The XP-Pen Deco Pro is XP-Pen’s newest Deco series tablet which features a very sleek and unique design with silver accents not typically seen on current screen-less tablets which usually have overall black designs.
The Deco Pro is available in two sizes, small or medium, but these should not be confused with Wacom’s small and medium sizes as XP-Pen’s small and medium sizes are much larger!
It should be noted that it’s not just the appearance which is unique. The XP-Pen Deco Pro also features a new type of dual function wheel, which has a physical wheel on the outside and a touch wheel in the center, as well as a robust aluminum alloy back casing which gives this tablet a much more durable feel compared to many other screen-less tablets which are made mostly from plastic.
As a side note, I do not talk about the Android compatibility feature as I feel I do not have the right tools and experience to judge that feature.
Apparently, this tablet has won two awards, the 2019 Red Dot Design Award and the 2018 Good Design Award, so I had fairly high expectations for this tablet going into this review.
Did it live up to my expectations? Yes, it did. It is well up there with my other favourite tablets and I believe it’s well worth a look for how surprisingly low its price is.
For this review, XP-Pen was kind enough to supply me with the XP-Pen Deco Pro Small. As usual, this review is based on my honest thoughts and opinions about this 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, with that out of the way, onto the review!
-I am not a Mac or Linux user!! I mainly only tested this tablet on Windows 10 version 1803.
-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.
-It is good practice to check multiple reviews to cross reference their information before you make a conclusion about a tablet.
Table of Contents
- How good is this tablet?
- Specifications at a glance
- What’s in the box?
- Tablet drivers
- Drawing tests
- The drawing experience!
- Places to buy the tablet
Design choices: Mostly perfect!
-Nitpicks: Non-rounded edges
Hardware quality: Very robust!
Tablet drivers: Good design!
Drawing test results: Mostly good!
-Nitpicks: Quick tapers are not smooth
Actual drawing experience: Quite good!
Overall: A very good buy at 90 USD (or 130 USD for the medium size).
-I can recommend considering this tablet whether you are a beginner or experienced user. The price is extremely good for a tablet of this caliber, and basically everything is great ranging from the wheel and touchpad to the pen tilt, surface texture, and build quality.
The only con is the pen tapering issue which is common among XP-Pen’s tablets, however, even that does not affect drawing very often and I was able to do my drawings without much issue.
XP-Pen has also told me they are working on fixing it (and that it’s a complicated issue so they’ll need some time), but once that is fixed, this tablet will be an even more fantastic option than it already is.
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! Promo code only works at the sites listed below.
Price: 89.99 USD (Small) (when this review was written)
129.99 USD (Medium) (when this review was written)
Active Area: 9 x 5 inches (Small)
11 x 6 inches (Medium)
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 physical wheel, 1 touch wheel
Other features: Android Compatible with OTG Adapter
The tablet comes in a very simple white box with a picture of the tablet on the front. I like this minimalist approach as this is a tablet which is marketed more towards a “professional” audience.
The things that come in the box:
- XP-Pen Deco Pro Small tablet
- XP-Pen PA1 Battery-free pen
- Pen case
- Tablet cable (USB type-A to USB type-C)
- Pen nib replacements x8
- Anti-fouling glove
- User manual
- Warranty policy and warranty card
- “Thank you” card
The XP-Pen Deco Pro has a rather unique design with bold silver accents around the shortcut button area, light up active area corners, and a blue ring light in the wheel. I won’t deny that this looks quite pleasing to have on your desk.
There is almost no flex when doing a simple twist test by gripping both ends of the tablet and twisting, however, the small amount of flex which you are able to apply is kept by the aluminum alloy back-casing.
I don’t think this is detrimental to the tablet’s durability because the tablet does not flex too much, so you can just twist it back if you find that the tablet is not sitting perfectly flat on your table.
This tablet comes in two sizes, Small or Medium, but please note that these sizes are not the same as Wacom’s.
