This review is now well over 1 year old and may contain outdated information.
I suggest looking for a newer review if possible.
I bought this tablet because I wanted to see how good this 53 USD budget tablet is. I’m quite sure this tablet also has a lot of reviews, but I also wanted to put out a review for it so here it is!
-I am not a Mac or Linux user!! I only tested this tablet on Windows 8 and Windows 10.
-Prices may have changed since I wrote this review.
-Check when a review was written. Some aspects may improve or change over time, so it is in your best interest to concentrate on reviews which are less than 1 year old.
- How good is this tablet?
- Important specifications
- What’s in the box?
- Tablet drivers
- The drawing experience!
- Places to buy the tablet
Design and build quality: Very good!
Tablet drivers: Pretty good.
Drawing experience: Quite decent!
Overall: A very good tablet for 53 USD!
-If you are considering this as your first graphic tablet, I would recommend getting this instead of the “beginner” Wacom Intuos any day. You get way more drawing space and a reliable tablet for almost half the price!
-If you are experienced with tablets, this is certainly a usable tablet, but the pen and expresskeys may feel cheap to you depending on what tablet you’ve used before.
Price: 52.99 USD (when this review was written) Amazon.com
Active Area: 10 x 6 inches
Pen Type: Battery-free
Pen Buttons: 2 side buttons, no eraser
Pen Pressure: 2048
Pen Tilt Sensitivity: None
Expresskeys: 8 buttons
Special features: None
The XP-Pen Star03 comes in a simple white themed box which has a picture of the tablet on the front. The box is very easy to open.
The things that come in the box:
- Pen stand
- Tablet cable (Micro-USB to USB Type-A)
- Pen nib replacements x8
- Driver installation CD
- User manual
- Quick start guide
- “Thank you” card
This tablet has a fairly nice design and it doesn’t look bad on your table. The tablet itself feels decently sturdy when bending and twisting it so it probably won’t break very easily. The shiny black plastic parts on the tablet are very good at collecting fingerprints if you touch them.
If you’ve been searching for alternative tablets, you may have noticed that this design is used quite frequently by many companies, but that doesn’t mean that this is a bad tablet at all. The XP-Pen Star03 is probably the best out of all the lookalikes simply because it has a passive pen which none of the rest do. That’s why I chose to buy this one to review instead of the others.
The texture of the tablet surface is a bit on the rougher side, but it can probably still be considered fairly smooth if you compare it to the Intuos Pro which is notorious for eating pen nibs for breakfast. You will most likely notice the surface rubbing off a little, but that should be completely natural for a tablet with a rough surface and it is nothing to be worried about.
The edges of the tablet are curved so you should have an easier time drawing for long periods of time without putting unnecessary strain on your wrists.
The input port is placed on the side of the tablet that has the expresskeys. I personally dislike the placement of the cord because the cord ends up under you hand or wrist whether you use keyboard or expresskey shortcuts. I forced the cord to bend and snake all the way around my keyboard so I didn’t have to feel it under my wrist while drawing.
The underside of the tablet has 4 rubber feet and the information sticker. You can also see a whole bunch of screws but you really should have no need to touch those. I think opening the tablet could void the warranty so I suggest you avoid doing that no matter how curious you are.
The expresskeys are, well, cheap. They are flat plastic buttons and they make an annoyingly loud clack when pressed. They are certainly usable, but if you dislike making loud noises, then you would probably be best off not using these.
I did not use the expresskeys for my testing because I dislike how they feel. I was using keyboard shortcuts instead for my testing.
The pen is made of a full matte plastic and it is completely straight and round until the very tip where it bulges out to catch your fingers. The weight of the pen is nicely distribute near the middle, slightly towards the tip, but the pen itself is actually quite light. It’s slightly heavier than the Wacom Intuos pen, but it is still really light and people who dislike light pens may dislike it.
Holding the pen is a decent experience. The bulge near the tip allows you to have a good grip on the pen, and the pen buttons stick out from the surface of the pen so you can find them easily without looking at the pen.
The protruding pen buttons also help to prevent the pen from rolling if you place it on your table.
The top of the pen is just rounded plastic and has nothing on it.
