The XPPen Deco Pro is a fantastic starter tablet or a worthy low-budget upgrade for those who have been making do with older models. Still, the award-winning design and impressive specs might feel limiting and cheap for anyone accustomed to more professional-grade drawing tablets.
Very cheap for its high specs
Shortcuts and dial are convenient
Build might not have longevity
Software feels outdated
Dial can be easily nudged
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XPPen Deco Pro: One-minute review
Wacom once held the drawing tablets market in a vice-like grip, but XPPen is now leveling out the playing field with its more budget-friendly high-spec drawing tablets. Producing a wide range of products, XPPen is filling a much-needed gap in the market, making digital art that much more accessible to the masses and crafting some of the best drawing tablets in the process.
The XPPen Deco Pro is a pen tablet, meaning you use your monitor to see your artwork and the tablet to draw it. It’s a steep learning curve if you’re not used to working with digital art software or have historically used pen displays, but it’s great if you want something a little more affordable that doesn’t strain your neck as much.
This particular pen tablet offers a lot at its price point, especially for artists looking to upgrade from older pen tablets like the Wacom Bamboo, or for new artists taking their first tentative step into the world of drawing tabs. With its award-winning design featuring eight shortcuts and an innovative dial with a touchpad, the Deco Pro is small, simple, and sweet.
Yet alas, the XPPen Deco Pro suffers a similar fate to XPPen’s Artist Pro line of pen displays - Pro might be in the name, but it’s not in the game. While it will generally work just fine for visual storytellers, some of the biggest failings of the Deco Pro are vital for more professional artists. There are a few driver issues, the shortcuts on both the stylus and the tablet can be a little fiddly, and some customers on Amazon have highlighted build issues with the drawing surface and controls that creep in over time.
If we were to make a comparison, the best model to look at would be the Wacom Intuos, which is the choice of many professional artists who use pen tablets. It’s an incredibly cheap option by contrast, but naturally, you make some concessions with the Deco Pro.
XPPen Deco Pro: Price and availability
- List price: $99.99 / £99.99 / AU$139.99 (S) or $129.99 / £129.99 / AU$169.99 (M)
- List price for wireless: $129.99 / £129.99 / AU$169.99 (S) or $159.99 / £159.99 / AU$189.99 (M)
The XPPen Deco Pro is available in small and medium sizes, retailing for $99.99 / £99.99 / AU$139.99 and $129.99 / £129.99 / AU$169.99 respectively. You can also upgrade to the wireless version for $129.99 / £129.99 / AU$169.99 (small) and $159.99 / £159.99 / AU$189.99 (medium). This is a fantastically low retail price for such promising specs, making this pen tablet one of the best value-for-money drawing tablets available today.
For our review, we tested the XPPen Deco Pro MW (medium size and wireless), which came with a stylus and pen case, an artist's glove, an adapter and wires.
One particular aspect to consider if you’re thinking about picking up the XPPen Deco Pro is that it’s only around $100 / £100 / AU$150 more expensive to instead opt for the comparably sized XPPen Artist Pro 12 (2nd gen), which is a pen display and therefore has a built-in display. Overall, and especially if you’re not used to pen tablets, this offers better performance and experience - we recently reviewed the first-gen XPPen Artist Pro 15.6 if you need convincing.
If you compare the XPPen Deco Pro MW in price to its biggest competition, the Wacom Intuos Pro Medium, which sells for $379.99 / £329.99 / AU$599.01 and is also wireless, it becomes glaringly obvious just how budget-friendly the XPPen Deco Pro is - it’s nearly half the price.