XP-Pen’s small size is roughly 9×5 inches, while the medium size is roughly 11×6 inches. These are much bigger than Wacom’s small and medium sizes which are only 6×3.7 inches and 8.7×5.8 inches respectively.
In other words, XP-Pen’s small is actually a very respectable medium size.
I was given the choice to review either the small or medium version, and I chose to review the XP-Pen Deco Pro Small because being able to draw comfortably on the smaller size means that the larger size will also be comfortable to draw on.
The same cannot be said for the opposite as a comfortable medium size does not guarantee that it is comfortable drawing on the smaller size.
(I also already have experience drawing on a 11×6 inch tablet with the Huion Q11K, so I already know that size is comfortable.)
The XP-Pen Deco Pro has a pretty rough surface texture, which is expected from XP-Pen as their tablets usually have rough textures, however, unlike the texture on the Deco 03, the texture on the Deco Pro is very resilient to wearing.
Over the few days I drew and tested the Deco Pro, the texture shows absolutely no signs of wearing (the second picture shows the area which I drew on). This is a fantastic improvement from their previous texture which started visibly wearing off right away.
I think with this new texture I can recommend the Deco Pro for those who prefer tablets with rough textures since the texture on the Deco Pro isn’t just going to wear away in a matter of hours.
A special aspect of this tablet is that the back of the tablet is made out of an aluminum alloy. This gives the Deco Pro a fair bit of rigidity despite being quite a thin tablet overall. It also gives the tablet a more premium feel than just plain plastic.
Also on the back, there are the usual information sticker and two long rubber feet. The two long rubber feet design is a good choice compared to the usual four rubber feet in the corners as it also offers support for the center of the tablet while drawing.
The edge of the tablet is a fairly sharp corner design. I personally don’t like this edge design because it digs into my wrists since my table is slightly higher than elbow height.
Of course, this wouldn’t be an issue if I had a proper table or chair which put my elbow right at table height, but let’s not forget that not everyone has a perfect chair/table setup.
Honestly, if the edge was at least slightly more rounded I wouldn’t have any complaints about it.
The shortcut buttons on the XP-Pen Deco Pro are very nice to use. They require a bit more force to press than I personally would like, but they are in no way bad as you get used to it once you start using them.
My only gripe about them is that the top 4 buttons and the bottom 4 buttons are somewhat far apart because of the wheel between them.
One of the most notable features on the XP-Pen Deco Pro is the special double function wheel in the center. It has a physical spin wheel on the outside, and a virtual touch pad in the middle. It’s a very unique design which is actually fairly useful, unlike a lot of other designs which I’ve seen before involving the wheel.
The physical wheel on the outside is self-explanatory as it works just like any other wheel shortcut would, and it spins extremely smoothly. The touch pad on the other hand has 3 modes which it can be set to in the drivers: Mouse, roller, and customized.
-Mouse mode works like a touchpad on a laptop, except it’s limited to one finger touch and two finger up/down for zoom in/out only. Unfortunately, there are no complex functions like two finger twist for rotate, two finger drag for panning, two finger tap for undo, etc.
-Roller mode works like a scroll wheel on a mouse. Sliding your finger up makes it scroll up, and sliding your finger down makes it scroll down.
Edit: Sliding your finger clockwise makes it scroll up, and sliding your finger counterclockwise makes it scroll down.
-Customized mode uses custom functions which you enter into the drivers for up/down, just like how you would set them for the physical wheel.
Edit: Again, clockwise and counterclockwise, not up/down. I was using it with only up/down and it was working, so I mistakenly thought it was a touch slider rather than the touch wheel it was advertised to be.
In my case, I used the wheel by assigning rotate to the physical wheel and zoom in/out to the touchpad in customized mode. This gave me a rather natural way to move the canvas and was also fairly fun to use.
This is one of the rare occasions where I won’t say that I would have preferred more shortcut keys instead of the wheel. This wheel and touchpad combo are actually quite usable and I have nothing against it since it allows to use two functions at once without having to use some inconvenient switch function.
