Ask any retoucher what one merchandise they couldn’t dwell with out, and they’re going to in all probability level to their photograph modifying pill. Swapping your mouse for a pen pill could make an enormous distinction on your workflow, however is it actually price spending $380 on the Wacom Intuos Pro that everybody appears to be utilizing? Are there any reasonably priced options? I’m glad you requested!
A number of months in the past, I lastly broke down and determined to purchase a pen pill for photograph modifying and perhaps just a little little bit of dabbling in digital artwork. The simple resolution would have been to purchase an Intuos Professional Medium and be carried out with it: that’s what everybody else is doing, proper? However I’m a great tech nerd, and so I made a decision to perform a little research as a substitute.
Look into it, and also you’ll discover three huge names that kind of dominate this trade. They’re not the one ones, however in case you’re searching for a pen pill or a pen show, you’ll begin seeing three manufacturers extra typically than any others: Wacom, XP-Pen, and Huion.
Wacom is the incumbent, so well-known and well-respected that the identify “Wacom” is at risk of going the way in which of Kleenex and Jacuzzi—model names that grew to become synonymous with the merchandise itself. As such, you would possibly suppose that Wacom is much and away the best choice, outperforming every part else on the market 10 to 1.
However that’s not really true. In truth, it’s extra like evaluating a high-end lighting model like Profoto to, say, somebody like Godox—there are many the reason why you must pay shut consideration to Wacom’s competitors.
Meet the Contestants
For this comparability, I selected the Wacom Intuos Professional Medium–a photograph modifying staple–and two of its main opponents with related core options: the XP-Pen Deco Pro Medium, and the Huion Inspiroy H1161.
XP-Pen and Huion each provide a variety of choices with an equally wide selection of options, so it’s laborious to seek out the “good” pill to match to Wacom’s well-established Intuos Professional, however these three selections gave me a great vary of worth factors with out buying and selling any core options. All of those tablets characteristic:
- A battery-free pen with 8,192 ranges of stress sensitivity
- Related sized working floor
- Eight or extra customization specific keys
- Mac and Home windows compatibility
Full Disclosure: Wacom and XP-Pen each supplied us with overview items, figuring out that they might be used for this comparability. Neither had/has any enter on the overview that follows, however we admire their cooperation. Huion was unwilling to work with us, so I bought the H1162 myself off of Amazon, which isn’t an affiliate companion.
Wacom Intuos Professional Medium
From the second you unbox the Wacom, that you just’re coping with a high-end product. It’s heavier and extra inflexible than the opposite choices, and even the packaging feels extra “premium.”
The pill comes with a USB-A cable, Wacom’s Professional Pen 2, and a pen holder with a variety of substitute nibs relying on what sort of pen really feel you like. It does not embrace a USB-C adapter within the field–each the Huion and the XP-Pen tablets do–however the pill does characteristic each multi-touch gestures (permitting you to make use of it as an enormous touchpad) and Bluetooth connectivity if you wish to go wi-fi.
Setup is very simple. I set all of those merchandise up on each PC and Mac, and the Wacom was the quickest and best to arrange and register on each platforms. It’s clearly a elegant product, and you may go from unboxing, to customizing your specific keys, to modifying a photograph in 5 minutes flat, no drawback. On Mac, you even get a devoted System Preferences merchandise on your Wacom pill settings.
The modifying expertise is seamless, with a couple of nice-to-haves thrown in. Relaxation your fingers on any of the specific keys and on overlay pops up on display screen to point out you your presets; similar goes for the button in the midst of the contact wheel, which toggles between as much as 4 totally different features. The pen really feel is nice, there’s a very nice texture on the pill for just a little drawing resistance, and the pen holder is so strong and heavy you can use it as a weapon if somebody tries to interrupt into your house.
Sadly, the working space itself (8.82 x 5.83 inches) is the smallest of the three tablets I examined, but when I’m being sincere, I by no means discovered myself wishing for more room.
One ultimate notice: each the Huion and the XP-Pen characteristic Android compatibility whereas the Wacom doesn’t. I can’t determine if this can be a characteristic or a gimmick, and I don’t have an Android cellphone to check the usability, but it surely’s price mentioning.
