XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro Review

(May 26, 2019) Update: I have updated this review with the new Drawing Tests section which I have recently started doing in my reviews.

The conclusion of this review is unchanged. I still believe this tablet is a very good option and performs very well, and just like I pointed out before, the XP-Pen drivers have a small issue drawing very quick tapers smoothly.
The only new thing to note is that I have done pen tilt tests and the results for the pen tilt are not particularly great. You can read more about that in the Drawing Tests section.



The XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro is XP-Pen’s newest addition to their Artist line of drawing monitors. This model is not to be confused with XP-Pen’s other similarly sized models, namely, the XP-Pen Artist 16 Pro and XP-Pen Artist 15.6.
I agree with many others that these names are too similar and have become quite confusing for people who are new to looking for digital art tablets. If you are confused by the names, just remember that XP-Pen currently offers 3 models of 15.6-inch drawing monitors: Artist 16 Pro, Artist 15.6, and Artist 15.6 Pro.

Problems regarding the naming aside, the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro is an improved version of the non-Pro Artist 15.6 tablet, with improvements made mainly to the screen, added tilt function support, more shortcut buttons, and an included one-angle stand.
Everything aside from that is roughly the same as the previous version, but these improvements make this tablet a standout even among the many tablets available to digital artists today.

For this review, XP-Pen was kind enough to supply me with the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro. As usual, this review is based on my honest thoughts and opinions about the tablet and I will never agree to review a product if I am required to say only good things about it.
If you believe receiving a review product for free makes a review biased, now is a perfect time for you to stop reading.

Anyways, onto the review!

Please note!
-I am not a Mac or Linux user!! I only tested this tablet on Windows 8.1 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.
-Always check multiple reviews to cross reference their information before you make a conclusion about a tablet.



Table of Contents



How good is this tablet?

Design choices: Almost perfect!
-Nitpicks: Cable sticks straight out of tablet
Hardware quality: Very sturdy!
-Nitpicks:
Screen quality: Absolutely gorgeous!
-Nitpicks:
Tablet drivers: Good design!
-Nitpicks: Pen calibration doesn’t use tilt
Drawing test results: Mostly good.
-Nitpicks: Quick tapers are not smooth, pen tilt is not particularly good
Actual drawing experience: Really good!
-Nitpicks:

Overall: An overall fantastic tablet! It has its small issues, but I really enjoyed drawing with it.

My verdict:
-If you are considering this tablet, it is an extremely good option and I can most certainly recommend it.

There are, of course, a few minor things about the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro which can be improved with driver updates, but it should be emphasized that they are not major deal-breaking issues. I will mention them in their respective places in my review, so please continue reading for the full details.
XP-Pen has already been notified of these problems and will most likely be able to fix these minor issues with future driver updates, and I will be waiting excitedly to test these updates when they come out.

XP-Pen gave me a promotion code to share, so if you’re interested in this tablet, make sure you use the code to save some money!

10%off promo code:XPPEN156PRO, until Apr. 30th (only until Mar. 25th for Amazon.au), works on Amazon below.
Website store: http://bit.ly/2R9TnJX

Specifications at a glance

Price: 399.99 USD (when this review was written)
Active Area: 13.5
 x 7.6 inches, 15.6 inch diagonal
Resolution: FHD 1920 x 1080 (16:9 ratio)
Display Type: IPS, gamut = 88% NTSC (120% sRGB) on product page
Pen Type: 
Battery-free
Pen Buttons: 2 side buttons, no eraser
Pen Pressure: 8192
Pen Tilt Sensitivity: Yes, levels unspecified
Shortcut Keys: 8 buttons, 1 red dial
Multi-touch: No
Other features: Single angle tablet stand included.


What’s in the box?

2 - Tablet Box

The tablet comes in an all white box with a slide-off cover that has a picture of the tablet and some patterning.

This box also has a handle, so you may want to consider using the box to carry around the tablet if you need to bring it out of the house since the tablet itself is quite large and will not fit in many normal sized bags.

3 - Tablet Contents

The things that come in the box:

  • XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro tablet
  • XP-Pen P05R battery-free pen
  • Pen case
  • Combined cable (USB type-C to USB type-A, HDMI, and USB type-A for power)
  • USB type-A extension cable (for power)
  • USB power adapter
  • Outlet adapters for international power outlets
  • HDMI to Mini-DisplayPort adapter
  • Pen nib replacements x8
  • Anti-fouling glove
  • Screen cleaning cloth
  • User manual
  • Warranty policy and warranty card
  • “Thank you” card

3.5 - Tablet Peel Off

When you first take out the tablet, it will have a little sticker on it. You will want to pull on that sticker to take off the protective film which is protecting the actual screen protector. If you do not take this layer off, you will not get to experience the nice matte texture of the actual screen protector beneath it.

4 - Tablet Overall

The XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro is designed in a standard way, with a screen surrounded by decently large bezels and physical shortcut keys along one side. The red dial on the side is really the only thing that is different from other similar tablets in terms of looks.

The tablet feels sturdy when performing a twist test, where I grab both sides of the tablet and try twisting the tablet a bit with just my hands.

5 - Tablet Texture

The tablet comes with a pre-applied screen protector which has a nice matte anti-glare texture. The texture is on the smoother side but it has enough texture to not feel too slippery to draw on, and it also does not compromise screen clarity at all.