- Value: 5 / 5
XPPen Deco Pro: Design
- Eight shortcut buttons and a trackpad dial
- Textured black drawing surface with aluminum casing
- Lightweight and portable
Dimensions: 399.7 x 227 x 16.5mm (M) / 350.8 x 199.5 x 16.5mm (S)
Active drawing area: 279 x 152.4mm (M) / 228.6 x 127mm (S)
Thickness: 7mm (thinnest)
Weight: 808g (M) / 630g (S)
Pressure levels: 8,192 pressure levels
Tilt: +/- 60 degrees
Compatibility: Windows 7 or later, Mac OS 10.10 or later, Android 6.0 or later
Left-handed mode: Yes
Charging time: 2 hours
Battery life: 11+ hours
Stylish in aluminum silver and black, the Deco Pro is lightweight and understated in design, winning XPPen two international design awards - the 2019 Red Dot Design award and 2018 Good Design award. At release, many of its design elements were fairly revolutionary – in particular its trackpad dial – and while we’re now seeing a much more diverse, feature-first approach from the wider drawing tablet market, we have to credit XPPen for its forward-thinking design.
The tablet itself is 399.7 x 227 x 16.5mm in medium size and 350.8 x 199.5 x 16.5mm in small, and both are 7mm at their slimmest, and 16.5mm at thickest. On its underside are two rubber grips to keep it from sliding across the table, but there’s no stand included for drawing at an angle.
The finish feels neither premium nor overly tacky and cheap, but it definitely leans towards cheap, especially when compared to Wacom devices. However, it still feels robust enough to see you through a good few years of service. Amazon buyers have noted issues with its construction, especially with the active drawing area, but in our time using the tablet regularly we couldn’t corroborate those complaints.
The 279 x 152.4mm (M) / 228.6 x 127mm (S) drawing surface is lightly textured and black with white L-piece markers which illuminate to highlight where the active drawing area begins. At first, we were quite surprised - and a little put off - by the large non-active border around the drawing space; however, after spending some time with the Deco Pro, it’s evident this was a calculated move to make the device more comfortable, granting space for wrist and hand support.
The texture of the active drawing area is slightly grainy with a decent paper feel, making for a pleasant enough drawing experience. There’s very little resistance from the surface, so if you want something true-to-life, this won’t be the pen tablet for you.
The eight tactile shortcut buttons and trackpad dial are black, nested in an aluminum panel to the side of the drawing surface. Around the dial is a thin indicator light that indicates when the device is charging or the battery is low. This rubbery dial is the standout design feature of the Deco Pro, and has a huge range of motion to be enjoyed - it can be rotated as a dial, used as a trackpad and pressed with a click. Next to the trackpad on the side of the device is the USB-C input.
The stylus and pen holder are visually similar in design - black with silver accents - and the pen holder also houses a compartment in which you can find eight replacement nibs and the wireless USB adapter.
- Design: 4.5 / 5
XPPen Deco Pro: Performance
- Plug-and-play setup
- Customization options speed up workflows
- Drivers have improved, but still need work
Setting up the XPPen Deco Pro is nice and easy - simply plug it in, make sure you’ve downloaded the correct driver from the XPPen website (and uninstalled any drivers for other drawing tablets) and you’re all set!
We tested the XPPen Deco Pro on PC and Mac to compare and found it worked really well on Windows right off the bat. Annoyingly, if you’re using a MacBook, the XPPen Deco Pro will override your trackpad with its own vastly inferior one, so if you’re used to easily navigating between windows, this might cause some problems.
Overall, the drivers seem fine, but you’ll need to restart them a few times in the beginning. This software is very limited, and while it’s been significantly improved upon since the device launched in 2018, it can’t compete with what more premium manufacturers like Wacom offer. This can interfere with the performance and drawing experience somewhat, and this is where professionals may struggle with this budget-friendly tablet - any friction to time-sensitive workflows can be majorly offputting.
In terms of the drawing experience, the XPPen Deco Pro is pretty intuitive, and generally makes light work of complex workflows thanks to its shortcut keys and trackpad dial - however, the dial is quite easy to nudge, and the buttons are a little stiff. Still, there’s plenty of space for customization, and confident pen tablet users will find it intuitive to use.
Its textured surface offers a pretty pleasant drawing experience, and in terms of technical specs, the Deco Pro offers much of what most artists expect for its price range. In its wireless mode, we didn’t notice any additional latency.
As far as battery life goes, the tablet offers an impressive 11+ hours of juice before it needs recharging, which is more than enough to cover a day’s work on the move. It took about two hours to recharge.