XP Pen Deco Professional Medium
The XP-Pen Deco Pro is the “mid-range” possibility of the bunch, with a price ticket of $130 for the Medium model that options a big 11 x 6-inch working space, a outstanding scroll wheel, a secondary contact wheel, and eight specific keys. Construct high quality is strong, with an aluminum base and probably the most distinctive design of the bunch: huge wheel within the center with comparatively massive specific keys bunched collectively above and under, making them simple to differentiate by contact when you’re watching your display screen.
Within the field, you get the pill, the pen in a handy tube-shaped carrying case that doubles as a holder, further pen nibs, a USB-A cable with adapters for each USB-C and Micro-USB, and your guarantee and quick-start guides.
Setup was just a little cumbersome for the XP-Pen, however nonetheless comparatively fast: you simply go to the web site on the supplied card, obtain the suitable driver and, in case you’re on a Mac, you spend the following 10 minutes giving the pill software program permission to entry your settings about 100 occasions (thanks Apple). The setup is a bit simpler on Home windows, however both manner, what you find yourself with is a bit of bespoke software program referred to as PenTablet the place you’ll discover all your customization options.
The software program offers you management of the pen stress curve, pen and pill settings, and the flexibility to assign varied features to the specific keys, the contact ring, and the bodily ring. A notice: go together with the most recent model of the driving force, though it’s marked “beta.” It gives a much better expertise than their outdated software program.
As soon as I received it dialed in, the modifying expertise with the XP-Pen was in all probability my favourite of the three. I’m not a fan of the contact wheel expertise, however the mechanical scroll wheel is IMO one of the simplest ways to vary brush measurement or zoom out and in in Photoshop, and neither Huion nor Wacom provide a mechanical wheel. The location of the specific keys across the wheel additionally allowed me to simply entry the entire buttons and wheel with out actually having to maneuver my hand a lot, so when you get used to it you may actually fly.
Each the contact wheel and the mechanical wheel have 4 customizable settings, which you’ll be able to toggle utilizing one among your specific keys. And in case you’re not a fan of the contact wheel it may be set to “mouse mode,” turning it right into a miniature touchpad for mouse management. I didn’t discover this notably for me, but it surely’s a pleasant choice to have.
Lastly, the floor of the pill was similar to the Wacom, with a great texture that provides a little bit of resistance when photograph modifying or drawing, and numerous room to work. In truth, the Medium might need been overkill, for the reason that Deco Professional Small, at 9×5-inches, nonetheless competes with the Intuos Professional Medium and prices solely $110
There’s no wi-fi or multi-touch perform, which is a bummer, and also you don’t get the handy management overlay that Wacom gives, however you can set the pill to show every motion as you utilize it. That manner what the wheel is ready to, and might ensure that your buttons are all configured accurately. Plus, you get Android compatibility.
In fact, I anticipated each the XP-Pen and Huion tablets to let me down within the construct high quality or customization division with a purpose to justify their lower cost tags, however the XP-Pen Deco Professional left me pleasantly stunned by its heft, design, and the general modifying expertise.
Huion Inspiroy H1161
As probably the most reasonably priced possibility of the three, the $90 Huion Inspiroy H1161 is the “finances” pill of the trio, but it surely doesn’t skimp on the options that actually matter, particularly: a big working space, customizable specific keys, and pen high quality.
Within the field, you get the pill, the pen, a considerably dinky and far-too-small pen stand with further pen nibs inside, a USB-A cable, adapters for each USB-C and Micro-USB, and all of the quick-start and driver obtain guides. Customary stuff.
The setup course of for the Huion was just like the XP-Pen, though I did desire the “HuionTablet” app to XP-Pen’s PenTablet software program. It makes use of a really visible UI, making it simple to customise your row of Eight specific keys, the up-and-down buttons which might be set to brush measurement by default, and a “contact strip” that you just use by sliding a finger up or down over the indicated floor to regulate a selected preset. You can too change and take a look at the pen stress curve, as anticipated.
