 16 looks very minimalist, with nothing more than the touch screen at the front. The XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro, on the other hand, has a screen plus a panel of shortcut buttons atop it. Both of these tablets are made of plastic. However, the Cintiq 16 feels much heavier and sturdier, with a more durable build. The XP-Pen 15.6 Pro is much lighter and more flexible, but feels less sturdy and durable.
Both of them are pretty easy to set up. Both use 3-in-1 cables to connect. The Cintiq 16, however, requires more force to plug in the cable at the back of the tablet and clamps it in place more firmly. The Artist 15.6 Pro has a port for USB-C on the side that might be in danger of disconnecting if you suddenly yank the tablet while drawing. That said, the Cintiq 16 does not have a USB-C cable and so has different cables for power and data transfer to and from a computer. The XP-Pen is capable of using the USB-C cable, both for power and data transfer from a computer.
Working area and tablet size
Both of these tablets have 15.6 inch screens with 1920 x 1080 p full HD displays. The Cintiq 16 has 72% AdobeRGB while the Artist 15.6 Pro has 88% AdobeRGB. That means that the Artist 15.6 Pro has a wider gamut of colors. But don’t let this fool you. The Wacom comes pre-calibrated out of the box, while the Artist 15.6 Pro does not. That means with the Wacom you can start working straight away, while with the XP-Pen you would have to do a color calibration first to get the blue tint out of colors.
Another interesting point to note here is the brightness factor. The Artist 15.6 Pro has higher brightness at 100% than the Cintiq 16. However, the colors are depicted less accurately at 100% brightness. The ideal brightness therefore seems to be somewhere around the 60% mark. As for the Cintiq 16, even at 100% brightness, the colors are accurately depicted, and the screen is still bright enough to work on.
The Artist 15.6 Pro comes with a laminated screen while the Cintiq 16 comes with a regular non-laminated screen.
A laminated screen or display is one where the top glass and the display underneath are fused together. This reduces parallax so that the tip of the stylus and the cursor underneath line up perfectly. In a non-laminated display, there is something of a lag so that the strokes appear a very short distance from the actual point of contact between the stylus and the tablet. So the Artist 15.6 Pro shows the strokes and cursor right under the tip of the stylus while the Cintiq 16 shows some parallax.
Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. In practice, the parallax on the Cintiq 16 isn’t such a hindrance. In fact, the lag while actually drawing is greater on the Artist 15.6 Pro than it is on the Cintiq 16. Besides, the Wacom Cintiq 16 wins when it comes to surface texture, which we shall talk about in a bit.
The Artist 15.6 Pro comes with 8 shortcut buttons along the front, on top of the screen. Each button has a unique pattern so you can identify it even without looking, and they all have a satisfying click feedback when pressed. There is also a roller in the middle, which is great for performing tasks like rotations, zooming, scrolling and panning.
The Cintiq, on the other hand, has no shortcuts on the tablet. However, if you want express keys, you can purchase the Wacom Expresskey remote separately, which is built to be used with any Cintiq tablet. It has a touch ring similar to the roller on the Artist 15.6 Pro and 17 shortcut buttons. You can also alter the settings so that you get express keys directly on the touch screen of the Cintiq 16. If you do go for that option, you don’t have to separately purchase an Expresskey remote.
Wacom is known for making premium styluses, and the Pro Pen 2 is considered the very best stylus currently on the market. You get this exact stylus when you purchase the Cintiq 16, which is the exact same stylus you would get if you bought a more premium Wacom tablet. This is a huge plus. Another plus is that you can always switch the stylus out for any other Wacom tablet stylus if you’re looking for a different set of features, and Wacom has lots of styluses offering many different features that may appeal to different kinds of artists.
The Artist 15.6 Pro also offers a pretty decent pen, though it does have some shortcomings which are not present in the Pro Pen 2, as we shall see.
Both of these styluses have 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, and both support tilt functionality up to 60 degrees. They also both have 2 shortcut buttons on the side. Neither of them supports a barrel roll. However, you can always purchase a separate Wacom stylus that supports a barrel roll if you really need one in your workflow. You can do no such thing with the XP-Pen stylus.