This tablet uses an L-shaped USB type-C cable on the tablet, which then connects to a USB type-A port on your computer. The cable fits very snugly in the port, and the port doesn’t budge at all when trying to wiggle the cable.
The great thing about USB type-C ports on a tablet is that you can easily reverse it for left-handed mode because USB type-C is symmetrical.
The length of the cable itself is roughly ~160cm from tip to tip.
The XP-Pen Deco Pro uses the XP-Pen PA1 battery-free pen which features a semi-hard/semi-soft rubber grip with silver plastic for much of the rest of the pen. It is quite light but doesn’t feel unbalanced.
Holding this pen feels very comfortable and is quite nice. The bulge near the tip provides a good hold for your fingers as well to prevent your fingers from sliding down, although the rubber does a fair job of providing good grip already.
The pen buttons are mostly flush with the surface of the grip, but they stick out enough for you to find them without looking down at your hand. They also click nicely and feel very good to use.
The top of the pen does not having anything.
Due to the rough texture on this tablet, the pen nib will wear away considerably with continued use. The picture above is the pen nib after around 2 days of continuous use.
Unlike other rough textured tablets, having a flat pen nib doesn’t cause much issue on the XP-Pen Deco Pro because the pen nib is held firmly in place and doesn’t rotate easily inside the pen. This means that you won’t have random moments where the pen nib rolls over onto a flat side and disrupts your stroke with a random bump.
All the other tablets which have pen nib wear issues have pen nibs that spin freely (Wacom Intuos, Wacom Intuos Pro, XP-Pen Deco 03, etc), so the XP-Pen Deco Pro is actually the first tablet I’ve run into that doesn’t have an issue drawing with a flat nib.
The nib itself is also quite long and sticks out quite a bit compared to most other tablet pens, so you can actually get quite a bit of usage out of a single nib before it needs to be replaced.
As the icing on the cake, XP-Pen sells pen nibs in packs of 100 for only 10 USD for this pen, so you should have no issues with flat pen nibs since it literally only costs 10 cents per replacement nib. Take that Wacom!
The pen case is a tube which holds the pen safely inside during transportation. Both ends can be unscrewed, with the lid on one end acting as a pen stand, and the other end holding the pen nib replacements and the pen nib remover.
I always appreciate this pen case because it’s such a nice addition to have. The only problem with it is that it will roll away if you put it on its side since it’s so round, so you always have to stand it up.
Two OTG adapters come included in the box for Android usage. One micro-USB and one USB type-C adapter.
I did not try the Android compatibility because I do not think I have the proper hardware (I don’t have a recent Android phone) and experience necessary to judge the Android compatibility feature.
Please look at other reviews for comments on Android functionality.
The XP-Pen tablet drivers 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.
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.
The KL/KR Mode Switch, KL2/KR2 Mode Switch, and Track Pad Mode Switch are for the wheel and touchpad.
-The KL/KR Mode Switch cycles through the functions on the wheel (if you’ve assigned more than one function to it).
-The KL2/KR2 Mode Switch cycles through the functions on the touchpad when the touchpad is set to Customized mode.
-The Track Pad Mode Switch cycles through the Mouse, Roller, and Customized modes on the trackpad.
The Click Sensitivity section allows you to manipulate the pen pressure curve directly. For this pen, the default settings were fine, although it did feel like I needed to press a slight bit too hard for the highest pressures.
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 most of the Wacom alternatives aside from XP-Pen don’t have it either!
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.
To make sure your tablet is set to the same ratio as your screen, you should click the Max Active Area button, then click the Display Ratio button. This should adjust the tablet area to match your screen ratio.
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 wheel, and the Dial2 tab to change the functions assigned to the touchpad.
All the buttons can be assigned mouse clicks, keyboard functions, or the extra functions, just like the pen buttons.
