The XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro is a superb budget alternative to pricier high-spec pen displays, trimming some of the features and robustness of rival models – such as mounting holes and build quality – in favor of portability, value and versatility. It’s a good trade-off, making this a great option for confident newbies or artists wanting to step up from a cheaper, smaller graphics tablet.
Light, slim and portable
Great value for money
8 programmable keys and a dial
Poor quality stand
No mounting holes
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XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro: One-minute review
XPPen has been making a name for itself in recent years, taking on industry giant Wacom to establish itself as a more budget-friendly alternative that still delivers for performance.
With the Artist 15.6 Pro, XPPen appears to be targeting professionals, although it falls somewhat short in its delivery. The Artist 15.6 Pro – for its price, in particular – is a fantastic option that earns its place as one of the best drawing tablets. It’s great for artists wanting to upgrade from their cheaper, smaller graphics tablets. However, it might not quite make the grade for the pros – when it comes to features, there are a few too many limitations that could slow down a professional using digital art software.
Like many drawing tablets, the XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro needs to be connected to a computer to work, acting as a peripheral device just like your mouse or keyboard. The required drivers are easy to download and use, granting you the ability to configure your shortcuts and calibrate the tablet.
It’s a lightweight model that’s designed to be easily carried for artists on-the-move, and while this somewhat comes at the expense of a robust, sturdy-feeling finish, the XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro is still well made and most will be more than happy with it. With its fully laminated HD 1920 x 1080p screen, you get a great color gamut of 88% NTSC and 120% sRGB; but we found accuracy wasn’t quite where we wanted it to be.
The stylus is fantastic, with 8,192 pressure levels and good tilt sensitivity, and while it isn’t quite as intuitive as other styluses on the market, it was comfortable to hold and use over long periods of time.
If you’re just using the Artist 15.6 Pro for personal use, you might not even notice some of the minor issues with the tablet. However, if you’re looking to use it when working towards a deadline, there are some drawbacks. At times, there are issues with the stylus, from line jitter and lag to the pressure sensitivity being unresponsive. As such, it doesn’t offer the same fluidity as pen-to-paper and can be a little disruptive overall.
Some of the corners cut to bring the price down might hinder more serious artists, too. The lack of a VESA mounting hole is pretty limiting in terms of incorporating the Artist 15.6 Pro into a workspace, and the provided stand is flimsy and feels cheap. In addition, it’s at an angle awkward enough to give you a crick in your neck over longer drawing sessions.
All in all, we were impressed by the XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro, and it certainly is the closest we’ve seen to some real competition for Wacom. However, it falls just shy of professional-grade performance, lacking some of the productivity-improving features that make all the difference to your creative flow. Regardless, XPPen has set a high bar for itself – and for its price, it’s hitting all of the right marks.
XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro: Price and availability
- List price: $369.99 / £399.99 / AU$599.99
The XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro is available for a pleasingly low $369.99 / £399.99 / AU$599.99, making it one of the best-value drawing tablets available. For comparison, the Wacom Cintiq 16 retails at $650 / £530 / AU$999, and while it definitely takes the lead in some respects, the Artist 15.6 Pro holds its own for nearly half the price in some regions.
In addition to the stylus and cables, the XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro arrives with a selection of accessories. These include a drawing glove to prevent screen smudges, and a case for the stylus that doubles as a pen stand and has storage space pre-loaded with 8 extra nibs. There’s the plastic tablet stand, too, a cleaning cloth and a spare screen cover. This is in stark contrast to the Wacom Cintiq, which doesn’t come with anything beyond the essentials.
The XPPen Artist Pro range is also available in a variety of other sizes, the petite-yet-powerful 12-inch screen all the way to a whopping 24-inch canvas.
- Value: 5 / 5
XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro: Design
- 8 shortcuts and one dial
- Screen is laminated, but not etched
- Super lightweight
Clad in black with the singular red accent of its scroller wheel, the Artist 15.6 Pro is a simple and sweet pen display with minimal flair. Measuring 443 x 280 x 12.6mm (w x h x d), it has an active drawing area of 355 x 193.5mm, and weighs just 10lbs / 4.56kg.