Another advantage the Wacom stylus has over the XP-Pen stylus is that it has an eraser on the back, while the XP-Pen’s stylus does not. The Wacom stylus also has much better tilt sensitivity. The pointer shifts off-center on the XP-Pen’s stylus when you tilt it. The Wacom has no such issue. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s noticeable.
Both of these pens have very ergonomic designs, and are quite comfortable to hold. Both have a wider grip in the front that tapers toward the back. That said, the Wacom’s stylus feels heavier and more substantial than the XP-Pen. Also, the Wacom has a more rubberized grip while the XP-Pen feels more plastic.
When it comes to pressure sensitivity, while the both have 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, the XP-Pen seems to require more pressure at the lower levels of the pressure spectrum to register a line. Lines drawn with the XP-Pen also tend to suddenly taper off and get wavy, even when a straight edge is used to draw a line. The Wacom has much better pressure response, with even the lightest pressure registering a line, and pressure changes are reflected much more smoothly. The lines are also more stable and do not taper off.
Despite being cheaper than the Cintiq 16, the Artist 15.6 Pro comes with a pen holder. The outside is plastic while the inside has a soft material for cushioning the pen. The pen holder can also be used as a pen stand and has a set of 8 extra nibs in the back.
The Cintiq 16 comes with a fabric loop which can be fastened to the side (either right or left, making it convenient for left-handers). It is in this loop that you place the stylus when you’re not using it. You can also slide the loop off the side of the tablet to reveal a storage for 3 extra nibs.
The Artist 15.6 Pro comes with more extra nibs than the Cintiq 16, which is certainly an advantage. However, it should be noted that nibs for styluses that are used on drawing tablets do not wear off as quickly or easily as those used on graphics tablets. This means that, even with the 3 extra nibs on the Cintiq 16, it’s going to be a long time before you run out of nibs. That said, it’s obviously better to have more extra nibs than fewer.
Both of these tablets come with matte screens offering a paper like surface texture through a scratch resistant anti-glare optical film. However care must be taken when cleaning, as the oils and chemicals in certain products can wear down the matte finish.
When it comes their replacement and/or removal, the film can removed on the XP-Pen, but is not user removable and only replaceable through Wacom with the Cintiq. Those that prefer an etched screen will unfortunately (or fortunately!) have to opt for the more expensive pro edition.
Both manufacturers offer at least a 1-year warranty on their products, though Wacom offers a different warranty, depending on the region where the tablet is sold. A limited warranty of 1 year is offered in the US market while a 2-year limited warranty is offered in other markets. XP-Pen offers a 1-year limited warranty around the world.
Both companies have good support, though Wacom also offers free software, like Corel Painter Essentials, Corel After Shot 3, and Clip Studio Pain Pro. That said, while both support the same Windows OS versions, the XP-Pen supports Mac OSX 10.10 and later versions while Wacom only supports Mac OSX 10.12 and later.
The Wacom is far more expensive than the XP-Pen, sometimes as much as twice as expensive for comparable products. If price is your greatest concern, I would strongly recommend getting an XP-Pen.
The Wacom always has a superior build quality to the XP-Pen. That’s not to say that XP-Pen products are of shoddy quality. They are well-built and likely to last very long. However, they simply can’t measure up to the superior build quality and durability of Wacom products, which often feel heavier, more substantial, and more durable.
Long term reliability
This comes as a direct result of build quality. Wacom tablets are well known for their scratch resistant and well-textured surfaces, which makes them extremely durable and reliable for long term use. While XP-Pen tablets are also good, they simply cannot compete.
So which one? Is XP-Pen better than Wacom?
This strictly depends on what your needs are. If you’re looking for an affordable product with lots of features, you’ll do well with an XP-Pen tablet. However, if you’re more interested in long term support, higher build quality, durability, and a longer warranty term (if you’re outside of the US market), then it’s hard to beat the industry leader, Wacom.
…And with that we come to the end of our comparison review. As you can see, both Wacom and XP-Pen are great tablets, though they specialize in different things. You should pick the one that meets your needs (including budget needs) best. What matters is that you pursue your love of digital art in the best way possible.