With a purpose to get the value all the way down to $90, Huion largely minimize a single nook: construct high quality. That is the lightest of the three, and simply feels probably the most fragile and breakable. It’s plastic, plain and easy. It additionally contains a quite simple design: a rectangle of plastic with a single row of specific keys and the aforementioned contact strip–no “fancy” touches or design queues, no a number of wheels, and no choice to set particular shortcuts for various apps like Photoshop and Lightroom.
Nevertheless, when you get previous the fundamental design and finances construct, you’ll discover some intriguing options that make the Huion a really versatile possibility.
For one, the H1161 has the biggest working space of the bunch at 11 x 6.Eight inches, but it’s packed into a comparatively small footprint. That’s nice for journey. One other attention-grabbing design selection is the usage of the “contact strip” as a substitute of a bodily or digital dial. It is a totally different method to altering brush measurement, opacity, or zooming out and in, and also you’ll both like it or hate it. I had it set to zoom, and after utilizing it for some time I discovered that I really desire it to a contact wheel, even when it’s tougher to seek out with out trying.
Lastly, the Inspiroy options 12 “Delicate Key” specific keys throughout the highest of the pill, principally supplying you with a second row of perform keys. They’re not as good as bodily buttons, and it’s principally not possible to make use of them with out trying, however they provide you much more customization than you’ll discover in both of the opposite tablets. I set mine to generally used features like New Layer, Picture Resize, Fill, Stroke, Canvas Resize, Export As, and so on.
My impressions from really utilizing the Huion have been combined. Setup was a breeze, and there’s no denying the variety of options included for the value, however the pen feels gentle and low-cost and the pill’s floor was my least favourite. It’s principally only a sheet of easy plastic, with no texture on the floor in any way. I additionally personally desire a mechanical dial to Huion’s “Contact Strip” method, though your mileage could range.
The largest pitfall, nonetheless, is the construct high quality. It simply feels … low-cost. Granted, you should purchase 4 of them for worth of 1 Wacom pill, however I fear about throwing this pill right into a backpack or actually taking it wherever that isn’t my house desk setup.
Just like the XP-Pen pill, you don’t get bluetooth connectivity or multi-touch management with the Huion H1161—and I wouldn’t anticipate it at this worth—however you may hook it as much as an Android gadget and use a small part of the working space to attract or edit in your cellphone.
One of the best ways to sum up the choices obtainable on the planet of pen tablets is to match it to the world of studio strobes: consider Wacom as Profoto, XP-Pen as Godox, and Huion as Yongnuo. In truth, the place these three tablets are involved, the comparability is sort of too acceptable.
A very powerful takeaway is that all three choices will get the job carried out. There was a time when the “options” the place extra like “knock-offs” that lacked necessary options and got here with enormous trade-offs like battery-powered pens, inconsistent pen efficiency, and god-awful software program. None of that is the case anymore. There’s a noticeable distinction in construct high quality from the costliest (Wacom/Profoto) to probably the most reasonably priced (Huion/Yonguo), however each carry out their important perform very effectively.
Does that imply you must by no means go together with the costliest possibility? After all not. Simply acknowledge that you just’ll pay a premium for the model identify, the information that your product can be appropriate and simple to arrange on any system instantly, and some nice-to-have options like multi-touch gestures and wi-fi connectivity.
My suggestion (with pen tablets and flashes alike) is to intention for mid-range and above. Since a well-built pen pill can simply final you 5 to 10 years, you would possibly wish to go together with the Wacom merely for the peace of thoughts. You’re utilizing what “all the professionals use,” you’re getting unmatched construct high quality, and ease-of-use is a given. However in case you think about your self a savvy shopper, know that you may get 90% of the way in which there with the Deco Professional for 1/three the value… or 80% of the way in which there for even much less with the Huion.
As a bonus, you’ll be like the one that takes out a very nice ASUS laptop computer within the espresso store filled with MacBooks.
Picture credit: Product photographs by DL Cade/PetaPixel, edited in Lightroom and Photoshop utilizing the tablets pictured.