XP-Pen Deco 03 Drawing Tablet Review

29th April 2018 review

My back, my poor back. I’m hunched on a drawing tablet (Wacom Cintiq) throughout the day as it allows you to draw directly on the screen, I thought it was time to look at an alternative workflow for one without to save my daily breaking back. That’s when XP-Pen came to the rescue and kindly sent the Deco 03 for review. So how is it? …

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This tablet is beautiful! It’s pleasantly wide so I would consider how much space you require on your work desk. It has 6 buttons and a red dial roller key. The pen is light with a nice rubber grip and the whole package looks and feels like it’s worth more than the asking price. Out the box you even get a drawing glove, nice touch! The Deco 03 is thin and light, perfect for those who like portable graphics tablets for events like game jams, the pen holder or ‘the tube of awesome’ as I will call it that contains everything is an example of this. Inside are the nibs, pen, and the wireless receiver USB. Again, perfect for portability.
Upon first use I did notice a little bubbling on the surface. It was almost like when you place a protective plastic screen on a mobile yourself.  I brushed my palm and flattened it down and it quickly disappeared.

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SET UP

Setting up the tablet was a breeze, it was all achieved by inserting a USB and installing the software etc. Once installed it was a case of opening the ‘Pen tablet’ software and seeing what all the buttons do. It took about an hour or so to customise the buttons to my liking.

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PEN AND TABLET

The pen doesn’t require a battery and I found using it to be very responsive. The pen holder looks like what it is, the lid from ‘the tube of awesome’ and after use I even just place back inside the tube. The buttons on the side of the pen don’t have you accidentally clicking them due to sticking out too much, the top one is even slightly more raised making it easy to find and click when needed. Where real pencils have an eraser on the top, other tablet pens have an equivalent you can use, this however was lacking one. The lack of it wasn’t a problem as I assigned one of the tablet buttons as the eraser and it quickly became second nature. Although I do flip my pen to erase from time to time out of habit. Compared to the Wacom pen I’m accustomed to it feels a little light, That being said the pressure sensitivity is an impressive 8192 levels and it feels great to use.
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To my surprise the tablet is wireless too! On the back it has an on/off button and when left idle for 30 minutes has a sleep mode. There are very small lights next to icons that indicate if it’s in range, wireless mode being on / off and a battery indicator. You can just leave the USB receiver plugged in, this is a very nifty feature!
The red dial roller key is what makes this product stand out and what I love about it. It’s incredible to use on a tablet like this! You can custom assign it to your preference, I personally use it for zooming in and out but you could have it for adjusting your pen sizes in Photoshop for example. It would have been nice to be able to click in the wheel and have it as an extra shortcut key. Pressing the dial in and using the pen to scroll the art canvas would have been handy in my own workflow but assigning it to a button works just as well, I have my fingers crossed the Deco 04 has this feature.

The surface of Deco 03 is smooth but upon using it the pens nib felt scratchy, so when drawing it almost feels like you’re drawing on paper. Making it great for any traditional artists who are new to drawing tablets as it will help ease into digital art. The glove supplied worked really well on the surface too!

The Pen Tablet software has two choices of pen detection, Max Active Area or Display Ratio and you can adjust the click sensitivity also. It’s worth playing about to find what suits you but out the box the settings are great. The Express Key Settings allow you to set different profiles. So each key would work differently on each program depending on how you set them up.

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LONGEVITY

I can see myself using the Deco 03 for a good while and more than happy with how it feels to use. I’ve been using it for about three weeks with no hiccups. The nibs still look ok to with no sign of wear down but that may change. I believe the Intuos Pro nibs wear down shockingly fast from the horror stories of other artists on Twitter. I mention this as I would say it’s the equivalent to the Deco 03 in terms of price and product. There were a few oily fingerprints after a few uses but nothing that can’t be wiped clean.deco03_a4manartist_review_screenshots_05

WHO IS IT FOR?

If this was your first drawing tablet it’s a super affordable and easily contends with the best if not better due to the red scrolling wheel. This would be useful for art or animation students bringing it to class too. If you’re a professional illustrator like myself you may be using one with a screen already but if you want to give your back a rest from being hunched all day, I can fully endorse this tablet.

Closing Thoughts
I now sketch everything in Photoshop or Clip Studio Paint using my Wacom Cintiq with it having a screen and then once I bring my work into Adobe Illustrator I use the Deco 03 for vector work (my aching back is saved!). The highlight of the product is definitely the red wheel (roller key) and it was a nice surprise with it being wireless. The Deco 03 is a fantastic drawing tablet that not only sits permanently on my desk now but it gets used daily in my own workflow. For the price, you just can’t go wrong!deco03_a4manartist_review_screenshots_01

FINAL VERDICT

The Deco 03 by XP-Pen sets a high standard for future graphics tablets without a screen! It would have easily been a 4.5 if not for the pen itself lacking an eraser button on the top . I do love using the Deco 3, it’s even become my go to drawing tablet I use for client work when using Adobe Illustrator.  I honestly can’t wait for the Deco 04 to see how they improve on an already great product. It’s definitely worth a buy!

PROS

  • Wireless tablet
  • Red Dial Roller key (it’s ace!)
  • Thin sleek design
  • ‘Tube of Awesome’ pen holder

CONS

  • Pen lacks an eraser button

 

More information about the Deco 03 and links to purchase it below:
xp-pen.com
amazon.co.uk
amazon.com

Thanks to XP-Pen for sending this tablet for review.
If you have a product you would like me to review email hello@a4man.com