The fully laminated screen itself is of a fantastic pedigree. It has a high-definition 1920 x 1080p resolution covering an impressive 120% of the sRGB color gamut, which is approximately 88% NTSC. We did notice that color accuracy was a little off, but this can easily be resolved with a color calibrator.
The tablet suffers little to no color shifting when viewing the screen from different angles, which makes it fantastic for collaborative environments. However, there is a degree of parallax, which will bother more experienced digital artists; but it’s minimal and likely fine for everyone else.
The screen isn’t etched or treated in any way, so drawing with the Artist 15.6 Pro is more akin to drawing on a monitor than it is with pen on paper. For some artists, this won’t be an issue, but it can feel unnatural at first. The protective film supplied for the screen claims to be anti-glare and scratch-proof, and while we can agree with the former, the scratch on our screen appears to challenge the latter.
Along the left of the screen are eight tactile shortcut buttons, four each side of the Artist 15.6 Pro’s red dial. These are all programmable using the XPPen driver, and there’s enough here that you shouldn’t even need to touch your mouse and keyboard while drawing, which is fantastic. On the right of the device sits the USB-C power port, brightness controls and the power button. On the underside you’ll find rubber grips, for anti-slip coverage if you’re using the tablet directly on a table.
As mentioned, the Artist 15.6 Pro comes with a stand, but it isn’t up to much. It can’t be attached to the screen, relying on its rubber grips to hold it in place; this isn’t great when you consider how flimsy the stand is. In fact, through testing the stand gave way beneath us a number of times, plus it wobbles a little if you’re drawing at the edge of your canvas. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if the Artist 15.6 Pro had mounting holes for VESA mounts or stands, which would widen your options significantly.
- Design: 4 / 5
XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro: Performance
- Shortcuts improve workflow
- Doesn’t give realistic drawing experience
On test, the XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro was enjoyable and easy to use, with a few minor caveats. It’s incredibly easy to set up – simply download the drivers and you’re set. It’s compatible with Windows 10/8/7, macOS X version 10.10 or later, using HDMI or USB connectivity.
Dimensions: 443 x 280 x 12.6mm
Active drawing area: 355 x 193.5mm
Thickness: 11mm (thinnest)
Display resolution: HD, 1920 x 1080p
Resolution: 5080 LPI
Color Gamut: 88% NTSC, 120% sRGB
Pressure levels: 8192 levels
Compatibility: Windows 10/8/7, MacOS X version 10.10 or later
Left-handed mode: No
Since the Artist 15.6 Pro comes with its own (slightly unwieldy) octopus cable, it’s very much a plug-and-play setup; it doesn’t need an AC adapter. However, this does mean you’ll have a slightly tougher time replacing the wire if it’s damaged.
We tested the tablet primarily with Adobe Creative Cloud programs, but also played with free drawing software. We were very happy with the Artist 15.6 Pro’s performance when working our way through our latest project.
Its shortcuts felt natural and easy to use, and the tactile button accents were excellent for helping you find your way. In addition, the roller wheel makes a huge difference, especially next to the trackpads seen accompanying many rival devices; it’s a fantastic addition to help navigate your work.
In terms of the drawing experience, this is a fairly middle-of-the-road pen display. On the one hand, it’s pretty responsive. The screen is bright and vibrant, and the brightness controls are easily accessible, plus with the anti-glare film cover, eye strain is kept to a minimum.
On the flip-side, the screen doesn’t really evoke the feel of paper or canvas, and the slight parallax makes it tricky to do precision work. The full lamination does help here, and you will get used to it over time, but it’s worth noting. We also found that in the event we were running multiple graphic design programs – which you often will be when working – a degree of input lag was evident.
- Performance: 4 / 5
XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro: Stylus
- 8,192 pressure sensitivity levels
- Comes with pen holder and spare nibs
- Sometimes needs more force
The XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro comes with a battery-free stylus, which is black with red accents. It has a textured grip encasing the lower half of the pen and two shortcut buttons sit just above the tip. As a dyspraxic user who holds a pen weirdly, accidental hits of these shortcut buttons were frequent; but the stylus holds well, is balanced and well-weighted, and offers good grip, causing little-to-no hand fatigue.