On the wheel, KL corresponds to counterclockwise spin, and KR corresponds to clockwise spin.
On the touchpad, KL also corresponds to counterclockwise swipes, and KR corresponds to clockwise swipes.
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.
The Control tab in the Express Keys Setting allow you to adjust the brightness of the active area lights and the blue wheel light. Unfortunately, it only has 3 settings of 0 (off), 50 (mid-bright), and 100 (bright).
I’m not sure why it’s a slider from 0 to 100 when these are the only 3 options you can pick.
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.
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 Deco 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.
2) Slow Ruler Line Test – Grade: Pass-ish
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 probably won’t be noticeable in most cases. It may be a problem if you intend to use tilt functionality at the max angle a lot, but if you don’t intend to use tilt, it will not be a problem at all.
This tablet gets a pass-ish here.
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.
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 Deco 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).
I have notified XP-Pen about this and they told me they will work on fixing it, but as it is a complex issue, they are still working on it. This is one of the only issues I currently have with XP-Pen’s products, so hopefully they will be able to fix it soon.
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 Deco 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. At first, I noticed it when tapping options, but it was low enough that I got used to it after the first few minutes of using the tablet.
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 Deco Pro has decently low IAF and is able to draw acceptably thin lines consistently. This tablet gets a pass here.
7) Pen Tilt Test – Pass
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 Deco Pro are fairly smooth. You can see some steps in the gradient, but they are not massive steps which don’t properly transition into the next shade.
This is a much better result than the pen tilt on the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro which had extremely clear jumps between pen tilt levels.
This tablet will get a pass here.
So all in all, the drawing test results are:
1) Scribble Test – Pass
2) Slow Ruler Line Test – Pass-ish
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
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 actual drawing experience on the XP-Pen Deco Pro was very enjoyable despite the “Fail” mark in the Short Release Taper Test in the Drawing tests section. The pen pressure worked well and came out as expected for the majority of my time using the tablet, and only sometimes would I have to undo a line or two due to the pen tapering issue.
Drawing on this tablet was quite enjoyable thanks to the nice texture and mostly great pen pressure. It was also a relief seeing that the texture wasn’t wearing out whatsoever even after my time drawing on it, so I have no worries about this nice texture wearing away quickly (at least for a while) which is a plus.
It was also quite fun using the wheel and touchpad because they didn’t require me to press a separate button to change between zoom in/out and rotate. Although I mainly use a keyboard alongside my screen-less tablets, I was able to draw normally using just the shortcut keys on this tablet without any real disadvantages compared to using my keyboard.
For the most part, the uneven tapering is not even so bad that it affects the drawing process. This is shown by the fact that I was able to do my review drawing without much issue, and the pen pressure was perfect in every situation aside from when I required quick tapers.
The worst the pen tapering did was make me undo a few extra times during my shading process when it involved using quick long tapers, but it was not a massive problem with regards to my overall drawing experience using this tablet.
Once XP-Pen is able to fix the pen tapering, I will have basically no issues with this tablet.
In conclusion, the XP-Pen Deco Pro is a fantastic tablet that is very close to being an instant recommendation from me. If XP-Pen fixes the pen tapering issue, this tablet is almost a no-brainer pick for anyone and everyone who’s interested.
Even as it is right now, it’s a very good pick, only losing out to the Huion H1060P as my current favourite.
Quite honestly, I’m surprised that it only costs 90 USD for a tablet with an aluminum alloy build, good pen tilt, decently good pen pressure, and a cool and useful wheel and touchpad. It’s also only 130 USD for the medium size.
It’s a rather stellar price, especially when you consider how similar its features are to the 350 USD Wacom Intuos Pro’s features.
Small or medium, take your pick. If you’re looking for a good tablet for beginners and experienced users alike, this could absolutely be the one for you.
If there are any updates regarding the pen tapering, they will be noted at the very top of the review.
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! Promo code only works at the sites listed below.
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!