The advantage of a pre-applied screen protector is that you will be able to replace it in the future if it becomes worn down from lots of use. It also saves you from the hassle of having to go buy and apply your own screen protector.
I believe this screen protector will last you quite a while considering mine has absolutely no scratches from my month of testing.

6 - Tablet Side

The XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro is quite thin, so it is certainly portable in that way. However, it is very wide due to it being a 15.6-inch tablet, so it will not fit in standard bags. I don’t have any bags which it could fit in, so I intend to use the product box to carry it around if I need to.

7 - Tablet Back

On the back of the tablet, there are 4 rubber feet, 2 long ones along the sides, and 2 small ones to support the middle of the tablet. There is also the information sticker with the S/N number on it.

As you can see, the back of the tablet does not have any VESA screw holes so you will not be able to mount it to a monitor arm without some kind of adapter.

8 - Tablet Shortcut Keys

Along the side of the tablet there are 8 physical shortcut buttons and a red dial. All of the buttons feel absolutely fantastic to click, requiring very little strength to press but making very satisfying clicks as feedback. If I were to be extremely nitpicky, I would say that some of the buttons don’t sound the exact same as the rest, but honestly, all of them feel great to press and use anyways.

These shortcut keys also have anti-ghosting capabilities, meaning you can press multiple buttons at once and have them all work, the same way pressing multiple keys on a keyboard activates all of them at once. This also applies to the pen buttons, so you can use combinations of shortcut keys and pen buttons if you need to. This feature may seem like a given, but not every tablet company does this.

The red dial is a function wheel which spins extremely smoothly and is an absolute pleasure to use. It clicks quietly as feedback and clicks 24 times in a full rotation, meaning your assigned function will activate 24 times in one spin. Since there are so many activation points, you can control very precisely whether you want to go fast or slow with the red dial.
My complaint about the red dial on the XP-Pen Deco 03 was that I felt 6 buttons plus the red dial was lacking for all my shortcuts. The XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro on the other hand has 8 buttons alongside the red dial, so it does feel lacking. It may sound petty to make a fuss over 2 extra buttons, but in reality, it makes a huge difference to be able to map 2 more functions.

I used the shortcut keys for a while and they were very enjoyable to use, especially because there are actually enough shortcut keys on this tablet for most of my functions.
However, I am simply more used to using my keyboard, so I did most of my drawing with keyboard anyways.

9 - Tablet OSD Buttons

This tablet has 3 buttons along the right side of the tablet (in right-handed mode) which are for power, brightness up, and brightness down. The tablet itself does not have a dedicated OSD settings button, and you instead need to change screen colours through the XP-Pen driver software.

The power button will glow a dark blue to indicate that the tablet is powered on.

The XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro has a USB type-C port on it to connect to the combined USB/HDMI/power cable. I praised the choice of a USB type-C cable on the Huion Kamvas Pro 13, but the way it was implemented on the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro really throws away the advantage that using USB type-C offers in the first place.

The advantage of using USB type-C on a tablet is mainly to make the cable flippable for use in left-handed mode. On the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro, the cable is just a straight cable, not an L-shaped cable, meaning that it doesn’t take advantage of the multi-direction feature of USB type-C.

To give credit where credit is due, it is good that they created a tunnel in front of the port to better support the cable weight and prevent it from breaking the port over time, and the cable fits fairly snugly into that tunnel. However, making the cable L-shaped would have improved cable life (because people wouldn’t need to bend the cable out of the way like I did), and also would have made the cable much harder to break in general (because you wouldn’t be able to accidentally snag it on things).
The straight cable is such an easy way to accidentally break the tablet because it juts straight out of the tablet, whereas an L-shaped cable would be much harder to accidentally snag and subsequently break the port/tablet.

The cable is not so loose that it will just pop out accidentally. You need to purposefully try to pull it out to unplug it. And surprise surprise! Did you know a cable will become unplugged if you pull on it enough to unplug it?
I swear, I don’t understand some people.

11 - Tablet Cable

The included cable is a combined cable which goes from USB type-C on the tablet to USB type-A and HDMI on the computer. The tablet can be powered solely by the computer if your USB port can provide enough power, but if it can’t, the extra red USB type-A connector will need to be connected to another USB port on your computer, or a power outlet using the included power outlet to USB adapter.
I was using the tablet without connecting it to a power adapter for most of my review. As far as I could see, there were no noticeable differences between having it powered by a single USB port, or a power outlet.

The HDMI portion of the cable is where all the cables come together, so I will give measurements of the cable length from there.
-The HDMI to USB type-C is ~170cm.
-The HDMI to USB type-A is ~58cm.
-The HDMI to USb type-A power is ~200cm (this includes the USB extension cable).

Many people complain that a combined cable like this is bad because if one part of it breaks, then you have to buy a whole new cable. These people say that they would much rather have separate cables.
However, from what I have seen, just as many people complain about having multiple separate cables coming out of a tablet, saying it looks messy. These people say that they would much rather have a combined cable.

Personally, I think a combined cable is better, especially because the replacement cable only costs ~25 USD on XP-Pen’s store.
Whether you have separate cables or one combined cable, when one cable breaks, you have to replace it. If it only costs ~25 USD, a combined cable seems like the better choice because it’s a cleaner one cable solution.
Of course, this is under the assumption that XP-Pen’s cables don’t die every month or something stupid like that. Has the cable broken for me yet after one month of usage? Nope. So I really doubt it’s going to break frequently enough that paying ~25 USD for another one is going to be a problem. Make sure you use the 1 year warranty (18 months if you bought it off the official XP-Pen site) if yours breaks within the first year.

This is the new XP-Pen AC41 stand which comes included with the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro.

It is a simple all-plastic one angle stand which gives you a pretty low angle of around ~15 degrees (Correction: It’s 20 degrees). With the legs snapped into place, it is very sturdy and there is no fear of it collapsing under pressure.
As there is no rubber on the bottom lip of the stand, if you lean very heavily on the top half of the tablet, the bottom part of the tablet will dislodge itself causing the tablet to slide off the stand. However, this has never happened to me without purposefully leaning really heavily on the top edge of the tablet, so I believe this is a non-issue for this stand in particular.

This stand is quite a low angle so you may want to consider buying a different stand for a more comfortable experience as it certainly hurt my neck trying to draw for long periods at that angle. With that said, it’s better than nothing and it will do in a pinch by propping it up with other things like textbooks to get a better angle.

This tablet uses the XP-Pen P05R battery-free pen, which is a slightly modified version of the original P05 pen used on the XP-Pen Deco 03, XP-Pen Artist 13.3, and XP-Pen Artist 15.6.
It has a rubber grip with a plastic top, and has a nice shape with a bulge near the bottom to allow for an easy and comfortable grip on the pen.

The pen buttons are surrounded by a little plastic “island” which you can feel very clearly when trying to find it in your hand. The buttons themselves protrude slightly from the surrounding plastic and are quite easy to press. They also give a nice tactile click when pressed.

The top of the pen does not have anything.

14 - Pen P05R and P05

The visible difference between the P05R and P05 pen is the red ring in the middle of the pen, and a slightly wider and shorter pen nib. I was able to use the P05 on my Artist 15.6 Pro, but it was a bit glitchy in some programs such as Krita, so if you are ever buying a replacement pen, make sure you get the P05R which is made specifically for the Artist 15.6 Pro.

The one issue which I had with the pen is that my original P05R pen was defective and couldn’t draw the lowest ~5% pen pressure, whereas my P05 pen could draw much lighter pressures on the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro with the same settings.

Thankfully, XP-Pen was kind enough to ship me a replacement pen and I was able to confirm that the issue was indeed just caused by a defective pen because the replacement pen could draw much lighter lines than the original one.

The tablet comes with a pen case which I like very much. The lid becomes a pen stand, and all the pen nibs are stored on the opposite side. The pen case also helps with carrying around the pen safely with your tablet if you take it out with you.


Screen quality

17 - Screen

The XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro has extremely vibrant colours out of the box and looks fantastic to look at. Due to this, it may not be immediately apparent, but the monitor colours are not calibrated to sRGB and are instead calibrated to some XP-Pen factory colour gamut which has more saturation in the colours.

With that said, at least the default settings are semi-decent unlike many of their previous tablets which had really skewed colours out of the box.

18 - Display Settings

To access the colour settings, you will need to install the XP-Pen drivers, then click the ‘Display Setting’ button in the bottom right. In the screen that pops up, you will be able to adjust the colours, brightness, and contrast. You can also rotate the display from this window.

Above are my settings which are roughly sRGB. You can use those settings to roughly calibrate your XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro if you get one, but I am not sure how similar the colours are between my device and others, so be warned that it might not be the right settings for all XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro devices.
*It should be noted that you should leave the Contrast as is if yours is different. I did not change my contrast from default, so if your default is different from mine, you should most likely leave it as is.

19 - IPS Angle

The IPS display on this tablet is very good and you can view the colours from basically all angles without any noticeable changes in the colours. The textured anti-glare screen protector does dim what you can see from the sides a bit, but there are absolutely no problems with colours when viewing the screen from any “normal” angle.

XP-Pen advertises this tablet as a 120% sRGB monitor, and from my measurements, it appears to be a truthful claim.

The above results are from my calibration using my X-Rite ColorMunki Display with DisplayCAL, and I measured that the tablet has a 126% sRGB volume, while my profile is set to 99% sRGB because I can only calibrate for use in the sRGB colour space using DisplayCAL. (The gamut volume being what the tablet is capable of, and the gamut coverage is what my color profile uses.)

These results are fantastic as this means that this tablet is suitable for use with colour accurate work (if you calibrate it). In my opinion, a drawing monitor without a decent screen is useless, so the fact that the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro has a high gamut screen is a very big achievement in XP-Pen’s efforts to becoming more professional and reputable brand among artists.

21 - Color Accuracy Chart Youtube

The above is the chart Lisa from MobileTechReview shows in her Youtube review of the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro.

You will most likely have seen MobileTechReview’s review of the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro before ending up at my site, and I would like to clarify one of the points they made about the tablet’s “colour accuracy”.

The chart which they show in their review is the colour accuracy test done without calibrating the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro. In other words, the chart they give you only tells you that the default monitor colours are, as expected, not accurate.

22 - Color Accuracy Chart Default Settings-2

The above are my results from using the Spyder colour accuracy checker available on DisplayCAL, which is an almost identical colour accuracy check test sheet to the one the Spyder5 software uses (MobileTechReview uses the software which comes with their Spyder5 Elite).

I performed the above colour accuracy check with my XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro at default settings. As you may be able to see, I was able to get very similar results with large Delta-E’s as MobileTechReview with default settings on the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro. This shows that they were most likely doing the colour accuracy test without calibrating the display.

23 - Color Accuracy Chart Calibrated Settings-3

This second colour accuracy chart is the result of doing the same colour accuracy test with the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro properly calibrated to sRGB. This second chart reflects the actual quality of the tablet screen and how accurately it can display colours after it has been calibrated.
As you can see, all the Delta-E’s are much closer to 0 (closer to 0 is better) unlike with the previous colour accuracy chart, showing that the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro actually has the ability to show very accurate colours when calibrated.

The reason I am pointing this out is because MobileTechReview’s review does not mention that they are showing the colour accuracy of the default settings, and unintentionally makes it sound like the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro lacks the capability to display accurate colours, which is completely false.
This is misleading to anyone who knows little to nothing about monitor colours, because if they hear a reputable reviewer say “the colour accuracy is bad”, they’ll think that the monitor is bad and not realize that it’s actually just the default settings which are bad.

A Blurb About Colorimeters

If you are an aspiring digital creative working with colours, I wholeheartedly recommend investing in a colorimeter. Factory calibration can only last so long before the monitor colours start to drift and become less and less accurate, so it is extremely beneficial in the long run if you invest in a colorimeter. Even Wacom’s factory calibrated tablet monitors are no exception to this and their colours will drift over time because colour drift is an unavoidable aspect of monitors as they age.
Having a colorimeter to calibrate your monitor every month or so is vital if you want to have complete confidence in your colours at all times.

My recommendation for the best cheapest option is the Datacolor Spyder5 Express paired with the free software DisplayCAL. I do not recommend the cheaper X-Rite ColorMunki Smile because it is an old type of colorimeter which loses its reliability very quickly, whereas the Spyder5 Express and pricier models will work for many years to come.
You can read great reviews of these colorimeters at this site:
https://www.color-management-guide.com/spyder5express-review.html
https://www.color-management-guide.com/colormunki-smile-xrite-review.html
And here’s a really simple guide on how to calibrate with DisplayCAL:
https://www.pointsinfocus.com/learning/digital-darkroom/displaycal-and-argyll-cms-quick-start-guide/
As well as how to get the Spyder5 colorimeter to be detected by DisplayCAL:
https://hub.displaycal.net/forums/topic/spyder5-not-detected/

24 - Parallax

The XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro uses a fully-laminated display, which is the screen technology that other brands such as Wacom, Microsoft, Apple, etc have used to reduce parallax (the distance between the pen tip and the screen).

As you can see in the picture above, the pen tip is really close to the cursor, with big reductions made to the thickness of the glass using the fully-laminated display. However, the glass is not thin enough to be completely unnoticeable.
If I were to give a rough estimate, the glass is still around 0.6-0.8mm in thickness, which is a very decent improvement from their non fully-laminated displays, but not completely unnoticeable.
Of course, this is to be expected as there are limits to how thin you can make the glass on a decently large tablet like this before the glass becomes too easy to break in the middle of the screen. The larger the tablet, the less the middle of the screen is supported, so you have to use thicker glass to compensate. Even Wacom’s Cintiq Pro series is no exception with the glass becoming thicker with each step up in screen size.

Just like many other fully-laminated displays, due to the thinness of the glass, you can cause ripples on the screen to appear when pressing hard. These ripples only happen when you press around 100% pen pressure or harder, and are only slightly noticeable on a very dark colour background. I believe this is not a problem as you will most likely never notice it and it will not affect your drawing.

25 - Light Bleed

The easiest way to see light bleed is by full-screening a black image. As you can see, there is some light bleed in the top left and top right corners of my tablet, but this is a fairly typical amount of light bleed and has no noticeable effect on other colours being displayed there.
If your tablet has much more noticeable light bleed (especially if it is noticeable on all colours, not just pure black), you may want to contact XP-Pen support to get it replaced.


Tablet drivers

The XP-Pen tablet driver are extremely easy to install. Just go download the latest version directly from XP-Pen’s site and remove all other tablet drivers you have on your computer before installing it.

Once you’ve installed the driver and plugged in your tablet, the XP-Pen driver icon should appear in the system tray in the bottom right. You can access the tablet settings by clicking on that. The installer will also create a shortcut on your desktop for opening the settings.

If the installer doesn’t prompt you to restart your computer after it finishes, I wholeheartedly suggest restarting your computer anyways to allow Windows to properly update the files necessary for the driver to run smoothly.

27 - Driver

The XP-Pen driver is a simple one page driver with all the important settings in one window. Here you can set the pen buttons and pen pressure, and choose which monitor the tablet maps to.

You may need to check the Windows Ink checkbox if you use programs such as Photoshop which require Windows Ink to be turned on for pen pressure to work.

The Barrel Button Settings section lets you choose the function assigned to the pen buttons.

You can set basically all keyboard or mouse shortcuts that you can think of using the function key option, but you unfortunately cannot combine mouse clicks with keyboard keys in the same function. This is one of the few small cons of the XP-Pen driver which has been around for a fairly long time now.

29 - Click Sensitivity

The Click Sensitivity section allows you to manipulate the pen pressure curve directly. For this pen, I didn’t find the need to change anything as the pen pressure was decent at default, but the pen pressure graph is extremely useful for making subtle changes to your overall pen pressure.

A cool thing to note is that the only other tablet drivers with this custom pen pressure graph is Wacom’s Intuos Pro and Cintiq drivers. Wacom’s low-end Intuos tablets do not offer you the pen pressure graph, and none of the Wacom alternatives aside from XP-Pen offer it either!

30 - Current Screen

The Current Screen section controls which monitor your tablet is mapped to, and what area of your tablet is used.

If you noticed earlier, there was a function called Switch Monitor among the functions you could assign to your shortcut keys. That function cycles through all the available monitors in the drop-down list at the top of the Current Screen section when used, so you can use that to quickly switch which monitor your pen input goes to.

If you click the Express Keys button in the bottom right, a new window will open up with the options for changing the functions assigned to the shortcut keys.
You can click the Dial tab to change the functions assigned to the red dial as well.

All the buttons can be assigned mouse clicks, keyboard functions, or the extra functions, just like the pen buttons.

The bar along the top of this window allows you to make program specific profiles which will only be active when the program you assigned is your current active window. It is a useful feature for people who want different functions for different programs.

Unfortunately, if you intend to assign multiple functions to the red dial, you will need to assign one of the shortcut buttons to the KL/KR Switch Function to allow you to toggle between the multiple functions assigned to the touch bar. This means that you effectively have 7 shortcut keys to work with instead of 8. In this case, 7 shortcut keys plus the red dial was enough for all of my functions though, unlike on the XP-Pen Deco 03 where I effectively only had 5 buttons to work with.
The “hints” also only show up on your main screen, not the screen assigned to your tablet, so they don’t help you figure out what function your red dial is on at all since you can’t see the hints on the right screen anyways.

18 - Display Settings

The Display Setting button pulls up the colour settings, and you can also rotate the display for left-handed use here.

33 - Calibration

The Calibrate button brings up the pen calibration which is a 5-point calibration using the 4 corners and the middle. You can click Esc on your keyboard to cancel and exit the calibration.

Also, make sure to export all your settings before doing the calibration as there is no way to reset only the pen calibration. You can export your settings with the export configuration button in the bottom left of the main driver screen.
To reset the calibration, you need to click the Default button in the bottom right of the XP-Pen drivers which resets everything, not just the calibration.

In the very first driver, the calibrate function was broken and was unable to cope with multi-screen setups. However, XP-Pen quickly fixed that issue and released a new driver with that issue fixed. If you have seen a review speaking about how the calibration does not work, it has been fixed already with the newer drivers.


Pen calibration nitpick

My nitpick about the pen calibration is that it does not compensate for pen tilt/direction, despite the fact that the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro has pen tilt functionality. This means that the cursor will not always remain perfectly under the pen tip if you tilt the pen in a different direction than how you calibrated it.
I have already suggested to XP-Pen that they start incorporating pen tilt/direction into their calibration as it is a waste not to use their new pen tilt feature to make their pen calibration even better, but it may take a while for them to come up with something as precise as Wacom’s pen calibration.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then you don’t need to worry about it. It does not impact the drawing experience at all unless you hold the pen tilted in a different direction every time you draw.


Drawing tests

These pen tests are all done with the same settings for both the canvas and the pens. These tests are only done in Clip Studio Paint as that is the only program where I totally understand how to remove all unwanted variables.
If you are worried about whether this tablet will work with your art program, don’t be afraid to contact support to ask them directly.

-The canvas will always be a 3000x3000px 300dpi page (the above test page is a 3000x6000px 300dpi page, so just two pages stuck together).
-The test pens are mostly all 100px linear pressure curve pens. Pen pressure for size and/or opacity is enabled based on the test.
-The slow ruler line test uses a 10px no pen pressure pen to clearly show wobble and jitter. I also use a 50px pen pressure enabled pen to see the visibility of wobble/jitter with pen pressure is enabled.
-The IAF (Initial Activation Force) test uses a 300px linear pressure pen to show the thinnest lines possible, as well as demonstrate the IAF of the tablet.

XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro Test Page-1

1) Scribble Test – Grade: Pass
Test pen 1 – 100px – pen pressure: size
Test pen 2 – 100px – pen pressure: size+opacity

For my pen tests, I always start out with a few pen pressure scribbles to see if I can do some nice squiggly lines with increasing pen pressure. I also do some back and forth shading and some spirals with increasing pen pressure.

With the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro, I had no problems doing my little scribbles going from thin to thick. I didn’t have any problems controlling my strokes and making both thin and thick lines was relatively easy. This tablet gets an easy pass here.

XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro Test Page-2

2) Slow Ruler Line Test – Grade: Pass
Test pen 1 – 10px – pen pressure: none
Test pen 2 – 50px – pen pressure: size

The slow ruler line tests done with a no pen pressure pen were quite good at all angles, but you can clearly see some wobble when tilting the pen completely over.
However, this amount of wobble at max tilt is small enough that it shouldn’t be counted as a problem when drawing. It can be improved, certainly, but it is more than acceptable.

This tablet gets a pass here.

XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro Test Page-3

3) Quick Hatching Test – Grade: Pass
Test pen 1 – 100px – pen pressure: size

The quick hatching test is to check whether the tablet keeps up with pen inputs. Usually, the only way to fail this section is if the pen is noticeably laggy and causes unwanted inputs like fishhooks at the beginning or end of the line.

As you can see, this tablet appears to have no problems with fishhooks. I also never noticed the cursor lagging so far behind the pen that it was a problem, so it gets a pass here.

XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro Test Page-4

4) Short Release Taper Test – Grade: Fail
Test pen 1 – 100px – pen pressure: size

This test is meant to see the smoothness of the pen pressure taper when going from max to min pressure quickly. Basically, you press your pen down hard then flick to the side to see how smoothly the stroke tapers.

With the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro, these tapers are not smooth and you can clearly see this. This issue applies to all very quick tapers that start from max pressure. In other words, it can also happen on longer strokes as well if you are drawing them very quickly.

Fortunately, this is not an issue that you often notice while drawing on the tablet, and most of the time you are not moving fast enough to cause this issue to appear in your longer strokes.
However, this tablet fails this section even if that is the case.

It appears that this is an issue with all of XP-Pen’s current tablets which use the newer drivers (Deco 03, Artist 12, Artist 15.6 Pro, etc). This issue did not occur on any of XP-Pen’s older tablets which used the old drivers (Star03 V1, Artist 22HD, etc).
I have notified XP-Pen about this and they told me they will work on fixing it, but there has been no update regarding a fix yet. This is one of the only issues I currently have with XP-Pen’s products, so hopefully they will move to fix it eventually.

XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro Test Page-5

5) Pen Pressure Control/Transition Test – Grade: Pass
Test pen 1 – 100px – pen pressure: size+opacity

This section is to test the smoothness of the transitions in pen pressure.
-The circles at the top are one of Youtuber Brad Colbow’s tests. It is used to check if you can properly control the pen pressure all the way around a circle. If there is a pressure jump, some circles will feel impossible to control due to that jump.
-The lines at the bottom are slow strokes done with smooth increases or decreases to pen pressure in mind. The arrow points in the direction which the stroke was done, and the smoothness of the gradients show how smooth the pen pressure transitions.

In terms of the pen pressure control circles, I had no problems doing all the different circles smoothly. They showed no signs of pen pressure jumping and it was very easy to do all the different line weights.

I will give this tablet a pass here since there don’t appear to be any noticeable issues in the pen pressure transitions either.

6) Initial Activation Force & Lightest Pen Pressure Test – Grade: Pass
Test pen 1 – 300px – pen pressure: size

This test tries to demonstrate the IAF of the tablet, and also shows the lowest possible pen pressure the tablet is capable of producing consistently.
IAF is the amount of force necessary to cause the pen to output a line. Ideally, your tablet will have an extremely low IAF where the pen will output a line with the least amount of force possible.
A high IAF causes issues such as light pen taps not registering as clicks, and the inability to sketch very lightly, both of which become quite annoying the more you experience it.

For this test page, the squiggly lines should begin right on the start line.
-If the line begins right on the start line, this indicates that the IAF is extremely low (low IAF is best) and the line just appears naturally without effort.
-On the other hand, if the line does not begin on the start line and instead begins further along the stroke, this means that the IAF is high so I needed to search for the IAF by increasing my force little by little until I finally started outputting a line.

An example of the ideal test page is the Huion New 1060 Plus (2048) IAF test page which I included above for comparison. Almost all the lines begin right on the start line meaning it has extremely low IAF, and the lines are almost transparent showing that the tablet is capable of drawing extremely light pen pressures.

The XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro has a decently low IAF which I could find right away most of the time. As you can see, I was not able to get the lines to start on the start line consistently, but I was able to start them pretty close to it almost every time.
Basically, the IAF is low enough that I don’t consider it an issue. I never noticed it when tapping options or sketching lightly.

In terms of the lightest pen pressure, I could get fairly thin lines with the 300px IAF test pen. The thin lines on this tablet obviously pale in comparison to the Huion New 1060 Plus (2048) IAF test page which is the ideal, but this thinness is quite alright and is more than acceptable.

Overall, the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro has decently low IAF and is able to draw acceptably thin lines consistently. This tablet gets a pass here.

XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro Pen Tilt Tests

7) Pen Tilt Test – Pass-ish
Test pen 1 – 100px – pen tilt: opacity
Test pen 2 – 100px – flat pen – pen tilt: direction

This test shows the smoothness of the pen tilt by gradually tilting the pen while slowly moving the pen to the side. This section also includes scribbles using the pen direction determined by pen tilt.

As you can see in the smoothness test, the pen tilt transitions on the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro are clearly not smooth. You can see all the steps in the gradient and you can basically count how many levels of pen tilt there are.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), XP-Pen doesn’t specify the number of pen tilt levels they have on the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro’s product page, so they aren’t lying about “having” pen tilt, but you can clearly tell it’s not on the same level as Wacom and Huion’s +-60 levels of pen tilt.

This tablet will get a pass-ish here since they have pen tilt, but it’s not very high quality.

Overall

So all in all, the drawing test results are:
1) Scribble Test – Pass
2) Slow Ruler Line Test – Pass
3) Quick Hatching Test – Pass
4) Short Release Taper Test – Fail
5) Pen Pressure Control/Transition Test – Pass
6) Initial Activation Force & Lightest Pen Pressure Test – Pass

Non-Vital Drawing Tests:
7) Pen Tilt Test – Pass-ish

Ideally, all the above tests should have at least a “Pass-ish” for their grades because the most vital function of a drawing tablet is to draw properly and predictably. Failing any of these tests means that it doesn’t do that.


The drawing experience!

The actual drawing experience on the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro was very enjoyable, despite it having a single “Fail” in the Drawing tests section. The pen pressure worked as expected for the most part and was nice to use, and the screen was just plain fantastic to look at because of how vibrant all the colours appeared on there.
It’s truly a tablet which can make you happy just by looking at it.

Honestly, this is one of the few tablets I have reviewed which I really enjoyed drawing on because of how good it is overall, despite the tapering issue I pointed out.

For most of my drawing tests, the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro passes with flying colours. Even the slow diagonal lines test shows good results with only slight wobble appearing here and there.
It should be noted that the line wobbles a bit more when you hold the pen as far tilted over as you can, but when using the pen at any normal angle, the wobble is almost unnoticeable, so I believe this is a non-issue for almost every use case.

The biggest issue I noted about all of XP-Pen’s newer tablets (the ones which use the newer drivers) is that the pen tapering is a bit uneven when doing very quick strokes from 100% to 0% pen pressure.
As you saw in the Drawing tests section, there are some fairly clear bumps in the taper which make it not as perfect as it could be.

For the most part, this uneven tapering is not so bad that it affects the drawing process as I did not have a problem doing my review drawing with it, and it should be noted that the pen pressure is perfect in every other situation.
The worst it did was make me undo a few extra times during my shading process which involves using quick long tapers in some places, but it was not a massive problem with regards to the overall drawing experience.

It appears that the tapering issue is an issue with all of XP-Pen’s current tablets which use the newer drivers (Deco 03, Artist 12, Artist 15.6 Pro, etc). This issue did not occur on any of XP-Pen’s older tablets which used the old drivers (Star03 V1, Artist 22HD, etc).
I have notified XP-Pen about this and they told me they will work on fixing it, but there has been no update regarding a fix yet. This is one of the only issues I currently have with XP-Pen’s products, so hopefully they will move to fix it eventually.

With regards to cursor ‘lag’, I did not think it was anything worth noting. The cursor did not seem to lag behind the pen in any significant way. Seeing this much delay is completely expected of a 60Hz monitor. There was no “actual” delay as all my lines properly appear where my pen draws, even if the cursor appears to be trailing slightly behind the pen nib at times.
Perhaps if you are used to the iPad Pro’s 120Hz monitor, it may seem slower, but the cursor speed on the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro is completely fine as far as my experience goes.

In terms of hot spots on the tablet, those would be the two bottom corners or the screen which… you actually can’t call “hot”. It’s just slightly warmer than the rest of the screen, so it certainly shouldn’t be a problem for anyone.
I also used the device for hours on end and can say for sure that the Artist 15.6 Pro will not have any issues with overheating. Overheating is honestly just an issue of the past at this point.

From what I could tell, the pen calibration does not get worse along the edges. It seemed to skew a bit to the right along the top and bottom edges, but it didn’t seem to be misaligned anywhere along the right and left edges. I believe no one should have any problems selecting options and tools along the edges with this tablet.


Conclusion

The XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro is a fantastic tablet which is very close to being an instant recommendation. If XP-Pen can update their driver and improve the pen tapering, I would recommend it to anyone and everyone who’s interested.

Honestly, I can’t believe this is a 400 USD tablet. I thought the Huion Kamvas Pro 13 was already a good deal when it was released for 400 USD, but then XP-Pen came out with this tablet with basically the same features in a larger tablet for the same price. Of course, the pen tilt is rather low quality, but even when leaving out pen tilt, it’s still a good tablet for the price it’s at.

If you’re looking for a good, fairly large drawing monitor for the low price of only 400 USD, this could absolutely be the one for you.


Places to buy the tablet

XP-Pen gave me a promotion code to share, so if you’re interested in this tablet, make sure you use the code to save some money!

10%off promo code:XPPEN156PRO, until Apr. 30th (only until Mar. 25th for Amazon.au), works on Amazon below.

Website store: http://bit.ly/2R9TnJX

People living in other regions should check their regions Amazon or see if the XP-Pen Store ships 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.

10 thoughts on “XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro Review”

  1. Very interesting and thorough review. I’m almost certain that this is the drawing tablet that I will buy now.
    Sadly, the promotion code does not work on amazon.de, but oh well, the price is still quite good.

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  2. Thank you for your comprehensive reviews! I am currently torn between the kamvas 16 pro and this xp pen 15.6 pro. I do have one less typical consideration – I already use an xp pen shortcut remote. I suspect it would be best to get an XP pen tablet to work alongside it, to avoid any sort of driver conflicts. Do you have any thoughts on this?

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    1. Hey there,

      That is a very good question so I went ahead and tested out the XP-Pen AC 19 shortcut remote with my Huion Kamvas Pro 16.
      As far as I could tell, the remote did not conflict whatsoever with the Huion driver and the drawing functionality on the Huion Kamvas Pro 16 appeared to work as it should. The remote also appeared to work as expected.

      As such, I don’t think you need to take into consideration the compatibility aspect of the XP-Pen shortcut remote when deciding between the Huion Kamvas Pro 16 and XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro.

      For reference, I used Huion driver version 14.8.90 (Dec. 20, 2019 version) from huion.com, and the XP-Pen AC 19 remote driver (Jul. 29, 2019 version) from xp-pen.com.
      I first installed my Huion driver and completely connected my Huion Kamvas Pro 16, then I installed the XP-Pen AC 19 remote driver before connecting the shortcut remote to the computer via USB.
      (This is just the way I installed my devices and is just for reference as a method that works. I have no idea whether installing them in a different order affects anything.)

      I think the most important thing to note for using the Huion Kamvas Pro 16 with the XP-Pen AC 19 shortcut remote is that you need to get the XP-Pen driver specifically for the XP-Pen AC 19. If you use the general XP-Pen tablet driver, I’m sure it will conflict with the Huion driver and cause problems.
      If you get the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro, the AC 19 shortcut remote will show up in the XP-Pen tablet driver when the shortcut remote is plugged in so you won’t need to install a separate driver for it.

      -Nikage

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      1. Thank you so much for the quick reply! I have one more question – there appears to have been recenty updates on the drivers for this tablet (Near the end of november) and also for the Huion Kamvas Pro 15.6 (only a few days ago!) If you get the chance, would you be able to see if these address some of the issues you’ve brought up? (The calibration in the lower part of the Kamvas, and the short taper test and pen tilt calibration for this tablet)

        I know this time of the year is quite busy so I hope I’m not asking too much! I’m just trying to narrow down a replacement for my old failing tablet – your website has been so helpful for this and I can’t thank you enough for it!

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      2. Hey again,

        With regards to the driver updates for both Huion and XP-Pen, unfortunately, they don’t appear to address the issues which you mentioned.

        Also, for the Huion Kamvas Pro 16’s calibration issue, it should be noted that it is completely possible that the calibration issue is specific to my tablet as I have not seen any other mentions of it online. Huion was unable to confirm whether it was a defect with my tablet or an issue across all Huion Kamvas Pro 16’s through my exchanges with them though.

        On the other hand, I know that XP-Pen’s issues are not caused by defects in my tablets because the exact same issue occurs across all of my XP-Pen tablets on multiple different computers.

        I hope that helps,
        Nikage

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  3. Hey Nikage, thank you for all these comprehensive reviews. 🙂

    I’ve been drawing on a Samsung Galaxy Tab-A with S-Pen for 2 years now and I’ve been wanting to upgrade because I’m starting feel like it’s holding back my improvement. Once I start the coloring process lag quickly starts to become quite annoying and takes away the joy when drawing.

    The X-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro seems to be what I always gravitate back to after going through multiple reviews and lists. My question now would be, are there any recommendations you could give me please when it comes to choosing a laptop to connect this with (or some specs I should look out for)? I’ve been using Medibang on my Samsung but I’ve been wanting to try out new programs, like the Clip Studio Paint you’re using for example (maybe Krita, Photoshop and/or Corel Paint as well).

    Usually I would just use it on a PC but because I’m going abroad for a bit longer than a year I need a laptop that can easily handle these drawing programs. I don’t want to be stuck with my Samsung for another year but I also don’t want to buy a high-end laptop, considering that I might not use it that extensively anymore after that year is over. 🙂

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    1. Hey there,

      Thanks for checking out my reviews!

      Unfortunately, with regards to choosing specifications for a laptop, I don’t think I can be of much help.
      This is because I have never really tested the effects of lower-end vs higher-end computer specs on art programs so I actually don’t know what specifications are the “minimum” for good art program performance.

      In terms of Clip Studio Paint, I believe I have heard that it is a program which depends mainly on the CPU performance (which has caused many users to complain that CSP should add OpenGL support to make use of their powerful GPU’s). This means that you don’t need a very high spec laptop to run CSP, and even a baseline laptop with just an Intel CPU + Intel Integrated Graphics can run it smoothly as long as the CPU has “decent” clock speeds.
      I can confirm that CSP runs smoothly on laptops with somewhat middling specs because my housemate currently runs it smoothly on a laptop with an Intel i5-8265U (base 1.6GHz – boost 3.9GHz), and I used to use it on my laptop with an Intel i7-3517U (base 1.9GHz – boost 3.0GHz) with Nvidia 620M (a rather low level GPU) before making my current desktop.
      (As a side note, higher amounts of RAM might help if you use lots of layers or keep other programs such as Chrome open in the background. I recommend 8GB as the absolute minimum.)

      However, with regards to other programs such as Photoshop which have GPU support, I have heard that they requires more powerful hardware to run lag-free.
      Unfortunately, I do not know what the baseline specs are with regards to programs like that which need GPUs, so I can’t advise you in that aspect. I suggest that you try Googling what people consider the baseline specs needed to run each program.

      Sorry that I can’t be of much help for this!

      -Nikage

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      1. Sorry for the late reply and thank you for your advice. 🙂

        I’ve looked around and decided on a Lenovo ThinkPad W530-GW3 with an Intel i7-3720QM (4×2.6 GHz) core, a 2GB Nvidia Quadro K1000M and 32GB of Ram (the price difference for 16 and 32 Ram was only like 40€ or something, so better safe than sorry ^^).

        The tablet already arrived, just waiting for the laptop now. Unfortunately there was no HDMI to Mini Display Port adapter in the box even though it said so in the product description. Oh well, I’ve contacted XP-Pen but if i have to buy an adapter like that seperately for like 8€, it would be a minor inconvenience but they could at least update their product description. I mean, you even mentioned in your review that you got the adapter with the tablet. ^^

        Anyway, thx for your help. Looking forward to testing it. 😀

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      2. Hey again,

        That sounds fairly good! And yes, I agree with your decision to go with more RAM since it only costs a slight bit more.

        Oh, that’s odd that they didn’t have the HDMI to mini-DisplayPort adapter included, especially if they had it written in the product description. Here’s to hoping that XP-Pen support admits that it was a mistake on their part and properly sends you one free of charge.

        No problem. I hope all is smooth sailing once you get the laptop and the adapter!

        -Nikage

        Like

  4. Hi. I will probably buy this or HUION tablet for a day or two, and i would like to ask if the quick line issue or short realase tape issue was fixed. Thanks!

    Like

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