XP-Pen Star03 Review

Warning:
This review is now well over 1 year old and may contain outdated information.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!

Please note!
-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.



Table of contents



How good is this tablet?

Design and build quality: Very good!
Tablet drivers: Pretty good.
Drawing experience: Quite decent!

Overall: A very good tablet for 53 USD!

My verdict:
-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.


Important specifications

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
Multi-touch: No
Special features: None


What’s in the box?

2-Box

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.

3-Contents

The things that come in the box:

  • Tablet
  • Pen
  • 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

4-Tablet Design

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.

6-Tablet Edge

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.

7-Tablet Plugin

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.

8-Tablet underside

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.

9-Expresskeys

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.

10-Pen

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.

11-Pen Hold

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.

12-Pen Top

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.

14-Pen stand inside

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.


Tablet drivers

15-Driver

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.

16-Driver tabs

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.


The drawing experience!

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.


Conclusion

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.


Places to buy the tablet

XP-Pen Store | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | AliExpress
People living in other regions should check their regions Amazon or contact XP-Pen directly to see if they will ship to them.

If you have any questions about the tablet, feel free to ask me!

Author: Nikage

I am a hobbyist artist. Ever since I bought my first Wacom alternative tablet, I've become interested in finding out what other alternative tablets are good, and trying to guide people to see that there's more than just Wacom on the market.

12 thoughts on “XP-Pen Star03 Review”

  1. How long have you had it? You think It’ll last? How long do you think it will? Any problems through time at all? Does performance decrease? Does the Usb port get loose? Thanks for answering if you’ll ever answer this.

    Like

    1. I’ve had it since February 2017, but I am not using it all the time as my main tablet, so I don’t think my words have any weight when I say it feels like it will last decently long. The pen is the cheapest feeling part of the tablet, but unlike with the Wacom Intuos, you can replace it for 12 USD (Wacom Intuos replacement pen is 30 USD and it’s just a cheap plastic pen just like the XP-Pen Star03 pen).
      I didn’t run into any problems during my few days of test drawing on it, but again, I only used it for those few days.
      I am not sure what you mean by “Does performance decrease?” since with basically all tablets, there’s no slow deterioration, just straight up failure when it fails. It has a 1 year warranty, the exact same as basically every other tablet currently on the market (Wacom Intuos is also only covered by a 1 year warranty), so it’s guaranteed to work for a year or you can get it replaced by the company by explaining to them the products defect or failure.
      The USB port is very snug and I don’t think it should have loose port issues like the old version Intuos Pro did.

      Please remember that this is a budget tablet.
      If you are expecting your tablet to be made to a better level of quality and expect it to last as long as possible, you should consider things that are in the 100+ USD price range like the Huion Inspiroy Q11K or the Wacom Intuos Pro which are meant to be quality products with longer lifespans.
      I believe this tablet is a better tablet than the beginner Wacom Intuos for trying out digital art, but if you are looking for quality, you should probably not be looking towards budget tablets like the XP-Pen Star03.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there,

      I personally would recommend the XP-Pen Star03 over the Parblo A609. This is because the cord is built directly into the Parblo A609, meaning that if you accidentally break the cord you will have to buy a whole new tablet instead of just replacing the cable.

      At present, pen tilt is just a gimmick and is not an important feature if you do not know ways to use it (some programs do not even support pen tilt in the first place). Most digital artists do not have pen tilt, and most people do not make use of it even if they do have it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a similar model, but it’s by UGEE; the model is called the m708. I was wondering if you tried any tablet pens across other brands before. The pen that originally came with my tablet needed a battery, but soon I had to replace it (I brought mine in 2015, newer releases use the rechargeable pen iirc).
    I managed to find a Huion pen that was compatible with the m708. I also heard somewhere that a lot of tablet companies use the same manufacturers, which got me thinking that since the Star03 and my tablet are the exact same model, maybe the pen would be compatible between the two brands? I found the Star03 pen on Amazon and was thinking of buying it since I’m not really a fan of having a lot of extra cords lying around.
    I’m not expecting anything to come out of it, but if you ever do a test like this, it’ll be interesting to see the results – or at least I’d be interested. Thanks in advanced for reading this far.

    Like

    1. Hey there,

      Unfortunately, a tablet which uses a battery-powered/recharging pen will be unable to use a battery-free pen, and vice versa. This is because the hardware required for those are different.

      A battery-powered and recharging pen can be used on the same tablet because they both emit their location using power from their batteries. Technically, both of those types of pens are powered by a battery, it’s just a non-replaceable recharging battery in a recharging pen. Because of this, there are cases where a battery-powered pen and recharging pen can be used with the same tablet if they use the same “wavelength” (many Wacom alternatives do use the same pen as you have noted. Ex. Ugee HK1560, Parblo A610, XP-Pen Artist22HD, etc. And needless to say, if the pen looks the exact same, it often is the exact same).

      On the other hand, battery-free pens use completely different technology because they get their power from the tablet through EMR (electromagnetic resonance). This means that the tablet has to be made to release energy to supply the pen with power, which means that battery-free pens cannot work with battery-powered/recharging tablets because those tablets aren’t made to supply the pen with power through EMR.

      One example I have is the Huion New 1060 Plus (2048) and Huion H1060P which I have. They seemingly use the same tablet, but their pens are not cross compatible.

      -Nikage

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ahh, that sucks. But thanks for the reply! I appreciate the new knowledge.
        Best of luck to you and your blog ^^

        Like

  3. Which software is free to use with x pen 3 tablet my daughter wants one like photo shop but u have to pay for that..just cant suss this out at all seems very hard

    Like

    1. Hey there,

      No, I believe the XP-Pen Star 03 does not come with any drawing software.
      For questions regarding the tablets and what they come with, I suggest asking the tablet manufacturer directly through email (their contact information is here: https://www.xp-pen.com/page/Contact). I believe the “Pre-sales and After-sales Support” section has the contacts you need.
      You could also refer to this page (https://www.xp-pen.com/verify/index) to see which XP-Pen tablets you can get a free program with.

      As for free programs your daughter can use, I have heard great things about Medibang Paint or Krita for digital drawing. I do not know how similar/different they are from Photoshop, but I believe they’re worth a try since they are free.

      -Nikage

      Like

    1. Hey there,

      I personally prefer the Huion H1060P because it has a nice pen and great drawing performance. The XP-Pen Star 03 would be an alright choice if you need a cheaper tablet though (although prices will vary from region to region).

      -Nikage

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: