The Xencelabs Pen Display 24 is a great alternative to Wacom’s big screen graphics tablets

RockedBuzz
By RockedBuzz 8 Min Read

For a long time, if you wanted something like the Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 but didn’t want to spend that much money, you were pretty much out of luck. The Xencelabs Pen 24, released earlier this year, costs $300 less than the Cintiq Pro 24 and includes many add-ons charged by Wacom, including two different pen options.

The basics

The Xencelabs Pen Display 24 is a direct display graphics tablet featuring a 24-inch built-in screen (actually 23.8 if you’re being picky, but Wacom’s 24 is 23.6) with 4K (3840×2160) resolution. It weighs 13.3 pounds, which is more than a pound less than the Wacom Cintiq Pro 24. Color rendering covers 99% Adobe RGB and 93% DCI-P3, and is both Pantone and Pantone SkinTone Validated. There’s a 178-degree viewing angle for generous off-axis viewing and it has 8,192 levels of pressure sensing.

The display is mostly reflection-free thanks to its matte etched glass surface, which also helps give the feel of drawing on traditional paper. As mentioned, Xencelabs also includes two different pens in the box, including one with three buttons and a thicker grip, as well as a slim pen that’s lighter to hold; both pens include erasers, and there’s a range of nibs in the box, including both standard ones and ones designed to mimic felt nibs.

Another included accessory is the Quick Keys controller from Xencelabs, which has a built-in dual-color OLED display. It has a set of customizable buttons that control common functions in drawing, painting, and photo editing apps, such as undo/redo, zoom/pan, and more. These can be set per app or customized to your needs, and the OLED readout offers a lot of additional convenience compared to Wacom’s ExpressKeys, which has no integrated display.

Xencelabs Pen Display 24 placed almost flat on a table with the screen on

Image credits: Darrell Etherington

Xencelabs also includes the display with a tilting stand that gives you plenty of options for using it either mostly upright like a traditional screen, or at a range of different angles that are comfortable for drawing on a desktop surface. Wacom, by contrast, includes just two built-in easel feet with the Cintiq Pro 24, giving you only a slightly tilted angle for drawing without purchasing additional support or arm mounting options.

The tablet’s bezels are generous enough to make you feel like you have room to maneuver without blocking what you’re working on, but they still bring the screen into focus. The screen is also flush with the bezels, and everything above is covered in that etched glass for a smooth, seamless modern look.

Project

Xencelabs has done a great job with the design of this interactive display, creating a functional yet modern device, with flexible usage configurations that should ensure comfortable use regardless of your working environment or preferences regarding: stand, VESA mounting, angle tilt (included stand ranges from 16 to 72 degrees), etc.

For connectivity, there is a USB-C port, an HDMI 2.0 port, a DisplayPort, and two USB 2.0 ports for connecting additional accessories. Here, Xencelabs falls a bit short of Wacom, because the Cintiq Pro 24 includes a built-in SD card reader, which is really useful when using the display for a photo editing workflow.

Xencelabs Pen Display 24 on the included folding stand

Image credits: Darrell Etherington

The included accessories, with the two different pens and the Quick Keys controller, are a huge plus here. You can also dock both pens to the display at the same time for easy access, which is useful if you want, for example, to use one for painting and one for inking or line work. The Quick Keys controller is a great add-on – Xencelabs offered it separately before introducing the Pen Display 24, and I had previously only picked one up to replace my ExpressKeys and complement my personal Wacom setup.

Features and performance

In terms of color rendition, brightness and stylus-on-glass feel, Xencelabs have really stepped up, particularly impressive as this is their first interactive display, having previously remained in the realm of display-less pen tablets.

As a Cintiq Pro 24 owner and user myself, I’m well equipped to compare the experience of using both tablets. The good news for those looking to save a few hundred dollars is that the experience is very similar, despite Wacom’s much more established industry reputation and solid track record of providing a long line of excellent integrated interactive displays that have led to , and including, the CintiqPro24.

Capacitive and customizable buttons on Xencelabs Pen Display 24 and top-mounted and side-mounted thin and thick pen

Image credits: Darrell Etherington

Pen response (sensitivity is also customizable), latency, tilt detection, and palm rejection all seem about the same as the Wacom, and the distance from the glass to the actual display is such that it just feels like actually drawing on the screen right where the tip of the pen touches the surface.

One area where Xencelabs really excels, beyond the included stand and multiple pen options, is weight savings. More than a pound of weight savings actually makes a very significant difference in terms of portability. Weighing 13.3 pounds, it’s still not something you could throw in a backpack for a day trip (and it still needs a separate power adapter in addition to the USB-C cable), but for changing locations around the house, or for those trips where you want to have all the features with you for on-site editing, it’s noticeably better than the nearly 16-pound Wacom option.

Bottom line

Xencelabs Quick Keys controller mounted on the side of the Pen Display 24

Image credits: Darrell Etherington

At $1,899, the Xencelabs Pen Display 24 is still nowhere near the realm of a flippant purchase decision for most. And conversely, the $300 gap between it and the Cintiq Pro 24 is significant, but perhaps not a big enough discount to make the choice easy for those doing comparison shopping.

The good news is that the Xencelabs Pen Display 24 is an excellent pen display and should satisfy the interests of any artist looking for something of this size and resolution that offers direct creative input. In other words, if you consider both and don’t mind saving a few hundred dollars, you won’t regret choosing this route over the more established company – and remember, if you don’t want to have to buy any other accessories, it’s something you can get also with Xencelabs.

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