- Performance: 4 / 5
XPPen Deco Pro: Stylus
- 8,192 pressure sensitivity levels
- Comes with pen holder and spare nibs
- Sometimes needs more force
The XPPen Deco Pro stylus is battery-free with 8,192 pressure sensitivity levels and tilt sensitivity of +/- 60 degrees, making it among the most technically capable in the market - a real boon that helps to elevate this cheaper tablet to new heights.
Ergonomically and stylishly designed, the stylus is black with silver accents, with a good grip to it. It’s lightweight, and while the nib can feel a little scratchy at times, by and large, the construction is robust and well-balanced.
As with other XPPen models, we were a little annoyed by the two shortcut buttons placed on the side of the pen. They’re very easy to accidentally nudge while in use - especially annoying when one of these buttons is key-bound as the eraser. It would be great to see future XPPen stylus move to the top-mounted eraser we’ve seen from other manufacturers.
As mentioned earlier, the stylus comes with a pen case, which houses a compartment for eight spare nibs and its USB adapter. The pen lid can be used as a stand, too.
We did notice during our testing that while the pressure sensitivity is fine overall, the more force than you’d expect might be required at the upper and lower ends of the spectrum. For very soft strokes, this is understandable - there’s only so much the tablet can pick up at this price point; but you really have to push down with the stylus to register the higher levels of pressure, which is a bit nerve-wracking when the stylus is so scratchy.
We didn’t notice any significant lag or jitter, even with the tablet in wireless mode, and the accuracy felt great.
- Stylus: 4 / 5
Should I buy the XPPen Deco Pro?
Buy it if...
Saving money is key
At its price tag, the XPPen Deco Pro is undoubtedly one of the best value-for-money products on the market. If you can put aside the concessions you make with this kind of cost-saving, you’re onto a real winner.
You’re new to graphic art
While generally, we wouldn’t say a pen tablet is the easiest first-timer device as you have to get used to looking up at a screen while drawing on the tablet surface, the low price of the Deco Pro combined with its high specs, easy set-up and fantastic shortcuts are sure to set you off to a flying start.
You want something portable
The Deco Pro in all of its configurations is incredibly lightweight and portable, making it an excellent choice for artists on the go. Plus, its long-life wireless mode sets it apart from much of its competition.
Don't buy it if...
You want a long-term companion
While we only tested the Deco Pro for a few weeks and can’t say for sure, it stands to reason based on its construction materials and customer reviews that this won’t be the long-term companion devices that the Wacom Bamboo and Intuos Pro have been for artists. To tide you over for a couple of years, however, that might be a sacrifice you’re willing to make.
Fiddly controls annoy you
It’s very easy when using the Deco Pro to nudge the scroll wheel or accidentally click the flush stylus shortcuts, and while it’s not the end of the world, it can get really annoying after a while and it’s pretty hard to avoid with the stylus in particular.
You’re a professional artist
In addition to the above considerations, the Deco Pro just doesn’t quite hit the mark. It’s got a lot going for it, but professional-grade drivers, drawing experience and stylus design hold it back from offering the smooth workflow that pros will need to meet deadlines and create their works.
XPPen Deco Pro: Report card
|Value||The Deco Pro is a budget model, but it still brings a lot to the table with its innovative design features and performance, making it one of the best drawing tablets for value.||5 / 5|
|Design||Winning awards for its innovative design, the Deco Pro takes the basic concept of a pen display and makes it stylish, slick and lightweight - but in terms of materials, it does feel a little cheap.||4.5 / 5|
|Performance||There’s a lot to love about drawing on the Deco Pro, including its wireless mode and customizable shortcuts. However, the drivers do let it down slightly.||4 / 5|
|Stylus||The stylus for the Deco Pro really carries the brunt of its positive qualities, bringing great pressure and tilt sensitivity and plenty of backup nibs to tide you over. However, it needs a fair bit of force to activate higher pressure levels, and the nibs feel too scratchy to chance with.||4 / 5|
- First reviewed December 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.