The included pen stand is a typical stand which is fairly obviously not made specifically for the XP-Pen Star03 pen. I know this because the pen won’t stand up completely straight when you put it in the stand, and because my Ugee pen stand is the exact same design.
Does this affect the quality of the tablet? Not at all, it’s just a fun fact.
The pen nib replacements are all lined up inside the pen stand. The pen nib remover is also inside. You probably won’t have any troubles with running out of pen nibs for a while with this many nib replacements available.
The tablet drivers are fairly easy to install. You go to the XP-Pen website, download the latest drivers for your tablet and operating system, unzip the installer, and run it.
Like with any other tablet, make sure you’ve uninstalled all other tablet drivers from your computer and restarted before trying to install the XP-Pen driver.
Once you’ve installed the driver, a tablet icon should appear in your taskbar whenever your tablet is plugged in. If it’s not there, try restarting your computer. And if it’s still not there, open it manually by going to Control Panel and looking for the “Tablet Setting” tab which should be there if you installed your driver correctly.
In your driver, you’ll have many tabs to go through. You cannot use the features of the Hot Cells tab because this tablet does not have hot cells built into it.
In the Monitor Setting tab, you choose which monitor you want your tablet to be mapped to. Then in the Scope tab, you choose the area of the tablet which you want mapped to the display you chose.
I recommend using the “Screen Ratio” button to make sure your strokes match the movements you make on the screen properly.
In the Button tab, you choose what shortcuts you want on your pen buttons. Your only options are mouse clicks and the pen/eraser toggle function which is a bit of a bummer if you wanted to map to keyboard buttons.
In the Pressure tab, you choose how hard your pen pressure is. Unfortunately, the only adjustment is up and you can’t make the pen pressure any lighter. Fortunately, the pen pressure is already really light so it probably won’t be a problem.
In the Express Keys tab, you assign shortcuts to your expresskeys. Unlike the pen buttons, you can actually assign basically any function to your expresskeys so they’re completely customizable. You’ll have to explore those customization tabs yourself because there are quite a few, but it can map to all the keyboard buttons as far as I can tell.
Either way, I still wouldn’t use these expresskeys just because I don’t like the buttons, but that’s just me. I’m too used to using luxurious premium buttons.
Overall, the tablet drivers for the XP-Pen Star03 are pretty good although it would have been nice if they could allow you to map the pen buttons to keyboard shortcuts as well.
This tablet gave me a very decent experience that I actually didn’t expect from a 53 USD tablet. The drawing surface felt nice and textured but not too rough, and the pen is very responsive. There were really no parts of this tablet that hindered me from drawing.
I only test my tablets on Clip Studio Paint because that’s all I use.
You should contact XP-Pen support directly if you want to know if the tablet is compatible with the drawing program you use, but most major drawing programs should be compatible.
This tablet has a very slight built-in delay to give you a smoother pen experience.
Of course, the delay is slight and is only there to improve the pen experience and not actually delay your actions. This makes it completely possible to start drawing without any stabilizers, but I would still suggest you use stabilizers anyways to get your best personalized experience.
One small problem with this tablet would be the amount of wiggle that occurs when doing slow lines which you can see in the testing sheet above.
This problem doesn’t affect drawing at a normal speed so for most people it shouldn’t be a problem. I personally never even knew this tablet had the wiggle problem until I did those slow ruler lines on the test sheet.
Another small problem that I found with this tablet is that the tablet pen is quite clacky. What I mean by this is that you can clearly hear the pen nib clicking against the sides of the pen when drawing.
Was it a problem that got in the way of my drawing? No, but it’s something I clearly notice when drawing without music.
This is an amazing budget tablet!
It’s one of the cheapest tablets with a battery-free pen that you can get on the market right now. It’s only 53 USD on Amazon.com so it’s way cheaper than the “beginner” Wacom Intuos. Its active area size is also way bigger at 10 x 6 inches compared to the Intuos’ 6 x 3.7 inches.
If someone is looking to buy their first digital art tablet, I would recommend this one completely over the Wacom Intuos, especially if they want to avoid paying 80-100 USD for a Wacom.
If someone has previous experience with tablets, I may recommend this but you could probably go for something better unless you’re really on a budget.
If you have any questions about the tablet, feel free to ask me!