The stylus offers 8,192 pressure levels and 60 degrees of tilt function, which is rare to find in a budget model and a welcome addition. However, we did notice that, on occasion, the tilt function created further parallax, offsetting the mouse and slightly hindering the creative flow.
Overall, this is an incredible pen for the price – easily the best in this range – but you shouldn’t expect it to be as sensitive as a Wacom stylus. The pressure sensitivity requires more force, meaning it isn’t quite as natural in use, even having tweaked the driver settings.
There are occasional issues with line jitter and lag, which meant that some smooth strokes had to be repeated often – and without a rubber end on the stylus, this was a little draining. Once again, though, these concerns are likely to be more problematic for professionals working to a deadline; casual artists or less-experienced users might not even notice these slight issues.
The included black pen holder is a great addition, if a little bulky, even though it doesn’t attach to the tablet for more convenient portability. The lid can be used as a pen stand, and at the end of the case you’ll find a compartment in which you can store spare nibs, which is excellent if you don’t want to be caught unawares.
- Stylus: 4 / 5
Should I buy the XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro?
Buy it if...
You want to step up from a smaller pen display or a pen tablet
The Artist 15.6 Pro is an excellent choice for less-experienced artists looking to upgrade from a smaller, cheaper pen display, or a screen-less pen tablet. It’s super-affordable and performs well enough to see you through the next stage of your artistic journey.
You like drawing on screens
Granted, all drawing tablets are in fact screens, but this one is particularly screen-like; it lacks etching or treatment to make the screen coating feel less digital. This is unlikely to be a deal-breaker for most, and is an understandable concession at this price point, but it can be disruptive if you prefer the resistance offered by paper or canvas.
You’re on a budget
It goes without saying, but the XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro is a super-affordable device. It easily takes the prize as our top pick for affordable pen displays, and you won’t get performance at this level from any other budget model right now.
Don't buy it if...
You want a natural drawing experience
The drawing experience on the XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro will be a little awkward for artists who prefer a more organic, natural feel while working. The lack of screen texture and fickle stylus will be fine for those just wanting to put stylus to screen – but not so much for those looking for the feel of pen on paper.
You value robust design and build
The XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro by no means feels cheap, but it does feel very plasticky. The tablet itself is passable, and feels sufficiently robust to use without kid gloves, but the stand is frustratingly feeble – and, without holes for VESA mounts and stands, you’re stuck with it until you find a stand that fits.
You’re a professional artist
There are one too many drawbacks in terms of the design, performance and stylus here to consider this device suitable for professional use. If you’re used to speeding through your work, free of hardware and software niggles, you’ll be better off with a high-spec, all-rounder such as the Cintiq.
XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro: Report card
|Value||There’s no doubt, the XPPen Artist 15.6 is easily the best pen display around at its price, and comes with a decent array of accessories that complete the package.||5 / 5|
|Design||If you can set aside its cheap finish and flimsy stand, the Artist 15.6 Pro is well designed and features enough in the spec department to see most artists through.||4 / 5|
|Performance||Overall, the XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro performs well, is easy to set up and use; but it can slow you down a tad with its slight input lag and unnatural drawing feel.||4 / 5|
|Stylus||At this price, the XPPen stylus is the king of its castle, especially since it features tilt support. A few minor concessions have been made in terms of control, but nothing that will hinder the average user. The included pen holder is a nice touch, too.||4 / 5|
- First reviewed November 2022
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Josephine Watson (@JosieWatson) is TechRadar's Managing Editor - Lifestyle. Josephine has previously written on a variety of topics, from pop culture to gaming and even the energy industry, joining TechRadar to support general site management. She is a smart home nerd, as well as an advocate for internet safety and education, and has also made a point of using her position to fight for progression in the treatment of diversity and inclusion, mental health, and neurodiversity in corporate settings. Generally, you'll find her watching Disney movies, playing on her Switch, or showing people pictures of her cats, Mr. Smith and Heady.